Steamboat resident wants to start group for those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When his older brother took his own life last March, David Garwood felt lost.
He wanted to talk to someone who could relate.
He wanted to be around other people who had been through the complex emotions surrounding the suicide of a loved one.
While everyone grieves in different ways, what Garwood wanted in those earliest and darkest days were other people – even a phone list of strangers who would listen — who understood.
He did have a high school friend in northern Wyoming who lost his brother to suicide 25 years ago. Reconnecting with him and his parents, was extremely helpful, Garwood said. But his friend was far away.
As time passed and Garwood cycled through the different stages of grief – sadness, anger, guilt, back to sadness, back to anger, guilt and shame – he also grew inspired to create something in the Steamboat Springs community he felt was missing.
After his brother’s death, Garwood wasn’t looking for professional therapy, books, or anything formal or guided. He needed people.
Needs can be very different for different people, he acknowledged.
Today, Garwood is determined to build a network of people in Routt County who can be there for each other to fill any need – whether it is a call to check in; drop by for a meal; go out for a cup of coffee; or an informal get together during which people can talk, share, eat or just listen. He envisions an environment where people feel comfortable and a place they can process and be vulnerable.
“Support,” he said. “That’s the need. Whatever that looks like.”
More than anything, he wants feedback from others on what can help them or could have helped them in their greatest time of need.
Suicide is different from other types of death, Garwood noted, like if he’d instead lost his brother to cancer.
“It’s not that one is easier,” Garwood said. “But with this, people don’t know how to respond.”
“There’s so much stigma,” said Garwood’s wife, Meggan McBride Garwood. “That’s part of what we want to help combat.”
Meggan, despite her background working for 20 years in counseling and mental health, didn’t always know what she could say or do to help her husband. Or the best way to explain things to their three children.
While there is always a need for more and better resources to address suicide and mental health, there are a number of things in place – locally, nationally or online – for suicide prevention, Meggan noted.
“But what about those who are left behind?” she asked.
Mindy Marriott, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide (REPS), said she is also working on creating more for survivors in Routt County. REPS currently offers free therapy services, and in the fall, will start monthly support groups for both youth and adults.
The goal is to provide a space that is extremely comfortable and informal, Marriott said.
“And the opportunity for those to come together and provide hope to one another, and focus on resiliency,” Marriott added.
While nationally and in Colorado, suicides rates are increasing, Marriott noted that 2017 saw just one suicide in Routt County and none so far in 2018. She said there has been a dramatic decrease locally over the past five years.
More people are reaching out for help, she said.
Another person Garwood said helped him tremendously was Father Ernest Bayer at Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat.
“It’s all about love and mercy and support,” Bayer said.
He and Garwood talked about the possibility of hosting a group at the church.
Colorado Crisis Services Hotline
Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide (REPS)
Mind Springs Health
Emergency line for current clients: 877-886-8192
HEARTBEAT, Steamboat Springs
Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado
“If there is a need, we are here to help,” Bayer said. “It’s something people don’t like to talk about … it stays in the shadows and gets worse. But if people don’t get together to talk – they won’t heal.”
Bayer said he would be happy to be a part of “connecting people to share their pain and build a community of support,” especially one that doesn’t have the potential cost barriers of professional help.
Marriott, who is now certified in facilitating a group for youth and teens, said she is working on getting certified for adults and plans to host meetings with another grief counselor beginning in September.
Vivian Esptein, who has run the Parents Surviving Suicide group in Denver for over 20 years, said she was helped by helping others.
“You know you are not alone,” Epstein said, of what her group provides. “You know everything you are experiencing is normal, because other people are going through it, or have gone through it, and have come out on the other side and survived.”
Garwood said he’s looking for feedback from the community to create something that he couldn’t find after his brother’s death.
“My goal is to provide people with what they need in the moment,” he said. “And maybe a monthly check-in. Or supper with a group. It doesn’t have to be heavy – just a safe space where they are not alone.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2 outlines non-surgical and surgical treatment options for hip injuries.