Grief does not take a holiday – Burt’s story

Burt lost his adult child to suicide. He hopes his story will help even one person. Please consider a gift on so that all persons – like Burt – can receive quality counseling services when they need it most. To donate, click image.


Burt, on the death of his adult child: “My therapist has moved me into a position of accepting that I did not kill my son.”

Burt is a 70-something man, an interesting blend of jovial and introspective, who should be enjoying his golden years with his wife. Instead, he is trying to make sense of the recent suicide of his adult son, a classically trained musician who had a successful career as a professor and performer.

Burt blamed himself.

Why? Burt had dedicated his life to teaching and coaching, always believing he could make a positive difference for others. Yet he had a troubled relationship with his son for decades, despite his best efforts to reach out to him as a father. It seems Burt’s son may have suffered subtle yet chronic mental health needs that had not been identified or addressed.

Burt considers himself a fixer, seeking to help other people when he sees the need. The fact that he could not prevent his own child’s death was devastating to him. His sorrow was deepened by the fact that he hadn’t seen his son for several years before his son took his own life, at his son’s request. Burt was riddled with questions how he could have been a better parent. He believed he was responsible for the suicide.

After the loss of his son, Burt lost his will to live. He said he was “crawling through his life” and he had a plan for how to end it. His pastor suggested he seek therapy at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Burt called to make an appointment and was matched with a therapist. Burt’s counselor will remain anonymous, though she figures prominently in Burt’s narrative.

Maybe the best way to continue with Burt’s story is to share own words, which he typed up to offer the community:

“My counselor has shown outstanding support and encouragement to me. She is concerned about my welfare. We have worked out my conflicts and I have been helped through the feelings of suicide.”

“My counselor asked me several months ago if I was willing to take myself off the hook for the suicide. I thought she used a great word: hook.

“My counselor has moved me to a position of accepting that I did not kill my son.”

Burt carries cards in his pocket and has posted a sign on his wall to remind him of some of the things he has learned from counseling, ways to move forward in a positive manner. He no longer considers taking his own life. He said his counseling sessions prepared both he and his wife for the one-year marker of their son’s death. He misses his son tremendously.

“I want to talk to my son one more time. But I can’t.”

Burt is still sorting things out, but his goal is to use what he has experienced to live a more full life. His natural tendency to assist others stands strong, the reason why he shares this story,

“I really do hope one person will be helped.” ~


Ellery and Marsha Duke

“Marsha and I believe in the healing power of counseling.” ~ Ellery Duke


Please consider a gift on so that all persons – like Burt – can receive quality counseling services when they need it most. Grief does not take a holiday. Your donation will help people find a way to cope and could save a life.



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