Northbrook, Glenview Residents Discuss Grief and Suicide at Community Meeting

According to Northbrook Village President, "Northbrook can and will recover" from the recent tragedies.

There were no outbursts, no shocking revelations about the recent tragedies in Glenview and Northbrook.

On Wednesday night, hundreds of people filled Sheely Center to quietly reflect on the past and hear expert advice on grief management, the statistical realities of suicides in Illinois and how to communicate with loved ones during periods of emotional hardship.

They gathered in the wake of a string of recent tragedies, including , , , , and .

The speakers' expertise was diverse, but one piece of advice echoed throughout the night — The best remedy for children struggling with grief or depression is positive parental involvement and honest conversation. 

"There is no peer group that will out-influence what you have already done as a parent," said District 225 Superintendent Michael Riggle. "Pull them back in, have those discussions and reestablish the relationship."

David C. Clark, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said researchers still have a lot to learn about the nature of suicidal people, but there are no statistical irregularities in recent cases. 

In fact, researchers have found the same trends among high school students across the country. 

One in four high school students have felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more, Clark said. One out of six kids would say they have seriously considered suicide and almost one in ten high school students have attempted it in the last year. 

There is also no single common denominator among suicides in Cook County. 

"Many elements must coincide," Clark said. "Some of them we can pinpoint, some of them we can vaguely outline, some of them we don't understand at all."

He did say that three common factors exist — the presence of a psychiatric disorder at the time of death, which may have developed recently, a family history of psychological disorders and a family history of suicidal behavior. 

The presentation's main focus, however, was helping people deal with the death of loved ones.

According to the evening's first speaker, Karen Liebold, a bereavement specialist from the non-profit counseling center Willow House, grief does not have a timeline and it doesn't go away — it only changes over time. 

"Be patient with yourself, be very gracious to yourself," she said. "It doesn't take time to get over grief, it takes a lot of work."

The evening's second speaker, Richard Blue, the founder and clinical director of Northbrook's Center for Christian Life Enrichment, said kids can learn to deal with grief by seeing parents deal with their own challenges. 

"It requires courage," Blue said. "It's much easier to numb ourselves, that's what I think most people do. But if we do that, we miss the opportunity to make significant meaning of tragic things we can't control."

Among the people in attendance Wednesday night was Illinois State Representative Daniel Biss. 

"Our kids are two and four, it just sounds like a nightmare to me," Biss said after the presentations. "I have a responsibility to my constituents to do as much as I can to put myself in their shoes so that there's a way for me to help them."

"I learned a lot and I don't know what I'll do next but I intend to keep learning," he added.

Before the presentation, Northbrook's Village President Sandy Frum wrote in an email that residents are turning to each other and their faiths to find support after the recent tragedies in town. 

"The Coping With Loss event is just a beginning," Frum wrote. "Northbrook can and will recover from this."

To keep up to date with local news, sign up for the Northbrook Patch or Glenview Patch morning newsletter.

alexa markoff July 12, 2012 at 11:22 AM
How was this community meeting publicized to those of us who do not have a child in the Northbrook schools?
Joe Ski July 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM
There was an article here on the patch on 7/9. Not sure of any other advertising for it. Hopefully this won't be the only/last one of these meetings that is held. Way too important of a subject not to keep everyone up to speed and aware of as much as possible.
Bob I July 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Announcements were also emailed via Northbrook Notify (sign up on the Village website - www.northbrook,il.us), and published on facebook (like the village to be included on mailings). I believe there will also be a discussion at Congregation Beth Shalom on Saturday 7/14.
The Village of Northbrook July 12, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Northbrook Notify! Sign-up Today! If We Can’t Reach You… We Can’t Notify You! Northbrook Notify is the Village’s upgrade to the auto-dialer system that has been used for mass community callouts for alerts such as water boil orders and hydrant testing. Northbrook Notify, which was implemented in Jan. 2010, allows residents and businesses to register their mobile devices for calls and text-messaging as well as e-mail addresses for Northbrook notifications. In addition, Northbrook Notify offers the option to sign up for general and non-emergency announcements. If the Village can't reach you, the Village can't notify you. Please encourage all your Northbrook friends and businesses to visit www.northbrook.il.us and sign up today. For those without Internet access that wish to have cell phone alerts or if you have question about the system, please call Northbrook Communications Manager at 847 664-4015.
Andrew Mercer July 13, 2012 at 02:29 AM
The event last night was meaningful in so many ways and the three panelists and moderator were all great!


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