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Archive for the ‘Grief Stories Series’ Category

Links to Suicide Grief Stories: March 8, 2010

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on March 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm
Marcia Epstein with pic of Mom

Marcia Epstein lost her mother, Abba Howell (pictured on the right in the snapshot Marcia is holding), to suicide in 2003. (Thad Allender, Lawrence Journal-World)

[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]

In “Crisis Counselor Shares Survivors’ Grief, reporter Chad Lawhorn writes about Marcia Epstein, whose mother died by suicide in 2003. Epstein has been the director of the Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, Kansas, since 1979.

“When I think about suicide, what I think about is the sadness that this person thought there was no other choice … Every day we get the kinds of calls that are so intense that we know the person on the other end of the line could die this day,” Epstein said.

“The call may start off where the person is 95 percent sure that they’re going to kill themselves. But you have to remember that there’s a little bit of hope there because they called. Our job is to ratchet up that hope.”

And to talk. Epstein’s perpetual message is that there’s always help available, always someone ready to listen. (Lawrence Journal-World)

The article is accompanied by a companion story, Call of Duty.

Samuel Johnson

From left, Justin Rosniak, Samuel Johson, and Simon Lyndon star in Brendan Cowell's hit play "Men." (Melbourne Herald Sun)

In “No Longer a Man in a Hurry,Senior Arts Writer Robin Usher reviews the play Men, which stars Samuel Johnson, whose girlfriend died by suicide in 2006.

“I was born to play this role,” [said Johnson.] “It’s a very personal thing for me, but I’m finding it cathartic to channel my own situation into something else.”

[After his girlfriend died,] Johnson stopped working as an actor to avoid the media spotlight and sought counselling over his drug and alcohol abuse. “I came out of it with a bunch of ways to combat my addictive nature. I didn’t realise the extent of my problems until everything fell to pieces. I was an addict before Lainie [Woodlands] died but that gave me an excuse to go harder.” (The Age [Australia])

In ““J. Kyle Braid Ranch Teaches Leadership Skills to Teenagers, reporter Kevin Hoffman writes about Ken and Colleen Braid, whose son Kyle died by suicide in 1994 when he was 17 years old. The Braids founded the ranch “to perfect leadership skills found in responsible, dedicated teenagers.”

Teens between their sophomore and junior years of high school come from throughout the United States to the leadership camp after selection by teachers and peers. The Braids acknowledge peer groups have the greatest influence on teens and can make a positive impact by creating responsible leaders.

“It taught me how to really work with people and it changes your life,” [said one former student]. (The Mountain Mail [Salida, Colo.])

In “Riding for Life,reporter Brad Meyer writes about David Alexander, whose daughter died by suicide

Biker and his bike

David Alexander (Houston Community Newspapers)

in 2008 when she was 17 years old. The Michigan man is bicycling across the country “‘to talk to people about Angela, her life and her suicide. It [is] an opportunity to tell people how important it is to communicate with people in their lives.’”

In May 2009, Alexander set off on a road bike with a small trailer holding minimal supplies to tell his story to local newspapers, TV stations, and individuals wherever he goes. He carries with him several volumes of newspaper clippings and journals he has kept throughout his trip. He asks every person he encounters to write a brief comment in his journals as a means of including them in his effort. (The Courier [Houston, Texas])

In “Smiling While Singing the ‘Blues,'”features reporter Kerstin Gupilan writes about Stacy

Stacy Merlos

Stacy Merlos

Merlos, who joined the CSUN Blues Project after a close friend and fellow student, Dylan Miles, died by suicide. The project “spread[s] awareness about depression and suicide as well as inform[s] students of the counseling services CSUN offers.”

“[Blues] helped me to deal with what I was feeling. I closed myself off,” she said. “[My friend who died by suicide]He [Miles] is such a big part of my presentation, the video really hits home.”

