Mother whose sons were killed helps others cope

One mother takes the pain of losing her two sons and channels it into helping others cope with similar tragedies. (WIFR)
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 11:27 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR/Gray News) - Mother’s Day can be a joyous holiday, but for those dealing with loss, it can be filled with grief and heartache.

One mother is working through the pain of losing her children by helping others and honoring their legacy.

“You’re numb, and maybe in shock,” Heidi Agustsson said.

Agustsson, an attorney, is accustomed to fighting for her clients. It’s a mentality that she holds in her responsibilities as a wife, daughter, sister, and most importantly, as a mother.

“Maybe I knew I can’t get justice any longer,” Agustsson said. “So, what can I do? What can I control? What I can control is my response.”

Agustsson is the mother of three boys. Her youngest, Joey, is almost 2 years old. Her older children, Chris and Jack, would be 19 and 17. They, however, were killed five years ago.

The boys had been staying with their father, P.S. Ruckman Jr., who killed the boys before killing himself.

“I think I was in shock,” Agustsson said. “That’s not the person I knew, and I don’t know what he turned into.”

She tried to reconcile the events of the tragedy in her mind, but daily reminders make it difficult.

“You still go to work like you normally would, but you don’t have to look at the clock to find out, ‘Do I have to go pick them up at school? Is it piano lessons tonight? Are we going to swimming?’” she said. “That’s a difficult adjustment.”

Agustsson said that she relied on her faith to help her navigate through the pain.

“You know what? It’s one of those weird things, where I think my faith comes into play. There’s no way to get even, there’s no way to seek justice against him,” Agustsson said.

For Agustsson, letting the grief overcome her wasn’t an option.

“I think being positive, because I’m a reflection of their lives, and that’s where I give my control and my power, because I get to frame the rest of the story,” she said.

Agustsson understands it is not an easy thing to do, and others may need help to overcome the pain. So, through speeches and chat rooms, the mother offers a listening ear to those facing similar tragedies and acts as a light to guide them out of the darkness.

“You just reassure them that they’re going to get through it, as horrible as it is. And that there’s a group of really amazing women who will support them and rally around them,” she said.

Therapists encourage people dealing with grief to celebrate and cherish the life of their lost loved ones in order to heal.

Agustsson and her family established the Chris and Jack Ruckman Music Scholarship through Rockford Christian Schools as their way of celebrating the boys. Gifted musicians themselves, the boys’ legacies will now give others a chance to share their talents.

“I wanted them to be remembered for their lives, not how they died,” Agustsson said.

Agustsson doesn’t view each day as another day without Chris and Jack, but as another day closer to being together.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “I’m not scared.”

She said she dreams often about the next time they will meet.

“I’m going to hug them forever. And after that, I hope I say, ‘I hope I made you proud.’ I did everything I was supposed to. And they let me know they were proud,” she said.