Franklin James Cook

Links to Suicide Grief Stories: July 12, 2009

In Grief Stories Series on July 12, 2009 at 10:52 am

[Editor’s note: “Links to Suicide Grief Stories …” is a SPNAC series featuring stories of survivors of suicide loss–about the effect their loved one’s suicide has had on them and how they are coping with their grief. FJC]

Ryan as a toddler gets a hug from his mom, abcdefg.

Ryan as a toddler gets a hug from his mom, Joyce Venys. (Family photo)

Parents speak out: ‘Suicide Is a Big, Dark Secret’”; “A Talented Teen Becomes a Suicide Statistic”; and “Deceased Teen’s Art Exhibited” comprise a package of items put together by reporter Mary McCarty about the family, friends, and community of Ryan Venys of Dayton, Ohio, who died by suicide in 2007. The coverage is in-depth and comprehensive, including how Ryan’s death affected his school:

His former girlfriend, Danielle Snyder, is one of many who have undergone counseling to cope with the loss. At first, she blamed herself. “We broke up,” said Danielle, who was 15 at the time. “The last time I saw him at piano, I wasn’t very nice. I wouldn’t talk to him. He looked so sad … I was afraid if I were too nice to him, he would think I wanted to get back together.”

That was the day before his death.

It was a tragic loss for entire student body,” recalled Stivers [School for the Arts] principal Erin Dooley. “A lot of teachers simply adored him. We’re not over it yet. One of the things that makes it so tragic is that everyone was very surprised.”

Only in retrospect did his teachers and friends see signs. Ryan was especially close to Cissy Matthews, the head of the piano department, and often practiced in her studio after school. The day before he died he stopped by to say he couldn’t make it to a performance at the Racquet Club later that week. “I just wanted to say ‘bye,’” he said casually. As he walked from the room he turned around and said, “I really like you, Mrs. Matthews” (Dayton Daily News).

Mariette Hartley

Mariette Hartley

In “Actress Mariette Hartley Counsels Families Torn by Suicide,” West Coast Bureau Chief Mike O’Sullivan tells of Hartley’s response to multiple suicide deaths in her family, her uncle in 1959, her father in 1963, and her cousin a few years ago.

She says she realized that suicide survivors experience similar stresses to combat veterans: “They [suicide survivors] fought in a war that they didn’t ask for necessarily. They saw atrocities that they’ve never been trained to process, and then they come back into society, and nobody wants to talk about it” (Voice of America).

In “After Suicide, Veteran’s Widow Comforts Others,” reporter Ray Collins interviews Carla Patton, whose Marine husband died by suicide 15 years ago and who is now a grief counselor.

“For me, It’s really coming full circle and taking a very tragic circumstance and making something so positive that come out of it for the greater good,” [she said in the video interview as she was headed to Washington, D.C., to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Memorial Day]. “The most sacred place in the United States would be at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day” (Fox 13, Tampa Bay).


Anna and her dad, Charles Dunn. (Family photo)

In “She’s Still Dancing,” reporter Billy Watkins profiles Anna Dunn, 18, of Madison, Miss. On the day the story was written, she was experiencing her second Father’s Day without her dad, Charles, who died by suicide early last year. The dancing reference in the article’s title stems from Anna recently vying for the Top 20 in the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“Last Father’s Day was probably the hardest day yet. But I try to take things a day at a time. And I think it’s important that we view days like this more as a celebration, and not mourn so much. I want to try and remember all the good times and not get stuck on the reality of what happened.”

Says Pat Dunn [Anna’s mother]: “We’re doing good. Some days, certain events, really hit you hard. Graduation, for instance. There is always somebody missing.

“How can a family survive a suicide? Some look at it and say, ‘I probably couldn’t.’ But we have had such great support — from people at church, from friends, from other dance mothers. And, of course, Anna had dance” (Jackson Clarion-Ledger).

In “How Suicide Changed My Life,” Joseph Speranzella, a member of the Secular Franciscan Order who blogs regularly on Catholic topics, writes:

In leaving us this way, what ever pain [my sister] released herself from was only passed on doubly to her loved ones. She left us misery and questions that will never fully be answered. A cloud was cast over our hearts that has since shaded everything. My family feels that as hard as life can get, Mary had no real reason to end her life. The resulting “cloud” has caused me to evaluate my thoughts about life and death — what they are, and what I want out of both …

How suicide changed my life is precisely this: I have consciously and decisively determined that my life will be geared toward its end, not in a morbid sense but in a way that I will master the art of living and of dying … Facing death–rather than forcing death–with grace is the fulfillment of life regardless of what you believe will follow.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

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  1. Your brief quotes do not begin to unveil our feelings. They were excerpts from an article by a reporter who was sensitive enough not to ask questions that were unwelcomed. I don’t like the comment suicide survivor to describe those who have been left behind. It reminds me that for me and my family there is no finality to our anguish; no perfect resolution. We are doing well, but the reality of my husband’s suicide will forever be a part of our life story. The challenge, as Anna alluded to, is to determine how much of our energy and focus we will allow it to consume. My husband was much more than a man who committed suicide, and my family is much more than surviving. We are choosing (sometimes we are not so mindful that it is a conscious choice; at other times we are keenly aware that it requires tremendous effort)to live and not merely survive. I am thankful for all of the resources at our disposal. I continue to seek answers to unaswered questions. I am, however, aware that some questions will not be answered in this life. God in his wisdom will reveal what he thinks we need to know; and in time, I pray that he will bring us peace.

  2. The situation gets more complicated when the suicide was not allowed, and stopped by the Authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, as in my husband’s case. He will survive the gun shot to the head by way of the Miracles of God being performed through the instruments of Doctors and Nurses in the medical facility we are still at. Many questions travel through my mind, as to why, how to go on. I have been blessed with a Stronger Faith and the Will of God is going to get us all through this, but that being said. I believe the Christians in this world need to remember to Love your Neighbor as yourself, and Love your God with all your heart. We were married for 33 years, two children and one grand child. Very scarry. There is guilt by all means, but this is a illness and in many times the end result is a inoperable tumor you may say of the manner of suicide. I hiope and pray this illness is no long hidden or given no compassion By the Medical Hospitals. Has anyone visited a Mental Health Ward in a Hospital? Many do not even have one. Hard to believe how in this great country Americans are treated who have Mental Illness.

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