GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the toughest losses for some people during the pandemic was in-person interaction. Now that more things are returning to face-to-face a group that helps those who’ve lost someone to suicide wants them to feel the connection and know that they’re not alone.
“The zoom and these video calls were very practical in what they’ve offered us, both in business, and in our board meetings and we even had a few of our support group meetings online, but I think when it comes to the emotional part of a survivors of suicide support group, it misses something,” said Jim Musial, president of the West Michigan Survivor’s of Suicide Loss Support Group.
The group recently began meeting in person again and Musial said although the virtual meetings were better than nothing, they don’t offer the same authentic connection for people grieving the loss of a loved one.
“When you can just sit there and be with somebody who’s telling their story, and you’re with them and they’re with you, that’s just so much more meaningful. I think if I was just to kind of summarize it… it’s as simple as handing a Kleenex box to a person when they need it,” Musial said.
Musial lost his father to suicide in 1983, but it took him years to seek support. When he finally did, he discovered the group he now leads. The WMSOSL support group has been meeting at Park Congregational Church in Grand Rapids for the past 40 years.
Becky Olson, one of the group’s board members sought out resources much sooner after losing her own father a nearly a decade ago.
“I never would have thought that 10 years later I would still be coming to a group meeting to connect with fellow survivors, but there’s something very unique about this type of loss that really sticks with you for the long haul,” Olson said.
The two say being able to connect with others who share similar grief can sometimes be the only thing that gets you through, whether it’s been years or days.
“We’ve done our best to welcome new and long-term survivors via zoom, but there really is a benefit to getting back together in person,” Olson said.
Since resuming in-person support meetings, the group has seen a lower turnout, but Olson and Musial want people to know they welcome everyone facing any type of suicide loss whether it’s a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling, child, parent, or any other loved one. And although the past year has been isolating for many, it’s never too late to seek support.
“Taking that first step is extremely difficult, but you will come in and those of us who had been in this for a while will heal from having the new people join us. So, really important to reach out, to get the help,” said Musial.
The support group meets every second Thursday of each month from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Park Congregational Church in Grand Rapids. If you or a loved one needs immediate support, there is always someone available to talk via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or through the crisis text line.
More information on warning signs, resources, statistics and more can be found here.