GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Michigan Survivors of Suicide Loss is a club no one wants to join, but anyone who has participated in its programs knows how rewarding it can be to connect with others who have been through their places.

Saturday is National Suicide Survivors Day.

WMSOSL will hold a conference to celebrate the day and offer support to people in the community who are suffering. This will be the conference’s 41st year, but the organization started with a West Michigan woman who lost her son.

Current board member Rebecca Olson is also a survivor. She lost her father to suicide 11 years ago.

“The more you talk to others, you start to learn that, unfortunately, more people were

affected by it more than you think,” she said.

Saturday’s event will begin at 8:30 a.m. with registration and will include a light breakfast and lunch. The panel discussion will feature Theresa Weekley of WOOD TV8 and Christy Buck of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. In addition, there will be an opportunity to network and honor lost loved ones.

The event leads to a moment that can be especially difficult for families with an empty seat at the table.

“My dad loved the holidays and it’s just nice to know you’re not alone… One thing that always amazes me is how many people come to these gatherings or events and say my loved one was the life of the party. They always had a smile. It might be that unspoken element in the room, but it’s a good opportunity to think about them… Some people intentionally leave a chair empty or share a memory. It’s just nice to hear what other people are doing,” Olson said.

Olson also understands that not everyone is ready to dive into such an event.

“Each grief-journey is unique. We always say it depends on your comfort level, whether you want to pop in for a little bit of time and listen or you want to actually talk and do a pin, do a luminary and bring a picture of your loved one,” she said.

this year’s event, Healing through communityis held at the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, located at 160 68th Street SW, Suite 102, in Grand Rapids.

Registration is open online and the morning of the event. It is free and open to the public.

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