The 55-year-old knows all too well the feelings of guilt that go hand-in-hand with such a tremendous loss.
“I lost my common-law wife to suicide back in the early 80’s... we had two kids.”
Rich was in his early twenties and battling addiction at the time. His children were removed from the home.
“I always thought about what would be happening with them if their mother was still alive. That’s the type of guilt you live with,” he said.
Rich admits he tried to take his own life several times over the years.
He’s now been sober for 25 years and, while he’s not a professional, is eager to share his experiences with others and get help dealing with his own loss.
“I’m feeling the pain that a lot of people go through here,” he said.
Rich is a Labrador Mushuau Innu and former chief for Innu Nation and former Innu Nation vice president. He has also served as deputy grand chief and is working as a constitution negotiator for the Innu Nation.
After suggesting the support group for survivors of suicide on social media, Rich said he has heard from people in the community who are also interested in getting a survivors’ group off the ground.
“There are young people committing suicide and there are people here trying to live with the guilt that goes with that,” he said.
A published author, Rich’s book “Struggling With My Soul” (a version of which was first published by Harrish Press) has recently been revised and released by Boulder Publications.
In the book (edited by Camille Fouillard) Rich tells the story of how, as a young man, he grew up caught between two worlds when his family and their people gave up a nomadic way of life to settle in Davis Inlet.
However, for Rich and many others, the promise of a better life in a new place quickly turned to alcoholism, despair and tragedy.
Rich also shares his memories about the move from Davis Inlet to Natuashish in the book and writes about his former wife’s suicide so many years ago.
He is now intent on getting help for people, like himself, who need help in coping with losing a loved one through suicide.
“What I’m trying to do now is seek help for those who need it and try to get some professionals here to deal with it,” he said of setting up the survivors’ support group.
In promoting the support group initiative on Facebook, Rich said the next meeting will take place at 6:30 pm on Sept. 20 in the church’s meeting room.
“The meeting is about those who lost their love ones in suicide. It could be their brother, sister, or friend, son or daughter, husband or wife. It helps to talk about it and seek support of those who are in a same pain. The trained counselors will be present... Hopefully we will come out of darkness into a more brighter side of life.”
Rich can be contacted on Facebook or at the Innu Nation Office.