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    Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss Activity Guide

  • 1Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss | Activity Guide

    Program Activity Guide Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss follows the family and friends of Chris Taddeo, a young adult

    who died by suicide. Together, they show the individual experiences a community of people can have

    after a shared loss: from confusion and denial, to isolation and finding support. Through their various

    approaches to grief and healing, each journey shares a message of hope, connection, and resilience.

    This brief resource is a supplement to our 2019 International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Film Discussion

    Guide which will help you expand your programming to better support the survivors of suicide loss attending

    your event. Regardless of the size of your event, these activities may help start conversation and build

    connection with your attendees. It is not essential to do any nor all of these,

    but they may serve as a starting point for planning your day.

    Small Group Discussions • Timeframe: 30 - 60 Minutes

    • Materials Needed: 1-2 pens per group, and a typed handout or hand-written sheet of paper with a few

    questions from the 2019 Film Discussion Guide


    Form small groups of three to four attendees (preferably at random), having each group take 10-15 minutes

    to answer the questions together. Bring the group back together and have each smaller group pick one

    question to answer, ensuring that the same question isn’t answered twice.

    Panel Discussion • Timeframe: 30 – 45 Minutes

    • Materials Needed: Chairs and a microphone (if needed)


    Have a panel discussion, featuring 1-2 mental health professionals and 1-2 loss survivors, on how they each

    perceived the film and related to the themes. Discuss how their personal and professional experiences have

    shaped their views on the grief journey after suicide loss. The questions in the film discussion guide are a

    great resource for your panel questions.

    Support Network Activity • Timeframe: 30 – 45 Minutes

    • Materials Needed: Blank paper and pen/pencils for each attendee


    Have each attendee write a list of things they need to grow, heal and move forward with their grief. These may

    include self-care activities, hobbies, counseling, and so on — allow attendees to interpret what they need.

    When they have completed this, have them flip the paper over and write a list of people that they can rely

    on for support. Once each participant has completed their list of people, ask them to identify which support

    person could best help them to meet each need. Allow 10-15 minutes total for each part.

  • 2Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss | Activity Guide


    Help attendees understand — much like the community in the film — that not one person or group can provide

    everything they need. However, when they step back and look at the support network in place, they can identify

    which people and/or groups can help them with what they may need along their personal path to healing.

    Who You Were, Who You Are, and Where You See Yourself Activity • Timeframe: 30 – 45 Minutes

    • Materials Needed: Blank paper and pen/pencil for each attendee


    Have attendees make three columns, labeled “Who You Were,” “Who You Are,” and “Where You See Yourself.”

    Ask each attendee to write whatever they feel fits in each column. In the last column (“Where They See

    Themselves), ask them to write about what they might need, what support would be helpful and how they

    want to grow in a positive way.


    Process either as a large group or as small groups, prompting attendees to reflect on how they may see

    themselves growing — perhaps without noticing the growth. Ask them to identify things they need and goals

    they’d like to set to grow within their healing journey.

    Commemorative Displays International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day events can often be a very emotional experience for loss survivors.

    It’s important to remain mindful of this as you plan any commemorative displays. As an alternative to a slide

    show of memorial photos (which can be too heavy for attendees at your Survivor Day event) consider some

    other ways of commemorating the lives of those lost to suicide, such as:

    • Display an AFSP Lifekeeper Memory Quilt

    • A Wishing Tree: Pictures glued to a light up tree, where attendees are welcome to write a message, quote,

    or anything hopeful or in honor of their loved one and place on the tree

    • Framed photo table display with battery lights surrounding the photos

    • Collaborative Candle Ceremony

    • Photos of the community coming together around our cause, e.g., walks, advocacy days, etc.

    Resilience Activity • Timeframe: 20 – 30 Minutes

    • Materials Needed: Blank paper and pen/pencil for each attendee


    Have each attendee write a list of five things they’ve survived. This could be anything, and should be left up

    to their interpretation. Next to those five things, have them write what helped them survive those things.

    Allow 10 minutes or so for writing.

    NOTE: Ensure that each attendee does not put their name on the paper.

  • 3Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss | Activity Guide

    Once each attendee is finished, have them fold up their paper, and collect them. Shuffle the papers

    randomly, and redistribute to the group. Ask each attendee simply read the five things that the individual

    survived, and then subsequent tool they used to help them navigate their challenge.


    Ask the group if they heard something relatable that helped them, or if they’ve shared a familiar experience.

    Have the group discuss how, despite obstacles and struggles, each person in the room showed resilience

    and found what they may need to get through those times. Attendees should discuss both the positive and

    negative things they heard, and process together the resources, tools and strategies that can be most helpful.

    Much like the community in the film, this activity helps to find all the tools to put in your toolbox, helping to

    guide you through the journey.

    Flower Pot Growth Activity • Timeframe: 15 – 20 Minutes

    • Materials Needed: Small clay flower pots, colorful paint markers, sunflower seeds or Healing Seed Paper for planting


    Ask each attendee to write strategies they use or would like to use to promote their healing on the flower

    pots, using the provided markers. They may also write goals to set in support of their healing journey. With

    partners or in groups, attendees can then share their flower pot designs and some of their words/goals/

    strategies with one another. Attendees can be given a package of sunflower seeds (to take home) to plant in

    their pot as a reminder that, with care and attention, growth is possible.

    Poems Reading poetry can be extremely therapeutic, especially for those who have difficulty expressing their

    emotions. Poetry allows one to find connection with the soul of the writer and to access and express one’s

    own thoughts and grief emotions in a healthy way.

    These suggested poems can be used in various ways such as:

    • Given out as a bookmark

    • Read aloud during any part of your event

    • Included in the program

    • Framed for attendees

    • Printed on cardstock and given to attendees, to take home and display on their refrigerators or in other

    prominent places

  • 4Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss | Activity Guide

    Sample Poem I Don’t Know Why By Iris M. Bolton

    From the book, “My Son, My Son, A Guide to Healing after Death, Loss or Suicide,”

    I don’t know why…

    I’ll never know why…

    I don’t have to know why…

    I don’t like it…

    I don’t have to like it…

    What I do have to do is make a choice about my living.

    What I do want to do is to accept it and go on living.

    The choice is mine.

    I can go on living, valuing every moment in a way I never did before,

    Or I can be destroyed by it and in turn, destroy others.

    I thought I was immortal, that my children and my family were also,

    That tragedy happened only to others…

    But I know now that life is tenuous and valuable.

    And I choose to go on living, making the most of the time I have,

    Valuing my family and friends in a way I never experienced before.

    Take A Break • Timeframe: 10 - 20 minutes

    If you have a long day of break outs, discussion and speakers planned, be sure to schedule a quick break

    for refreshments (perhaps after the film and discussion) to regroup and allow attendees to connect on the

    film in a more casual way. This may also be an appropriate time to encourage attendees to browse the AFSP

    resource table, or further aspects and resources offered at your Survivor Day

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