Suicides Leave Two Questions Behind

Last week a prominent artist in a community I belong to committed suicide on Thursday. I know him only through stories from my friends and the amazing art he created for the Indiana CORE Project last year (see image below). Watching my friends reactions reminds me of just how terrible suicide related grief really is. Grieving Someone Who Committed Suicide Every death of a human being sucks, hurts deeply and shifts things for those who know them. Suicide, in my experience, is the worst of the worst for those left behind. No death is easy. No grief a cake walk or a happy experience. There are particular elements that make grieving a suicide particularly difficult and painful. Suicide has been a concrete part of my life since I was 16 years old. That year, one of my classmates committed suicide. He was part of my circle, my parish, but we were never really close. He wasn’t particularly popular either. Yet, hundreds of students came to the memorial service. People who sat next to him in class wondered if they had any responsibility for his death. It was crazy to observe, this massive ripple effect of one suicide. Since that first experience, I have lost more friends to suicide. Closer friends. Intimate ones. I have yet to lose a client, and I know it will likely happen. I nearly always have at least one client that is suicidal at any given time in my professional life. I myself came extremely close to committing suicide several times my senior year in high school. Despair is a powerful emotion to try and escape. The recent...

Single on Valentine’s Day

Being single on Valentine’s Day is not the end of the world. It is a question of perspective. We can buy into the idea that V-Day is just for couple’s, sharing romantic love and gifts of jewelry and chocolate. Or we can decide to honor this holiday as a celebration of all love, in all its forms. Suggestions for how to do that are below the jump. Aimee Ray via Compfight Remember grade school? Being single on Valentine’s day was no hardship then. I loved the annual tradition of exchanging Valentines with my classmates, often staying up late the night before carefully deciding which one went to whom. Which comic book hero would properly let my crush know I had a thing for him. I loved opening the pile that formed on my desk, re-reading many of them. Occasionally, the classroom tradition enabled someone who had a crush on me to speak up. As a teenager, Valentine’s day became my favorite holiday for celebrating my friends. Christmas gifts were expected and anxiety provoking. Simple, sweet Valentines were always a warmly received surprise. Being single on Valentine’s day drove me to find ways to celebrate the love I did have in my life, rather than mourn the lack of a boyfriend. Our American culture, I believe, over-emphasizes the importance of the monogamous, intimate, romantic relationship. In the process, we overlook the the very real importance of friendship. We set ourselves up to feel like failures when we don’t have a ‘significant other.’ We sit alone on Friday night because that’s “reserved” for date night. We agonize over every break-up. And we miss the chance...

Family Member Suicide Risk: 4 Questions to Ask Your Teen

A family member suicide risk may be high if they are a teenager. Suicide touches many teens and their families, both directly and indirectly. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, meaning you may lose your teen directly or your teen may lose a friend through suicide. Family Member Suicide Risk: Teens When suicide, teens and family intersect guilt, grief and questions always emerge. Survivors of suicide, other teens and family members, ask themselves ‘what did I miss?’ We wonder how we didn’t see the pain in our loved one’s life, didn’t realize how badly this person was hurting. Parents of teens who commit suicide struggle with guilt, feeling responsible for their teens death. Many question how they could have saved their teenager. The pain of a teen’s suicide – ask the right questions to avoid it Latina Power via Compfight Friends and family of teens who attempt suicide, successfully or not, wonder what they might have done to prevent suicide. Often the answer is not much, especially if that teen was already working with a professional or hiding their emotional struggle. Suicide is a way to end unbearable psychological pain – not a death wish. Learn your family member suicide risk: Fortunately, there are a few questions that we can ask if we know someone is hurting, and we wonder if they are in danger of attempting suicide. These questions are particularly good for professionals who see teens, like teachers, coaches, counselors, doctors, etc. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health have established these 4 questions will reliably show if someone is at risk: 1. In...

