If That Hadn’t Happened……


IF THAT HADN’T HAPPENED:

If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be sitting here feeling guilty because I was the last one to talk to you and I never had a clue.  I should have picked up something in the tone of your voice or in your  words that would have indicated what you were planning to do almost as soon as we got off the phone.

If that hadn’t happened, the rest of us wouldn’t be planning a trip to say goodbye.

If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be so pissed off at you for not talking to me and telling me what was going on and what you were planning, when that had to be the point of your call to me in the first place….why wouldn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you let me get you help, you knew I would know what to do and would have moved heaven and earth to help you.  Why didn’t you trust me enough to tell me?

If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be missing you so much.  I wouldn’t be dreading every breath I had to take and praying that every one would be my last.

If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be staying away from everyone because I can only hide what’s going on inside me for very short periods of time, and to those who know me really well, I can’t hide it at all.

If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t regret having made the promise that I made to the one person who has helped me most through all of this, the one person who has always had my back, the one person I believe truly cares about me.

If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be feeling like this……I would not be thinking about jumping into the abyss.

When Looking for a Therapist, Find One That Specializes in Your Particular Need – PART TWO


Yesterday, I gave you all the first part of my interview with Suzette Spence, M.A, L.M.F.T along with her contact information (phone 714-801-6850)  If you need therapy for grief, complicated grief, loss, dealing with the suicide of a loved one, she comes highly recommended by With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation (www.withhopefoundation.org).  For more information on With Hope, check out this cool video that we did about two months ago here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avd0dwtL6LQ

Now that the plugs are done….let’s get back to the real point of this post….the second part of the interview with Suzette Spence.  NOTE:  Any websites posted here were found by the writer and not endorsed in any way by Suzette.

Q:  Do you feel that a Christian therapist would be a better option for a family survivor over a secular therapist or does it even matter?

A:  I do not think that being a “Christian” counselor per se is important as much as having a strong spiritual believe and being open to whatever faith your clients believe in to help guide them through their grief.  Some research indicated that if a client has a spiritual belief (any religion, not just Christianity), their grieving appears to resolve sooner and the client tends to have a more positive and philosophical outlook on life.  I usually ask about a client’s spiritual beliefs (again, it is not important with religion or faith) and we work on that strength.  Often there is community support in their beliefs, rituals, beliefs about life, death and suicide are closely held on to.  I have counseled clients from all religious backgrounds, asking them about their beliefs, honoring their rituals and learning from them.

Q:  After a loved one take their own life (writer’s note:  I hate the term “committed suicide” because it makes it sound like a crime, thus adding to the stigma for the survivors), where should those left behind look for help first?

A:  Again, if there is a spiritual community that the client is affiliated with, then finding support in that community (writer’s note again – I can attest to that, my church family have literally been life savers for me).  Also friends and family.  Finding a Survivors of Suicide support group and personal counseling.  If PTSD is involved, considering EMDR (http://www.emdria.org).

Q:  What type of education needs to get to the public to try to prevent suicide?  Is there enough being done to educate people in schools? At the city level? County level? State level? Federal level? (writer leaves no stone unturned) What more do feel can or should be done?  If you were the one making the policies on suicide education and prevention, what would you want to see done? (writer needs a campaign manager, please contact me if interested….ha!)

A:  Educate young people, early on, in health classes about depression, mental illness, and addictions (writer’s note:  The fastest growing group of potential suicide is the 10-14 age group – http://sperling.site.aplus.net/defiantloveistheofficialwebsiteofdavidjsperling/id43.html).  Provide them with strategies they can use if they feel depressed and/or suicidal (i.e. tell them where they can get help).  Unfortunately today, most young people have parents that invest a lot of money and time in their children’s academic education but little time in helping them to learn social skills, coping mechanisms for life and just plain reality.  Our society is teaching our children that life is fair, everyone can win and no one should fail at anything (writer’s note – talk about setting your kids up for a fall).  This social belief system is ill preparing out children for the real world.

Q:  Is there anything that you would like to add to this based on your personal and professional experiences?

A:  Life is a struggle.  Once you accept that, it is much easier to cope, find daily gratitude  when things go well and have and having coping mechanisms when they do not go so well.  Also everything that has a beginning also has an end.  That is true about all of our problems and most of our “struggles.”  If young people understood this, and depressed people could hold on to that, they would work through the struggle and allow it to develop their life path with compassion and love (writer throws in empathy as a well).  Most of the reasons why people give up and end their lives, are temporary and could have been worked through with time and patience.

Suzette also gave me an article of things to NOT say to a suicide survivor.  When I read this my first thought was “I have heard each one of them in the days/weeks/months following my brother’s death.  Here goes:

Please consider your words carefully.  Do not ask us:

If we are “over it”

If we “feel better”

Please do not say or ask things like:

It is God’s will

Something good will come out of it

At least you have other children

They are in a better place

Time heals all wounds

Were they saved when they died?

