Paying it Forward


Maria Rienzo

Has served on the AFSP Board of Directors and remains active in community events. 

Donna Hillman

Has started a group...

Linda Borders Killian

Is CEO of Jacquelyn Bogue Foundation and supplies us with the Mourning After pamphlets...





Paying it Forward



My husband James ended his life in January, 1999 and left me behind with three small children.  We all worked very hard to achieve a healthy recovery.

For years in the early 2000's, I was a grief support volunteer for a tri-county initiative about suicide prevention and grief services. Through this program, I was able to collect and retain wonderful stories of love and coping.  The initiative fell apart when the volunteer coordinator resigned.

I was also, up until this year, a trained Griefbuster -- which is a school staff volunteer who works with students suffering a loss or potential loss (cancer, for example).  My principal knows if a kid needs me, I will get coverage for my class and meet on the spot.

That is how grief support best works, it is not a future appointment. The grief work helped me become educated about suicide and face my own shortcomings.  It has been an important part of completing the circle.

Kara's Story

Marilyn Ellison-Echols


My daughter Alanya

was a bright, beautiful young woman with a wonderful future ahead of her. 

She was an educated young woman,

a radio personality, an actress and a poet looking forward to publishing her first book, ‘Lullabies for the Soul’.

But in 2017, she unexpectedly took her life. She had it well planned and her family had no clues to her intentions. Countless people were, are and will always be affected

by her untimely death.

In her honor, memory and legacy I made sure ‘Lullabies for the Soul’ got published.

I also am in the process of starting a new nonprofit organization called,

‘Lullabies for the Soul’.

This organization was founded in memory of my daughter, Alanya Echols. The goal of the nonprofit organization is to provide, awareness, education and services.

Keith Haughton


  I lost my mom to suicide when I was 14 years old. I later learned that she suffered from severe depression for most of her life and had threatened and attempted suicide several times prior. I didn’t know any of this when I found her in her bedroom on February 26, 1985.

I lost my dad in June 2009 to suicide. He was suffering from end-stage cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol abuse. 

One year later, I lost my only sibling,

my younger brother Steve, to suicide in June 2010. 

Last year, I decided to write a book about my life, detailing the loss of my family, my own battles with depression, alcohol and substance abuse, and my long journey of hope and healing. My memoir, Rambles and Rants, was published in November of 2018. I pray that it brings encouragement, comfort, and the reassuring knowledge that none of us are alone in our pain. Hold fast to hope. Your story is not over yet…

Rambles and Rants

Joe Rosenblatt


The loss of his son Chris altered forever the trajectory of Joe’s life, and brought him into so many of ours … and the ripple effect continues as the examples he set for caring and comfort carry forward.

Joe truly turned his scars into stars.  In his quiet, kind way, he helped literally thousands of suicide survivors navigate through their tremendous sorrows, and put his exquisite listening skills to use as a New Hope counselor and trainer.

He was a tireless volunteer for other causes related to suicide prevention and postvention. He was a volunteer for the Yellow Ribbon program, working with 

local schools to promote suicide education and prevention.

Several times he accepted speaking engagements to talk about suicide, and once appeared at Camp Pendleton  – Being an Army vet who served in Vietnam, he was amused to find himself addressing hundreds of Marines and commanding their full attention. 

As my co-facilitator at SOS for 17 of my 28 years, he was such a comforting presence, and known by countless people for his quiet wisdom and constant encouragement … both at group or by phone.

Joe is the original poster child for surviving with courage and grace.  Gary and I – and so many others-  love and miss you, Joe -  Jeri

Margie and Chris Johnson


  We are Margie and Chris Johnson and we are Survivors Of Suicide. Over fourteen years ago our son Sean Michael Johnson took his own life at the age of 29 years. 

Together we have traveled many roads

to move on with our lives. We have gone through all the pains of grief, guilt, counseling and then in time healing.

We vowed to each other that we would work together to keep our marriage

in tack and continue to take on the role

of parents to our 3 other children

and to our grandchildren. 

After about 10 years we felt we were ready to “Give Back” and help others. To prepare us for this we have gone through extensive training at “The Link” in Atlanta, Georgia. “The Link” is an organization to train people in dealing with suicide and

survivors of suicide.

We started a support group in 2015 in Seal Beach, California for anyone who was going through the loss of a loved one by suicide. 

Over time we found more success via phone or in a one-on-one environment, in listening to and supporting anyone who wanted to talk.

We feel we really helped those people who came to our support group in Seal Beach and we would like to continue reaching out to others in need.

Rufus Tamayo


 On October 12, 2001, at 2:37 in the morning

my wife took her life. 

The years that followed would bring me and my family to the brink of knowing God’s love. Along the way, there was so much confusion and absolute despair, not only for me but also this horror would haunt my family for years. 

We have recovered but redemption comes 

one to know Faith and Hope. I can never say how I came to Survivors of Suicide (SOS) but I can only thank God for the kindness and caring given to me by Jeri and all those who suffered much worse than I. The road to God is easy to find but hard to travel.