Before his death, Merlos remembers seeing signs of depression in Miles and even joking with him about his psychological state of mind. During that time Merlos had no real direction in how to handle Miles’ depression. Now, aspiring to become a marriage and family counselor, Merlos hopes to one day help those experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. (Daily Sundial [California State University Northridge])

In “My Best Friend Ended Her Life at 37,Lea Lane writes about her loss, focusing on her understanding of depression as an illness.

About a year before she died, Delia became gaunt, her eyes haunted. She was seeing a psychiatrist, and on meds, but appeared lost and frightened. She told me she felt like she was in “a dark hole.” She said there was nothing I could do. She doubted everything she did.

[After she killed herself,] I called her friends, who didn’t believe me. “She had everything,” they said. “Why would she take her life?”

They were trying to find a reason. But depression can be a terminal disease. There is no “reason,” any more than getting a heart attack or cancer has a reason. (Huffington Post)

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Links to Suicide Grief Stories: February 21, 2010

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on February 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm
Cangemi Family

Missy Cangemi, holding a picture of her son Storm, poses with her husband, Paul, and their two children, Katie and Cole, inside the aviary Storm built. (Hannah Reel, Natchez Democrat)

[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]

In “A Future Lost: Vidalia [Mississippi] Teen ‘Born Good,’ Dies Too Early,” reporter Vershal Hogan writes about the family of Storm Cangemi, a 16-year-old boy who died by suicide in December.

After any death, fragments of the person who is gone linger — old photographs, trinkets they collected, unfolded laundry — all reminders that in the spaces between the fragments is a loss-sized hole. The [Cangemi] family has a table of photographs in the living room, can still access his MySpace page and can even see his features in the faces of their two other children, but the biggest physical reminder Storm left was his aviary.

Mixing a bucket of seed and other birdfeed, Paul said the first time he ever fed the birds was after Storm died: “At first, I was so angry about having to do this,” Paul said. “I would fuss and rage and say, ‘This was Storm’s thing, not mine.’ But now it’s something I can do to remember him.” [His mother said,] “We put a bench out here [in the aviary) and would watch Storm while he fed them, and now keeping them is a way to be close to him.” (Natchez [Mississippi] Democrat)

Janiva Magness

Janiva Magness

In “Blues Blowout Benefits Iowa Public Radio,” reporter Mary Stegmeir covers a benefit appearance by award-winning blues singer Janiva Magness, who lost both of her parents to suicide by the time she was 16 years old.

At Saturday’s Blues Blowout the 53-year-old proved it’s her unbridled joy for the genre — not her painful past — that truly sets her apart from the rest. As Magness sang hits from her 2008 album “What Love Will Do,” a twinkle lit up her eyes. “You know, I love my job,” the headliner told the Electric Park Ballroom crowd. “I feel like I’m a very, very lucky woman.” (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

There is an in-depth profile of Magness on the Foster Care Month website, in which she says,

“I have a life today I could never have imagined. You know, your fate does not have to be your destiny. Fate is what you are handed. Destiny is about what you could be. I’m living proof. The tragedies of my life no longer define me.”

Mom with daughters picture

Janice Doherty shares a photo of her daughter Rachael. (Derry Journal)

In “Mum Tells Town Councillors of Daughter’s Suicide,” the Derry Journal reports on suicide survivor Janice Doherty’s appearance before the Buncrana, Ireland, Town Council to promote the launch of the initiative Buncrana Community Combating Suicide.

“It only takes a moment to change your life forever: Mine changed 15 months ago when my daughter Rachael took her own life … For me, now my days are just about being here: I have struggled this past 15 months, not an hour going by that I am not thinking about my beautiful daughter … But I have to look to the future, I have to move on and I have to live. It is terrible upsetting that I cannot reach out and touch Rachael anymore.

