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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

For these North Texans, healing from suicide means making space for grief

A group of people in Texas smiling in sunglasses.
Shannon Lamb
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Shannon Lamb and friends at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk. She joined a support group for healing after suicide after her brother's death. "That group gave me a way to become more comfortable with talking about my grief and what had happened," Lamb said. "Now I feel like I can talk to my family members about it a lot easier."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide deaths increased in 2021 for the first time in two years.

That's something Shannon Lamb and Eric Rustad from Fort Worth have experienced in their own families. They both were in a support group for healing after suicide. Rustad worked with an individual grief counselor, and joined the support group about a year after his father's death. Lamb found the support group three months after her younger brother's death.

They both share how they processed through their grief and how to support friends who have lost someone in their lives.

For resources and support, call the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988, or the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas at (214) 828-1000.

Slowing down is part of healing

Eric Rustad: I found that I was in a hurry to get things done. And the more I slowed down, the more I got stuff done. So when dealing with grief, you want to move through it and get it over with, but it's by going slow that you'll get through it better.

I'm not an expert on grief. I'm an expert on my grief. I can't tell anybody specifically what to do with theirs. I could maybe point them in some certain directions but I'm an expert on my grief.

Shannon Lamb: I think that was the biggest thing I had to learn: Everybody moves through their grief differently. Watching my parents or other people going through that was very bizarre. I wanted them to be at the level I was, and it just doesn't work that way. You're right, we're experts on our own grief but not anybody else's.

A picture of Shannon Lamb with her brother at a conference.
Shannon Lamb
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"For people that are going through grief, there's help out there," Lamb said. "There's different groups, there's therapists, there's people out there that want to help you, want to see you succeed, and help you through your grief. So don't give up. Find somebody that will help you."

Make time to feel grief

Rustad: Consider your grief work, and work at it. Something that helped me was scheduling a time to grieve, a time and a place, where you're just willing to feel it and go with it. If you can schedule it and work on it, it'll get better.

Don't avoid it. If you avoid your grief, it's going to sneak up on you. And it's going to impair you. Go ahead and face your grief. You don't have to face all the time. But you can take it.

Lamb: I think with suicide, there's such a feeling of guilt that doesn't come along with any other type of grief. I think because you feel like, what could I have done? What should I have done? You know, hindsight is always 2020 with suicide.

People told me in (the support) group, you may have regrets, but it's not your fault. I think that's like, the biggest thing because I couldn't get over the guilt for a long time. So to hear that in the group, and then constantly say that to myself, I think that was the best piece of advice anybody ever gave me in terms of suicide grief.

Supporting people is about being present

Rustad: I think if a friend wants to help somebody who's grieving, they don't really have to say much. There's a lot of clichés that have to do with grieving, and you can keep those in the book. You don't have to say those: Just be there to help people and listen to them and ask them how they're doing.

Lamb: I feel like people get nervous about what they have to say, or how they have to react. And you don't have to say a thing, just the fact that you're standing there or calling me every day to check on me speaks leaps and bounds. You don't need to say anything, just as long as you're there.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.