Skeptical to attend a support group, J.T. joins SafePlace after losing his sister Sabrina

SafePlace attendee, J.T., shares his SafePlace experience after losing his sister, Sabrina (pictured above), to suicide.

In September 2019, I lost my sister Sabrina to suicide.

Losing Sabrina wasn’t just losing my sister, it was also losing my best friend. My sister and I were incredibly close — we were 18 months apart and shared many of the same interests. We loved getting outside, learning about science, watching the same TV shows, laughing at the same jokes, and asking the same philosophical questions that bored others. But more than our interests, we just thought in the same way, which gave an ease to being together. We were each other’s sounding boards. We bounced ideas off one another and processed our thoughts together. When my sister took her life, a huge part of me left with her.

Going through a year without my sister has been devastating. I didn’t know I had the ability to feel so broken and helpless. Despite being surrounded by so much love and support, I felt incredibly empty. The happier moments in the past year seemed like brief rays of sunshine that occasionally broke through dense clouds. It took me close to eight months before I even believed that there could be a time in the future when I’d be happy again. And still I question it.

This was a stark contrast to my life before. I was an extrovert, I was spontaneous and happy and fulfilled. I was wholly unprepared for handling the emotions that flooded in. My family and friends were willing to help, but few of them knew my experience and I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling. Sabrina was my only sibling and there was no one else who knew the feeling of losing a sibling to suicide. I was lost and turned inward.

After a few months of grieving on my own, my girlfriend encouraged me to join a support group. I was skeptical at first — if I couldn’t share my thoughts with those closest to me, I doubted that a group of strangers could help. As it turned out, they could help immensely. Joining Samaritans’ SafePlace group has been instrumental in helping me through my journey this past year.

My support group is the group of people that I wish I never knew, but am so grateful that I do. It’s the worst club to be a part of, which I couldn’t be more thankful for. Getting together with them feels like seeing old friends; those people that you don’t need to explain yourself to; they just understand. On weeks when I don’t feel up for sharing, I find comfort in just listening to others’ stories.

The first time I attended SafePlace I was incredibly nervous. I cried for several minutes in the car before finding the strength to go inside. The meeting started with introductions — introducing ourselves, the loved ones we lost, and how long ago we lost them. The facilitator who began shared that she lost her brother 33 years prior. I nearly broke down in these first seconds; I was 4 months in and it was unfathomable to me how I could survive another 33 years without my sister. At this meeting I had the most recent loss, but at other meetings I haven’t. This range of experience helps as I grapple with this understanding.

The transition to a virtual support group happened not long after I started attending the group. Again, I was hesitant. I knew how much I valued the group but feared it wouldn’t provide the same outlet I needed in a virtual setting. It turned out to be quite the opposite. There were some adjustments to the virtual setting, but it has also opened up the meeting to a wider group than the in-person sessions, which means a larger network of support.

One aspect I cherish most about the Samaritans support group is that we are not all the same — we have different relationships to our lost ones, different times since our loss, and different experiences leading up to the loss. And most importantly (as we are reminded at every session), we all grieve differently. But despite this, our shared experience provides us with a mutual understanding to help one another. Seeing others who are years ahead of me and still don’t have it figured out reminds me that it is okay to still be grieving and that there doesn’t need to be a time when it ends.

I still have a long way to go on my (never-ending) journey, and I continue to learn from others new ways to keep my sister close to me. I know there isn’t a return to the blissful happiness that I used to feel and that I will always carry this with me. But I’m comforted knowing that I have others who support me as I do.

Find more information on attending a virtual SafePlace meeting or our other available Grief Support Services.