Monday, October 28, 2013

IASP’s Remembrance Ceremony in Oslo: A Glow around the World

IASP’s Remembrance Ceremony in Oslo: A Glow around the World
Sally Spencer-Thomas
Carson J Spencer Foundation (USA)

On Friday, September 27th at dusk, I joined 30 attendees from the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s World Congress to walk together through the streets of Oslo to attend a Remembrance Ceremony at Domkirken, Oslo’s main church.

This place was chosen because of its special connection to supporting communities in grief. After the July 22, 2011 massacre, friends and loved ones gathered at the Oslo cathedral to mourn the 93 victims killed in twin terror attacks from a bombing in downtown Oslo and a mass shooting on Utoya island. Because of the important role the church played after this tragedy, the church was forever changed and became a place of safety for community healing.

During the remembrance ceremony, participants from Australia, Norway, China, Belgium, Ireland, the US and many other countries encircled a light globe in the center of the sanctuary.  After a moment of reflective silence, an opera singer began a haunting aria that filled the cathedral and brought waves of emotion over me. 
Not only for the losses experienced by our group and the spread of tragedy the impact of those losses had around the planet, but for the collective grief of this place and the honoring of the lives that goes in hand with the mourning.

After a welcome from the church’s pastor and Henning Herristad from LEVE - The Norwegian Organization for the Suicide Bereaved,  Jill Fisher from Australia’s StandBy and I led the group in a four candle ritual:

The first candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.
This second candle represents our courage. To confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.
This third candle we light in your memory. For the times we laughed, the times we cried, the caring and joy you gave us.
This fourth candle we light for our love. We light this candle so that your light will always shine.
As we share this day of remembrance with our family and friends, we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us.
We love you. We remember you.

After we had lit our four candles, we invited the others to join as they were so moved to light a candle in member of a loved one that passed, in honor of those that struggle with or who have overcome suicide crises in their lives, and in solidarity of the fight we are in together to end suicide. Some people said the names of their loved ones out loud, others paid their respect in silence or in tears. In the end, the glow of the candles around the globe was more than a ritual, it was a symbol of our how our international community can pull together out of this human devastation and bring light and warmth to a world filled with despair.

As we closed our remembrance ceremony, a cappella music again filled the space with reverence and awe. We exited with our hearts filled with emotion and made a commitment to bring this tradition to every IASP conference.

The light shines on.

Reprinted with permission by the American Association of Suicidology and the International Association for Suicide Prevention
International Associate for Suicide Prevention
American Association of Suicidology