BOCA RATON, Fla. — Saturday was International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day. For people like April Lewis, it's an important day. She is one of those survivors.
"For years it was horrible. It was the heaviest pain that I ever carried, so much so that I hid it," Lewis said.
At 19, her brother Danny committed suicide after their mother succumbed to ovarian cancer. She said her brother's heart was broken.
"When I got there, they were wheeling his body out and I was in shock," Lewis recalled.
Lewis spent years blaming herself and dealing with the grief.
"You feel extreme guilt — the would have, should have, could have," Lewis said. "If I would have taken my brother to the concert that night, he wouldn't have succeeded on his third attempt. He would have been with me."
Now, she shares her story, hoping it will empower others going through similar struggles. She wants people to know they're not alone.
"To make a difference in this world with other families that suffer this, for them not feel this heaviness, this empty-heartness that we feel," Lewis said.
Lewis is involved with the Hanley Foundation in West Palm Beach. It not only helps families dealing with suicide loss but also people facing addiction.
The organization offers suicide loss support groups like Project Hope, along with other resources for people seeking help.
Lewis' message to those coping with grief is a simple one.
"Close your eyes and smile and remember those wonderful attributes that the person that you loved, you know, had and make a difference in this world in their memory," Lewis said.