Monday, October 26, 2009

Deb - Stories of Survivors of Suicide

Kris (from a previous post) put me in contact with Deb, another suicide survivor from Helena. Deb lost her husband to suicide 14 years ago this Wednesday. I sat down with her at the cafe she and her husband started together, the No Sweat Cafe in Helena, on Saturday night. The intimate, family-run cafe has a no cell phone policy. With this policy, Deb invites people to come in, sit down, and enjoy each other and the good food. As she shared the story of her husband Ron and their life together prior to his suicide, the fact that the memory of his death is still painful was very apparent. Ron also left behind five children. Deb spoke of the pain each of them has experienced, but also of the strength and beauty each of her children has developed from their pain. We chose to do the interview and portraits in the cafe because it has been a source of healing and connection for her and her children. As she shared memories from her 25 years of owning the cafe, she pointed to various things of significance around the room. In many ways, she raised her children here - bringing them early, fixing them breakfast at the cafe before school, and seeing them walk through the door after school was out. She still has the article that was written about the cafe's opening (at which time they only had two kids). Even though the article is yellowed with age and has clearly been handled, at times with greasy fingers, Deb says this is just the way Ron would have wanted it.

I appreciate each person who has been willing to participate in my project by inviting me into their lives to be interviewed and photographed. I have learned so much and I've been inspired by the strength of each person. At this point, I believe I have just one more person to photograph and interview. One thing Deb mentioned still sticks out in my mind. She said that she doesn't want to give power to the "secrecy" of suicide that many cling to. She says the real power is in sharing and removing the stigma from those who have experience suicide loss and from those who seek help for emotional pain. Another important thing I brought away from my time with her is this: she says the more she expresses gratitude for the good things in her life, the better she is able to deal with her loss. She says that as she expresses her thankfulness to God for even the tiniest of things each day she feels a weight lifted from her.


Megan E Thompson said...

These are coming along really nicely Leslie! Keep up the good work.

Leslie McDaniel said...

Thanks Megan!