Do you think they went to Heaven?

Did you have an argument with them?

Did you they were going to do this?

How did they do it?

Where did they do it?

Can I come in and see?

These are all real things that have been said to survivors.

I had to resist making my typical comments after some of these, but ashumo anyone who actually knows me, or those who have read all or most of my posts, when things get too heavy for me, I have to inject some sarcasm as a coping mechanism.  Yes my therapist taught me a thing or two (didn’t get the part about what to do when you’re done with therapy though).  So my personal “favorites” (read, the ones that ticked me off the most) were:

Did you have an argument with them?  Yeah, because I’m so freaking powerful and influential on my loved one, that one nasty word from me would totally throw them over the edge…..

Did you know they were going to do this?  Hello??!!  If I knew do you not think I would have done EVERYTHING within my power to move heaven and earth to stop it?

Time heals all wounds.  Yeah…wait until the single most important person in your life dies and then come and talk to me.

Something good will come out of it (otherwise known as Romans 8:28)  Because now what I really need to hear is that God wanted it this way because it’s part of  His master plan…okay well, at the time that really PISSED me off….now farther removed and knowing the path that I have chosen because of this, I am starting to see it a bit more clearly now…but the SAME DAY….Not so much.

To go back to more of the positive side of things…These are things that help us heal and that you can say…..

What are you needing?

Is there anything I can do for you?

What was your loved one like? (Writer could not resist:  We don’t want to forget them and most times, talking about them can make us smile)

May I bring you a meal?

Call me if you would like to talk? (writer again – okay, but could you actually answer the phone?  I had several people who said call me anytime and then never answered the phone….really helpful)

It’s OK to cry (me again, Thanks for permission to do something I can’t control)

You are not going crazy (I sure thought I was for a while)

I care about and what you and what you are going through.

So there you have it…I know it’s a lot of information all at once, but the day after my brother died, I was all over the internet looking for every possible bit of information I could find.  For at least the first week, I could quote statistics like no one else.  Finally one of my friends jokingly asked me if this was my new goal in life….I stopped quoting, but never stopped researching.

That’s all for now.  I promise my next post ….hmmmm….Sorry I just can’t promise anything about my next post, except that there will be a next post.  Take it easy until then.

Volunteering: An Unpaid Job Than Can be More Rewarding Than A Paid Job


Hello all,

So here it is,  my fourth blog for my journalism class.  So far I’ve included 2/5 things that I generated and one that someone else generated.  I’m on the right track.  Maybe….we shall see.

Today was a hard day for me.  I had class this morning – I still want to hurt the person who scheduled me for a 7:00 a.m. class after a class that ends at 10:00 p.m. Monday night.  However, with everything that has gone on in my family for the past year plus, I’m afraid that people who know me might take that action the wrong way.  Plus every time I try to hit myself, I flinch. Family suicide survivor humor?  At least it was my attempt at it.  After class, I came home and studied for the two tests I have next – the same Monday night/Tuesday morning scenario and then I went to have lunch with a dear friend after what seems like forever since we last saw each other outside of church.  That was fun and I always enjoy spending time with her.  She gives great advice.  From there I had to head south on the 5 freeway because Stephanie’s family memorial was this afternoon.  My oldest sister, Angelina just returned from Italy because Stephanie wished to be buried in the family cemetery at my villa in Florence.  It looks like the rest of the family will be going to Italy for the formal service there once all the students are out of school for their break.  I have six weeks off between semesters and I’m seriously considering spending all of it in the one place that I can totally relax.  Despite that the villa is where Pete took his life last year, I was there in December 2012-mid January 2013 and in that time, I can come to terms with a lot of it and before I left the country to come back to California, I was able in the room where ‘it’ happened.  Definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done, but with the help of a kitten who had hung around the villa (her, her mother and her siblings have been indoor residents since I left), I was able to get through that.  When I left, I instructed my cousins, who manage the property for me, to get rid of everything that was in the room and completely redo it.  While I am glad that my sister-in-law and I are getting along better, I hate that it’s because of another loss.  But pulling together as a family is definitely better than being torn apart.

Tomorrow will be a much better day.  I have an interview in Orange at the Mental Health Alliance of Orange County, where I have applied for a position as  a mentor.  It is an unpaid job, but sometimes volunteering can be very therapeutic.  There is something about serving others that takes your mind off of your own crap for a little while.  If I get this position, which I am pretty sure I will, I will be mentoring kids who come from broken homes and have been abused.  Part of the “group” that I plan to focus on after I’m done with school and have the degree that will actually lead to a job working with these kids.  I’m not sure if it will be a county position, or if I will be able to land a job with a foster organization.  I just know that after everything I’ve been through, I have much more empathy for these kids, because growing up, I was one of those kids with an abusive “father” who it turned out was  not my biological dad.  I’m pretty sure that there is no situation they could have experienced that I can’t relate too.  I’m looking forward to being a safe sounding board for these kids and most likely, in some small way by helping them to heal, they will also help me to heal.  That’s so much bigger than any paycheck I could ever bring home.

