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"Suicide Survivors' Club"
Courtesy photos.
L-R: Laurie Phillips, Rebecca Anderson
Suicide Survivors Club five-book series

by Laurie Phillips & Rebecca Anderson

Rebecca's story, suicide loss survivor and author

My writing stopped when my husband Don died by suicide in 2002. Life was consumed with caring for my children, seeking help and working through the shock and trauma of his death.

Creativity has always been a source of inspiration, intimacy and connection for my family and me. Eight years after Don's death my good friend Laurie approached me with the idea of creating a series of illustrated books about our family's experience.

Helping my children express themselves in the ways they could was a top priority, so I said yes. We began collaborating on what would become "Suicide Survivors' Club: A Family's Journey Through the Death of Their Loved One." Laurie's approach through visual art and narrative allowed a gentle way for us to communicate our experiences. We were all aware something hopeful and transformative was happening. My children's voices were being heard in a safe, private haven called home.

Our goal was to make difficult subject matter easier to discuss. We never dreamed our work would reach a broader audience. I witnessed the confidence and pride my children gained through the process. Laurie continued to encourage me to write a memoir, "Parenting the Suicide Survivors' Club." I accepted the challenge because I thought it might help others; in the end, writing my memoir helped me to heal.

Laurie's story, artist/storyteller

I approached Becky with the idea of going on an art/narrative journey with her and her children because I was inspired by how she had steered herself and three kids through their healing. In this creative project, each family member would have their own book, in their own voice.

I realized I was entering sacred ground with her children, Will (13), Aidan (15), and Pattie (27). I'm not very comfortable with kids, so helping them express their feelings about losing their dad was daunting. Becky said she trusted me. She encouraged the children to embrace the process. We didn't rush it.

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The books that evolved were at first intended only for the family and an art show, but we soon saw that they could help others, so we published them.

Through the process, I have grown and gained confidence in my approach; a few words on a page with evocative art can open people to their stories and healing.

Trauma can make us feel isolated and alone, but art can knit us back into the fabric of human life.

Rebecca Anderson lives in Mound and Laurie Phillips lives in St. Paul. They speak to groups about using storytelling and artwork to transform trauma. To learn more about their "Suicide Survivors' Club" 5-book set, go to: suicidesurvivorsclub.org

What: Rebecca Anderson and Laurie Phillips will talk about "Suicide Survivors' Club"
Where: Magers and Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
When: Jan. 26, 2017, 7 p.m.
FFI: 612-822-4611 or www.magersandquinn.com

Got a story?
We'd like to hear it. For writer's guidelines, go to www.womenspress.com. Email your 450-word personal essay to editor@womenspress.com

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