Emily Tegenkamp

Helping those grieving suicide

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Catholic Charities’ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) program was established 43 years ago by Father Charles Rubey and three families who lost children to suicide. At the time, there were not many resources available specifically for survivors of suicide loss, whose grief journey is much different.

While each story is unique, there are common elements that every suicide survivor experiences that have informed the program’s carefully and lovingly crafted services over the years.

The primary goal of the program has always been to accompany people during a time of great need and give them hope that they will one day regain a sense of stability and joy. LOSS gives survivors the practical and compassionate help they need to learn to live with their tragic loss, enable them to celebrate and honor the life of their loved one, provide strength to create a new life for themselves and their families and, ultimately, to find a sense of peace and acceptance.

The program accomplishes this through support groups that are co-facilitated by survivors of suicide loss and mental health professionals, individual counseling, special programming and counseling for children and teens, events and other opportunities to memorialize loved ones, a writers’ group, grief speaker presentations, a bimonthly publication and ongoing pastoral support.

Beyond providing immeasurable hope to thousands of families, one of the major contributions of LOSS has been to help destigmatize suicide and mental illness.

At the time of the program’s inception, there was a tremendous amount of stigma associated with suicide. Since then, we have learned that significant numbers of people who complete suicide suffer from depression or other mental illness. Destigmatizing mental illness and bringing greater awareness to the many treatment options are critical to suicide prevention. 

Similarly, when the program began, the Catholic Church’s position on suicide was not widely understood. Rubey, in particular, has helped many families find peace in God’s tender mercy, explaining that God recognizes the mental anguish of those completing suicide, and “By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance” (Catechism 2283).

Rubey and Father Larry Sullivan, director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Archdiocese of Chicago, are also available to say home Masses, perform blessings of homes and locations where loved ones died, offer prayers at a gravesite and provide counsel around questions of faith.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, LOSS was able to quickly shift to an online format, providing support groups over Zoom and telehealth counseling sessions. We were amazed at how well people adapted to this new format, which is often more convenient and enables them to participate from their own homes.

Even as we resume some in-person groups, LOSS will continue the online options, particularly the support groups, which now have participants from coast to coast. We have also conducted an online speaker series covering topics such as spirituality and grief and teens and grief, as well as many others that are now accessible by anyone at any time on our YouTube channel.

It is an honor for me to be a part of this incredible program that has been replicated both nationally and internationally and given hope to so many people. Rubey often indicates how profoundly LOSS has affected his own willingness to accept the mystery of God and the mystery of life.

Survivors of suicide loss are asked to live with many unanswered questions and with a mystery that can seem unbearable. All those involved in LOSS accompany each other on this difficult journey, working together to bring the peace and acceptance that is so desperately needed.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the services of LOSS, which are provided free of charge to individuals and families of all religious and economic backgrounds, call 312-655-7283. The National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255.


  • catholic charities
  • suicide