In 1969 I was a young veterinarian with two children and a wife,
Ann, who was suffering from severe depression as a result of physical problems and a host of personal tragedies. Feeling that
she would never be "normal" again, she took a plane from Tulsa to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, checked into a motel, took
an overdose of medication and committed suicide. In 1969 there was NO help available for survivors of suicide loss: no support
groups, not even a single book about suicide in the library or bookstore.
Twelve years later, my daughter,
Jennifer, started a period of depression at age 15, and over the next four years she would make multiple attempts at suicide.
While living on our ranch in Oklahoma and undergoing extensive treatment for depression, Jennifer spent one year working by
my side every day so I could make sure she was not harming herself. She seemed to be responding to her therapy, but I would
often get up several times at night just to check to make sure she was safe. I had to leave the ranch in the early 80's
and resume my veterinary practice on Thoroughbred racetracks on the East coast. Jennifer came with me and seemed to be to
be getting better.
Our family moved to New Hampshire in 1985; my practice at Rockingham park was doing well,
and life seemed to be looking up. Then on October 13, 1985, Jennifer drove to Marlborough, MA, checked into a motel and took
an overdose of medication. In 1985 there was still little help for survivors of suicide. It was still coming out of the period
It was in 1992 that a support group was started in Derry, NH, by the Center for Life Management
through a grant to one of their counselors. My son, Dan, and I joined the group and after all those years on our own, we finally
found a great deal of help, support and understanding. After the one year grant was over, the counselor said that these groups
were meant to be peer-facilitated, as survivors usually feel more comfortable talking to other survivors. In 1993, Dan and
I became the facilitators of the group and have facilitated it since that time. We feel that it is our way of helping others
through this difficult journey and giving some meaning to our own loss.
Dan and I represent survivors of
almost every relationship that could be affected by suicide—loss of a spouse, a parent, a child, and a sibling.
We continue to facilitate the “Coping With a Loved One’s Suicide” support group as a memorial to Ann and
Jennifer. If you or someone you know would benefit from being a part of our group, we invite you to contact us and join
us on a Friday afternoon from 4-5 pm at the Hampstead Public Library.