Suicide Loss Survivors: There’s a Place For You

Samaritans is well-known in the Boston area for its suicide prevention work. Many people hear about our annual 5K race, our Boston and New York City marathon teams, and our annual Breakfast for Hope. We also have done a lot of work this past year to grow awareness about our newest program – Hey Sam – which provides peer support to young people. 

But there is another integral component to the work that we do that perhaps doesn’t get enough time in the spotlight – our suicide grief support services.

SafePlace is one of the ways in which we provide grief support services. These in-person and virtual meetings are free, ongoing groups for people who have lost a loved one to suicide and are facilitated by trained volunteers who have also experienced a suicide loss. It is a forum for exploring feelings often not understood by others and for receiving support through the long and nonlinear process of grieving the loss of a loved one. Anyone is welcome to join SafePlace meetings as long and as frequently as they want.

Those who volunteer as SafePlace facilitators are truly a special group of people . . . They have gone through life’s most unimaginable pain, and they put themselves out there to help others so that they don’t have to go through that depth of pain alone.

Ron White was the Chief Program Officer for Samaritans from 2007 until 2021, and when he decided to retire from his role, he chose to continue assisting the grief support services team.

“I am passionate about everything that Samaritans does, but in particular, those who volunteer as SafePlace facilitators are truly a special group of people,” he says. “They have gone through life’s most unimaginable pain, and they put themselves out there to help others so that they don’t have to go through that depth of pain alone. It takes someone who has been through a suicide loss to be able to relate. I’m always so impressed with how much they give.”

Ron explains that SafePlace meetings are designed to be a place where those grieving can share their emotions with others who can relate to them. The meetings are also open for attendees to sit and listen silently, and they are a place where loss survivors can receive resources and share experiences with navigating difficult moments, such as receiving prying or insensitive comments.

A group of people sitting in a living room together.

Brian Douglas lost his daughter to suicide in October of 2013 and has been a volunteer since 2018 after attending SafePlace meetings himself for five years. He attests to Ron’s description of what SafePlace meetings look and feel like.

“A friend of mine lost his son to suicide many years before my loss, and he encouraged me to try a SafePlace meeting,” Brian explains. “When I got there, I told my story, and they listened to what I had to say. When you are in that state of mind where nothing seems normal and you are telling your story, and people are just saying “I know what you mean” – it’s just so comforting. That meeting on that day was exactly what I needed. I continued to return to SafePlace meetings, and it was a logical progression for me to end up volunteering because I really want to do something to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I found my people at SafePlace.”

Both Ron and Brian say that grief support services are an essential part of suicide prevention, as those who have experienced a suicide loss are at higher risk for suicide themselves.

“A suicide loss is just so complicated,” Ron says. “There aren’t other places for people to turn to, to be around others who understand why the grief is so complicated – how you doubt yourself and ask yourself unanswerable questions.” 

“And the groups really rally around anyone who is new to welcome them,” Brian adds.

There are now three SafePlace meeting options for suicide loss survivors to attend:

  • In-person Meetings:
    • For parents or guardians who have lost a child to suicide:
      • 3rd Saturday of every month
      • 11:00 am – 12:30 pm ET
      • Ben Speaks Office: 360 Woodland St, 2nd Floor, Holliston, MA 01746
    • For all suicide loss survivors:
      • 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month
      • 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm ET
      • Samaritans Office: 41 West St, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02111
  • Virtual Meetings
    • For all suicide loss survivors:
      • Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening 
      • 6:30 – 8:00 p.m ET
      • Register and Samaritans will send you a Zoom meeting invitation with details.
      • Note: Virtual meetings are open to folks anywhere in the world

When asked what’s been his greatest highlight as a SafePlace volunteer, Brian says that he feels he is able to use his loss for something good. And  when volunteers see suicide loss survivors drive over an hour to attend a SafePlace meeting time and again, they know that their work is making a difference.

“I believe that I have what it takes to help others who are going through something that is probably the worst thing they will ever go through in their lives,” Brian says. “If I can help them get to a point where life is not drudgery . . . if I can give them a glimpse of what life can be like and help them believe that they can experience joy again, that’s the most fulfilling for me.”

Get Involved

If you are a suicide loss survivor and are at a point in your grief journey where you feel ready to help others, you can volunteer to become a SafePlace coordinator.

We also have open staff positions on our Suicide Grief Support Services team. Learn more and apply