CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Following the loss of a loved one to suicide, survivors often find themselves wading through the muddy waters of trauma, guilt and unanswered questions. Fortunately, Loved Ones Suicide Survivors, a new support group in Southern Utah more commonly known as LOSS, is offering hope and healing amidst profound grief.
LOSS is a free, peer-led support group that provides a safe space for family members and friends dealing with suicide loss to express their feelings and emotions. The group empowers survivors to process a loved one’s suicide and work through it in their own way and in their own time frame.
“There aren’t a lot of services available to people who are dealing with a suicide bereavement, and they step into this grief journey not knowing how they’re going to survive it,” LOSS founder May Bradley said.
Bradley said suicide bereavement is an intense and complex grief unlike any other. After the loss of her oldest daughter to suicide in September 2010, she was overwhelmed with emotions and trying to process everything. A turning point came when she discovered a support group for survivors in her community.
When Bradley returned to Salt Lake City in 2014, she searched for another support group only to find that none existed. She knew she needed to provide a resource to help other survivors cope, just as the group she joined had carried her through her darkest days.
“To walk this path alone is incredibly difficult,” she said. “People who have experienced a suicide loss are the only ones who truly understand what you’re going through.”
Bradley created LOSS with the support of her children, all of whom underwent training as facilitators. The northern Utah group meets twice monthly and has grown to include another chapter in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Southern Utah chapter of LOSS will hold their first meeting June 15 at the TCN Building in St. George, with subsequent meetings scheduled for the third Tuesday of every month. The adults-only group is led by compassionate and knowledgeable facilitators trained through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
At each meeting, the facilitators will provide those in attendance with resources and insight on navigating grief. People are welcome to talk about their loved ones if they choose or simply listen while others share.
In the wake of a loved one’s suicide, the family members and friends left behind are at significantly higher risk for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as suicidal thoughts and actions. Bradley said that while the primary goal of LOSS is to support survivors through their grief, there’s also an aspect of prevention.
Bradley emphasized that LOSS isn’t therapy and shouldn’t be regarded as a substitute for one-on-one counseling with a mental health provider. Rather, the group provides a place to receive confidential comfort and encouragement. Seeing how other people cope with loss and manage their journey through grief provides insight and hope.
“There’s a lot of strength and courage that comes from peer support groups with people who’ve had the same experience,” Bradley said.
Jaren Janke, Bradley’s son, described LOSS as a family effort. He said the group not only helped him manage his own grief after the loss of his sister but has also benefited many others in the Salt Lake area. Whether a suicide recently occurred or happened decades ago, every survivor has a story that needs to be heard.
Suicide is a taboo subject within many cultures and families, and Janke said the social stigma often leads survivors to feel isolated in their grief. Through LOSS, he hopes to connect with the Southern Utah community and provide a welcoming space free of judgment.
“We want to help people understand that it’s OK to talk about it and that we should talk about it,” he said. “LOSS is a place to start those conversations.”
- What: Loved Ones Suicide Survivors support group.
- When: Tuesday, June 15 at 7 p.m.; third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m.
- Where: TCN Building, 162 N. 400 East, Suite B200, St. George.
- Resources: Facebook | Website.
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.
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