“Part of me died that day too. But I have to get on with my own life in order to face the future.” (Derry Journal)

In “Mental Illness Still Can Come with Stigma,” Judy Gillentine writes about how her mother’s death by suicide in 1992 led her to become a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As so often times happens with death, we divide our life with before and after; before my mother died and after my mother died. It was 1992, the year my mother killed herself and the year I first became acquainted with NAMI … Wrestling with guilt and questions that can only come from being raised by a clinically depressed mother, I sought out this organization for support. At that time, they were filling slots for a class taught by survivors called The Journal of Hope. Correctly titled, this educational class would become my beacon. And with it a seed began to grow that would make me the advocate for the mentally ill that I am today. (Longview [Texas] News-Journal)

In “Suicide Leaves Big Sister Puzzled,” reporter John Grant Emeigh writes about Rena Puccinelli, whose brother Reno died by suicide five years ago when he was 41 years old.

“We were all blindsided by it,” Rena said. “Nothing made any sense. We were trying to put things together, but nothing made any sense,”

He showed no signs of being upset or depressed. He said nothing about feeling suicidal. He left no note. Family members were stunned after his death was ruled a suicide. Rena said they went over every possible reason but came up with no conclusion. For several months, Rena rarely left home, ashamed to show her face. Her father refused to speak about it.

A year after his death, she concentrated on work. “I tried to stay busy so I didn’t have to think about it,” she said. It didn’t work. She said she thought of her little brother every day. (Billings Gazette)

In “Suicide at Bobst,” Esmeralda Williamson-Noble, whose 20-year-old son, Andrew, died by suicide only three months ago, writes about her struggle to understand what happened at the college where he died.

My son’s death was a bolt out of the blue for my family. And all of us, privately and with each other, go over and over what happened. We go over and over what we know of Andrew; we ask ourselves what, if anything, we may have missed. What set of circumstances, people, instances, had they been different, would have prevented, foiled, stopped, that fateful night’s events from coming together and ending in my son’s death? (Huffington Post)

[Editor’s note: By way of a personal update on the final item, above, Esmeralda was among a small group of suicide prevention advocates at the AFSP/SPAN Legislative Institute in Washington, D.C. on Monday-Tuesday, Mar. 8-9, where I spoke on a panel and the lot of us visited our congressional representatives on Capitol Hill to promote suicide prevention. She blogs at “Forever Invictus,” where she has shared about her loss ever since a post the day of her son’s death on Nov. 3, 2009.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

Links to Suicide Grief Stories: February 11, 2010

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on February 11, 2010 at 8:28 am

David Alexander and daughter

[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]

In “Pedaling for Preventionin the Charleton County [Georgia] Herald, we learn about David Alexander, whose 17-year-old daughter Angela died by suicide in 2007. He has “logged 6,457 miles on his bicycle” since May 7 of last year because, he says, “‘I wanted to do something to give her life meaning. I didn’t want another child to die the way she had.’”

During his journey, Alexander … has carried journals in which some of the countless people he has met … have expressed their innermost thoughts after hearing his story and others have praised him for his courage in the face of his own pain.

“David, I think you must be an angel,” reads one entry written by a mother of a young daughter.

In another, a 16-year-old girl in California writes that she had planned to kill herself the night she met Alexander. Instead, he gave her the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and waited with her until social workers arrived. (Charleton County Herald)

In “Suicide’s Aftermath: Families Turn to Support Groups,” reporter John Grant Emeigh writes about Charlotte Macdonald, whose son Scott ended his life more than 20 years ago when he was 22 years old. Afterward, Charlotte found healing in an informal support group where people who had lost a loved one to suicide could be together and help one another.

In 1984, a friend … introduced MacDonald to other women who lost family members to suicide … The relief she experienced at these meetings was like a giant weight lifted from her shoulders.

“It was a safe place to unload your feelings and thoughts,” she said.

MacDonald’s suicide support group met for seven years.

“By the time it was over, I had a sense of peace and that I had come to terms with my son’s suicide,” she said. (The Montana Standard)

[Editor’s note: Anyone interested in attending a suicide survivor support group can find one in an online directory maintained by Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).]

