Suicide survivors gather for International Suicide Loss Day

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EDMOND, Okla. - Each story is very personal but the grief is shared.

“We’re speaking of a very sensitive and emotional issue today, suicide,” said Phil Holeman.

Holeman was the keynote speaker as people who have lost a loved one gathered together for the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

People gathered at 350 locations in 18 different countries, including the one at The University of Central Oklahoma hosted by the Central Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Task Force.

If Holeman’s name sounds familiar it’s because his daughter, Heather Holeman, is a part of our KFOR family.

Three years ago, they lost a son and brother to suicide.

Derek Holeman was just 31 years old.

“And suddenly, everything in my life changed,” said Phil Holeman at Saturday’s event.

Derek Holeman lost his 8-year battle with depression and the ones he left behind had to battle through what they call a foreign landscape.

“Desolate and it seems like you’re all alone,” said Phil Holeman.

But the main message at the gathering today – you’re not alone and you don’t have to go it alone.

Survivors watched a documentary, The Journey Revisited, which tracked people who have lost a loved one to suicide and they shared the evolution of their grief and healing.

Holeman encouraged those in attendance today to reach out to others.

“Going it alone on this landscape just does not work,” said Holeman. “Healing comes from telling your story and interacting with those others who are in the very same boat with you who have suffered the very same great loss as you have.”

At the closing, survivors wrote the names of their lost loved ones on balloons and released them to the sky.

Several balloons symbolically clustered together as the strong north Oklahoma wind took them.

“It kind of makes me think about how we who are here, we mass together, we hang together, we struggle together. We don’t want to go off on our own because if we do, we’re going to lose our way as it is,” said Holeman.

Holeman and his wife found comfort after Derek's death through a support group called SOS - Survivors of Suicide at Crossings Community Church.

Phil and Dixie Holeman now lead a new SOS branch on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call 911 immediately, or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

You may also find help and support at the links below:

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