Recovering from grief: One woman’s story about fighting mental illness


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Recovering from grief is a process.

It has no time limit.

Take NAMI’s Stephanie Appleby for example.

“I have five family members who have completed suicide,” Appleby said.

Stephanie Appleby’s great-grandmother, great-uncle, great-grandfather and two cousins died by suicide.

To this day, her great-grandfather’s death sticks with her the most. He had major depression.

“He fought so hard,” Appleby said. “And I know that he’s proud of me.”

It wasn’t just her great-grandfather that had a mental illness.

“The commonality with it is that they just felt like they wanted to be out of pain,” Appleby said.

The NAMI Southwest Missouri Executive Director has that in the back of her mind constantly.

“It’s a struggle for me every day because I am afraid that that’s how I’m going to end up,” Appleby said. “So I fight every day.”

Appleby grieves while dealing with agoraphobia, panic disorder and depression.

She has her ways of coping

“I have had a picture of those five family members of mine that I lost to suicide in my hallway every day to remind me to keep fighting and remind me of why I’m here,” Appleby said.

Appleby has been helping others with mental illnesses for six years now.

She does this with her late family members in mind.

“I feel like I’ve done it for them,” Appleby said. “And it’s more than just a job to me. This is my life.”

NAMI provides support group sessions

Appleby attends those sessions sometimes to help herself.

“Not only do I take medication, I still go to therapy, I still attend support groups here when I’m not working,” Appleby said. “I can walk down the hall and go to group. It takes more than just one thing.”

Jeanene Gerhardt of the Lost & Found Grief Center says support groups can be beneficial.

Her center in Springfield helps those grieving through these groups.

“We’re big believers that people get through the hard with a good support system,” Gerhardt said. “And we just try to be that additional support system to them here.”

And being that additional support system helps normalize someone’s situation.

“When someone says in a group I felt this or I wondered about this and to hear someone else say it is like ugh it’s not just me,” Gerhardt said. “I’m not alone in this.”

Despite everything Appleby has been through, she said it’s made her a better version of herself.

“It was a catalyst,” Appleby said. “And I became extremely passionate about wanting to help people that had an invisible illness.”

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