Longtime suicide loss support group meets in Northampton

  • Geraldine Unger of Southampton leads a support group that meets at the Baystate Outpatient Center on King Street in Northampton for those who've lost loved ones to suicide. Gazette Staff/Andy Castillo

Published: 6/18/2018 5:51:00 PM

Finding support from others who can relate after losing someone to suicide can be an important step in grieving, says Geraldine Unger, who leads a support group that meets monthly at Baystate Outpatient Center in Northampton.

“Suicide loss is a grieving process that’s different than it is for other kinds of deaths, typically because it’s so complicated, and there’s a lot of confusing emotions surrounding suicide,” she said. Unger lost her husband, Mark, to suicide in 2009, and started the support group a few years later.

The group was founded in 2012 in Easthampton, the first of its kind in the area, and moved to Northampton two years later.

These days, the Northampton group meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at 325 King St. It’s free to the public, peer-run by Unger and a few others, and structured in a casual drop-in format. Unger notes that there were about a half-dozen people at the last meeting.

Talking with others who have also experienced suicide loss is helpful because it allows conversation about suicide in a way that’s constructive, rather than emotional and with pity,” she said. She noted that grieving the death of a loved one after suicide is compounded by the stigma of a suicide loss.

Through peer support groups, Unger says, she has has gained insight into own emotions and has learned to pay attention to her needs, which is important during the grieving process.

“The initial few years are really, really, hard. But it does get better,” she said, adding, “you'll never go back to where you were.”

Elsewhere in Western Massachusetts, there’s a group that meets in Forastiere-Smith Funeral Home at 220 North Main St. in East Longmeadow on the third Monday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m., and another in Greenfield that meets at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Conference Room C, 164 High St., on the second Monday of every month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. (See story on Page C1.)

For more information on the group in East Longmeadow, contact Paul and Diana Lewis at dprof52@aol.com. To find out more about the Greenfield group, reach out to Donald Brooks at donb42spike@gmail.com. To connect with Unger, or to find out more about the Northampton group, send an email to sas4healing@gmail.com.

In addition to support groups, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a nonprofit organization dedicated to suicide prevention, holds events throughout the year, including  “Out of the Darkness” community walking, to raise money and awareness about suicide.

Locally, Greenfield’s annual Out of the Darkness Franklin County walk is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the city’s Energy Park. The Out of the Darkness Greater Springfield MA Walk will be held Oct. 20 at School Street Park in Agawam, 

Those having thoughts of suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK), contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741, or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

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