April 3, 2013

Suicide survivors share strength, pain

PLATTSBURGH — To keep herself going, Angie LePage has to believe her son Michael is in a better place now.

He died by suicide in 2005.

“There’s no road map for this kind of grief,” the Peru woman told those gathered for Healing After Suicide Loss, a recent American Foundation for Suicide Prevention event at SUNY Plattsburgh hosted by the MAPP Community Education Subcommittee.

It’s normal to have good days and bad days, LePage said. 

“It doesn’t get better; it just gets different.”


The event in Angell College Center began with a video of a group discussion among people who have lost someone close to them to suicide.

It addressed common emotions they, as survivors, feel and how to cope with feelings such as anger toward the loved one who died and the inevitable “what if” questions. 

One woman said anger is a common reaction at first but is often twisted into regret and blame.


A significant factor in healing is that everyone grieves differently, Mary Gillen said. 

“Every day’s a process,” she said.

She had thought her son Justin was depressed, but his pediatrician didn’t take her input seriously, she said, as her son was popular, athletic and came across as a happy kid.

He ended his life by suicide in 2006.

The Plattsburgh woman said she felt isolated because people turn away when suicide is talked about.

“I was blessed because Josh (Murchison), Justin’s best friend, and Justin’s other friends didn’t run away after he died,” Gillen said. 

“I didn’t have to totally lose him.”


Staying in touch with Justin’s friends and knowing what is happening in their lives made her think about what her son would be doing if he were there, too.

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