Read more here …

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Links to Suicide Grief Stories: November 3, 2009

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on November 3, 2009 at 8:53 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]

In “Lidia’s Story” on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (800-273-TALK/8255) YouTube Channel, Lidia Bernik talks about losing her sister to suicide and how that has shaped her life and her work.

“I say that my family died with my sister because the way that my family was will never be again … Suddenly she was gone, and that is so painful.”

[Lidia is Director of Network Development for the Lifeline. Before that, she worked for the Suicide Prevention Action Network, the role she had just taken on when I first encountered her, at a meeting in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2004. SPAN was at a crossroads in leadership then, and she made a real difference by speaking passionately (in the way people do when they speak truth to power) about the common ground shared by all survivors of suicide loss. FJC]


Ben Verboom (Melissa Lampman/Kamloops This Week)

In an “Everyday Hero” segment broadcast on Global National, Ben Verboom tells how his father’s suicide led him to start the “Cycle to Help” campaign, a cross-Canadian trek he embarked upon last summer. In a newspaper article published part way through his journey, Ben explained the goals of the ride.

“My main focus is to start a dialogue about the issues — one that’s compassionate and comfortable,” he said. “Suicide is an issue we need to bring to the forefront.”

Although Ben is on a solo physical journey, his dad’s memory is close at hand: Ben is riding his dad’s bike.

“I’m fulfilling that dream, but I’m also coping with his death. It’s been a healing process and I’m feeling really good about it” (Kamloops This Week).


Jan Andersen

In “Mum Hopes Book Will Help To Ease Pain of Suicide,” Jan Andersen recounts how she came to write Chasing Death after her 20-year-old son’s suicide.

“In my frenetic search for understanding and support, I had difficulty finding any resources that truly connected with my raw grief. Most suicide books appear to be remote and academic and focus on suicide rather than relating to the shattered world of those left behind” (This Is Wiltshire).

In “Suicide: Coming into the Light,” reporter Faye Whitbeck of the Daily Journal (International Falls, Minn.) interviews three of Erik Rasmussen’s family members 18 years after he died by suicide. The article closes with a selection of poems by Erik’s brother Matt, who recently received a Bush Artist Fellowship. Here is one of them, titled “Outgoing”:

Our answering machine still played your message / and on the day you died Dad asked me to replace it. / I was chosen to save us the shame of dead you / answering calls. Hello, I have just shot myself. / To leave a message for me, call hell. The clear cassette / lay inside the white machine like a tiny patient / being monitored or a miniature glass briefcase / protecting the scroll of lost voices. Everything barely / mattered and then no longer did. I touched record /and laid my voice over yours, muting it forever / and even now. I’m sorry we are not here, I began.

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Links to Suicide Grief Stories: August 7, 2009

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on August 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm

[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]


Jack Clarke, Peter Johnston and Matt Gardner, 22, began their walk from Sydney to Brisbane on July 4.

In “Trio Walk from Sydney to Brisbane To Tackle Depression,” reporter Daniel Hurst bids farewell to Peter Johnston and two of his friends as they embark on a 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) journey.

The 22-year-old video producer, whose mother killed herself after a 10-year battle with depression, joined his friends Matt Gardner and Jack Clarke at the Sydney Opera House early this morning [July 4] to set off on the 23-day trek.

Mr. Johnston grew up with his mum after his parents separated, but she felt isolated as a deaf woman and had attempted suicide several times … [He] said the group started planning the “Steps 4 Survival” walk three months ago as a way to tackle depression among young people.

“I had a few breakdowns this year, and to make myself feel better I decided I had to do something for myself and to help others,” he said. “I’m looking for healing and this is definitely going to do that” (Brisbane Times).

