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Remember the Families Who Have Lost Someone to Suicide

by Press Release
October 1, 2017

As Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Comes to a Close, Remember the Families Who Have Lost Someone to Suicide

Waltham, Mass. – September 28, 2017 – Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time when the mental health advocacy community works to educate the public on how to help someone at risk of suicide. It is also a time to acknowledge suicide’s lasting effect on families like Xavier and Cory Whitford, who experienced the crippling pain of losing a loved one.

Although Tommy was only three years old when his father died in a car accident, mother Xavier says “I think the early trauma of his father’s death affected him his entire life.”. Xavier married Cory five years later. He remembers bonding immediately with Xavier’s two kids, although Cory and Tommy’s relationship wasn’t always smooth sailing. While his sister called Cory “dad” right away, it took Tommy ten years to do so.

Tommy started exhibiting signs of depression in elementary school. By the time he reached high school, his depression had gotten so bad that he was self-medicating with drugs. In 2014, when Tommy was 19 and had just finished high school, he found out that his girlfriend was pregnant. Cory believes that Tommy got off of drugs for good because he knew he had to provide for his family. Xavier thought he was turning a corner. “He never let on that he was suicidal and I didn’t know to ask,” she recalls.

On August 18, 2014, Tommy took his life after a fight with his girlfriend. Xavier found his body.

The grief and trauma that she suffered threw Xavier into a deep depression. “I had always been an organized, driven person,” she says. “But this depression caused me to be different. I’d forget my keys or to pay bills—it was like I couldn’t focus on anything.” Even today, three years after Tommy’s death, Xavier’s cognitive impairment from depression has persisted.

Cory immediately went into caregiver mode—a role with which he was familiar from his job as a pastor. He asked his wife to make lists of things for him to do around the house. He tried to be patient and understanding, even as their relationship suffered from a lack of intimacy. Cory put so much on himself that he eventually became depressed. “Since I jumped right into taking care of my family, I never took time to go through my own grieving process,” Cory says.

It has been a long road for the couple. Both are now in therapy to help them cope with the aftermath of Tommy’s death. They also share their story of loss with others. “I tell parents that it is their job to become educated about depression and suicide,” says Xavier. “It can happen to anybody.” For his part, Cory encourages families to have open, honest communication. He especially wants other family caregivers to know that they have to be compassionate and kind when supporting a depressed spouse. “Your loved one will see your efforts and appreciate them,” Cory affirms. “Through all the pain, we’ve learned to love each other more.”

To interview the Whitford family or a Families for Depression Awareness representative, contact Valerie Cordero at (781) 890-0220 or valerie@familyaware.org.

 

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