Group to offer support to local suicide survivors

'Surviving Suicide Loss' will offer sessions on the second Tuesday of every month.


WALLA WALLA -- "We're giving the hope of a new normal."

It's really all Janet Moore can do, now.

It was almost 18 months ago when her family's "normal" changed forever. Oct. 23, 2009, was when Moore's beautiful and bright -- but tortured -- daughter ended her own life.

At age 34, Lori Moore Wright could no longer bear the pain of her illnesses. The bipolar and borderline personality disorders, the anxiety issues, the regrets she had in her parenting decisions ... the newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis.

Wright, who worked as a medical insurance specialist, had threatened to end her life numerous times before, her mother said.

"She'd been in counseling since she was 14."

Moore and her husband, Dr. Bart Moore, suspected the call would come some day, but the shock was overwhelming, nonetheless.

"She shot herself in the face. She had researched it ... she did it perfectly. The bullet did not exit."

Wright had used the off-duty revolver belonging to her husband, a police officer who was the love of her daughter's life, Moore said.

Sitting at a table, the nurse waits patiently for her story to be absorbed. She knows it's as hard to hear as it is to recount.

But that event, and the resulting new life, can be used for good, Moore believes. She has joined with another survivor, John Paulson, whose son Nate Paulson died by suicide nine months ago.

Both families found no local sources of help in dealing with the ensuing grief. There are grief groups, to be sure, but to talk about this particular pain takes peer support, Paulson explained.

"Friends and family don't know how to support you. There is not a lack of love, but there's fear to bring it up. So a group of peers understands it and can talk about it," Moore expounded.

The duo came together after Moore read of Paulson's loss in a February Union-Bulletin story. In comparing sorrowful notes, they knew what steps they wanted to take.

Their endeavor, "Surviving Suicide Loss," will offer sessions for other people with membership in the saddest of fraternities, of which no one ever chooses to join. The meetings will take place on the second Tuesday of every month, 5:15 to 6:45 p.m., in the Columbia Room at the Walla Walla County Department of Human Services, 1520 Kelly Place.

The gatherings will not be therapy, but will foster open discussion and the sharing of stories. It will be a safe forum, where participants will find acceptance and not judgement, Paulson said.

Participants will be asked to commit to complete confidentiality and a willingness to listen and show respect. As well, any urge to offer "fixes" or advice will be resisted, according to the group's ground rules.

And talking is optional.

Paulson and Moore have been working on creating the support group for several weeks, getting guidance from literature and by attending conferences by the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.

While everyone grieves differently, survivors of suicide share common ground, even in the uniqueness of each loss. There can be shame, isolation, guilt, depression and a driving need to understand the "why" of suicide.

Many survivors find comfort in talking to others on the same journey. As well, people can share resources in this sort of group, Paulson said.

And not to be taken lightly is remembering the life of one who is now gone, including the good times, in a setting where no one is going be uncomfortable with such conversation, Moore noted. "Otherwise it's like they never existed."

Both organizers acknowledge their own grief is still fresh. "All of us are challenged to live with dignity ... in a world that doesn't understand suicide. That's our challenge, to move courageously forward and to speak out," Paulson said. "Our community has far more (loss from suicide) than it knows what to do."

Choosing such a fork in the road has brought a structure and purpose to their grieving, he and Moore feel.

"It's a chance to be making a difference with the tragedy we've been dealt," Paulson added.

There will be no group leader, but the two will act as facilitators. "Having a place to go in Walla Walla, to me that's a gigantic step forward," Paulson said. "There was nothing."

As well, both expect to be students of the lessons learned in the sessions, they said.

Neither has an expectation or prediction of the numbers the session may attract. Word of mouth will spread news of the group quickly, they assume.

"Some may not be ready to come and share their story," Paulson said. "We don't know where each person is, but at least we'll be there when they are ready."

"Surviving Suicide Loss" is free to all. Bottled water will be provided and people are welcome to bring snacks. For more information, call Moore at 525-6697 or Paulson at 509-301-2692.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.


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