Military suicide survivor grief camp provides hope and healing in Phoenix

PHOENIX - This weekend hundreds of people are gathering in Phoenix to assist those grieving the death of a loved one in the military find hope, healing and renewal.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors currently helping family members struggling to cope with a very complicated loss.

“My husband died 12 years ago by suicide,” said Kim Ruocco.

Her husband, Major John Ruocco, who served in the marine corps, died by suicide in 2005.

“Trying to figure out how to talk to 8 and 10-year-old boys about the fact that their dad made it safely back from a combat zone, but then took his own life, was very difficult and challenging,” she said.

Later she learned what led up to his death.

“Combat was one of the factors that contributed to his death,” said Ruocco. “He had a long history of unresolved trauma and loss.”

She contacted TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, looking for support. The national non-profit is centered around anyone grieving the death of a loved one in the military.

“My husband was killed in an Army plane crash with seven other soldiers on board,” said Bonnie Carroll, who is also a survivor. Her husband Brigadier General Tom Carroll was killed in 1992.

“And back in the early 90’s, there was no program for those grieving a loss in the military,” said Carroll, who founded TAPS in 1994.

When she met Kim, they worked to create a program specifically for suicide loss.

“Very often after suicide loss, people lose friends, because they don’t know what to say, so just being present is a huge gift,” said Ruocco.

The organization provides a grief camp along with art and pet therapy. They also offer one-on-one peer mentors, who are all survivors.

“Looking in the eyes of another who has been through this traumatic loss and there’s an understanding,” said Carroll.

Kim is now the VP of suicide prevention and postvention for TAPS, modeling strength and resilience she hopes others grieving the death of a loved one can gain.

“Helping that family through their grief journey and then providing opportunities for post traumatic growth,” she said.

For more information on the TAPS 2017 National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar in Phoenix: https://www.taps.org/nmsss.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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