Suicide survivors share grief at vigil

Tribune Chronicle/Andy Gray Brenda Lancaster of Warren holds up a photo of her younger brother, Charlie Robinson, who committed suicide in June. Lancaster attended the 18th Candlelight Vigil for National Suicide Survivors Awareness Day on Saturday at Victory Christian Center, Warren Campus.

WARREN — Brenda Lancaster of Warren sat in Victory Christian Center clutching a photo of her younger brother, Charles Robinson.

It was her first time attending the local candlelight vigil commemorating the 18th National Suicide Survivors Day. Robinson took his own life June 5.

“I haven’t dealt very well with it at all,” Lancaster said. “I can’t get it from head to my heart.”

Lancaster said her sister-in-law received a flier about the local event, noting it helps knowing that others are suffering the same way they are.

“There’s a difference between losing someone to sickness and losing someone to suicide,” she said. “There’s nothing else like it.”

Dan Fairchild still is dealing with the conflicting emotions caused by death of his son, Charles, in 2014, a week before his 21st birthday. Hours before he took his father’s revolver, the son talked about getting his GED and becoming a mechanic.

“There was no sign, no warning,” Fairchild said during the vigil. “I love him. I hate him, but I can’t hate him because he’s my son.”

Fairchild started a local Survivors of Suicide of Trumbull County chapter that meets 7 to 9 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month at his home at 3281 U.S. 422 (Parkman Road NW). Some months he sits there alone, but he plans to continue to do it to help himself and others facing the same issues.

Cathy Grizinski, associate director of Help Hotline Crisis Center, stressed it’s not an easy process.

“It takes longer than a year,” she said. “It takes a lifetime.”

Grizinski talked about counseling a woman in Columbiana County who had a loved one commit suicide. She complained that her friends kept telling her she had to accept it, but Grizinski said a better word is “adapt” to express how survivors must continue.

“‘Accepting’ is almost a bad word,” she said. “We started using other words to understand better our grief.”

The resolution creating National Suicide Survivors Day was introduced by retiring Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, whose father committed suicide, and it always takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

The local vigil was started by Mary Kopiak, whose daughter Valerie committed suicide in November 1998 when she was 19 years old. Kopiak also has a Survivors of Suicide Awareness Walk around Courthouse Square each spring.

Fewer than 20 people attended Saturday’s vigil,  but Kopiak said, “I’m not giving up. As long as I’m alive, I’m doing this.”