Utah Woman Uses Experience After Losing Brother To Suicide To Help Families On ‘Survivor Day’

Nov 16, 2018, 11:16 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Not a day goes by where Emily Hoerner doesn’t think of her brother Jed. The 36-year-old died by suicide in March 2009. She said she and her family felt blindsided when they got the heartbreaking news.

“When we lost him, it was completely shocking,” Hoerner said. “He is the last person you’d ever think. The life of the party, the person everyone turns to all of those kinds of things.”

Hoerner’s story, unfortunately, isn’t unique. According to the Utah Department of Health, in the state more adults have thought about or attempted suicide than anywhere else in the country. Every 16 hours a Utahan dies by suicide.

“I kept saying, ‘this doesn’t happen to our family, this happens to other families not us, because we are really close,’” she said. “So here is the surprise; it happens to everyone.”

As surprising as the statistics were to hear, Hoerner said it was even more devastating to learn what little resources families have to deal with grief.

“We asked the medical examiner, we asked the mortuary, we asked just anyone that we could possibly ask if they had any materials we could have and no one had anything,” she said.

For the last eight years, she has worked to change that. In 2010, she helped found the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. AFSP raises awareness, funds scientific research and provides resources and aid to those affected by suicide. Hoerner hopes her work helps to honor her brother.

“I think he’d be really, really amazed at what we’ve done in his name.” she said. “This is just some of the ways we give back.”

Hoerner helped organize one of six Utah events for Survivor Day, Saturday, Nov. 16. Survivor Day is recognized worldwide as a day for those impacted by suicide to come together, grieve and support each other.

“They will learn community, they will learn that they are not alone, they will learn that it’s OK to remember,” she said. “Tears don’t mean you’re losing and that is absolutely something that we want to share.”

Survivor Day events are being held in Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele, Weber and Box Elder Counties. For more information on these events, visit afsp.org/survivorday.

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Utah Woman Uses Experience After Losing Brother To Suicide To Help Families On ‘Survivor Day’