SPNAC readers may visit the three young men’s Facebook page. [I couldn’t find news about the completion of the walk, so hopefully someone will comment with an update. FJC]


Cheryl Softich views a photo of her son, Noah Pierce, during the “Always Lost: A Meditation on War” exhibit. (Cathleen Allison, Nevada Appeal)

In “A Personal War: Mother Hopes Soldier Son’s Poetry Keeps Others from Suicide,” reporter Teri Vance goes with the mother of an Iraq war veteran who died by suicide to a multimedia exhibit that features the young man’s poetry.

On Thursday, Softich wept as she read the poems hanging in the hallway of the Bristlecone Building. She kissed her fingertips and touched them to the glass of her son’s portrait.

“I promised Noah when he was alive that I would get his work published and out there,” she said. “In death, his words are reaching out and trying to help others not to do what he did” (Carson City Nevada Appeal).


At Camp Stepping Stones, a large heart-shaped puzzle is among the activities that await children.

In “Stepping Stones Brings Grieving Families Together,” reporter Max Bowen interviews Melanie Lausier, a survivor of her husband’s suicide, about grief services that have been helpful to her children, Kami, 8, and Darren, 10.

The family has been to different counselors and bereavement services and found that with Camp Stepping Stones … the loss has become easier to talk about.

“You don’t have to hide anything from anybody,” Melanie said. “It doesn’t make anybody feel uncomfortable, because you’re all in the same boat.”

[The] … summer program has helped families form relationships with others who can relate to what they have experienced, said Pediatric Palliative Care Coordinator Maureen Forbes. The process is especially helpful for the children, who can find it difficult to talk about such losses with their friends.

“Some of these feelings they have never experienced before,” said Forbes. “We try and make it a safe and comfortable place where they feel secure enough” (Billerica Minuteman).

SPNAC readers may view a photo gallery from the 2008 Camp Stepping Stones program.


Kim and Robert Cutts

In “The Trauma of Husband’s Suicide Lingers,” columnist Kristi O’Harran covers one woman’s acount of the aftermath of her husband’s suicide, particularly problems with how she was treated by the medical examiner’s office.

Her husband … left a lengthy suicide letter saying he loved his wife very much, had lost his faith in God and felt the “weight of the world” on his shoulders. Life doesn’t get any worse than that, but for Kim Cutts, it was not the bottom of the pit. She said she was treated callously by workers at the office of the county medical examiner and at the evidence room. Routine procedures were devastating, she said.

Cutts said she was given back a bloody gun, provided explicit paperwork she didn’t want to read and shown little courtesy when she retrieved her husband’s personal effects.

“I was widowed by my husband,” Cutts said, “And lost by the system.”

O’Harran interviewed a Snohomish County official, who said that employees “prepare the family for what they might see, which was done in this case” (Everett Daily Herald).


Within hours after her death in a murder-suicide, a candlelight vigil brought friends of 18-year-old Ashley DeWitte together near her home in Mesa, Ariz. (Ralph Freso, East Valley Tribune)

In “Friends Remember Victim in Murder-Suicide,” reporter Mike Sakal captures the scene at a candlelight vigil for “an 18-year-old Mesa[, Ariz.,] woman [who] was shot and killed in her front yard by an ex-boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.”

Many of Ashley DeWitte’s friends shared memories near her home … late Wednesday [June 24]. The friends, led by DeWitte’s close friend Heather Harris, told stories about DeWitte, whom they described as “the girl with the bleached blond hair who could say something positive after everything.”

“Ashley was an awesome person,” Harris said. “Even knowing this girl the slightest bit lightened your world. I’ve got many memories of Ashley, and I’ll always carry them in my heart” (East Valley Tribune).

[“Links to Suicide Grief Stories …” includes articles about all “kinds” of survivors who are affected by suicide — including those left behind in a murder-suicide, both the survivors of the person who died by murder and the survivors of the person who died by suicide — because we share a common bond in our grief. FJC]

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Links to Suicide Grief Stories: July 28, 2009

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on July 28, 2009 at 5:15 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 Mattocks earned his high school dipoma from Hope Online Academy in June. (KUSA-TV photo)

In “Student Turns to Online School after Friend’s Suicide,” reporter Nelson Garcia, talks to Thorton, Colo., teen Ryan Mattocks about how the suicide of his friend, Jordan Scull, made him rethink his own life, including enrollment in an innovative online high school called Hope Online.

