Wendy Adams of North Richland Hills knows only too well the grief and unique pain left behind when a loved one becomes a suicide statistic.
Her brother Leroy Jordan Wooters, 42, a loving family man, avid outdoorsman and terrific uncle who often took his nieces fishing, died Sept. 11 by his own hand.
“He had a lot going for him — a wife and son and his dream job. Just something snapped,” Adams said, adding that the few warning signs were vague.
The recent suicides of comedian Robin Williams and Fort Worth high school senior Katerin Romero have made headlines, and Adams knows what their families face on the long road to healing.
“It’s an indescribable pain you go through,” said Adams. “You want to have normal grieving, but yet you have to deal with all the what-ifs and whys.”
To that end, Adams decided to get a team of 30 family members and friends together for the Run For Life Suicide Awareness Walk on Sept. 6 at Fort Worth’s Trinity Park.
“I have a daughter who has had a hard time with it,” Adams said of her younger child, 12-year-old Sarah, who has had grief counseling herself at the Warm Place.
The walk will give the Adams family an opportunity to remember their fisherman brother and uncle the way he would have wanted most — outdoors.
“He believed in catch-and-release. I have all kind of pictures of my daughters with him, kissing fish and letting them go,” Adams said. “My 12-year-old is making fish symbols for our team. It’s symbolic for us.”
Team T-shirts will also have a kiss-the-fish design, created by Sarah.
All of Sarah’s plastic-beaded fish are different shapes and colors.
“I want everybody to have their own little fish,” Sarah told her mother. “If they ever have a problem, they can look at their fish and just keep swimming.”
Adams sought out a suicide awareness group to help sort out her overwhelming and conflicting feelings.
“It’s not a club you plan to join, not something you ever think you will,” she said. “But there’s a lot of people out there suffering because their loved one took a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Sharing with others has been the best therapy, Adams said.
“It’s comforting to meet with people who can feel your pain,” said Adams. “We have to find our new normal, and try to keep their memory alive.”
Sometimes that can be difficult, Adams said. Williams’ death brought a flood of calls and texts from friends, and renewed pain.
“There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding suicide. People can be so judgmental,” Adams said. “But those resources are there to get you through a rough period. We have to just educate people, give them the resources without the stigma.”
As for Adams, she realizes she will never be the same without her brother. The family dynamics have changed, and she is now her mother’s only child.
“Memories and family time are important,” Adams said. “That’s all you’ve got.”