SUICIDE: Understanding the pain, shame & blame cycle for those left behind |

SUICIDE: Understanding the pain, shame & blame cycle for those left behind

Cathie Brian, R.N.
Special to the Free Press



According to HopeWest spokesperson Alyssa Hampson, HopeWest responds to any grief needs in the community and offers specialized one-on-one counseling called Individual & Family Counseling. Counseling is available regardless of ability to pay. Services are offered at a nominal fee on a sliding scale basis or are covered by insurance. Scholarships are available.


Formerly known as Heartbeat, this group offers support for those who have lost a loved one through suicide.

This group is off and on depending on the needs of the community. If there is a group of folks needing suicide grief support, a group will form at that time.


Healing With Horses is an equine-therapy group geared specifically for children and teens from ages 12–18 that have been affected by suicide. One must register for this group; the cost is $25 and scholarships are available. The group will meet weekly on Tuesdays from 4:30-6 p.m. starting Sept. 10 through Oct. 22.


Forget-Me-Not is a family grief group. This is an eight-week program which starts Sept. 26 goes to Nov. 21. The group will meet weekly on Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. Registration is required. This group is not suicide specific; it focuses on any type of loss. Meetings are free.

For more information on the groups mentioned above and of the other resources HopeWest is offering at this time, visit They welcome anyone who has been affected by suicide.

Suicide: The word evokes a torrent of mixed emotions, ranging from grief and unbelief, to horror or morbid curiosity.

The stigma of mental illness has financially stymied research and development of treatment and interventions. Behavioral and mental health researchers and professionals have identified the fringe pieces of this self-destructive puzzle, hoping to find key parts to unravel the perplexing variables. The basic demographic findings — the reports of who, when, where and by what methods are verifiable statistics. The consensus is that depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders are the most common predisposing factors for suicide.

The precipitating factors that push vulnerable individuals “over the edge” to acts of desperation can often be conjectured. Depression is compounded by the increasing stressful nature of our culture. Societal issues are recognized as contributory — poverty, abuse, lack of access to mental health resources. But there are still more troubling details that need to be pieced together to formulate an emerging picture, revealing the lifestyle habits that best promote early prevention and intervention measures.

In spite of all that is known and has been communicated, the burden of the suffering rests on those who are profoundly anxious, agitated, depressed and contemplating this final, intensely personal act. It is the most important decision they can make, and most often they will not share it with family or friends. They only offer subtle, often unrecognized invitations to be understood. If they have the emotional energy or have a suicide plan that has evolved over months or years, some will leave notes or letters explaining their decision, asking for and extending forgiveness to others and expressing love, advice and/or last wishes that their act will not leave a legacy of unresolvable grief, shame or sense of having failed the deceased. Fortunate are the families and friends who have received those letters or have had discussions which have warned them for this almost inexplicable act of abandonment.

For those experiencing the unsuspected loss by suicide of a loved one, friend or co-worker, the questions repeatedly asked or pondered are: “How could he do this to me? To her children? And why?” Any plausible explanation is recognized as only the tip of the iceberg and that the depth of personal despair will remain fathomless. Each individual story is as varied and unique as the prints on the finger that pulled the trigger, tied the knot, or opened the bottle of pills or poison. With anguish, the survivor will ponder the personal pain that drove the loved one to such despair. The admission that survivors were too busy or unsuspecting to have noticed the warning signs will set in motion that lethal legacy of pain, shame and blame.

There area no simple nor easy steps to guide the survivors through this complicated grief journey. Perhaps, the most helpful is to explore the shared feelings and situations common to the human experience. Loss is the earliest and most frequent of trauma to be experienced, accompanied by sadness and fear. To begin to understand that feeling of profound sadness is to begin to understand and forgive the one who could no longer bear the pain. To begin to understand frees the survivor to forgive themselves and escape their own cycle of pain, shame and blame.

Cathie Brian, R.N., and her husband, David Brian, M.D., conduct mental health education programs including “Depression: The Way Out, A Prevention and Recovery Program” and “Stress: Beyond Coping,” using holistic approaches to identify factors that contribute to emotional distress and to improve emotional and relational health. Programs are provided as a community outreach and as a mission to offer early primary prevention against anxiety, depression and suicide.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User