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SALT LAKE CITY — After May Bradley lost her daughter to suicide, she found comfort in sharing her story and hearing the experiences of others in a peer-led support group.
Now, Bradley is helping others by starting the first peer-led support group in the Salt Lake City area. The Loved Ones Suicide Survivors group, called LOSS, was launched in March to allow those who have lost people they love to suicide gather together.
“Sometimes people in the support group don’t know how to interact with other people, and they need someone to talk to who knows what they’re dealing with,” Bradley said. “The people in this group know exactly what they’re dealing with.”
Bradley's daughter Talese committed suicide in 2010 while battling cancer and going through a contentious divorce. Soon after, Bradley moved to the East Coast while still trying to make sense of what happened.
Her search for support led her to a peer-led group of people from all walks of life who had lost children, husbands, friends and others close to them.
“I went and found people who were willing to sit in a room with me and listen to my journey through this grief process, and they shared their grief and their grief process and their experiences, and I learned a lot from these people,” she said.
Bradley said that eventually, over a period of months and years, she found there were days when the group was meeting where she felt OK, when she didn't feel a desperate need to have help or be with people who understood how she was feeling. On those days, she said, she would go in case someone else needed her.
I thought I still wanted to reach out, and I was sure there were other people out there who need it like I needed it — it saved my life, I felt. I thought about how could I do this, and so I asked for my children's help. And I talked to my grief counselor about it and I started thinking about where we could meet.
When she moved to Salt Lake City, Bradley said she was surprised to find there wasn't a peer-led support group for people like her in the area.
“I thought I still wanted to reach out, and I was sure there were other people out there who need it like I needed it — it saved my life, I felt," she said. "I thought about how could I do this, and so I asked for my children’s help. And I talked to my grief counselor about it and I started thinking about where we could meet.”
Bradley said she hopes the LOSS group will provide a setting where people can feel comfortable talking about their experiences or just listen to what others have to say. She said a lot of times people have friends who don't know how to talk about suicide with them or are too embarrased to even tell others a suicide has occurred within the family because of a stigma against it. Everything shared within the group is kept confidential, she said.
The mission of statement of LOSS is to:
- "Offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, a safe place to be with others who understand.
- "In the most painful of journeys, to provide a time and space to rest the burden of grief and share it with those who need no explanation.
- "To create a place to reflect on those who have been lost to suicide and honor them so their lives will never be defined by their deaths.
- "To encourage survivors to gather, to remember and to speak aloud the precious names of loved ones, to stand together to express our emotions and begin a journey of healing." The type of grief that follows losing someone to suicide has been classified as a "complicated grief" by the American Psychiatric Association because it doesn't follow the normal process someone could expect to go through after a loved one dies at the end of an illnesss or long life, Bradley said. Those whose lives are touched by suicide can often end up developing mental health problems themselves from the trauma, she said. Bradley cautioned that the LOSS group is not a substitute for professional counseling, which she believes everyone who has lost someone to suicide needs. She said one of her children tried to be strong after he daughter died and didn't go to a therapist, but now is going to a counselor and finding help.
“I’ll tell you, if you don’t deal with it, you will deal with it," she said. "You may postpone dealing with it, but you’re going to have to deal with it at some point. You’re going to have to work through it and process it and talk about it and try to make sense of it.”
The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7 p.m. at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, which is located at 5400 South and State Street.
People with questions about joining the group can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.