Suicide Survivors Group Helps Mother
Cope with Loss
Chelsea Reyes had everything going for her. She was beautiful, pregnant and living with the man of her dreams, remembers her mother, Pam. She was a free spirit, her beautiful girl with the dragonfly tattoo.
Then it all fell apart. She lost her baby, lost her boyfriend, and was preparing to move out of the home they shared. She was devastated. “Her sister and I talked to her extensively that evening. She was exhausted, and said she needed to go home. She needed closure.”
Pam went to check on her 90 minutes later, and found her body. “She just gave up on life,” says Pam. “I never expected it. She was my beautiful girl. She loved life, and she never saw the bad in anybody. But she had her dreams taken away.”
After her death, Pam didn’t know where to turn. She knew she needed help, and was thankful for NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s free sessions. But it didn’t quite fit her situation. “I met a lot of people who had lost children, but not in the way I had. I needed to reach out to other parents who had lost a child through suicide.”
And so, when NorthBay launched a pilot program for survivors in suicide situations, she jumped at the chance and found other people just like her.
“It was a godsend.”
Now, thanks to the expansion of NorthBay’s bereavement program into a new building, the suicide survivors group, under the direction of licensed therapist Barbara Bean Jenson, will go from pilot status to public offering.
“It’s going to be wonderful to have a safe environment that will allow participants to feel comfortable to discuss really tough feelings and experiences,” explains Barbara.
Her “Grief by Suicide” Group is smaller than other bereavement groups—no more than eight people at a time. And it’s a closed meeting, meaning interested participants need to register, so no one just pops in, which helps create a greater level of commitment and promotes cohesiveness.
“Our society sees suicide as a family problem or a moral dilemma,” explains Barbara, “thus causing the griever to keep things inside. A ‘Grief by Suicide’ Group offers a place to tell truths without shock or judgment. They have found a place to speak their stories and find closure to the questions they may never find answers to…”
As much as the group has helped Pam, she continues to attend, because she wants to reach out and help other survivors. “We share our stories and we try to make sense of it all. We may never find the answers we want, but we have each other, and we’re coping.”
Pam says that even though her daughter is gone, she’ll always be present, a part of the family. “She’s with us, even now,” says Pam. Just the other day her grandson, Trenton (Chelsea’s nephew) saw a real dragonfly buzzing around, and he came home all excited because he knew his Aunt Chelsea loved dragonflies. “I saw Auntie today,” he told Pam.
“That’s because he believes she’s his dragonfly angel who watches over us. He doesn’t understand death,” says Pam, “but he understands that she’ll always be a part of us.”