Vernon Smith Jr.
Nonprofit Sector News
July 22, 2020
Losing a family member, friend or love one to suicide is not easy. The healing process to this often takes years. Evanston, Ill.-based Alliance of Hope helps people recover from that loss.
Created by survivors for survivors, Alliance of Hope is a 24/7 online support group that knows exactly what those dealing with suicides are going through, providing support and information on the survivor experience. Its mission states that “Kindness matters – and to the more than five million people around the world who lose a loved one to suicide each year – it matters a lot. We provide healing and compassionate support during the lonely and tumultuous aftermath of suicide. We help people survive suicide
loss, and go beyond ‘just surviving, to lead meaningful and productive lives.”
This nonprofit was founded in 2008. Its founder, Ronnie Susan Walker, is a seasoned mental health counselor whose stepson died by suicide. Over the course of the 12 years since then, Alliance for Hope has helped tens of thousands of suicide loss survivors from many cultures and faith traditions across the world.
Heather Shadur, the Alliance’s director of public relations and fundraising, said, “We welcome 10 suicide loss survivors every day on to our community forum which serves a 24/7 support group…we have more than 18,000 members of our online forum.”
When signing up for the online forum, suicide loss survivors are given the option to remain anonymous. Shadur said, “We have a public forum and if you came into our forum wanting to receive support, but you weren’t ready to create your profile, we have an anonymous forum where they can register with an anonymous username.”
Visiting the website shows clients that they are not alone, and it provides a safe haven for survivors. Steve Shannon, whose son died by suicide, shares his thoughts about the program. “When I found The Alliance of Hope on-line community forum, I instantly realized that I was not alone. That there are other people in this world trying to cope and recover from the same traumatic experience that crippled me. I began to read the various postings and threads whose topics were about all the things I needed to come to terms with.”
He added, “I think I spent a solid week on there before I introduced myself and began to share my experience and all that goes with it. Within minutes of hitting the ‘send’ button, I started to receive replies full of complete understanding, compassion, encouragement or simply a message stating ‘We are here for you. You are not alone. There is hope and a future for you. There is HOPE!’ For the first time since my son’s death, I felt a little bit of the stress and confusion ease up.”
Website visitors can find various supportive ways for survivors to heal and recover. For example, the website has Community Forums, a bookstore where the Alliance offers books for adults, teens and children, as well as books that address a specific loss, such as the loss of a child, spouse or sibling. Counseling by trained trauma and loss professionals is provide by both telephone and Skype consultations. Blogs allow visitors to read the words and tap into the wisdom of other loss survivors and experts who have navigated the grief journey.
Shannon said, “The Alliance of Hope website is full of information about what I can expect, why I am experiencing this and the human nature behind coping with my son’s death. I was able to read blogs and essays from experts in the field of suicidology. I found plenty of literature and books to download. Most written by survivors of loss to suicide—people just like me.”
Shadur emphasizes how the website accommodates a wide variety of experiences and emotions among suicide loss survivors. “It’s like going into a building, we have different types of rooms, with different conversations happening. We have an area where parents have lost children, we have an area where people have lost siblings, spouses, people who are having bad dreams, for people who are angry or who feel tremendous guilt.”
Shadur points out how well supported the Alliance is. “We are primarily volunteer led…there are two of us who are full-time employees and then we have about 50 volunteers who help us run the forum…so I would say around 65 to 70 people who are working with us currently.”
She also explained how donations primarily come from people who they have helped and from many others, including The Herbert Adelman Foundation, The Outlanders fan club.
The Alliance for Hope clearly has changed and saved lives, including Shannon’s. “I would recommend The Alliance of Hope because they save lives. Anyone who finds themselves dealing with loss to suicide needs help. I learned that…They don’t promise live will be perfectly fine ever again because that’s not reality. They promise that little by little, step by step, we loss survivors can and do heal enough to accept our loved one’s death, then keep moving forward to find purpose and joy again in our own lives.”
(More information about Alliance of Hope is at https://allianceofhope.org.)