Turning grief into good for others

When someone dies by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 25 people – family members and close friends – are affected and struggle to manage their grief. The survivors often experience feelings of guilt as they question whether their actions, or actions not taken, may have played an unknowing role in the loved one’s decision to take their own life. The stigma associated with suicide and mental health complicates the survivor’s ability to talk about and process their feelings, potentially placing themselves at increased risk of suicide.

Jeff and Tonya Helmuth are very familiar with this struggle. Their 29-year-old son, Kristopher, died by suicide in 2015. Here, Jeff shares how their loss eventually opened the door to helping others.

Kristopher had texted me. I learned afterward that when I replied to his text about 15 minutes later he had already done what he had intended to do. In that kind of situation you can’t help thinking things like, “If I’d called him or texted him sooner, could it have kept him from suicide?”

Working in EMS, I know the unexpected loss of a loved one is a shock to the family – whether the cause is a farm accident, a sudden heart attack or suicide. We encourage grief counseling to help those loved ones work through the stages of grief. Tonya and I joined a group and it helped … to a point. As we continued to try to process Kristopher’s death we began to realize we needed more than the grief support group could provide. We needed to be able to share our feelings and challenges with others who had experienced a loved one dying by suicide.

Two or three months after Kristopher’s death, we began to look for a support group with others in our situation. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website is a terrific resource, and we were able to find a group in Fort Wayne called “We the Living”. The group is led by people who have also lost loved ones to suicide and they very generously set up a group in LaGrange County. We learned that AFSP has a certification course for support group facilitators and decided we needed to become certified. Tonya and I took over the reins from “We the Living” in September of 2017.

Surviving Loss by Suicide Support Group

Through our experiences we’re able to share with others like us. Talking to people of like experiences makes a huge difference, since each of us in the group knows that those we are talking to have a first-hand understanding of what is being shared. Being with ‘our people’ is the biggest advantage of this group.

What I love about our program is that it is an open forum. There’s no agenda – discussions move in a natural way. Group discussion leads the program. That’s why we find it so valuable.

Is the group right for you?

Whenever someone contacts me about the support group, I always ask them how long it’s been since their date of loss. If someone calls after a month, we advise them to spend some time with their family and friends and, if possible, join a formal grief share group. We try to encourage them to attend after six months.

We have five people in the group, on average, and walk-ins are always welcome. There is a core group that attends every meeting. Some of the others are in and out. Some come when they aren’t traveling. The group expands and contracts in size as people’s needs fluctuate.

For more information about the Surviving Loss by Suicide Support Group, call or email Jeff Helmuth at (260) 463-9492 or jeffrey.helmuth@parkview.com

Surviving Loss by Suicide Support Group
Third Tuesday of the month
6:30-8 p.m.
Parkview LaGrange Hospital
LifeBridge conference room

Interested in free suicide prevention training?

Parkview Behavioral Health and regional partners are sponsoring free, 2-hour QPR suicide prevention training sessions throughout the region on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Locations and times vary. See list below.

QPR is a proven suicide prevention technique that you can easily learn in a dynamic 2-hour session. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer. This technique is used to recognize the signs that someone is at risk of suicide, to offer hope and to get that person the care and support needed. Learn what to say, where to refer.

Training sessions are open to anyone 18 years and older, who is interested in extending a helping hand. The session presented at Parkview Center for Healthy Living, located within Parkview Neighborhood Health Center on Paulding Road, will be presented in Spanish.

Register for a free QPR training event near you. Registration will close on Thursday, Oct. 10, or as registration reaches capacity for each location and time.

Date and Times

Saturday, October 12, 2019
Various times and locations are available (See below)

Locations

MORNING SESSIONS

10 a.m. – Noon
Parkview LaGrange Hospital
EMS Building (main classroom)
0982N 00EW
LaGrange, IN 46761

Northeastern Center – Albion
833 E. Main Street
Albion, IN 46701

Parkview Huntington Hospital
Wellness Classrooms
2001 Stults Road
Huntington, IN 46750

Parkview Center for Healthy Living, located within Parkview Neighborhood Health Center
3350 E. Paulding Road
Fort Wayne, IN 46816
This session presented in Spanish

Parkview Whitley Hospital
Classrooms A and B
1260 East S.R. 205
Columbia City, IN 46725

 

AFTERNOON SESSIONS

1 – 3 p.m.

DeKalb Health
Conference Rooms 303 A-C
1314 E. 7th Street
Auburn, IN 46706
(Park in Lot C; enter in door 61)

Center for Healthy Living – Parkview Noble Hospital
401 Diamond Street
Kendallville, IN 46755

Parkview Center for Healthy Living
Located within the Parkview Warsaw YMCA
1305 Mariners Drive
Warsaw, IN 46582

Parkview Regional Medical Center
11109 Parkview Plaza Drive
Conference rooms B and C
Fort Wayne, IN 46845

Parkview Wabash Hospital
Conference Rooms A, B and C
10 John Kissinger Drive
Wabash, IN 46992

Register here

 

If you have concerns about yourself, a family member, or a friend, call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine at (800) 284-8439 or (260) 373-7500 to speak with a trained professional.

 

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