Tree spreads light of remembrance
And beautiful it was.
Snow swirled around the 15-foot tree, painting the perfect Christmas scene. Big colored lights glowed from under snow piled like icing on the branches.
And it was terrible too. The tree’s decorations were cards with the names and faces of sisters, friends and fathers lost to suicide.
A small group gathered at Hope Lutheran Church in Milton Saturday night for the belated Wisconsin Memorial Tree of Lights ceremony. The national event takes place annually the first weekend of December.
Friends and loved ones lit candles to remember loved ones. They cried a little, hugged a lot and mostly enjoyed each other’s company.
“It’s important to get together this time of year,” said Pat Derer.
Derer, of Madison, lost her son, Daryl to suicide in 1997 at age 22. After 10 years, Derer is farther into the grieving process than others who attended the Saturday night event.
The ability to understand that process is why it’s important for survivors of suicide to stick together, she said.
“You have this bond as far as where you are in the grieving process,” Derer said.
Derer’s grief spurred her to found the support group Helping Others Prevent and Educate about Suicide (HOPES.) The number one thing she wants is to prevent other mothers from recognizing the signs of depression after it’s too late.
“Suicide, like any mental illness, is a treatable disease,” Derer said. “If only I knew the signs back then.”
Derer wants young people to know that no matter how bad things look, suicide is not an option.
“Everything can be solved,” Derer said. “Try to solve the small things first. It gets less overwhelming if you just fix one small thing at a time.”
Survivors of Suicide will have an organizational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville.
For more information or to join the group if you can’t attend the meeting, call Brad Munger at (608) 757-5739.
On the Web
To learn more about suicide prevention or to find a support group, log onto www.hopes-wi.org.
Warning sings of depression
-- Persistent sad, empty mood
-- Feeling of hopelessness or helplessness
-- Disturbance in eating and sleeping patterns
-- Increased irritability, crying, anxiety and panic attacks
-- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
-- Thoughts of death, suicide, suicide plans and attempts
To get help
If you or someone you know is considering attempting suicide, call Rock County Crisis Intervention at (608) 757-5025, 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.
For more information on local resources, contact Brad Munger of the Rock County Community Support Program at (608) 757-5379.