Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
As she sat at her dining room table one Wednesday afternoon, Terre Haute resident Kim Grubb could not help but get emotional when she recalled the tragic events of a not-so-distant past.
The tragedy was in 1992, but the pain of losing her younger brother — who took his own life — was still fresh in her mind as if it had happened yesterday.
“Devastated. I’ve gone through other deaths [parents, other relatives] … there’s no comparison” to losing someone to suicide, Grubb said. “Heart gets ripped out.”
Grubb is only one of many family members left behind after a loved one is lost to suicide.
And with the tragic, steady increase of suicide death reports in Indiana, there are many others who have felt the same loss.
A recent report from the Indiana State Department of Health revealed that suicide is a leading cause of death for Hoosiers aged 15 to54. Reports of suicide deaths in Indiana increased steadily from 2007-2010, according to the report called “Suicide in Indiana.”
There were 872 deaths due to suicide in Indiana in 2011, according to the 2011 Indiana Mortality Report, up from 867 deaths in 2010.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death overall in Indiana, the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year-olds and the third-leading cause of death for adolescents between 10 to 14 years-olds, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
“Suicide deaths leave a legacy of unimaginable hurt and guilt in families and communities,” said Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Joan Duwve.
Also left behind are emotional, financial and physical hardship for the survivors.
Two separate groups aiming to help suicide survivors have been formed in the Wabash Valley by two women who have been through that difficult journey.
Our Journey Forward
One of those groups is “Our Journey Forward: Life After Suicide Support Group,” which Grubb has formed. Undefeated by the past, Grubb — also a behavioral health nurse — aims to use her experiences to facilitate the support group, which currently meets on the second Thursday of every month at Mount Pleasant Church North Campus.
Although the support group venue is a church, it is not faith-based. Grubb hopes attendees can feel comfortable about sharing.
“I don’t want my experience to necessarily overshadow the experiences of everybody else. More that … for everybody that attends that there is that common thread that we’ve all lost someone to suicide,” Grubb said.
The support group aims to help survivors of suicide victims have the “opportunity to learn from others” and to get emotional support as they journey forward.
“My great hope for the support group is that others who are now going through those first few [days or years after a loved one’s suicide] know that there are others that have gone through the same thing.”
The first year after the loss of her brother, Brad, was “foggy,” said Grubb.
“For me, just try your best to get up each morning. You put one foot on the floor and put the other one next to it and you just keep moving on, one foot in front of the other,” she said.
Grubb “felt very isolated,” with no one to turn to but “you just do the best you can.”
She misses her brother.
“We were incredibly close,” Grubb said.
Although born two years apart, Grubb recalls from her childhood that some people asked them if they were twins.
“All my life, I felt I was his protector,” the older sister said.
So when he started having domestic and job problems, Grubb tried her best to help. At one point, Brad even stayed at her house while he dealt with his problems.
But soon, he decided to go back to his own home.
“I made him promise me that if things got bad, he was to walk out and call me and I would come get him wherever it was, whenever it was,” Grubb said.
“And of course the phone call never came,” she said as she fought back tears.
Brad shot himself at home and died of complications days after, Grubb said. He was 27.
In addition to dealing with her loss, Grubb, the protector, “constantly” asked herself what she could have done differently.
“I’m a psych nurse, I was his sister. I protected him all his life. How can I not have protected him from doing this?”
Grubb said that question seems to be a “common thread” among others who have lost loved ones to suicide, based on her discussion with other survivors.
It is only recently, she said, that she started healing and realizing that “there really isn’t anything that I could have done,” Grubb said.
“His actions were his actions. …You can’t protect somebody from their actions,” she said.
Grubb sees the support group as a way to “give some purpose to what happened to me years ago.”
“Now is maybe my time to bring forward an opportunity to give back and hopefully be able to give something to those who have lost a loved one to suicide,” Grubb said.
She wants to “bring others in the community to build friendships [and] relationships with those of us who have gone through that journey.”
Another Terre Haute resident went through a similar journey.
One fateful day in October last year, Tammy Connor lost Tom, a father she loved.
Inside his home in Kentucky, Tom took his own life “in a fairly violent fashion.”
