The black rose is a symbol of life and beauty even in darkness. In June 2020, the Butler family lost a son and brother, Patrick Butler, to suicide. As the Butler family navigates their own healing journey, the family has launched Our Black Rose to help other suicide loss survivors by providing free care packages to families who have recently (within a year) lost a loved one to suicide in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, PA). The care package includes grief support gifts and local resources for families surviving a suicide including the Allegheny County Bar Association, Highmark Caring Place, UPMC, the Association of Suicidology, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Suicide is a public health issue which affects a much larger number of people than only the individual who dies by suicide. Research firmly establishes that family members of individuals who die by suicide have a greater risk of dying by suicide themselves. However, postvention services or activities that help reduce risk and promote health and healing, are difficult to find for suicide loss survivors beyond support groups. The grief process for suicide loss survivors is intense with emotion as the questions of “Why?” and “How could I have missed this?” loom large and heavy. In addition, in the immediate aftermath of a suicide there are many factors’ families must address which are not easily discussed or shared (clean-up services specifically needed in a firearm death), legal issues (unpaid debt, house, no will, etc.), insurance of the loved one, and questions from authorities and first responders. The scene of a suicide is often cold and criminal-like and families/loved ones are often left in shock and experiencing an extreme trauma. Postvention services for suicide loss survivors should be viewed as prevention, but currently are hard to access and seem to be limited solely to support groups.
To date, Our Black Rose has delivered 122 care packages to funeral homes and cemeteries to distribute to families suffering a suicide loss.