On September 13, 2011, Charlotte Moyler experienced a parent’s worst nightmare. Her daughter, Maggie, a 17-year-old who was two weeks into her senior year at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg, had taken her own life.
Maggie, who Charlotte describes fondly as fun-loving and dedicated to her friends, was a student athlete on the golf and dive teams, and dreamed of studying marine biology. She didn’t show any signs that she was struggling or in pain before taking her life.
What followed Maggie’s death was a period of grieving, pain and self-blame for Charlotte and her family, who, like so many other survivors of suicide loss, found themselves asking “why?”
Sadly, it is a question they will never get an answer to, but over the years Charlotte has managed to find peace with her loss, and found a new passion for raising awareness of suicide.
Despite the alarming and saddening statistic that someone takes their own life every 15 minutes in the U.S., many survivors of loss steer away from the subject because it is too painful, they are ashamed or they carry guilt. Suicide has become a taboo topic of conversation, but that’s something Charlotte aims to change.
In 2012 she founded the Suicide Loss Survivor Group in Williamsburg, which offers a supportive and safe space, as well as camaraderie and friendship, for those mourning the loss of a loved one to suicide.
“A lot of people suffer in silence because they are embarrassed,” says Charlotte. “Our healing and resilience cannot be formed on our own. It is grown in community and by doing it together, we become stronger. Sharing our hearts, experiences and stories helps to create a shared identity and leads us to building hope together.”
She stresses that everyone grieves in their own way, and sometimes all a person needs is a show of support.
“My choice is to remember my precious daughter in the beautiful manner in which she lived, not the horrific ending,” says Charlotte. When that’s particularly hard, she uses her faith and relationship with God to bring herself back to acceptance.
Charlotte also stresses the importance of parents discussing suicide with their children, much like many already do with the topics of drugs or safe driving, even if their child appears to be happy. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults ages 15-24, and is not always accompanied by mental illness.
“Even if there aren’t signs, there should be open dialogue,” says Charlotte. “At the rate that it’s killing people, it should be talked about. The stigma and the silence need to be broken.”
The group welcomes suicide loss survivors to join them at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center on Saturday, November 18, in honor of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. From 1-3 p.m., guests are welcome to view a short film, join in a discussion and participate in a group activity. The event will be held in the Robert Graves Conference Room, accessible through the hospital’s main entrance.
“We all need understanding, compassion, validation, love and acceptance. We can find this in community of fellow survivors.”
Those interested in attending can contact: Charlotte Moyler at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information