This article discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline available 24/7. To reach the 24/7 Crisis Text Helpline, text 4HOPE to 741741.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — If recent statistics hold true, more than 1,600 Ohioans will die by suicide before the end of the year.
It’s sometimes called the permanent solution to a temporary problem. There’s no turning back. And for the loved ones left behind — sometimes there are no answers.
Denise Meine-Graham knows that pain, and remarkably, she uses it to help others survive their grief.
“My son Drey took his life in 2012,” Meine-Graham said. “It was just a few months after he had graduated high school, and I found suicide grief to be unimaginable, and traumatic, and despairing, and horrific.”
There are not enough words to describe her gut-wrenching grief. And there will never be answers to the questions so many survivors ask themselves — beginning with “Why?”
“What did I miss?” said Meine-Graham. “Should I not have done this? Should I have said this? Should I have picked up on that sign? What about this? Why that? It’s, it’s very, very difficult, and there are no answers. There’s nobody that can answer those questions.”
Finding no answers, Meine-Graham and her husband clutched their faith. Then, days after their only child ended his life, a woman from their church who also lost a son to suicide, Judy, came to visit.
“She just, she sat with me,” said Meine-Graham. “She let me cry; she cried with me. She held my hand, and she answered hard questions that I couldn’t ask anybody else, just another suicide loss survivor. And neither one of us knew it at the time, but seeds of hope were planted then.”
Hope that she would somehow find a way forward.
“One of the questions that I had for Judy was, ‘How long?’” said Meine-Graham. “’How long am I going to be just completely paralyzed with grief?’ And I remember her answer. She said two years, you’re going to notice a difference after two years.”
Near the end of that first year, Meine-Graham heard about a suicide survivors outreach program founded by Dr. Frank Campbell whom she met at a conference. The program is called “LOSS” and is manned by volunteers who know the pain of suicide loss.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s what Judy was for me,’” said Meine-Graham. “I and the pieces just came together. And I thought, ‘Why in the world don’t we have this in Columbus, Ohio?’ There are too many people that lose someone so dear to them to suicide, and the aftermath of such a traumatic loss is just horrific. And we got to work.”
So, she founded a LOSS chapter to offer support to survivors in their darkest hours. They work directly with the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, with a LOSS team that shows up to support family members even at the scene of a suicide. They have support groups and counseling services. Already, the organization has helped more than 5,000 people.
“I like to think that [my son would] be proud [of LOSS],” said Meine-Graham. “I’d like to think that he would see even some of his friends that have been supportive of this organization and have benefited from the support that we’ve been able to provide. I like to think that he’d be proud and grateful that we’ve been able to do that for people.”
Meine-Graham says there is no real timetable for healing. Numbness and shock can last for years. The support that the LOSS group provides can help restore faith and purpose. But grief lingers, and that is OK.
“Even now, at 10-and-a-half years, I still, I miss him, I still have times where I just need to sit and be still and cry and miss him, and sit in that,” said Meine-Graham. “And it’s, it’s something you learn how to integrate, and joy in your life can return joy has returned for me. I have fun. I enjoy life. But it’s not instead of the pain. It’s not instead of the ache of my son not being here, I still miss him.”