Shannon Ortiz, LPCCS, CCTP
Shannon is the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Light after Loss. Shannon lost her husband, Craig, to suicide August 3, 2016, leaving her and their two young girls behind. She was the Director of Counseling Services at The University of Mount Union and the President of NAMI Stark County at the time. She was no stranger to the struggles of mental health and suicide as it was something she helped people cope with everyday. Despite that, the last thing she ever dreamed of was being on the other side of that coin. Craig had struggled with Bipolar Disorder for many years, but just like everyone else, she never thought he or she would become just another statistic; a number on someone’s chart. Through her own journey of grief and trauma, Shannon eventually stepped down from her position at both Mount Union and NAMI Stark County in order to heal; to help her two young daughters heal. After being a counselor for nearly 10 years, she also learned that the grief and trauma related to loss survivors is unique to only those who have experienced it. Survivors are at an increased risk of taking their own lives often due to unresolved emotions surrounding the unimaginable. Nearly a year after stepping away from her career and her job, she feels beyond blessed to have had the ability to work toward healing. Light after Loss is her way of paying it forward as she feels everyone deserves to have the resources and support to heal. She wants to be a light for others; spreading hope for healing. Putting faces and stories to those left behind after suicide showing the world we are more than just a number. We are #survivors. #bealight #lightafterloss #suicidesurvivors
Christine and Shannon crossed paths not long after Christine’s journey as a loss survivor had started. Her passion is contagious; always being a voice for those who don’t have one. She shares in the pain and the passion. She was an obvious choice and am honored to have Christine Donato as the Vice President of our Board. Here’s her story:
October 26, 2017 was the worst day of our family’s lives. It was the day my husband and I lost our son and our other three children lost their brother. Our son died by suicide at only 18 years of age. The hours, days and months following were honestly so painful, words cannot describe. The feeling of heart wrenching pain, guilt, anger, and fear was completely overwhelming and all consuming. There was no escaping this devastation and horror of the reality that our son was never coming back. Yet I had to keep going for my husband and my children. I needed to support my family, so I started looking for answers and help. I needed to have purpose for this pain. I was very lucky; the support system I had and continue to have is amazing. My family and friends have been wonderful, but I needed to do more for my family and this community. In looking for help I quickly realized there were not a lot of resources. So, I decided I needed to help myself. I started reading everything I could get my hands on regarding suicide and loss survivors. I first joined the Stark County Suicide Prevention Coalition, where I met Shannon Ortiz. We formed an instant connection because of the pain we share. Little did I know that our paths would cross again in a way that would help my healing and help our community. I then found myself a part of Stark Strong, an organization created to help the youth in bringing awareness to suicide in hopes of prevention. I am also a Perry Rotary Board and committee member, which brings me full circle and back to Light after Loss. I was excited to meet with Shannon and talk about her vision. She didn’t get to far in, and I knew this is where I needed to be. I want to bring suicide out of the darkness and into the light, both for those suffering and those left behind. The more we talk about suicide the less stigma associated with it. As I continue to struggle with my own grief, guilt and constant concern for my family, I want to be a source of hope and healing to those left behind in knowing you are not alone. The burden I now carry (worrying about my children and husband) is sometimes so overwhelming I can’t breathe. Light after Loss will be that support for those left behind, providing resources, support, and hope for healing. We all have the ability to be kind to one another and make a positive impact. It is our response to that ability that makes us who we are. I am honored to be part of this organization and serve on the Board. #lightafterloss #bealight #bekind#survivors
I met Shannon, Founder of Light after Loss, in the spring of 2016 and vividly remember thinking that I needed to get this internship because this woman had SO much knowledge to offer about counseling in general, but also about a topic that I needed help with – suicide.
My first encounter with a suicide attempt was with a close friend of mine in 2010. My first encounter with a client who attempted suicide was the summer of 2016. My first encounter with knowing someone who had lost someone to suicide was the fall of 2016. I remember the day I received the phone call from Shannon sharing that her husband, Craig, had completed suicide. Over the course of my time studying under Shannon; I not only fully grasped her depth of knowledge but also her strength and passion for those who were loss survivors. It was during this time that I developed my own personal mission: breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide through education, advocation and giving a voice to those who have been affected by suicide.
Currently, I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Ohio, am working towards independent licensure in both Ohio and Pennsylvania and am a certified QPR trainer. I have worked in a wide variety of community mental health services and have seen, first-hand, the devastating effects that suicide can have on an individual and/or their family. I am honored to be the Secretary of the Board with Light after Loss and to continue on this journey to bring hope and healing while breaking down the stigma. #bealight #lightatferloss #advocate
Scott is the Treasurer of Light After Loss. He obtained his Associates Degree in Police Science, which led to being the Director of Security for the Richard E Jacobs Group and Professional Security Consultants at Wausau Venter Mall and Belden Village Mall for 21 years. He currently works for Sleep Number where he’s been a Sleep Professional for the last 5 years. He is a single dad of 2 beautiful kids.
Scott was diagnosed with OCD over 20 years ago, however he knew something was different about himself from the early age of 6. From the age of 6 to when he was diagnosed, he felt the loneliness of trying to hide his behaviors for fear of what people would say or how they would treat him. What Scott realized years later, he was being held captive by the stigma of mental illness. OCD has shaped and defined who he is as a person, and he wants to help those that struggle with mental illness. On top of his own struggles, Scott’s father was also diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which have included thoughts of suicide and several hospitalizations. Scott has been touched deeply by watching what being a suicide loss survivor really means. Watching Shannon navigate through her own journey has helped him recognize the struggles nobody really even thinks about, even 2 1/2 years later, but is in awe of the strength and healing that can take place. Supporting someone with a mental illness or a suicide loss survivor is no easy task. It’s difficult not having any magic words or solutions, but has learned that just coming alongside those struggling, means more than any words could say. He wants to support others who are supporting survivors. Scott’s “mantra” if you will, is to love others where they are. Meaning on any given day, no matter what, the support and love is unconditional. Scott is looking forward to working with such amazing people on the Light After Loss team and super excited to love others on their journey. #bealight #supportinglosssurvivors
Pastor Zach Rambaud
Zach is a licensed and ordained minister with the Evangelical Friends Church and the State of Ohio. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Law & Society from Malone University and his Master of Divinity from Ashland Theological Seminary. During 15 years of ministry he has gained extensive experience in youth and adult individual and couples counseling. He has worked full time as a Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, Senior Pastor, and Interim Pastor. His desire is to contribute to the Light After Loss board of directors from a pastoral perspective. While currently on ministry sabbatical, Zach continues to perform weddings, funerals, counseling, and other ministry services. He also owns and manages two businesses.
Zach was personal friends with Craig Ortiz and continues to walk alongside Shannon as a friend, spiritual support, and even handyman as needed. Zach has walked with many families through the loss of their loved ones from suicide. He has been there as their pastor, friend, and confidant. He has a heart for sharing the love of Christ with everyone no matter the circumstances. He has been told by many that he is the only person someone has felt comfortable talking to about their life story or situations. Zach is grateful for the opportunity to be on the Board of Directors and walk through life with people and share Christ’s love with them as they deal with traumatic loss. #bealight #survivorssupportingsurvivors #lightafterloss