From grief to HOPE: Don't make the journey alone

Judy Sugar-Giordano's life was instantly destroyed when her husband Dick and 13-year-old daughter Mandy were killed in a crash 25 years ago. The Baldwinsville family was headed to a funeral, traveling through Pennsylvania, when a tractor-trailer detached from its cab and slammed into their car.

"I knew he was dead," Sugar said of her husband, whose hand she was holding tightly when he died. "I knew he was gone, but I never dreamed my daughter was there, too."

Sugar-Giordano, a woman with dark, short hair, a sweet, uplifting voice and gentle eyes, choked down tears as she recalled her living nightmare.

"She was in the back seat," she said. "He was killed instantly, but Mandy died the next morning."

"I think about them every day," she added.

Kim Bermel, a native of Long Island who now resides in North Syracuse, remembers Sept. 15, 2005 like it was yesterday. Her husband Peter took his own life; to this day his widow still doesn't know why -- he never left a note.

"Living with suicide," Bermel paused. "It's hard to describe. You feel almost like a pariah. And even though people don't treat you that way you feel apart from everybody in the world because you've been through this trauma and your whole life experience is completely and utterly different from that day on."

Both Sugar-Giordano and Bermel eventually found solace through Hope for the Bereaved, a not-for-profit community organization that helps people who've lost a loved one make the journey from grief to hope.

Therese Schoeneck, who lost her 21-year-old daughter Mary in a 1977 car accident, founded the organization a year later.

"Something good has to come out of Mary's death," Schoeneck said, repeating the words she told herself the day she finally allowed herself to grieve at Mary's grave. Her daughter was killed in August. It was six months before Schoeneck was able to shed her tears.

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