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SALT LAKE CITY — As many of you know, especially if you watch KSL Today, our morning news anchor, Lori Prichard, has been away for several months. Last August, Travis — her husband of nearly 15 years — suddenly died.
Since then, Lori’s been working to help herself and her children wrestle with an array of emotions that naturally accompany such a loss — shock, disbelief, anger and grief. The focus has been on establishing new routines with her children.
As she prepares to return to work, Lori — my colleague, former co-anchor, cubicle mate and dear friend — asked for the opportunity to share her difficult story with you.
On the morning of August 16, 2019, her life changed forever, as Travis took his own life. In an instant, she became a widow — a heartbroken survivor of suicide loss — and a reluctant member of a group that is growing much too quickly in Utah.
“I always thought Travis and I would be married until we were old and our kids were older, and had their own families and we’d have grandchildren,” Lori said. “Now I look at myself, and I am a single parent. I’m raising two children on my own, and it is hard.”
To look at them, Travis, Lori, and the kids were the typical family. Spending precious times together, playing, traveling on vacations, and celebrating special events and holidays. Many smiles, laughs and good times, which are now only memories.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think that if I can just get through today, I’ll be ok. We’ll be ok,” she said.
Lori wanted to share her family’s story, not because she wants or needs anyone’s sympathy, but rather, she hopes to get your attention.
“I feel like I owe it to Travis, because if there’s just one person out there who is struggling and can see something in my story, and identify with that, and think, ‘I need to get help,’ or ‘give it one more day,’ then this is what it’s about,” Lori said.
Travis suffered from depression, but, for the most part kept it to himself. Lori said he didn’t want to talk about it, even when she pressed him. He was ashamed.
“He would say things to me like, ‘I feel weak,’ and, ‘I don’t want to burden you,’” she said. “He hid a lot of that from me.”
Help is available
His life ended far too soon at age 44. A successful physical therapist working to get his doctorate degree, he was sadly gone much too soon.
“The day before he died, he called the national suicide hotline,” Lori said. “But when he came home that night, he didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t say, ‘I’m struggling, I need your help. I’m having a really hard time.’ He didn’t say anything.”
Getting through a tragedy such as this is extremely difficult, but Lori credits the extreme kindness of friends and strangers for easing her family’s pain a bit.
“I was walking with my mother and a woman stopped me, and she said, ‘Can I just give you a hug? I am so sorry that I found out about your husband. I follow you on Facebook and I’m sorry,’ and she hugged me,” Lori said.
Then there were the people who decorated the front porch for Thanksgiving.
Members of the local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints converged on her front yard one Saturday morning, and cleaned up the flower beds, trimmed trees and fixed the sprinklers.
“A couple of weeks ago someone dropped probably 40 to 50 wrapped gifts in bins and sacks on our front porch. I have no idea who they were from,” she said. “They were all wrapped. Not necessarily big things — you know, candy, Legos, scarves and socks — but just the kindness. Even people who sent texts, (saying,) ‘Hey just letting you know I’m thinking of you today.’”
Keep fighting. Deal with it together
Much of the support has come through social media, where Lori has shared some of this difficult journey since Travis’ passing. Some of the responses she received also expressed appreciation, as in this Facebook message from a woman:
“I tell you this, not to have you feel sorry for me for your pity, but to let you know that you’re already making a difference. I had thought life would be easier for my husband without me, I would finally be out of pain,” the message read.
“This is what I wrote to her,” she said. “‘I’m so glad that you’re fighting. Keep fighting. It’s so important to those who love you. Trust me, I know. There’s no burden greater than loving someone who dies by suicide and being left without the thought that I could have always done more.’”
Lori stresses the importance of getting professional help or counseling as soon as possible, especially for children who are also experiencing the loss of a loved one. She said if someone in your life struggles from depression, don’t ignore it.
Deal with it. Head on. Together.
“I think people need to understand that this isn’t something to be ashamed of, if you have depression. You have to talk about it, and you particularly need to talk about it with the people you love, because they love you too,” Lori said.
A therapist who Lori has been working with since Travis died put it this way: “If only people thought of depression like they do cancer — because you’d get help, if you were diagnosed with cancer.”
Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional crisis hotlines
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
- University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300
- NAMI Utah
- Utah Chapter-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Safe UT Crisis Text and Tip Line
In an emergency
- Call the police
- Go to the emergency room