The suicide of a loved one leaves friends and family members feeling devastated and lost. Recent Kanab move-ins from Texas, Meryl and Rick Kessel, along with their daughter Britt Roth, know those desperate feelings only too well.

The Kessel’s son Brandon died of suspected suicide in 2005, after some traumatic years with substance abuse and mental health issues. He had been in and out of rehab, and had occasional brushes with the law, as well as times when he would walk out and disappear.

The warm couple said that it was heartbreaking to watch him deteriorate.

“He had his first mental break at 19,” said Rick Kessel. Brandon’s eventual suicide was devastating to the couple. “He was never the same after the break. He was found dead in a field near our home. The police thought he had been there for about a month.”

Rick, Meryl, and Brandon’s sister Britt were deeply troubled about what had happened. So many emotions practically crippled the grieving family. That was when they reached out to others and founded a group called Survivors of Loved Ones Suicide. It was a place where survivors could be safe, and talk through some of their emotions while listening and supporting others with somewhat shared experience. Good support resources are also discussed.

“It (the group) was a literal lifesaver,” said Meryl.

“It was a place where you could talk through your problems,” said Britt. “There’’s so much confusion and there’s always the ‘why.’”

“There are a lot of unique emotions when the death is by suicide,” shared Rick. “With a death by an illness you certainly grieve, but you don’t have the same amount of guilt. There’s also a weird sense of anger.”

Upon moving here, the family was surprised to learn that Kane County had a fairly high rate of suicides and attempted suicides. They decided to start a SOLOS group here to help the bereaved families!

“The group saved us!” said Brit. She added that people should know that they don’t have to talk. Sometimes you just want to listen to others’ experiences.

The group meets the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Red Hills/Best Western Motel in Kanab.

“By starting the group and helping others, it is something like Brandon has given us a silver lining,” said Rick. “The SOLOS group shows that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Other people have survived the devastation. I know I’ve become a different and better person.”