John and Gail Urso — pictured with a photo of their late son, Kevin, who died from suicide in 2013 — have started a local support group for people who’ve lost someone close to them from suicide.

John and Gail Urso — pictured with a photo of their late son, Kevin, who died from suicide in 2013 — have started a local support group for people who’ve lost someone close to them from suicide.

File photo by K. Michelle Moran


Support group forms for those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 29, 2019

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — After their oldest son, Kevin, died from suicide in March 2013, Gail and John Urso, of Grosse Pointe Park, knew they needed help dealing with the overwhelming grief.

Despite scores of hospitals and medical offices less than a 15-minute drive from home, the couple couldn’t find a nearby support group for people who had lost a loved one to suicide. Gail Urso said they finally found one, in Macomb County, but it was a 45-minute commute to get there. The couple attended those sessions for months, but knew there needed to be something closer for others in their area.

And now, thanks to the Ursos, there is. Starting Feb. 6, a peer-based, nonclinical support group for people who’ve been affected by suicide will meet from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. The sessions are free and open to anyone, and no registration or reservations are needed. The Ursos have launched the support group through their nonprofit, Kevin’s Song, which raises awareness about suicide and how to prevent it.

“There’s a need,” Gail Urso said. “So many people know someone who has died of suicide or been affected by suicide.”

There are currently support groups for those who’ve lost someone to suicide in Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Chesterfield Township, Dearborn, Detroit, Farmington Hills and Waterford, but the addition of the Kevin’s Song support group means that people who live in east side communities like the Grosse Pointes, St. Clair Shores, Harper Woods, Eastpointe, Roseville and Detroit’s east side will have a place where they can share their emotions and concerns in a supportive environment close to home.

“I think the most important thing for us was just being with other people who’d experienced that particular kind of loss,” Gail Urso said. “Our friends were wonderful, but they kept saying, ‘I can’t imagine what you are going through.’”

Heidi Hannan, of Grosse Pointe Park, one of the support group facilitators, agrees. She said the support group she attended after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 made a positive difference in her recovery, and when her husband took his own life in 2017 at age 47, the mother of two was put in touch with the Ursos by the therapist she was seeing to deal with her grief. There’s still a social stigma associated with suicide, making it an uncomfortable topic even among friends and relatives.

“It’s one of those things not everyone wants to talk about,” Hannan said. “The need for a support group is really there. … For me, one great part of the support group is just sharing information.”

Hannan said participants can find out about the resources available to them, as well as ideas and solutions that worked for others.

“Beyond that, it’s seeing that people do get through this,” Gail Urso said. “You can see that life goes on. I really think the most important thing is being with people who have gone through (this) and who understand.”

The facilitators aren’t medical professionals, but Hannan said they’ve all undergone training to prepare for the support group sessions.

Hannan said participants can share if they want, but they’re also welcome to just sit and listen, if they don’t feel comfortable discussing their personal situation.

“Sometimes it’s good just to be in the company of others,” she said.

Grosse Pointe Memorial Church is located at 16 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms. The entrance is off the back of the building, adjacent to the parking lot. For more information, visit www.KevinsSong.org or call (313) 236-7109.

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