The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

July 28, 2013

Healing, friendship in support

Suicide survivors support group leans on each other


Now, as the number of suicides increases, so do the ranks of survivors. Across the nation, they are husbands and wives, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers. People caught amid waves of heartache that, in the aftermath of a suicide, can last for years, if not a lifetime.

“After my dad died, it was such a roller coaster of emotions,” Hutchison said. “There’s so much support around you in those first couple months, which was very helpful. Then, over time, those supports start going away. People don’t really want to talk to you about it anymore.”

Except that, month by month and year by year, the women still wanted — still needed — to talk.

Olson, 31, a social media consultant, wanted to remember the father who was a circuit court judge in Wisconsin and president of his church council. He called her nearly every day and had always been her “biggest cheerleader.” He organized big holiday dinners, celebrated every conceivable occasion — including his children’s “half-birthdays” — and chronicled it all by taking photos that he organized in dozens of family albums.

Hutchison, 30, a counselor, needed to talk about her father, too. He was a retired civil engineer and dedicated free spirit who kept a huge peace sign on the wall of his home office, loved the Rolling Stones, practiced yoga and who was, his daughter recalled, “a guy everyone loved.”

Van Sickle, 28, a personal trainer, wanted to remember the father who was a consummate salesman, an affable guy with a big smile who made friends wherever he went. He loved Jimmy Buffett and the White Sox. “He was the life of the party, one of those guys who was always loud, always fun. Not one ounce of shyness in him,” she said.

All of the men had successful professional careers. During good times, all were outgoing and gregarious. And after battles with anxiety and depression, all had killed themselves with guns.

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