[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]
“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).
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).
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 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 http://tinyurl.com/GriefStories3 .]