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Painful reminders plentiful for those left behind

KINGMAN - The "Smith" family moved to Mohave County from Wisconsin a number of years ago for one reason.

"One of our children, Stephen, committed suicide, and where we were living near Milwaukee became a constant reminder of that experience," said Jack Smith. "It was like every room in the house and every corner in our neighborhood was another reminder to our family about the loss of our son."

Some people saw the Smiths as running from their problem, but according to Ronald French, M.A., LISAC, making such a move is not uncommon. "After the loss of a loved one, people react in different ways."

"I'm not sure there is a right or wrong way to respond to something like we went through," said Susan, Jack's wife. "For us, moving away was the first step to our family moving on."

"I know Stephen would not want us to have stayed stuck in his suicide."

Stephen was a popular high school student who slipped into the madness of depression. From the time Stephen was 18 when his illness began until his death four years later, he became a different person.

"The first step for our family was to stop blaming ourselves," Susan said. "It took probably the first year to tackle that emotion. We still talk as a family and I think we all have come to terms with the fact that Stephen's death was no one's fault. We all did everything we could to prevent it."

Jack admits he has a very difficult time talking about Stephen, but he continues, like his wife, to love his son and focus on the good times they had together.

"I've taken to writing in journals," he said. "I started writing all of the positive times we spent together in these journals. The other day I wrote about a day when we were out for a bike ride and it just started to rain right as my back tire went flat. We just walked the two miles home through this crazy rainstorm and the two of us just talked and laughed the whole time. Stephen was 9 at the time.

"It's nice to have these stories in our journals. Stephen spent most of his life as a fun-loving, silly kid."

"We, as a family, decided that yes, Stephen committed suicide, but that is not what defined him as a person," Susan said.


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