How To Interact With A Family Member After They Lose Someone By Suicide

Sep 17, 2018, 12:22 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Thousands of people participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention Saturday.

One mother is dedicating her life to the cause after losing her own son.

Avery Kertamus was only 15 years old when his mother, Shari Elliott, started noticing changes in his personality and behaviors. Concerned, she sat down and talked with him.

“We were like, ‘What’s going on?’ Something’s just not right,” she said.

Despite Elliott’s efforts, her son died as a result of suicide just days later.

“It was hard to believe that he was just gone,” she said. “We turned the corner and we saw all the emergency vehicles. It just really hit me that he wasn’t here anymore.”

Shari Elliott poses with her son, Avery Kertamus, who died by suicide.

Shari Elliott poses with her son, Avery Kertamus, who died as a result of suicide.

Turning grief into action

Today, Elliott said she has poured her grief into advocating suicide prevention. She is the director of this year’s Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“This would not be possible without the volunteers,” she said.

She’s been busy coordinating volunteer schedules, making phone calls, answering emails, and reaching out to other families who have also experienced the same thing she did.

Life after suicide

After losing her own son, Elliott needed support from friends and family. She said had to go back to work just two weeks after her son died.

Shari Elliott is the director of the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention in Salt Lake City.

Shari Elliott is the director of the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention in Salt Lake City.

“Walking into work I felt like I had the plague. Everybody quickly turned their head away,” she said.

Steve Andrus, a mental health counselor at Cornerstone Counseling, said people who lose a child, sibling, parent or friend often don’t have a place to talk about their loved one after they pass.

“You lose places to talk about it. It’s like friends … are like, ‘I don’t know what to do with this and they have a hard time listening,’” he said.

Andrus encouraged friends and family to be there for someone experiencing a loss.

“Just being empathetic, being understanding when people are in that place they just want someone to listen. They want someone to be there to help. They don’t want to be judged. They don’t want to be fixed. They just want to be heard,” he explained.

Out of the Darkness

“I love talking about Avery,” Elliott said. “We don’t want anybody to forget our children.”

Elliott has become a listening ear for other people dealing with loss through her service.

“Just knowing that they have a place where somebody understands what they’re going through,” she said.

This weekend she will share strength with others who also understand her story as she walks in honor of her son.

Shari Elliott is the director of the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention

Shari Elliott spends a lot of time connecting online with other families who have also lost a loved one. She spends time listening to their stories and connecting them to the right resources

“I’m able to give Avery the voice that he didn’t feeling he had here,” she said. “And that’s why I do this.”

Elliott hopes to raise awareness and provide resources for others who might be struggling to step forward seeking help.

“They just need to know that they’re not alone and that there are resources out there and people out there that care,” Elliott said.

Elliott said a majority of the Out of the Darkness donations go directly to suicide prevention research.

Suicide prevention resources

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional crisis hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
  • University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300

Online resources

In an emergency

  • Call the police
  • Go to the emergency room
KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Karah Brackin

Students across Utah come together to learn the importance of mental health care

Mental health, wellness and suicide prevention — they're all big topics of conversation, and more and more, those conversations include our kids. That's where Hope Squad is coming in to help.
3 days ago
Ayanna Likens

Tips to set realistic mental health goals

If you are planning on setting a goal to prioritize your mental health this year, Dr. Kristin Francis at Huntsman Mental Health Institute recommends starting with small goals.
9 days ago
CJ and his mother
(Courtesy: Smuin Family)...
Alex Cabrero

Tragedy to triumph: how a Utah family is honoring their son

The heartwarming way a Utah family is honoring the life of their son while helping others.
10 days ago
Jeff Dewsnup was known nationwide for his goalkeeping skills. (KSL TV)...
Ayanna Likens

Utah professional soccer player steps away from sport prioritizing mental heath

Jeff Dewsnup was known as the best goalkeeper in the state and even the country, signed to play professional soccer at just 16. But, the pressure of playing a high-level sport like that at such a young age took a toll on his mental health.
15 days ago
Since the summer launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the new three-digit number has seen...
Jacqueline Howard

New 988 mental health crisis line sees ‘eye-opening’ rise in calls, texts, chats in first 6 months, data shows

Since the summer launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the new three-digit number has seen a significant rise in call volume
17 days ago
Karah Brackin

Hope Squad works to provide mental health advocacy, suicide prevention in Utah schools

Thanks to Hope Squad, a Utah-based program, students in elementary through high school are developing tools needed to care for themselves mentally and share that hope with others.
18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
How To Interact With A Family Member After They Lose Someone By Suicide