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"It's been nine years, it's been a lot of hard work": From the other side of suicide

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Sandra Began and her late husband, Patrick
Posted at 10:03 AM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 11:03:29-04

APPLETON (NBC 26) — September was Suicide Prevention month, a time to reflect on one's mental capacities and be aware of the warning signs, especially when it comes to suicide. One perspective that tends to go unnoticed is that of those who have lost friends and loved ones to suicide. It's a side of the equation that until you walk in someone's shoes that's had to go through the tragedy, you'll never know how it truly feels.

Today, we introduce you to Sandra Began, a mom of two raised in Appleton who lost her husband nine years ago to suicide.

“If you would ask anybody about Patrick they would say I just remember his beautiful smile, his booming laugh, and he could make anyone feel like they were the only person in the room." said Sandra. She goes on, fondly remembering his love for soccer, being a coach for his sons, a lover of golf, his children and his friends.

“He was a person to who was loved," said Sandra. "And he just, he had a disease.”

Patrick and Sandra Began with their two sons.

Sandra said suicide is one of those traumatic life experiences that have no answers, and to process and navigate that is hard enough, let alone continuing to try to live a normal life. She talks about how there were years when she was just trying to survive. Nine years later, she said her and her son's still take it day by day.

“I can honestly tell you that this is kind of the first year that we all can look at each other and be like, 'Wow, like, we're kind of happy,'" said Sandra. "Like, it's not the highs and lows so much. It's just a little more we have some hard days, but we, like, find that there's a lot of joy in our life, but it's been nine years, it's been a lot of hard work.”

Today, Sandra works to help others who have lost loved ones. She's very active on social media as @thewidowproject, documenting her life and daily struggles. She writes articles, is interviewed on podcasts, and has resources for anyone who needs help. As it says in her Instagram bio, she's "Real. Honest. Full of hope."

“I always tell myself, and I've told my kids is, even if you're having a really hard day, tomorrow, the sun comes up, and it's a new day,” said Sandra.

In Wisconsin, a Samaritan Counseling Center survey finds 73% of parents say their child's health and mental wellness has been impacted by COVID-19. In addition, one in three adults struggle with a mental health condition, where in the past it was one in five. Dr. Tracey Sieber is the Clinical Director and a psychologist at Samaritan in Appleton. She said the first thing she does when she see's a victim, no matter the circumstance, is validate their feelings.

“I've walked alongside people who have lost someone to suicide, and to watch how it's impacted them…I can't tell you that they can get relief from that, as they come through their journey," said Dr. Sieber. "I don't know that you ever get over it, or you ever get through it. But you learn how to to live your life again, in a way that's more worth living.”

Samaritan Counseling does just that, allow victims to live a life again that's worth living. The facility has seen a 19% increase in need of services in the past year.

Coming Soon: the new Samaritan facility

Sandra gets through each day not letting her husband's death define his legacy, but rather, as she says, by the amazing and beautiful person he was.

"It's not an option to not take care of ourselves and not heal and work on ourselves every day because he [Patrick] deserves that," said Sandra. "And we deserve that. And, you know, the people in our life that love us deserve that.”

Sandra (middle) and her two sons, today.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, contact Samaritan Counseling Center at (920)-886-9319 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800)-273-8255. If you'd like to donate to Samaritan Counseling Center to help them meet their match, contact Jane Frantz.