Kevin Lincoln was 25 when he died by suicide. Jessica Lincoln, his older sister, had dealt with grief before, but the shock of Kevin’s death was something she had not experienced. “The difference between, for example, my grandfather’s death and my brother’s death was a feeling of total loss of control because something so unexpected could happen,” she says.
Lincoln, now 31, decided to attend a bereavement group, Compassionate Friends, to help with her grief; she still attends. Something she quickly noticed about the group, however, was that she was the only sibling present. “I kept going to these groups and there were other parents there who had lost children to suicide, and I just found myself thinking, ‘Where are your other kids right now?’” she recalls. “You’re here for a child that you’ve lost, but they have lost a sibling and they need a place to go, too.”
This observation eventually led her to take special training to become a bereavement facilitator and create Suicide Bereavement 4 Teens (SB4T), a Loudoun-based group specifically for teenagers, ages 14-19, who have lost family or friends to suicide.
According to the Virginia Medical Examiner Report from 2016, the year Kevin died, there were 45 child suicide deaths in Virginia, the highest total since 1999; 39 of those were for children between the age of 14 and 17. As of 2018, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34 in Virginia, per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The first official meeting of SB4T happened in September. Lincoln organized the group like the adult-focused one she still attends: an open-ended program where the group sits and shares who they are, why they’re there and then a discussion begins, which can focus on a general topic introduced by Lincoln or if someone in the group wants to discuss something, they can base their conversation around that. She encourages that people try the group three times to decide if it is something they would like to continue with or not.
In that first meeting, which took place at The Music Loft in Ashburn, Lincoln says she had five participants. “I was a little concerned that they wouldn’t want to talk, but it’s been great,” she says. “I wouldn’t say so far anyone was really dragged there kicking and screaming; they all were kind of OK with coming it seemed.”
People have been finding the group through email, whether it be kids reaching out directly, or their parents. Lincoln also does outreach herself, meeting with high school guidance counselors to make them aware of the group.
SB4T meets once a month on the second Tuesday at The Music Loft.
When asked what her general message to teens who may be dealing with this type of loss, Lincoln says to “feel what you feel. And it’s OK to be really upset, it’s OK to be happy, it’s OK to laugh still, it’s OK to feel whatever comes. Just don’t think you should act a certain way or try to hide how you feel for your parents or your friends to protect them, because one concern is they don’t want people to worry about that, but that’s their problem. You just feel what you feel and express what you want.”
To find out more about SB4T, you can email
If you are struggling and need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.