Handbook aims to help the grieving with sudden loss of loved ones

After her son’s suicide two and half years ago, Melodie Anderson said she literally had to think about breathing.

Sudden death or unexpected acute illness can leave a victim’s family and friends unable to cope with grief.

“The shock was so hard,” Anderson said. “I had a hard time finding any help.”

Surviving a hang-glider crash four years ago left Anderson’s son, Ronney Marler, with two crushed legs and a broken back.

He became addicted to OxyContin and had attempted suicide several times before his death.

Holding hostages at a Salt Lake City Rite-Aid store, Marler forced a police officer to kill him.

With the news of her son’s death, Anderson collaborated with U health-care providers, police officers and other victim families and friends to research ways in which to help people like herself cope with death.

“There needed to be more help available in certain areas,” Anderson said. “A lot of times in violent deaths, there is no help.”

Research included a checklist for the first 24 hours of coping, information on cemeteries, grief counseling, scene cleanup companies, organ donations, and dealing with the police and media.

U graduate student Leslie Miles, who dealt with the murder of her uncle, compiled the research and created the handbook, “Dealing With Sudden and Unexpected Death.”

The U published the book in January and is selling it at the Caring Connections grief counseling center at the College of Nursing.

“It’s an incredibly wonderful book,” Anderson said. “It has had a great impact on people.”

Because of the media’s coverage of the book and Marler’s death, Anderson said people coping with similar situations call her every day.

“The last two years have been worth it,” she said. “The book is now in so many people’s hands.”

In its first printing, 757 out of 2000 handbooks have been sold.

Another 2000 copies are on their way to be published.

Caring Connections also published a brochure to help professionals such as police officers, doctors, nurses and social workers on tactful ways to deliver the news of a death to their loved ones.

“We put what we thought was relevant and what was needed in the book,” said co author Beth Cole. “Victims [of grief] told us what they thought would be helpful.”

Cole said people can access this book immediately, at the time of their loss.

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