Mattocks says [he and Scull’s other friends] were all living the party life — drinking more than attending classes at Horizon High School … Mattocks enrolled in the Hope Online Learning Academy Co-op.

“It’s a lot like a second chance,” [he said], “because a lot of kids that are at that school either got kicked out of the traditional high school or were failing at the traditional high school … I think that [Jordan] would be glad that he had that much impact on all of our lives after he passed away. He is a big inspiration to me” (KUSA-TV)


Laurie Miller displays a photograph of her son Ben (Hamilton Spectator photo).

In “The Dark Abyss of Drug Addiction,” columnist Susan Clairmont tells the story of Laurie Miller, whose 29-year-old son Ben died by suicide while struggling with addiction to OxyContin.

Laurie got him a spot at a Toronto-area detox centre. But it would be a month before Ben could start. He wasn’t able to wait that long. On Nov. 30, 2004, Ben killed himself. He was 29. He did not leave a suicide note. Just his OHIP (health insurance) card propped against an illegal bottle of OxyContin.

After Ben’s death, Laurie “began volunteering at the Men’s Withdrawal Management Centre in Hamilton.”

Many of the guys there use Oxy. She tells them Ben’s story. She listens to theirs. Laurie also works weekends at The Living Rock, and says she makes a special point of connecting with street youth who talk about Oxy. She tells them about Ben.

“I’m going to try to help one person if I can,” she says (Hamilton Spectator).


Curt Chisholm is a civil servant turned mental health advocate. (Eliza Wiley, Helena Independent Record )

In “Personal Tragedy Drives One Man’s Crusade,” reporter Eve Byron uncovers the motivation behind a well-known Montana state agency leader’s push “to try to get better help for people and families struggling with mental illness,” including organizing the NAMI walk in Helena for the past five years.

Only a handful of friends know Curt Chisholm as the heartbroken father of a son who committed suicide eight years ago …

Chisholm has returned to his roots with the government … advocating … to anyone willing to listen.

“The state doesn’t understand what it takes to treat mental illness, and how important it is to treat in the community,” Chisholm said … “They need to establish a pattern that’s consistent at the community level and get good, [effective] diagnosis and early intervention at an in-patient level” (Helena Independent Record).

[Editor’s note: Curt Chisholm’s story is part of an in-depth investigative report by the Helena Independent Record on mental health care in Montana.]

In “Springfield Mom Testifies on Bullying,” Boston Globe correspondent Stephanie Vallejo reports on “ordinary working mom” Sirdeaner Walker’s testimony before Congress about her 11-year-old son Carl Walker-Hoover’s suicide.

“What could make a child his age despair so much that he would take his own life?” Walker asked during a panel on “Strengthening School Safety Through Prevention of Bullying.” “I will probably never know the answer. What we do know is that Carl was being bullied relentlessly at school.”

Walker supports a bill that would require states that receive grants for safe and drug-free schools to invest in bullying prevention programs (“Political Intelligence“)

In Ms. Walker’s Congressional testimony,, she says,

“The most important thing I have learned that bullying is not an inevitable part of growing up. It can be prevented, and there is not a moment to lose” (YouTube video).

A BBC report, “Website’s Support after Suicides,” tells the story of the Choose Life page, which was created by teens and is hosted on the Bridgend County Borough Council’s Website. Bridgend, in the U.K., has experienced a cluster of suicides.

One of the youngsters, 17-year-old Rhys, said he and his friends decided to create the website because they did not think there was enough access to information about the effects of suicide.

“Losing someone close to you is indescribable really,” he said.

“The devastating effects it had on myself, my close friends and family, it does bring you to tears just thinking about it.

