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For many who have lost loved ones to suicide, the holiday season can be an especially difficult time. Thankfully here in Stark County, Light after Loss provides a space for individuals in our community to heal and process their grief through a strong peer support system and services.
Light after Loss was founded in 2019 by Shannon Ortiz after losing her husband to suicide and dealing with the aftermath of emotions. Although she works in the mental health field and is a suicide prevention advocate, navigating her own journey taught Ortiz many new lessons about a very different kind of grief.
“We often say we are an organization of survivors supporting survivors turning pain into purpose,” said Ortiz. “The pain of traumatic loss whether it be suicide, homicide or even COVID-19, can linger for a lifetime. Funneling those feelings into something positive and creating a variety of outlets for people to have the opportunity for post-traumatic growth is suicide prevention. Postvention is prevention.”
Year round, the volunteer-run organization provides hope for healing for survivors of suicide loss through education, resources and services surrounding the grief and trauma of losing someone to suicide.
Each year, the organization hosts two major fundraisers: a golf outing and benefit concert. After being put on hold for the past two years because of the pandemic, the Songs for Survivors concert was held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which is recognized as International Suicide Loss Survivors Day. More than 60 community members enjoyed the 1980s music benefit concert on Nov. 19.
“The day is intentionally chosen because the holidays are hard for those of us impacted by suicide loss and left behind,” said Ortiz. “Our goal is to host an event that both recognizes that fact and raises money for our free suicide loss support services. This year was a bit different being it was our first concert ‘back,’ but it was also the first year we were able to host a large event in our new building appropriately called The Hope and Healing Center.”
In February, Light after Loss expanded its services for all traumatic loss survivors by purchasing The Hope and Healing Center on Burrshire Drive in Canton The proceeds of this year’s event will fund building renovations and assist Light after Loss in addressing and serving more loss survivors.
Light after Loss understands that participating in longstanding holiday traditions doesn’t feel the same after losing someone, yet doing something different can come with guilt and pressure from outsiders. Events like Friendsgiving, Festivus for the Rest of Us and a Christmas potluck dinner where members make their lost loved one’s favorite dish provide fun distractions and give those involved a chance to be with others dealing with the same emotions during the holiday season.
“Everybody’s journey is unique to them and their story,” said Ortiz. “We don’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t be doing; we provide a variety of options and outlets and let them participate in whatever way eases the pain.”
Learn more about Light after Loss at www.lightafterlossstark.org.
The Stark Community Foundation helps individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits achieve their philanthropic goals through a variety of charitable funds and strategic initiatives. Ranked in the top 10% of community foundations in the country, the foundation and its family of donors have granted $215 million to nonprofits since 1963. Learn more at www.starkcf.org.
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Heart of Stark: Light after Loss offers healing through peer support