Summary:

Paragraphs 3 through 5 read:  "Cecil Heater, 72, who had been on medication for depression, shot himself in an Ontario store parking lot.

Anna said her husband of 49 years gave no warning sign until the day he died.

"He got up that morning and said, 'This medication is making me feel I want to kill myself.' "


http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20091220/NEWS01/912200304

Mansfield family finds a way forward after tragedy a year ago


From surviving to healing Way forward

By LINDA MARTZ • News Journal • December 20, 2009

MANSFIELD -- This year, Anna Heater and Brenda Heuer embarked on a journey they never anticipated taking together.

The mother and daughter recently marked the first anniversary of the loss of their father and husband to suicide.

Cecil Heater, 72, who had been on medication for depression, shot himself in an Ontario store parking lot.

Anna said her husband of 49 years gave no warning sign until the day he died.

"He got up that morning and said, 'This medication is making me feel I want to kill myself.' "

Today, it's still painful for her to pass the location where her husband died.

However agonizing, Heater and her daughter want others to know moving on is possible.

For many, recovery often starts with understanding suicide.

"Most people that take their own lives -- we believe there's probably some sort of loss of hope within," said David Krenrick, clinical director for the Center for Individual and Family Services. "They have extreme tunnel vision. A lot of suicides, we think, are pretty impulsive."

And that impulsive fixation isn't defined by age.

Family Life Counseling Director Steven Burggraf said usually young people, especially teens, are thought to be most susceptible to suicide. But in fact, people 70 or older have the highest number of suicides.

"It's not just a young person's problem," he said.

Burggraf said that while spring tends to see the most suicides, there's often a greater sense of concern around the holidays -- this year in particular, as the economy and unemployment mean people aren't as able to provide for their families in the way they would like.

Whatever statistics say about suicide demographics, one fact isn't in question -- when someone takes his own life, other people suffer.

"Family members tend to blame themselves for what has happened," he said. "They go through this whole range of emotions, knowing that this person they loved was the victim and also the perpetrator."

The way forward for Heater and Heuer was through a network of local help available for family and friends of suicide victims -- survivors programs, suicide prevention meetings and suicide and grief support groups meetings in Mansfield and Ashland.

Support groups, Heuer said, "give you a place to cry, where people have been through what you have been through."

"It was hard to walk in for the first time," Heater said. "But it helps. I don't think I talked too much that first night. I cried more than I talked. But the next time, it was easier."

Heuer also attended a "Family to Family" class sponsored by the Mansfield chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There she learned a head injury her father sustained years ago might have contributed to his depression.

Also helping to shed light on what he was going through before his death and how Heater and Heuer could get through their grief were many books and churches services and even more support group meetings.

"Those are the things that have helped us," Heater said.

"We've been everywhere," her daughter added.

Heuer recently put a Christmas tree up in her Mansfield condo -- something she couldn't even think about in 2008.

"Last year, no Christmas decorations at all," she said. "This year, I said, 'Lord, it's about you.' "

While a number of local agencies are available to help and several support groups exist in the area, Krenrick said it's essential that family and friends stay close to those in the process of grieving.

"I tend to believe that the important things in life are not what I say, but that I'm there, being supportive and showing that I care," Krenrick said. "When we're in our darkest times, the important thing is having someone there who we know cares."

lmartz@nncogannett.com 419-521-7229