Saint Elizabeth's Medical Center

Financial Review


For 11 moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas, their journey of grief is steeped in hurt and agony. Sorrow so profound, it stifles and suffocates. Pain so deep, it pulsates and paralyzes. The anguish and ache are burdens too heavy to carry.

They are survivors of suicide. They have experienced and are living with the loss of a son, daughter, grandson, and granddaughter. It’s a grief like no other but they find some semblance of peace knowing others know what it feels like.

According to Sister Catherine Mary Holker, a co-facilitator of the newly formed Suicide Survivors Support Group at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Wabasha, Minn., the impact of suicide is a trauma that cannot be left untreated. The goal of the support group is to acknowledge the pain and try to pull it out so survivors can move on.

Inspired by the survivors themselves, the formation of this local support program was an answer to a growing need in our communities. With suicide rates on the rise in our region, state and country (according to national statistics, one suicide is committed every 16 minutes), hurting families were searching for an outlet of comfort and for connections that offered relief and reassurance.

“Several community members came to me with pleas to do something,” explained Sister Catherine Mary. “Their needs were so great. The fact that many community members were dealing with similar tragedies convinced me to seriously consider their request. I felt certain that if we could develop a program that would bring survivors together, they could help each other heal.”

The foundation of the healing process was allowing members to “tell their stories.” By doing so, they were given permission to be open, honest, and real. Amidst the safe haven of this newly formed community, they introduced their loved ones, shared intimate accounts, and expressed true emotions and feelings.

“The flood gates finally opened,” shared Barb Perry. “It felt freeing to finally cry out everything that was stuck inside of me. The group allowed me to say and feel what I needed to without passing judgment.”

“I couldn’t shake the guilt – If I had just…What if…If only…kept playing over and over in my head,” added Vera Miller. “Sharing these feelings and knowing others were thinking the same thing helped me to realize that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.”

“I was in the service for many years and in two wars,” shared Chuck Holt. “The tragedy of my grandson’s suicide does not compare to this or anything else I have ever experienced. This program has been an answer to my prayers. “I can’t imagine where I’d be today without it.”