But, for me the road started at SOS. On this road I used my experiences, I received from SOS, to help others as a Crisis Counselor at the Crystal Cathedral, a Peer Counselor at Mariners Church and for the past ten years a Child Advocate for the State of Arizona Supreme Court.

To restore peace to a troubled mind is the great aim I have in view. One day I will see God and my Faith will be lost in sight, my Hope will come to fruition but the Charity, we give as Christians, will last beyond the boundless realms of eternity.

We all were redeemed by God’s Grace. Let us return this gift of salvation by attending to the distressed, their miseries and misfortunes. As I am a living example how God will lead you to love again. 

Paying it Forward

Donna Hillman


On September 12, 2006, my world came crashing down when I came home from work to find my 18 year old son Jordan alone in his bedroom. He had taken his life. 

The shock and devastation

of losing my only child in that manner changed me forever. The darkness that followed took many years to find the light again but I have.

I prayed for a very long time

that God would find a way

to use me to come alongside others

in a similar situation to help them in any way I could to find comfort, hope and healing after such a tragedy. 

Finally, my prayers were answered and I was asked by my pastor to lead a grief support group at my church. We are up to about 15 people now in our group and it has been amazing to witness them supporting each other and lifting each other up in their grief and begin to find joy once again.

Our group is called ‘Anchored in Hope’ and is dedicated to the memory of my son Jordan Daniel Hillman, a child of God who is so loved and so missed. For more information about our group, go to Aliso Viejo, Ca. 

Button below

Maria Rienzo


My story of living with the loss

of someone by suicide began in 2011. January, 2011 and August, 2011 –

I lost my mother and boyfriend. 

My journey has been a slow process

lasting 8 years - from extreme low to joy.

I learned never to waste a pain,

so I joined AFSP

(American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) 

I began by walking for prevention,

and then joined the board.

As a board member,

I was assigned Grief and Healing.

This process has taught me to

“move through my grief

"versus “getting over.”

My prayer for everyone

who has suffered from a suicide loss-

Is to be free from the chains of blame,

“why “and “what could I have done?”.

God Bless

Maria Rienzo



 Finally, I am proud to post this entry from my dear friend, LaRita Archibald. 

I met her at my sister’s home just weeks after Bob’s death.

This is the lady who gave me the written materials – and moral support – to start our SOS group in 1988, and has been an inspiration all along.

Every survivor who has ever been helped by this group owes a big thank you to

La Rita Archibald .   Jeri 

La Rita Archibald


Suicide was an uncommon occurrence in 1978 when my 24-year-old son, Kent, ended his life. A clergy’s response to my concern for Kent’s soul was, “It’s best to put this behind you as quickly and quietly as possible”.

The counselors I sought were interested in the circumstance of Kent’s death but had no understanding of my anguish or grief needs. When I learned the American Association of Suicidology would convene in Denver in early 1979, I knew I must attend. I was certain that among this gathering of great mental health minds there would be one able to tell me why my son had killed himself. And surely, there would be someone who would understand my grief, assure my sanity and direct my mourning.

I found neither. However, from the seven survivors attending the conference’s only suicide survivor session I met another mother grieving her son’s suicide. The two of us spent hours sharing and comparing our woundedness, our sense of unmet responsibility as parents and our fear of the future.  Even though our family situations differed widely I found great comfort sharing with another who truly understood my terrible aloneness and whose words validated the madness I was experiencing as grief.

From our exchange grew my determination that never again would another person surviving suicide loss in my community be without a source of genuine empathy, comfort and encouragement.

I contacted a newly formed help-line volunteering to be a response to any request from someone bereaved by suicide.  The few inquiring callers caused me to consider providing a place where suicide bereaved could share face to face.  When I told my husband of the benefit I thought providing such a setting would be for suicide bereaved he agreed to help me, but with the warning, “I don’t want you to be disappointed if no one comes.”

But they did come!! At our first November 1980 meeting there were two survivors in addition to my husband and I. By Spring 1981 word had spread and there were 19-25 suicide survivors every month who drove from Denver, from Kansas, from Wyoming, and from across the mountains to spend two hours with others who experienced the suffering of suicide loss. And thus HEARTBEAT, among the nation’s first suicide survivor support groups, took root and spread to other communities.

Forty years of study, research, peer counseling, a great amount of prayer and Divine direction, as well as my lived experience, culminated in “Finding Peace Without All The Pieces After A Loved One’s Suicide”. This book offers explanations and answers I so desperately sought after Kent’s death…How Does God View Suicide? 

Understanding How The Cause of Death Impacts Grieving and Healing, Meeting Needs of Suicide Bereaved and more. Other suicide bereaved told of their loss and struggle toward healing in “Finding Peace Without All The Pieces…”  They, like me, wanted to share what they learned,  to offer hope and direction to  those who must walk our bitter road, to assure newly bereaved  that not only would they survive but, with time invested in healthy mourning, they would thrive…that joy, laughter, and a new wholeness of self await beyond the terrible anguish of suicide loss.