Holiday Stress and Expectations

Surviving holiday stress is about managing our expectations and the expectations of others. It is so easy to worry so much about everything being perfect, that we destroy what could be good. We worry about so many things we cannot control—who will be offended this year, will they like their gift, will our uncle overindulge again—that we lose our ability to enjoy ourselves. Source of Holiday Stress As soon as we start hearing Christmas carols and seeing holiday ads on TV, we are surrounded by myths. While the holidays are often wonderful, a time when we open our hearts to others more fully, and times when great memories are made, they are also difficult. It is impossible for every Christmas to be the “best Christmas ever,” yet that doesn’t stop us from trying, taking on more holiday stress. So we rush around, frantic, making sure the house is gorgeous, the perfect presents are wrapped, entertaining plans are in place for guests of all ages, and enough food to feed an army is at hand. We tie ourselves in knots, on the quest to create and capture “magical moments.” We do our best to ensure that every holiday tradition is honored. Our holiday stress grows. Robert the Noid via Compfight When was the last time you asked yourself if this was truly giving you and yours a Merry Christmas? Reconsidering our Expectations It’s possible that some traditions that you believe your loved ones find indispensable aren’t really that important to them. Have you ever asked? Think about your own favorite memories of the holidays. What comes to mind? A perfect gift? A...

Response to “Bullying a Bully”

Julie M. Green blogs about a difficult challenge as a parent over on Real Zest. Talking about her son’s pre-school class she writes: The idea is to have caregivers attend the early part of the program, before disappearing for the second half. During one of the first sessions, out of nowhere my son was broadsided as he sat (go figure) on a ride-on BMW. The other boy, who we’ll call Fred, threw my gentle giant to the ground. In a flash, I ran to console my startled and shaken son who lay howling on the floor next to the toy car.  Literally minutes later, Fred’s nanny sauntered over, uttered the feeblest, ‘That wasn’t nice’, while Fred carried on riding the Beamer. She goes on to explain how she felt conflicted about how to intervene, other than removing her son from harm’s way, due to the “live and let live” feeling about parenting approaches. As a counselor who helps parents of young children and works with teenagers on a daily basis, I felt compelled to respond. Specifically, Ms. Green states “There is no right or wrong path as a parent — just the one you ultimately decide to walk, the one you have to live with at the end of the day.” While there is great debate over some of the finer points of parenting, there are some basic limits – limits that do get crossed over in some families.  Legally, physical abuse crosses a line. As a professional, I’m legally obligated to report it. But sometimes abuse isn’t obvious, like a black eye or welts on a child’s limbs....

Reduce Your Stress: Mindfulness

Last week, I blogged about how expectations are pre-meditated resentments. One potentially life-changing technique to reduce our resentment is reducing our expectations in the first place. Expectations are directly tied to our ideas of what our future should hold. By being more present in the moment of here and now, we spend less time worrying about the future, thus less time creating new expectations. Buddhist spiritual teachings are a fantastic resource for ways to approach mindfulness and modern science is demonstrating the impact on our psychological well-being is real. According to Buddhist teachings, part of human life is Suffering, which means anxiety, stress, resentment, or disquiet. This Suffering comes from human cravings or attachment to people, things, and events. Suffering ends when we release the craving or attachment. There are many ways to practice non-attachment, which would make this post way too long. Chiefly, meditation and self-awareness are helpful here. In our busy, multi-tasking lives, it can seem nearly impossible to even comprehend what present moment mindfulness means. In our daily lives we rarely experience it, unless we make an effort to create it. As you reflect on your life, think about the times you have become completely immersed in an experience or an activity. Maybe you lost yourself watching your child playing, or maybe a truly excellent wine demanded your full attention. Sometimes at work we achieve what’s often called “flow” state, where our focus is totally present to the task at hand. If none of these experiences are familiar to you, here’s an activity that will help you understand what present moment mindfulness feels like. A Hershey Kiss Moment This...