Sam Southern is a Lead Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Coordinator at Empowerment Charity in Blackpool. As a dedicated mother of five, Sam has faced adversity, including the tragic loss of her husband to suicide in June 2020. This experience has driven her passion and commitment to raise awareness and offer hope to those who may be struggling. In this guest blog Sam reflects on hope, and being chosen to walk with the Baton of Hope in Manchester.
Hope is a powerful force that can help us navigate even the most difficult and trying times. It can be the difference between giving up and pushing through, between despair and resilience. For me, hope became especially important after the tragic suicide loss of my late husband, Glen. After his death, I felt like I was at the epicentre of the world’s largest earthquake. I was blinded by a fog that seemed like it would never lift, and I spent the first year stumbling around in a daze, trying to find my footing again. The wounds I felt, both physical and mental, were gaping and painful. But through it all, hope was my lifeline.
It’s ironic to think that Glen, who was always a beacon of hope to those around him, felt so hopeless in his last moments. But even in the midst of my grief, I knew that hope was still there, waiting for me to grab onto it. And grab onto it I did. Step by step, I stood back up. It wasn’t easy, and some days felt like a lifetime. But I was determined to build a life again, for myself and for my children. And when I was selected to walk with the baton of hope at the Manchester leg, I wanted nothing more than our eight year old daughter and my sister Charlotte, to walk beside me in honour of Glen.
From very early on in my grief, I searched for support, it wasn’t an easy task especially when I was so desperate and lost. I knew I couldn’t go with him because that would have destroyed my children and, thankfully I had an amazing support network. However, I did have PTSD and gaining therapy for this was not easy. I paid privately for most of my therapies because of wait times, the lack of local support and the fact that national charities weren’t easy to navigate. I couldn’t understand why nothing was instantly offered. I had come from a Health care background and to me the lack of support at the most horrific time of your life, just encouraged all the negative emotions you already felt. That feeling of shame and the stigma is very real and you feel abandoned, so the lack of support through the complex grief cycle of suicide made no sense at all to me.
I channelled my grief via blogging and gained a community of people who have lost people to suicide, in this I found hope. I now advocate on this subject. I said from very early on I wanted to utilise my grief to positively impact others and always realised that although there was support out there, the missing link was immediate support by means of a referral, helping people affected by suicide to navigate their journey and give them hope. Nobody seemed to work together and it was all self-lead, whilst people were left in unbearable emotional pain.
“Their ethos of hope and collaboration resonated with me and my own feelings of where the system had failed me.”
I followed the Baton of Hope from starting my new job as a Suicide Prevention & Bereavement Coordinator on a new project called Solace at Empowerment Charity in Blackpool. With a specially designed baton leading the way across UK towns and cities, this suicide awareness and prevention initiative is special. It is set to be the largest of its kind, with the aim of starting important conversations and prompting necessary actions. Their ethos of hope and collaboration resonated with me and my own feelings of where the system had failed me. The Baton of Hope is a symbol of the power of hope, passed from person to person as a reminder that we are not alone. This initiative is bringing attention to the issue of suicide in an unprecedented manner, and will help to reduce the stigma surrounding it. It encourages people to ask questions, listen, and direct individuals to appropriate help, Suicide is everyone’s concern and not one of us is exempt from suicide.
“I have learnt to let the wave wash over me, not fight it and stand back up tall.”
Of course, my journey of hope hasn’t always been easy and not every day is the same, the waves of grief can still be very raw especially when triggered. However, I have learnt to let the wave wash over me, not fight it and stand back up tall. I always look for that little beam of light cracking through the clouds and, I can’t wait to walk with the Baton alongside my eight-year-old daughter for her daddy. Installing hope and that it’s ok to have honest conversations to our future generations is key in change.
Hope to me is not just a four-letter word, it is a lifeline to society and in difficult times, it is more important than ever that we come together, support one another, and pass on hope. I truly believe if we can work together we can save lives.
About the Author:
Sam Southern is a Lead Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Coordinator at Empowerment Charity in Blackpool. Prior to this, she specialised in Gastroenterology as a healthcare professional in the NHS. In addition to her work, Samantha runs a thriving local events business. As a dedicated mother of five, Sam has faced adversity, including the tragic loss of her husband to suicide in June 2020. This experience has driven her passion and commitment to raise awareness and offer hope to those who may be struggling. Samantha is not only a dedicated professional, but she also enjoys spending time with her family, blogging, and promoting mindfulness. She enjoys walking and believes in the benefits of staying active. Samantha’s personal interests complement her professional work and help her to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
The Spokesperson Network & Baton of Hope
Anna Wardley, Luna Foundation will be walking with the Baton of Hope in Milton Keynes on Tuesday 4 July 2023.
Alan Stuart, Calzy Foundation will be walking with the Baton of Hope in London on Thursday 6 July 2023.