Five years ago, Rapides Regional Medical Center RN Joyce Toups lost her 22-year-old son Cody to suicide.
“It’s still the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of at night,” Toups said. about every morning and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep,” Toups said. “But I think I’m far enough out so I can listen to someone tell their story and tell my own story if they need it.”
That’s why Toups, and several other suicide survivor families have put together a monthly Suicide Survivor Support Group. The group meets the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital in the Cascade Room.
“Suicide is not a normal death,” Toups explained. “Nothing about it is normal. So while traditional grief support group help some, a lot of what we are going through, they don’t understand.”
The group is open to anyone who needs support and has lost a loved one to suicide. It could include parents, siblings, children, spouse, friends or coworkers.
One of the issues Suicide Survivors must deal with is the stigma surrounding the loved one’s death.
“The stigma of suicide is still there,” Toups said. “People don’t know how to respond. They just don’t know what to say.”
Toups, who has worked as an ICU nurse for 22 years, is upfront about her son’s story, explaining that he struggled with drug addiction and depression prior to his death.
“For a long time, I didn’t think I could be an ICU nurse anymore,” Toups said. “But in this unit, I sometimes see families here who need to hear my story. I can tell them there’s out there and let them take comfort in the fact that they are not having to do it alone.”
For more information about the Suicide Survivors Support Group, call (318) 312-7970.