Connor said that her father suffered from severe depression for years and the family had worked hard to help him fight it.
“It’s a battle we lost,” Connor said.
With just a hint of tears, she recalled the moment she received the “devastating news.”
Connor just “sat down to eat pizza” when she received a call from her sister. Her voice was frantic.
“There’s nothing that prepares you for that phone call,” Connor said.
Her mother found Tom when she came home from work.
“I immediately made the … trip to Kentucky and found out about halfway that he [was gone],” she said. “Just devastating.”
Emotional and grieving, the family had to worry about one more thing: clean up.
The scene, she said, required clean up, and it was “critical that that’s taken cared of right away.”
“We found out at that time that that’s basically left to the family. Or the people left behind. So you have a choice to make. You can either clean it up yourself … which adds to additional emotional trauma in an already difficult time, or you can have a company come in,” Connor said.
Connor said her family hired a restoration company to do the clean up, and the rates they were charged were very high.
People don’t realize that cleaning up the scene of a suicide “wasn’t automatically taken cared of,” Connor said.
Inspired by her experience, Connor decided to start an organization that will help other families financially and emotionally.
“Team of Mercy is a not-for-profit organization that assists survivors of suicide with any necessary biohazard cleanup as a result of a suicide,” she said.
Connor said the group has partnered with a local company which agreed to provide clean-up services at a discounted price. The goal is to provide financial support to families who are unable to pay.
Connor said that even if some families can pay, T.O.M. can still connect those families with the company so they can take advantage of the pre-negotiated discounted price.
In addition, T.O.M. is working with local law enforcement to reach out to families of suicide victims.
T.O.M. also aims to offer emotional support to survivors from other survivors, “people who have been there and know exactly what they’re going through,” Connor said.
“So basically, we’re just there for those survivors. Because until you’ve been in that moment, people have no clue about how devastating that moment can be.”
The organization was formed in June of this year and is expected to be “officially up and running” in early 2014.
Right now, the group is focused on raising funds “so we can do the work that needs to be done.”
Connor’s reasons for starting the organization are deep and personal.
“For me personally, I’m just taking my own experience and trying to make it different for the people to come. And in turn, leaving a legacy for my dad,” she said.
The organization’s acronym, T.O.M. is a tribute to her father, Tom.
“My Dad was always a person who gave to others so I’ve learned that through him,” she added.
It is also a way for her “to help give some meaning to his death that seems so senseless,” Connor said.
These two groups will fill a need in the community.
“After my dad died, I called everywhere and couldn’t find a support group in Terre Haute for survivors of suicide,” Connor said.
A support group specifically for survivors of suicide is “much needed” in Terre Haute, she added.
In discussions with friends about the same issue, Grubb arrived at the same conclusion.
“In looking at the support groups that we currently have in our community,” we realized “pretty quickly that we really don’t have a support group in our community that is specific to the loss of a loved one to suicide,” she said.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide is a different grieving process, Grubb said, “with different feelings that come about that don’t always come about when you lose someone as part as a natural death” or accidents.
T.O.M. and Our Journey Forward will aim to fill in the gaps.
“There are no wasted tears and there’s a purpose to everything,” Grubb said.
“If you allow God to heal your wounds, he will heal them,” she said.
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or email@example.com.
“Our Journey Forward: Life After Suicide Support Group” meets from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the second Thursday of each month at Mount Pleasant Church North Campus, 1075 Fruitridge Ave. Supper is provided from 6 to 6:45 p.m.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team of Mercy
A “Trail of the Werewolf Interactive Scavenger Hunt” will be presented at 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday at Terre Town Baseball Park. Special “kids hours” are from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. The event benefits T.O.M.
Team of Mercy can be contacted by writing to P.O. Box 10931 Terre Haute, IN 47801, calling 855-225-5550, or emailing email@example.com.
The Terre Haute Out of the Darkness Walk, an event that aims to prevent suicide, will be held on Nov. 2 at Indiana State University Rec East Field on Ninth Street. Registration will be at 9 a.m; the walk starts at 10 a.m.
For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page or call Billy Allen at 812-585-7536.