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LOSS Program Office
721 N. LaSalle Street
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Main Line: (312) 655-7283
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Featured this Month:

From the Desk of Jessica Mead
Wednesday, August 16, 2017 by Jessica Mead
If you attend LOSS support group meetings you may be able to appreciate that sometimes meetings are really good, and you leave feeling energized and supported; but other times you think it was just okay, or perhaps it was not helpful at all. While we hope that most meetings are good and supportive we know that various factors can make the experience just okay for survivors at times. I have left my fair share of meetings wishing that I had said something different or connected with a lone member a bit more, but this past month I facilitated one of those exceptional meetings. I left feeling humbled, grateful and honored to be a part of the LOSS program. As the meeting started I looked around the room and had the thought that in no other sector of life would such a diverse group of people be coming together. I wondered how this eclectic group of individuals were going to relate. The survivors in this group represented differing religions, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual identities, political affiliations, social skills, and world views. After the meeting I felt a sense of tranquility as I saw members connecting and exchanging phone numbers. At times people felt vulnerable enough to cry and at other times felt comfortable enough to joke and laugh. People seemed to connect in such a way that the social constraints of real life didn’t seem to exist. There was something so awesome about the support being shared that I felt gratitude to be a part of this experience. Each suffering group member was able to share their “story” and at the same time had enough empathy to listen to others around them. This perfect combination created a safe container for the grief experience. As the meeting ended people exchanged phone numbers and the facilitators were gently nudging survivors out of the room (facilitators know that this is a sign of a good meeting). The facilitator and I both smiled as we debriefed because even though it was only a two-hour span of time, we knew that these individuals felt comfort in an otherwise painful grief experience.
Losing a loved one to suicide can feel very isolating and many individuals have trouble finding their “tribe” or locating people with whom they can process their experience. We often hear survivors talk about being avoided at the grocery store or they themselves avoid situations where the topic may come up. Many survivors also struggle to share how their loved one died, some feel the weight of the stigma, and others do not feel safe sharing the information. For myself, I still wonder why after 12 years it is still difficult for me to say, “Actually my father passed away, he died by suicide.” It can feel like it takes too much emotional energy, it’s so much easier to not go into it at all and instead talk about Hollywood gossip or funny things that my 3- year- old said. I recently found an article that put words to the feeling I was unable to articulate. The author had lost her sister to suicide and she shared that she had a difficult time sharing how her sister died because she did not know what sort of reaction she would be confronted with. Many times after sharing she felt like she was then in a position of needing to comfort the other person and feeling embarrassed that she made this person uncomfortable. This made complete sense to me. There were times when the topic of “parents” would come up and I would share “Actually my father passed away.” The person would ask “how?” I would tell them suicide and at times it would bring a certain tension into the conversation. Although there were times that sharing the information actually connected me to someone who had a similar experience, those negative experience have still left an emotional impact on me.
What I have learned from these experiences is that I have to constantly assess the “safety” of the environment before sharing my experiences. I find that most people in my life (besides my beloved colleagues) are not comfortable talking about death and most definitely not death by suicide. It took me some time to have empathy for my friends who did not tolerate my grief well. Many of them had no experience with death, specifically traumatic death, and they did not know what to do for me. I remember being angry at the time but knew that I still needed these people in my life. These friends may not have been able to tolerate my grief, but they are friends in other ways. We all have our strengths.
While the outside world may not always have a place for our grief, know that LOSS and other survivors share in your pain. Even if it is a split second or brief moment, I hope that each survivor can experience a moment of serenity in their grief journey. A few wise LOSS members have taught me that some people’s lives are too painful to endure. I find peace in the thought that our loved ones are no longer suffering. To think of the pain that one must be in to take one’s own life makes me shudder and I am grateful that my father is no longer enduring that pain. I did not believe that the first few years of my journey, but after years of talking with hundreds of survivors I believe this whole heartedly. When asked why I choose to do this work, I often say that working with survivors has given me the opportunity to serve some of the nicest people in the world. As survivors even when we feel lonely or that people don’t understand our pain, know that there are others out there who share in this feeling and can understand the depth of our experience.


