October 9, 2006
Happy Birthday, Parents of Suicides group.
Today, POS is officially 8 years old. POS was conceived in September 1998, and it was officially "born" on October 9, 1998.
POS is the oldest active group in existence for people whose lives have been affected by suicide on the Internet, as far as I know.
To "celebrate" the group birthday, I'd like to share a little of the history of POS with you.
In my search for ways to survive after Arlyn died, a friend connected me with a group run by Graham Stoney called Survivors of Suicide (SOS). Graham's intentions were good, but he did not moderate the group, so all sorts of people joined. Finding helpful messages was like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
At that time, I was desperate to connect with other parents, so I contacted the parents who were in SOS to find out if they would be interested in a parents-only group. Most of them wrote back say yes, and they seemed to need the connection as much as I did.
I had no idea how to start a group, but one day, Dennis Gates, whom I had met in a Compuserve forum, told me about a group service called onelist. (Later, one list converted to e-groups, and then later on,
e-groups was sold to Yahoogroups.)
The parents I had connected with nominated names for our new group, and they voted. The name Parents of Suicides won!
On October 9, 1998, I set POS up as a group, and the first members signed up.
(A couple weeks later, on October 21, 1998, Christine Smith set up SOLOS to be a more general suicide grief group, not limited to parents.)
So the parents who signed up initially started on this journey together, and word spread. Before long, other parents found us, and then, our first ?international? member joined POS: Bob and Lynda Humphrey of Watford, England.
One day I a few months after we got started, Elaine Davison volunteered to create a special memorial website for POS.
On June 1, 1999, Elaine launched the POS Memorial site with special mini-memorials for each member's son or daughter!
Somewhere along the way, Elaine, Sharon Throop, and Lloyd Carson initiated chats, after Lloyd set up the first POS chatroom. For several years, we had chats almost every night in the chatroom, led by Lloyd.
Then, we had our first retreat. It was held in Pavo, Georgia, July 2000.
The retreat was an idea that just sprang up within the group, and it blossomed. That first memorable retreat was so special, that we new instantly it was just a beginning.
We've had at least one retreat every year since. (We?ve also expanded the retreats to include the FFOS members.)
In the fall of 2000, Carol Pettersson suggested a Candlight Memorial Service. She worked up a plan for it.
So with Carol's guiding force, we held our first one Hoilday Memorial Service, and we have continued it every year since. We?ve added a holiday candle memorial website every year, also.
Our next project after that was the POS Quilt, aka The Most Beautiful International Suicide Memorial Quilt in the World.
We have just added the 6th section to the quilt. It has squares on it for 146 people, is 30 feet long. Marge Cline and Bunkie Rivkin are our Quilt Queens.
In 2002, Marcy Carter proposed a newsletter for POS. She had worked out all the details, and she volunteered to be the editor.
Marcy and the Butterfly Net team have just published the 121st issue of the newsletter.
In order to keep all this information organized, we needed to keep records of information. We have this information in several databases; they are maintained by Tracy Toner, Marcia Resnick, and Mindi Nevils.
It is the work of Mindi, Marcia and Tracy that makes it possible for us to have our Remembrance List on each message and the calendar reminders. (Marcia handles the Remembrance List and the Calendar reminders.)
Mindi also goes out of her way to create a
B & M list (birth and memorial date) to send out to the group often, and notes acknowledging birthdays of members.
We've published two books: joint POS and FFOS projects.
First, we published a beautiful POS-FFOS memorial cookbook, initiated by Mare Sanford and Elaine Davison.
Then, we published a special memorial book titled Forever In Our Hearts. (Special is an understatement; the book is a masterpiece created and put together by very talented volunteers from both POS and FFOS.)
POS has about 650 members from all over the US and from several other countries: England, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, China, Wales, France, and Finland.
We also started a partner group, Friends & Families of Suicides to reach out to others who lost someone to suicide. FFOS began on September 30, 2000.
We also have a few other websites going now, reaching out in a variety of ways. All work to keep these groups and sites going is done by volunteers.
We also have the SASE group (Suicide Awareness, Support and Education.)
Our outreach websites are the Suicide Memorial Wall, the Suicide Discussion Board and the Suicide Reference Library. They are wonderful ways for members who want to be involved and to help to do so.
The library is a special project, with Tracy Toner and Mare Sanford being our main librarians.
The Suicide Memorial Wall was actually created by Joni Gates of FFOS. It?s maintained right now by Shea McFarland, Carla J. Snellen and Nicole Pongchallee, all members of FFOS. Elaine does the ?website? work needed for the wall.
The Suicide Discussion Board is visited by around 200 different people every day, so it?s making a great difference to many others. It thrives because of the dedication of our 3 volunteer monitors: Diane Yawn of POS, Dave Wentzel and Robin Maillet of FFOS.
Some of our members become active within their communities, or on the state or national level, in suicide awareness, support, education or prevention activities. They are involved with task forces, AFSP, SPAN, community walks, and more.
The fathers in the group are in the minority, but they have made their presence known in a positive way and have added an element of balance to the group.
Some of the most difficult times for POS were when some of our members lost other sons, daughters, to suicide or other tragedies, and when one member?s wife took her life, after their only son died by suicide.
Lynne Olson of New Zealand lost Peter, and then Tony, to suicide. When she wrote and said that Tony had killed himself, we were all stunned. How could this happen! We grieved heavily with her and held a candlelight vigil during the funeral. A gloom hovered over the group for weeks.
Then, we kept vigil with Brenda Adkins for about 8 days as they looked for her son Rick, twin brother of Jason. When Rick was found dead beside a river, we were devastated. That was another very painful time in our history.
And then, Stuart Rosenkrantz stunned us all when he wrote that his wife, mother of his only child Lenny, took her life about six months after Lenny died.
And more recently, Pam West had to bury two more of her children, 8 months after her son Jason took his life. Her teenage daughters were killed in an auto accident.
We?ve also had members who died while they were members. A few that come to mind right now are: Nancy Marcoux-Hodges, Sue Thompson, and Margaret Oliver.
We did not keep track of our messages for the first couple years, so we do not know the total number that has passed through the group. Since June 2000, however, over 405,000 messages have been sent through POS.
POS is truly a COMMUNITY, and it's successful because of the commitment of so many beautiful volunteers who join together, giving up their own egos quietly, to help make a difference.
There are many volunteers I did not name above, some who have taken initiative to make a difference.
Alice Stephens sends out inspiration daily. Kim Hargrave and Pat Hufford send out daily quotes.
Diane Marseglia is the ?Substitute? Daily Question person, sending out questions to help when I am not around.
Evelyn Brine took on the Prayer and Positive Thoughts list and sends it out daily, making sure that anyone who needs special prayers is included.
Karen Gleason leads the POS-Christian Sharing group.
Joyce Angrave has quietly tended to the Holiday Candle Site for us for the past few years.
And others have volunteered for temporary "jobs": collecting lists, etc.
And many of you quietly reach out to people behind the scenes. I hear about people in the group sending cards and small gifts to each other, making phone calls to offer support, lighting candles, and more.
POS is successful because all of us have found a way to transcend the social, political, geographic, racial, religious, economic, educational, and personal barriers and embrace each other as brothers and sisters in grief.
And now, we're celebrating our 8th birthday!
Happy Birthday to POS, and I wish a peaceful meaningful day to all of you.
Karyl Chastain Beal
Mother of Arlyn