My name is Craig Kroeter and I’m a suicide loss survivor. Our daughter Katie died by suicide September 5th 2018. We miss her every day.
Katie was a beautiful 25-year-old young woman. She always brought a smile to the face of the people that she met. Her “thing” was helping people, a genuine people person. She enjoyed delivering “Meals on Wheels” and her time working at one of the Transitions group homes. She was a member of the 2011 QND girls state basketball championship team. She was a good friend, always requesting a text from her friends to let her know that they all got home safely after a night out. She was a determined student, and when she decided on a career path she was relentless. She graduated with honors from the University of IL Chicago with a degree in Sociology.
Katie received her Master of Social Work from the University of IL Champaign/Urbana (with honors) in December of 2017. She started working in the emergency room of Blessing Hospital in January as an ER Social Worker. She loved her job. She helped me plan a surprise 40th Anniversary party in April that came off without a hitch. Two days later she became an aunt and we became grandparents for the first time.
She was a very proud aunt!! She was asked to be her nephew’s godmother
and treasured her new responsibilities.
In a letter to Lucas, she told him how she would always be there for him and help him make life interesting for his parents.
Later that summer, we all gathered as a family Labor Day weekend, nothing special, just a weekend of family dinners a trip to a winery and hanging out. Tuesday it was back to work for all of us. Wednesday evening,
I was home alone when the doorbell rang. One of Katie’s friends who had been at our house that Monday told me that Katie had died.
When she hadn’t shown up for her shift at the hospital several co-workers were concerned and went to her apartment to check on her.
There was nothing in our relationship that would have indicated that Katie was struggling, much less having suicidal thoughts. At the time, the only explanation that we had was from the note that she left. She wrote that she loved us all but she could no longer live with the pain and that we would be happier without her. We had no idea what her pain was. Katie not only had big dreams but apparently nightmares that she hid from all of us. Family, friends and co-workers, we all wondered what we had missed. She worked with doctors and mental health professionals and no one had a clue. Her personal effects (phone, tablet and laptop) were returned to us by the police in early November, 3 months after her death. It was only after our son searched the notes in her phone that
he discovered a written account of a sexual assault that had happened 4 years earlier
when she was a junior at UIC. She had told no one, no family, no friends, no one. She had even written a research paper regarding the treatment of sexual assault victims in court rooms early in her senior year.
Katie had carried the weight of that assault for nearly 4 years. She had been educated on how to determine the seriousness of suicidal thoughts, threats and to help determine their treatments. She knew what not to share with family, friends and co-workers. I believe that she felt that she was protecting us from the “shame” or embarrassment of her assault as well as trying to protect the integrity of her career. We always had an open door relationship with our kids. We talked openly but in this case we just hadn’t asked the right questions.
The funeral home provided us with a “suicide survival basket” that included
“tea when you need warmth, chocolate when you need to be gentle with yourself, a journal and pen when you need solitude with your thoughts, tissues when you need to cry, a candle to light in honor of your loved one, books to let you know you’re not alone” and a card for the “Left Behind, Moving Forward” suicide survivor support group.
The baskets are provided to local funeral homes for distribution to survivors by the Adams County Suicide Prevention Coalition through funds from local fundraisers.
I would not be able share Katie’s story without the support of family, friends and the Left Behind Moving Forward group members.
We are a special group with specific needs and the opportunity to share our loved one’s stories free of judgement.
My wife and I worked hard on dealing with our grief. We read every book and visited every website available on dealing with loss. It got to the point where we both felt that we needed more than just each other. We joined a Grief Share group through our church. The program was helpful but not specific in dealing with a loss by suicide. We also began attending the Left Behind Moving Forward Group. We surrounded ourselves with other individuals that were dealing with our circumstance. Being able to talk and listen, to cry and not be judged and to just share knowing that everyone in the room had probably had the same feelings was comforting. We both decided that we needed some additional help and worked with a counselor individually and later as a couple. On my own I found that journaling was very helpful.
I started out by screaming my feeling out on paper.
My anger towards Katie, my anger towards myself were all there in writing right in front of me. I’m not sure when it happened, but my journal entry’s became more like a conversation with Katie. I would tell her about my day, about the weather and how much I missed her each day. I can look back now and see when and where I began to “move forward”. We have also kept in touch with Katie’s friends to make sure that they have someone to talk to.
Life has changed for all of us.
It has become my “mission” to tell Katie’s story.
I have been able to speak to several college classes and service groups. By sharing her story maybe someone will hear something, a thought or a feeling and make the choice to get help or start a conversation.
If Katie’s story can save one life, spare one family the pain of a loss or lead to a choice for someone to keep going, it will make my pain a little more bearable.
We all need to listen and avoid the stigma associated with the subjects of suicide and mental health issues. We need to let each other know that it’s OK not to be OK,
but it’s not OK to do nothing about it.
In his book, “When It Is Darkest” author Rory O’Connor says,
“Although we can never bring back those who we have lost, we can better support those left behind and if we work together we can save more lives. My ultimate hope is that, as a society, if we are kinder and more compassionate, both to ourselves and to those around us, then we will go some distance in protecting all of us from the devastation of suicide.”
I still feel the loss of my daughter every day. Through the help of others, I now concentrate on the good memories and less about the “what if’s”. I have NOT moved on; I have moved forward.
This is NOT what I imagined my retirement schedule to consist of, but then
I NEVER thought that I would lose my daughter to suicide.
Here is a website that I consider relevant to the cause. It just takes a few minutes to complete the reading but contains information that is “lifesaving”. Please take the time to check it out.
Craig takes every opportunity to talk to anyone, that will listen, about suicide awareness. He continues to work with the Adams County Suicide Prevention Coalition as well as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He has served as an advocate for AFSPIL and had one on one conversations with state senators and representatives to discuss the 988 implementation and other mental health funding matters dealing with suicide awareness. He feels it is his “duty” to inform others when he comes across what he considers to be an important article on suicide prevention.
The link to another article exhibiting Katie’s brother, Brian, and his passion to continue her mission of helping others is included here,
Column: His sister died by suicide. He’s running the Chicago Marathon to honor her life and maybe save others.