When Marie Osmond went on Oprah to talk about the loss of her son to suicide, I have to be honest - I was a little skeptical. Osmond's son Michael had struggled over time with substance abuse, recovery, and depression, and had attempted suicide before. He died less than a year ago. I felt like it might be a little exploitive to bring on Osmond, who is still grieving this great loss.

But Oprah knows a catalyzing story when she sees one. Marie Osmond, who's simultaneously stage performer and girl-next-door, sister to the fantasy crush of a generation, and a woman of great faith and family values, is now putting herself squarely in the camp of suicide survivors. She's grieving a suicide loss in front of a national audience, and that's very powerful.

I went to Oprah's website after the show aired and read some of the comments submitted by viewers. Reading comment after comment written by people who had also lost someone to suicide reinforced that when a survivor of suicide shares his or her experience, it gives permission for other people to talk about their experiences.

Here are excerpts from some of the comments:

  • By speaking out in a public forum, Marie has helped make this journey through grief a bit easier for other parents who are suffering in much the same way.
  • Marie - you made me feel not so alone - I could see the pain in your face - thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story - it mattered to me.
  • She did something important for herself and for others by telling her story in such an amazingly honest way.

In addition to making it okay to talk about and openly grieve suicide loss, Osmond may contribute to changing relationships between young people and their parents. See the comment below:

  • Marie Osmond's ordeal about dealing with the suicide of her son was very moving, touching. I actually found myself becoming very emotional watching her. It made me want to build a better relationship with my parents and learn to open up more about myself.

National Survivors of Suicide Day, a day of healing for survivors of suicide loss, is this Saturday, November 20. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is organizing over 275 conferences throughout the world to help survivors connect with each other as well as increase understanding of suicide loss and bereavement. All sites will be watching a broadcast featuring several survivors of suicide loss talking about their experiences. If you can't connect locally with a conference (search for conference sites here), you can register to watch from your home computer.

Survivor stories are a critical piece of the suicide prevention movement. Thank you to Marie Osmond and to all of the other survivors of suicide loss who have and will be sharing their stories.

Copyright 2010 Elana Premack Sandler, All Rights Reserved

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