By Janelle Davis
Betsy Cusumano’s world changed forever in the fall of 2022 when her husband Tom, also known as “Cus,” unexpectedly took his life. “He never suffered from any mental health issues. He was the most even-keeled person you could meet, so it really blindsided us,” said Betsy, who lives in the town of Clay, within the Baldwinsville school district.
Betsy Cusumano shared that her husband was one of the best people you could know and you couldn’t find anyone with something bad to say about him.
“He lived his life with kindness, selflessness, and generosity in everything he did. He was that kind of person, just a pure soul,” she said.
While there is no one way to deal with grief, Betsy wanted to do something to honor her husband. While she said she is very grateful for the strong foundation of friends and family that she and her four children have, during her grieving, it occurred to her that some people who lose someone in this way may not have the same foundational support system.
What happens to the people that are left behind? What happens to the survivors of suicide loss? That’s the gap that Betsy wanted to fill. She wants to bring some hope and light into people’s lives who are trying to heal from such a traumatic loss and help them along their journey of healing.
So she started the Cus Foundation. The Cus Foundation is a nonprofit organization that means Caring for Unexpected Survivors of suicide loss.
Betsy wanted to build a foundation where she can provide services like meals, care packages, and support groups. But she also wanted to offer a platform for people to go and access a multitude of resources, if they didn’t want to contact her personally.
“Either I can be involved in their journey by providing services, or they can access the website and get what they need,” Betsy explained.
When asked how people dealing with unexpected loss can find their coping mechanisms, she said everyone has their own tools that work for them.
“Don’t isolate yourself. You may want to, but don’t,” she said. She suggests finding the little things that give you peace, like taking a walk in nature or doing kickboxing to take out frustration.
As far as what others can do to help a loved one when experiencing grief, Betsy offered some helpful advice.
“People are so kind and tell you to let them know if you need anything,” she said. “But your loved one might be uncomfortable or not know what to ask for.”
Her advice? Don’t ask, just do. Things like doing favors, giving helpful gift cards, or offering to take them out somewhere could go a long way.
While Betsy is still learning, she leads by example by finding her little pieces of joy.
“My kids are the most important thing to me. I refuse to let them live a life of sadness and sorrow. I have to make it as beautiful and filled with love and laughter as much as I can,” she said. “That is my goal every day. Everyone should have a goal for the day, even if it is to take a shower.”
Something Betsy and her family look forward to once a month is what she calls “Back to Living,” where they do something together once a month. Activities they’ve done are ax throwing, hiring a personal chef, and in July they are going to Disney.
In the future, she hopes the Cus Foundation will go nationwide.
If you or anyone you know could benefit from the support the Cus Foundation provides, you can visit thecusfoundation.org.
“We’re here only once with one chance to get it right,” she offered. “It’s important to lead your life with love. I hope to heal while helping others to heal.”