Boy did I get a rude awakening………


I read a quote once that said “NEVER get too comfortable, you’ll get a rude awakening.  In the past week, I can honestly say that truer words have never been spoken.  For those of you who have followed my short lived blog so far, and if you’re not, please start, you know that on August 1, 2012, my family and I lost my brother, Pete, to suicide and less than six months later, in January 24, 2013, we lost my niece, Alexandra (Ali), to suicide.  That has been a struggle for those of us left behind, as you can imagine.  On October 2, 2013, 14 months and 1 day since my brother took his life, and 8 months and 8 days after my niece took her life, my youngest sister, Stephanie, took her life.  To say that it shattered mine and my family’s world (again) was a major understatement.  We were all still seeing various therapists and were just barely starting the scratch the surface of what had happened to Pete and Ali…But Stephanie?!  NO ONE saw this one coming.  My middle sister, Vittoria found her and I, better than anyone else in the family understood exactly what she was going through and would be going through, since I had been on a Skype chat with Pete when he took his life.  On top of the grief of losing a loved one, she could count on flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms of PTSD.  As of the time of this writing, we are not any closer to finding out the “Why” as were on that night. We all know, of course, that we will probably never completely understand the “why” other than at the moment that they took their lives, all three of them JUST WANTED THEIR PAIN TO GO AWAY…which is different than wanting their lives to really end.  At that final second, they were literally not thinking clearly.  Since Stephanie’s death, my oldest sister, Angelina has discovered some unsent emails on Stephanie’s computer, one of which was to me.  She asked me if she should send it and I told her that eventually, yes, I wanted to read it, but I would let her know when.  Until then, it sits in the “waiting to send” folder.  Pete left me a note and I still haven’t read it.  My therapist has read it to me, but it was so soon afterward, that I don’t remember what it said.  No one else seen it.  My therapist keeps it, so no one “accidentally” finds it and reads it.

In the meantime, we all wake up each morning and try to move on as best as we can.  After Pete’s suicide, our family was torn apart, (mainly my sister-in-law and I) but slowly we have been working on our relationship and are actually doing pretty good, considering the issues that were between us.  We all talk everyday, sometimes more than once a day in addition to school, work, and other activities.  My sisters and my sister-in-law and I get together every Saturday for dinner….ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSES.  It’s important to us to keep communicating.  I’ve become very active in the With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation since Pete’s and Ali’s deaths and because this blog originated as a journalism assignment, With Hope’s founder/CEO, Annette Craig, was kind enough to tape what has turned into a PSA for With Hope (she will be putting on the With Hope website soon).  After three revisions to get it just right, we are finally happy with it.  Please share it anywhere you feel that it will get exposure.   Until next time, here is the final product.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avd0dwtL6LQ

 

 

 

 

Journalism 110 – What I want to do when I “grow up.”


So, I have to do some blog posts for my journalism class, preferably discussing the job that I eventually desire…I must say I’m glad that there are some “older” adults besides me in my class.  Right now, my goal is to get a B.A. in Human Services and, ultimately, a Master in Social Work.  Somewhere before the B.A. is completed, but after I have taken enough of the “AA-T” requirements, I would like to take the required test to be an alcohol/drug counselor, that way I’ll have at least some income to help me pay for the graduate and post-graduate degrees.  Eventually, I want to somehow be involved with family survivors of suicide, which if you have read my blog before, you know is very close to my heart on a personal level.  The day after my brother’s suicide, I was connected with the With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation, which is a non-profit focusing on teen suicide prevention through education and mental health awareness.  With Hope helped me get connected with a psychologist (who works a lot with family survivors of suicide) within 5 days for an assessment and I actually starting seeing the therapist, ironically enough on my brother’s birthday.  My therapist has been instrumental in helping me realize, among other things, that my brother wasn’t “crazy” just depressed.  

Anyway, since August 2012, I have been involved with the With Hope Foundation, and I think everyone needs to know the signs and symptoms of depression, which by itself can help to save a life.  Also, if someone talks about committing suicide, they aren’t just saying it to get attention…they are actually reaching out in one of the few ways they know now…DON’T IGNORE IT…TELL SOMEONE!!  Check out the With Hope website.  It has a lot of information, not just for teens or anyone with a teen, but for anyone who loves someone.  You may be surprised at what you learn in just five minutes on this website.  

 

http://www.WithHopeFoundation.org