Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2007

Loved ones to gather for healing retreat in wake of suicides

November 8, 2007


Rose Eiseland Foster - a breast cancer survivor -  lost her husband a few years ago and now has a weekend retreat called  "Healing after suicide-freedom of expression," the first of its kind in Douglas County.

Rose Eiseland Foster - a breast cancer survivor - lost her husband a few years ago and now has a weekend retreat called "Healing after suicide-freedom of expression," the first of its kind in Douglas County.


For more information about the suicide counseling retreat at the Light Center, contact Marcia Epstein, director of Headquarters Counseling Center, at

Light Center

Rose Eiesland Foster attended her first Light Center healing retreat four years ago after being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.

Foster returned to the Light Center, 1542 Woodson Road in Baldwin City, just a few months after the suicide of her husband, Gordon.

"I listened and learned. And more importantly, I began to heal" emotionally and physically, she said.

Now, she has decided to share her Light Center experiences by organizing the group's first suicide retreat in Douglas County.

Foster and Marcia Epstein, director of Lawrence's Headquarters Counseling Center, 211 E. Eighth St., hope to help people who have experienced a loss to suicide.

The retreat at the Light Center on Saturday and Sunday will host 30 participants.

Robin Goff, Light Center founder, has arranged for a grant from The Menorah Legacy Foundation in Kansas City to pay for services for participants, including nature walks, massages, writing, art and music therapy, as well as dedication and remembrance for the survivor's loved one.

Goff lost her mother to suicide when she was 26 and two years out of nursing school. Her mother had cancer and was in severe pain when she died. At the time, she said, hospice did not exist as it does now and attitudes about pain management were different. Goff gravitated to hospice care and was a hospice chaplain for 10 years before creating Light Center.

"Feelings of shame make it hard for survivors to talk to the general public, and our society's attitude in general about death makes it especially hard," Goff said. "When a suicide is involved, there is enormous trauma; it is an assault on everything you know and believe."

Foster hopes the outcome of this year's retreat will inspire discussion to dispel myths about suicide. For example, she said, "the misconception that people who commit suicide are selfish or cowards. I can say with 100 percent certainty that none of the people in our group : would be described as selfish or cowards.

"And the stupid question of did they leave a note. If I had a nickel for every time someone asks that question. ... I guess the notion is that a note would hold all of the answers."

Claire Beier, who lost her brother, Peter, to suicide in 2006, and who will attend this year's retreat with her 7-year-old son, Christopher, says, "People think (suicide) is contagious; people are afraid to talk about it for fear it will happen to someone else. And everyone wants to know why or wants to blame it on someone."

Emily McCave, who is attending the retreat and whose mother committed suicide when Emily was 3, said, "It hasn't been the myths so much as the statements or gestures made that really hurt that people are oblivious to ... such as, 'God, just shoot me in the head if that happens' or 'I might as well kill myself.' The media also use suicide to make a dramatic scene or to show just how 'crazy' someone is."

One myth that all members say they want dispelled is that people who have lost someone to suicide need to just get over it.

"Unless a person has had experience with suicide, it's hard to know what to say to be supportive. Saying, 'It is time to get over it' is far from helpful," Foster said. "That is hurtful, but I honestly don't think that people intend to be hurtful. It is useful, as survivors, to educate them."

- Ronda Miller is fellow of the Citizen Journalism Academy, sponsored by The World Company and Kansas University's School of Journalism.


rondamiller 10 years, 5 months ago

The conditions of manifestations that I read above were quite new to me. How beautiful and sensitively written. Our society would do well to adapt such a different way of looking at things. The people in my life that are gone due to suicide were truly sunflowers and I like to think of them with their faces turning still to the light in the sky as the sun travels east to west. Thank you for sharing that with me.

Jeanne Gardner 10 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for a very well written article on a very sensitive topic. There are very few articles written about suicide and this needs to change! Thanks for Ronda for the information. I hope there will be more information in the Journal World following the retreat as well!

rondamiller 10 years, 5 months ago

I would love to write a personal experience piece about going to the retreat - who knows, stranger things have happened, so please stay posted.

Thanks for your comments!

storm 10 years, 5 months ago

i like how this article did not use the word committed with suicide, because committed infers a crime, and suicide should not be thought of a crime.

rondamiller 10 years, 5 months ago

Hi Storm, I never gave a lot of thought to the word committed in conjunction with suicide before, but your point is well taken. I know I prefer the words "lost" or "loss" to suicide because of the whole array of emotions that seem more fitting in respect to that word. More aptly descriptive both physically, emotionally, mentally. Our society in general has a long way to go in understanding and expressing our losses, our grieving, and the many varied reasons why people choose to end their life.

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