“I think if this can be prevented, why should someone suffer from it?” (BBC News)

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

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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.

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Links to Suicide Grief Stories: June 3, 2009

In Grief Stories Series on June 2, 2009 at 11:06 pm

[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]

In “Glitterati help erase mental illness stigma,” Society Editor Frank Brown interviews Sam Bloom, a long-time suicide prevention advocate in California, who reflects on recipients of the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center’s “Erasing the Stigma” leadership award. Bloom and his wife, Lois, lost their son Sammy to suicide in 1982.

“Stigma prevents people from seeking help,” said Sam Bloom … “The way we reduce stigma is to make the public aware that mental illness is a brain disease much like cancer is a cellular disease or diabetes a disease of the blood.” (Palos Verdes Peninsula News)

In “One person can help prevent suicide, forum hears,” writer Julie Slack reports on a forum held in Peel, Ontario, Canada, where David Harris, a survivor of his son’s suicide in 2005, told the assembled crowd about CameronHelps, the teen suicide awareness organization he launched.

In an emotional presentation, Harris said he turned to friends who are there to guide him through his grief. He made a pact to run 19 consecutive Mississauga Marathons, one for each year of Cameron’s life. After last Sunday’s race, he has 14 more to go. Harris also decided to hold what he hopes will become an annual five-kilometre run/walk in Port Credit, as part of the Mississauga Waterfront Festival. Called “Find a Way,” the first run is slated for June 21. (The Missauga News)

In “Amid grief, love blossoms,” reporter Claire Martin recounts how an Aspen, Colo., couple were brought together by their grief over the deaths of family members. Art Daily’s wife and two children died in an accident in 1995, and upon hearing of the tragedy, Allison Snyder, who had lost her brother to suicide, sent a gift to Daily. The two corresponded, and …

After a courtship that swung between caution and impetuousness–what about their 25-year age difference, would Allison always dwell in the shadow of Art’s grief?–they married, roughly 15 months after the Glenwood Canyon accident.

Now, more than a dozen years later, Daily and Snyder have written a book, Out of the Canyon, which “is devoted to the singular story of how Art and Allison met” and includes “an afterword, ‘Grief Has No Rules,’ sharing their thoughts on mourning and on the best ways to comfort someone in the wake of a death.”  (The Denver Post)

In “Friends honor Seibert, raise awareness about teen suicide,” Gracie Bonds Staples reports on how a half a dozen of a young suicide victim’s friends launched The Seibert Foundation in his memory.

More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. For Kyle Murphy and six of Ben [Seibert]’s other friends, those statistics translate into human lives.

“Suicide is not inevitable, and the only thing you can do wrong is nothing,” Murphy said. “Everybody can do something to participate.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

In “Parents reach out through their grief,” reporter Cathy Dyson covers the journey of Todd and Michelle Brown, whose daughter, Carol Anne, died by suicide in April.

Carol Anne’s obituary spoke of her many attributes–her smile and her ability to accept people for who they were. It hailed her as an accomplished equestrian, lacrosse player and actress, a young woman who accumulated 300 hours of community service with groups that help animals and handicapped children, and whose organs were donated after her death.

Then the obituary mentioned something not found in most death notices–that “Carol Anne suffered from the destructive illness of depression and bipolarism.” The Browns encouraged others to seek medical attention for loved ones who suffer from “this dreaded illness, especially teenagers during these most fragile years.”

Dyson’s report is accompanied by a video by Rebecca Sell, “Reaching out for Carol Anne,” in which the Browns talk about their daughter’s struggles in the last three years of her life. In the end, says Todd Brown,

“This can happen to any family, and we have to just be more diligent in looking for it.” (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

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Links to Suicide Grief Stories: May 4, 2009

In Grief Stories Series on May 4, 2009 at 12:11 pm

[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]

Dying To Change” by Scott MacDonald of the University of Idaho’s Argonaut begins and ends with the story of freshman Amitti Mackey’s loss of her father to suicide and also informs students about the problem of suicide in Idaho and on campus.

