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Edmonds counselor ready to help suicide-bereaved mothers

 

Last updated 11/10/2016 at Noon



Two years ago, Susan and Craig Cyr suffered one of the worst things that could happen to parents: Their 24-year-old son Spencer, diagnosed with mental illness, died by suicide.

“I’m always crying, just finished crying, or need to go sit by myself and have a good cry,” Susan Cyr said recently over a cup of coffee at Red Twig in Edmonds. She said she still grieves every minute of every day.

But she also says she is now ready to help others who have experienced what she’s gone through.

She is eminently qualified.

Cyr is a certified mental health grief counselor and an ordained Interfaith minister in private practice in Edmonds.

“My vision is to offer support to other mothers like myself,” she said. “Mothers who have lost a child to suicide. The increase in teen suicide is alarming to me, and hits very close to home. ”

Beginning Monday, Nov. 14, Cyr will offer group sessions for suicide-bereaved mothers in her downtown Edmonds office, which she shares with other counselors. Afternoon and evening sessions will be offered weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays, in both the afternoon and evening. The fee is $35, although Cyr said she will offer a sliding-scale fee.

“I am beginning now, before Thanksgiving, so that moms can have that to look forward to as the holidays approach,” she said. “Bereaved parents find holidays of all sorts very difficult, as a very important person is missing.”

Cyr said the sessions will be on a drop-in basis, but those attending for the first time should get in touch with her first.

Cyr, as a counselor, has years of group facilitation experience.

“I know the power of a group to support members on their own individual journeys of grief. I have benefited from such a group, myself, through the Compassionate Friends. I am a member of a group in Kirkland, but it only meets once per month. I will continue to be a member of that group, for my own support. What I envision for others is a group experience that meets more frequently.

“I am far enough along in my grief journey that I can now begin to be of service to others. There is virtually nothing for suicide-bereaved parents. Bereavement services and grief counseling are scarce, sadly. Services for suicide-bereaved persons are practically nonexistent.

“My work has been strictly by word-of-mouth up until now. Now I am ready to step into what I want to do – to honor Spencer and to be of service to other moms like myself. Mostly, I have been caring for myself and my family, learning to live a new life without Spencer in the world.”

Cyr, who said she is an atheist – she calls herself “earth-centered” – said no spiritual material will be part of her groups.

“The suicide-bereavement journey involves one’s own philosophy, certainly, and often leads one to clarity in one’s own philosophy,” she said. “Religious freedom, however, means we respect our diversity of individual experiences and enter with respect for the grief and spiritual comfort of others. I have some negative experience with others’ assumptions of and presumptuous behavior from eager new-age folks and Christians, assuming everyone shares their own brand of comfort. That’s not helpful to me.”

Cyr said she is a community minister who does not serve a particular church.

“As a person who honors the basic underpinnings of love found in all major religions and wisdom traditions, I serve people,” she said. “Not creeds. Certainly, people have their own individual philosophies, and out of respect for that wide diversity, I will emphasize none. Participants are then free to speak about their own individual spiritual experiences that are helpful to them. Or what is challenging to them. But I myself will not bring any spiritual things to the group. But participants are, of course, free to speak of their own grief journey in spiritual terms.”

Spencer

Susan Cyr said Spencer was a great kid. “It gives me joy to talk about him,” she said.

Spencer was mentally ill and suffered with Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder where there can be difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication.

“It was pretty mild when he was young,” Cyr said. “Some call it an invisible disability.”

Spencer took to music early as a youngster living on Whidbey Island (the Cyrs, who have another son, Forrest, now live in Brier), going to private schools and also being home-schooled.

He was a musician of the highest caliber, Cyr said, with perfect pitch and an ear for music. Despite his illness and turns with self-medicating, Spencer was admitted to Central Washington University’s prestigious music program.

“He auditioned and was admitted on the spot,” Cyr said. “But he couldn’t handle being in college. He couldn’t function on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t a matter of being sad. It was just a matter of falling apart in every conceivable way.”

Distraction and comfort

Cyr said she found that both distraction and comfort can help those who have lost children to suicide.

“You can’t alway be breathing out,” she said. “You have to take a break, to have the ability to take focus off it for a while. Your grief will be waiting for you. But you can’t pretend that it’s not happening, or get so busy that you can’t feel. I just downshifted, and realized I have a different trajectory than I anticipated. It’s slow, and it’s lifelong.”

For more information, go to www.susancyr.com or call 360-914-0058.

 

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