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From the Desk of Jessica Mead
Wednesday, August 16, 2017 by Jessica Mead
If you attend LOSS support group meetings you may be able to appreciate that sometimes meetings are really good, and you leave feeling energized and supported; but other times you think it was just okay, or perhaps it was not helpful at all. While we hope that most meetings are good and supportive we know that various factors can make the experience just okay for survivors at times. I have left my fair share of meetings wishing that I had said something different or connected with a lone member a bit more, but this past month I facilitated one of those exceptional meetings. I left feeling humbled, grateful and honored to be a part of the LOSS program. As the meeting started I looked around the room and had the thought that in no other sector of life would such a diverse group of people be coming together. I wondered how this eclectic group of individuals were going to relate. The survivors in this group represented differing religions, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual identities, political affiliations, social skills, and world views. After the meeting I felt a sense of tranquility as I saw members connecting and exchanging phone numbers. At times people felt vulnerable enough to cry and at other times felt comfortable enough to joke and laugh. People seemed to connect in such a way that the social constraints of real life didn’t seem to exist. There was something so awesome about the support being shared that I felt gratitude to be a part of this experience. Each suffering group member was able to share their “story” and at the same time had enough empathy to listen to others around them. This perfect combination created a safe container for the grief experience. As the meeting ended people exchanged phone numbers and the facilitators were gently nudging survivors out of the room (facilitators know that this is a sign of a good meeting). The facilitator and I both smiled as we debriefed because even though it was only a two-hour span of time, we knew that these individuals felt comfort in an otherwise painful grief experience.
Losing a loved one to suicide can feel very isolating and many individuals have trouble finding their “tribe” or locating people with whom they can process their experience. We often hear survivors talk about being avoided at the grocery store or they themselves avoid situations where the topic may come up. Many survivors also struggle to share how their loved one died, some feel the weight of the stigma, and others do not feel safe sharing the information. For myself, I still wonder why after 12 years it is still difficult for me to say, “Actually my father passed away, he died by suicide.” It can feel like it takes too much emotional energy, it’s so much easier to not go into it at all and instead talk about Hollywood gossip or funny things that my 3- year- old said. I recently found an article that put words to the feeling I was unable to articulate. The author had lost her sister to suicide and she shared that she had a difficult time sharing how her sister died because she did not know what sort of reaction she would be confronted with. Many times after sharing she felt like she was then in a position of needing to comfort the other person and feeling embarrassed that she made this person uncomfortable. This made complete sense to me. There were times when the topic of “parents” would come up and I would share “Actually my father passed away.” The person would ask “how?” I would tell them suicide and at times it would bring a certain tension into the conversation. Although there were times that sharing the information actually connected me to someone who had a similar experience, those negative experience have still left an emotional impact on me.
What I have learned from these experiences is that I have to constantly assess the “safety” of the environment before sharing my experiences. I find that most people in my life (besides my beloved colleagues) are not comfortable talking about death and most definitely not death by suicide. It took me some time to have empathy for my friends who did not tolerate my grief well. Many of them had no experience with death, specifically traumatic death, and they did not know what to do for me. I remember being angry at the time but knew that I still needed these people in my life. These friends may not have been able to tolerate my grief, but they are friends in other ways. We all have our strengths.
While the outside world may not always have a place for our grief, know that LOSS and other survivors share in your pain. Even if it is a split second or brief moment, I hope that each survivor can experience a moment of serenity in their grief journey. A few wise LOSS members have taught me that some people’s lives are too painful to endure. I find peace in the thought that our loved ones are no longer suffering. To think of the pain that one must be in to take one’s own life makes me shudder and I am grateful that my father is no longer enduring that pain. I did not believe that the first few years of my journey, but after years of talking with hundreds of survivors I believe this whole heartedly. When asked why I choose to do this work, I often say that working with survivors has given me the opportunity to serve some of the nicest people in the world. As survivors even when we feel lonely or that people don’t understand our pain, know that there are others out there who share in this feeling and can understand the depth of our experience.