Thinking about the future can be difficult, [Mackey] said. “I don’t get to have my dad walk me down the aisle, or have that first dance.”

“You move forward … It’s not going to be normal like you knew. Just talking about it helps. You can’t keep it all bottled up and compartmentalize it. You won’t get rid of it.”

In a first-person essay, “Suicide: A New Beginning for Those Left Behind,” Michele Cole of Colorado looks back 20 years after her older brother, David, died by suicide and shares how his loss has affected her spiritual growth.

While being ‘left behind’ is never easy, it is a dramatic beginning to what can be a larger than life opportunity to grow in spirit … To learn how to fully grieve without giving into depression and to learn how to honor a life regardless of the mental and emotional anguish they have laid at your feet. The lessons of those left behind from suicide are like no other, and as with every experience in my life, I honor it … David provided many lessons that have helped me find my path–the path that has lead me to being the woman I am today.

Suicide Prevention: One Family’s Story,” by reporter Sarah Barwacz of WMBD TV in Peoria, Ill., is an interview with Sara Davis and Rachael Myers, who are preparing for Chicago’s Out of the Darkness Walk this summer in memory of Jason Hooker. Rachael, who is Jason’s sister, says in the interview that suicide “changes everything. Your life is never the same.”

[Jason’s girlfriend Sara says,] “If we can touch one person’s life and save them from having to go through the tragedy that our families have been through, then it makes it all worthwhile.”

Those Grieving after a Suicide Forever Wonder What They Could Have Done To Save a Life,” by reporter Tim Chitwood of the Ledger-Inquirer of Columbus, Ga., tells the story of a woman who lost both her husband and oldest son to suicide.

“The effect is would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, I think, which is a normal reaction in probably every death, but especially suicide, because in most cases, the writing’s not on the wall, and you don’t really think that could ever happen to you or your family — even when you’re going through treatment for depression and doing all that you can do to help the individual,” said Debi Dinwiddie-Johnson of the local support group Survivors of Suicide.

Suicide Creates Lifetime of Hurt for Loved Ones” by reporter Megan Loiselle of the Wausau Daily Herald covers the efforts of survivors in Merrill, Wis., to promote prevention through a billboard campaign that focuses on the aftermath of suicide.

Katarina Miller, 16, of Merrill said a lot of people knew about her father committing suicide in 2007. When she showed up at school the next day, many of her friends gave her hugs.

“People (who take their own lives) think they’re taking the problem away, but they don’t know how many people it affects,” Miller said.

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“Good Grief” Worker Preparing for National Survivors Day

In Grief, Grief Stories Series on November 14, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Margie Jones

Margie Jones

ORIGINAL STORY — Today’s Wenatchee World shares the story of Margie Jones, president of the Good Grief Center in Wenatchee, Wash., who is among the thousands of survivors of suicide loss who will be taking part in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s National Survivors of Suicide Day on Saturday, Nov. 22.

Margie’s son Steve died by suicide in 1996 and, as with so many people who have experienced such a tragedy, she has gone on to help others who are grieving after a suicide.

Whenever asked, Jones says, she shares how she started the healing process by setting up a computer science scholarship in her son’s name at Eastern Washington University, Steve’s alma mater. She continues healing by volunteering at the Good Grief Center. She also shares how healing happens, slowly and over time. And how she’s come to understand suicide’s root causes, such as excruciating emotional pain, sometimes accompanied by mental illness.

Joanne Harpel of AFSP explains in a recent interview that one of the purposes for National Survivors of Suicide Day is to counter the stigma that often accompanies a death by suicide.

There is nothing shameful in having a suicide in your family. There’s no reason for you to feel isolated or that you somehow did something wrong.

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Editor’s note: Each year in conjunction with National Survivors of Suicide Day, articles are published across the country about people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Several of this year’s stories are linked to below in the “Comments” section of this post.