CHICAGO — The widow of a Chicago police officer applauded the approval of an ordinance unanimously passed Wednesday at City Hall that would offer financial benefits to families of first responders who die by suicide.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death amongst law enforcement in 2021. Over the last five years, Chicago has lost more than 20 first responders to suicide.
One of them was Jeff Troglia.
“I thought maybe he was doing laundry and couldn’t hear me and then I found him. Nobody was home. He was by himself,” said Julie Troglia, who spoke with WGN News about the day she found her husband and father to her three kids unresponsive.
Julie remembers Jeff as a loving father to his three girls.
“Extremely funny, always pulling pranks and joking around with myself and the girls,” she said.
On March 5, 2021, the CPD officer who served the city for 15 years took his own life.
“I just remember I kept saying, ‘I don’t understand, this isn’t my husband, why is this happening?'”
Julie Troglia says the following weeks and months were a blur as she tried to process her husband’s death.
“Those first couple months, you’re in so much shock,” she said. “You’re not processing anything going on around you.”
Dealing with her grief, Julie says she also had to guide the dismay of her three girls, especially her oldest, who she says was most aware of what had transpired.
“I wanted to protect her as much as I could and say, ‘he got hurt at work,’ but she knew that it wasn’t at work,” Troglia said.
Three months after Jeff’s death, the family was dealt another blow.
“We had 90 days and we lost his insurance,” Julie Troglia said.
The family was left without benefits to help pick up the pieces financially. However, the city is stepping up to help families of first responders impacted by suicide.
“I hope this can be more of a bigger conversation about our first responders,” said Ald. Matt O’Shea. The alderman proposed the ordinance in April that would offer one year’s salary to the spouses of firefighters, paramedics and police officers who die by suicide, matching the benefits provided to those who die in the line of duty.
Additional financial help will also be available for widows, depending on the number of children, to assist with education and health insurance.
“That first year is such an unbelievably difficult time to go through. At least they know there’s an income,” O’Shea said.
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While Wednesday’s ruling is just the start, Troglia and O’Shea hope the city does more to provide resources to its first responders so children, like Troglia’s three girls, have a chance to grow up with their fathers.
“I’m always telling them, ‘oh, you looked like daddy when you did that or sounded like daddy when you said that to me,'” she said. “We try to make it as normal as we can.”
If you’re having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, the free National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.