About a million people die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Additionally, for each of those victims, scores of other people are profoundly affected, living each day with grief and loss. Those left behind in the aftermath of suicide, nearly 5 million in the United States alone, are spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, all of whom suffer from severe and often debilitating emotions, and complex personal challenges. Many who have gone through the experience say they never knew such pain existed. The Archdiocese of Chicago, through Catholic Charities, reaches out to these survivors of suicide through the LOSS program: Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide. Founded by Father Charles Rubey, who directs a team of counselors and therapists, LOSS walks with those who have suffered the unspeakable heartache of suicide in their families. Recently, members of LOSS gathered at St. John of the Cross Parish in Western Springs. While a schedule conflict did not allow me to attend, I want to share with you an excerpt of the letter of encouragement I sent to them on that occasion: In a special way, I want to assure you, Father Rubey and his associates, that I stand with you in solidarity and gratitude as you give witness to the world of God’s healing and sustaining power. Together you walk a common journey of suffering and struggle. And together you give each other hope, because of your willingness to share your pain, your questions, and even your doubts. A veil of isolation is lifted when you come together and you allow God to work through each other. The seeds of hope that you discover in your community and your sharing can grow in our world that is so afflicted with loss. You may have initially come to the LOSS program because of your own personal pain and suffering, but your participation brings a measure of irreplaceable healing and hope to a larger world that sits in the shadow of death. I say all of this as one who has experienced the loss of a family member through suicide, and it is for this reason that I express my genuine and heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for what you, Father Rubey and Catholic Charities are doing. Very appropriately, you are gathered in the church of St. John of the Cross, one of the great saints of our mystical tradition. St. John of the Cross wrote extensively about the “dark night of the soul.” All of us who have experienced this kind of loss, in which we surrender a loved one to suicide, is all too familiar with that dark night. St. John of the Cross has taught me much as I have suffered the dark night of losing a loved one, reminding me that it is not the end of the journey but a path and a passage to another reality, for the mercies of God are never exhausted. With God’s grace, the dark night leads beyond itself to the soul’s fulfillment of being united with God. He tells us at one point (Book 2, Chapter 16), that the soul is secure when it walks in darkness, precisely because it no longer relies on itself but totally on God. My prayer for you is that in your community and in your sharing, you will discover the power of totally relying on God, even in the most difficult circumstances of your lives. And in discovering that power, may you give one another strength and courage to continue your journey together and radiate hope for all of us. If you or a someone you know is suffering and grieving alone at the loss of a loved one through suicide, I urge you to contact the good people at LOSS at their office located at 721 N. LaSalle Street in Chicago by calling 312-655-7283. As Father Rubey observed so well in his latest newsletter: “We are meant to be social beings. We celebrate in community and we need the support of the community to mourn. Particularly, when we cannot hold ourselves up, we need the community to surround and hold us up.” LOSS offers that kind of support by being a community of people who hold each other up each and every day, and we as a church and society are better off because of the contribution they make to so many.