There were no outbursts, no shocking revelations about the recent tragedies in Glenview and Northbrook.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of people filled Glenbrook North's Sheely Center to quietly reflect on the past and hear expert advice on grief management, the statistical realities of suicides in Illinois and how to communicate with loved ones during periods of emotional hardship.
They gathered in the wake of a string of recent tragedies, including two suicides of young men in Northbrook, the death in a car accident of a Glenbrook North student, the train derailment and bridge collapse that killed a Glenview couple, the drowing death of a 4-year-old Glenview boy, and the sudden death from an illness of a GBN special education teacher.
The speakers' expertise was diverse, but one piece of advice echoed throughout the night — The best remedy for children struggling with grief or depression is positive parental involvement and honest conversation.
"There is no peer group that will out-influence what you have already done as a parent," said District 225 Superintendent Michael Riggle. "Pull them back in, have those discussions and reestablish the relationship."
David C. Clark, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said researchers still have a lot to learn about the nature of suicidal people, but there are no statistical irregularities in recent cases.
In fact, researchers have found the same trends among high school students across the country.
One in four high school students have felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more, Clark said. One out of six kids would say they have seriously considered suicide and almost one in ten high school students have attempted it in the last year.
There is also no single common denominator among suicides in Cook County.
"Many elements must coincide," Clark said. "Some of them we can pinpoint, some of them we can vaguely outline, some of them we don't understand at all."
He did say that three common factors exist — the presence of a psychiatric disorder at the time of death, which may have developed recently, a family history of psychological disorders and a family history of suicidal behavior.
The presentation's main focus, however, was helping people deal with the death of loved ones.
According to the evening's first speaker, Karen Liebold, a bereavement specialist from the non-profit counseling center Willow House, grief does not have a timeline and it doesn't go away — it only changes over time.
"Be patient with yourself, be very gracious to yourself," she said. "It doesn't take time to get over grief, it takes a lot of work."
The evening's second speaker, Richard Blue, the founder and clinical director of Northbrook's Center for Christian Life Enrichment, said kids can learn to deal with grief by seeing parents deal with their own challenges.
"It requires courage," Blue said. "It's much easier to numb ourselves, that's what I think most people do. But if we do that, we miss the opportunity to make significant meaning of tragic things we can't control."
Among the people in attendance Wednesday night was Illinois State Representative Daniel Biss.
"Our kids are two and four, it just sounds like a nightmare to me," Biss said after the presentations. "I have a responsibility to my constituents to do as much as I can to put myself in their shoes so that there's a way for me to help them."
"I learned a lot and I don't know what I'll do next but I intend to keep learning," he added.
Before the presentation, Northbrook's Village President Sandy Frum wrote in an email that residents are turning to each other and their faiths to find support after the recent tragedies in town.
"The Coping With Loss event is just a beginning," Frum wrote. "Northbrook can and will recover from this."