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October 2006

      By Linda Vigil


Summer is at an end, and Fall is upon us. The children are returning to school —soon there will be pumpkins and the excitement of little children with their Halloween costumes. The Holiday season —Thanksgiving and Christmas, will be faced by many with much excitement and new joy.
Those who are grieving are once again reminded of their loss and pain, knowing that their lives are


As many of you are aware in this issue of "Sharing and Healing" there is an address change for Al and Linda Vigil.
After living in San Diego for thirty five years , we chose to retire and make a change in our lives. It took much courage and risk to make this decision. We raised our three daughters in San Diego, and we were leaving one of our daughters, Mindy and her family, and very dear friends behind us. I also felt deep within myself, if we were to move, we would also be leaving our daughter Mia, and our memories of her life in San Diego.
Al and I bought a small brick home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I have a brother, a sister, and my Mother, who is 84 years old. We have been able to help Mom with some of her needs, and we have re-acquainted with Al's nieces and nephews, and we have made some new, very special friends. We have joined a church "Shepherd Of The Valley" ...so we also have a church home.
We love our new home. We do miss, our daughters Mindy, Marlo, their families and our dear friends. We have not missed our old San Diego address or have we ever regretted our decision, —which tells me it was time to move forward down a path and on into the continuing journey of life. We have chosen a new and different path to explore and make new memories. The only tears shed was, when it was time to hang our Mia's picture in our new home!
The tears were shed because our Mia wasn't here to share this special event with us. Her picture and our memories of her, along with pictures of our other two daughters, Mindy, Marlo, our grandchildren, old friends and new friends now fill our home.
We are moving into a new season ...with new losses ...our son-in-law's, nephew a bright and handsome young man, with his whole world ahead of him —who was to leave for college this fall on a football scholarship, was in a very serious car accident and broke his neck. This young man did not choose the path he is now on —with broken memories? He has so much courage and hope and is working very hard in rehab to walk again!
Another dear friend's son was in a very serious motorcycle accident. He has two very young children, and again, he also did not choose the path he has now found himself on, but with much hope and courage, he too, has chosen to work with physical therapy so he can someday, once again, enjoy life with his children!
Another dear friend, has just lost her Mother, who was 91 years old . This death we can understand, but my dear friend, too is on a path of sorrow and grief. She and her family now seek the hope and courage to grieve and feel at peace once again in their lives!
All these dear and special people have left their footprints in our lives, so that we might move on and touch others —and hopefully make a difference.
The 'Seasons' and the 'Journey of Life' are always moving forward —always toward somewhere we have never been before.


In Sharing and Healing!


Grief differs based on who we are, whom we have lost, and how much our day-to-day life is altered by the death. A normal reaction to loss, grief is unique in its impact, course and meaning to each of us. Experiencing the loss of a partner, a parent or sibling, or a lifelong friend, with whom we share history, often have special meaning to us.

Thinking about reactions to the loss of a loved one, we tend to think only of the emotional reactions. Yet, people also experience physical and behavioral reactions. The intensity of grief changes over time and through personal growth. Some of the most typical emotional, physical, and behavioral reactions include the following:

- IMMEDIATE REATIONS — The first few weeks following death -
Emotional : Shock, Relief, Release
Physical : Numbness, Shortness of breath, Heavy chest, Empty feeling
Behavioral : Denial, Disorientation, Crying, Listlessness

- LATER REACTIONS - After the shock wears off, you begin to feel your feelings once again -

Emotional : Anger, Fear, Guilt, Panic, Loneliness, Depression
Physical : Chest pains, Lack of energy, Headaches, Fatigue, Vulnerability to illness, Tension

Behavioral : Over-reactive, Hyper-sensitive, Running, Sleeplessness, Isolation, Need to relive death

- ADJUSTMENT - Time when you think you are going to 'make it'-
Emotional : Taking responsibility, Reconstructing your life
Physical : Looking forward, Doing things for oneself
Behavioral : Exploring new interests, Personal growth
Remember everyone's reactions and grief are different. The above lists are guides and should not be considered all-inclusive. If you are in doubt about some of your reactions or those of a loved one, consult your physician or mental health practitioner. If outside help is needed, don't be afraid to ask for it.

For weeks after a death, most caring families and friends do all that they can to comfort us, making life as comfortable as possible. Many times, we are still in shock, accepting this support in a daze. Gradually, those around us return to their normal lives, but we do not. The reality of the situation may lead you to think "I am alone," ...but you are not. Others who have felt what you are feeling now, stand ready to help.

Suicides among young people continue to be a serious problem. Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds.
Teenagers experience strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears while growing up. For some teenagers, divorce, the formation of a new family with step-parents and step-siblings, or moving to a new community can be very unsettling and can intensify self-doubts. For some teens, suicide may appear to be a solution to their problems and stress.
Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The child or adolescent needs to have his or her illness recognized and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans developed. When parents are in doubt whether their child has a serious problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful. Many of the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression.

Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill themselves:
change in eating and sleeping habits :

- withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
- drug and alcohol use
- unusual neglect of personal appearance
- marked personality change
- persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
- frequent complaints about physical symptoms, related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.- loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- not tolerating praise or rewards

A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also:

- complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
- give verbal hints with statements such as: I won't be a problem for you much longer, Nothing matters, It's no use, and I won't see you again
- put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings, etc.
- become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
- have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)

If a child or adolescent says, I want to kill myself, or I'm going to commit suicide, always take the statement seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking the child or adolescent whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than putting thoughts in the child's head, such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.

If one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help when the concerns persist. With support from family and professional treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a more healthy path of development.


While the elderly make up only 12.6% of the population, they account for almost 18.1% of the suicides.

There is one elderly suicide every one hour thirty-nine minutes.
In 2000, suicide rates ranged from 12.6 per 100,000 among persons aged 65 to 74, to 17.7 per 100,000 persons aged 75 to 84, which is nearly double the overall US rate.

White men over the age of 85 are at the greatest risk of all age gender race groups. In 1999, the suicide rate for these men was 59.6 per 100,000. That is nearly 6 times the current overall rate.

Some Warning Signs : 84% of elderly suicides are men; the number of men's suicides in late life is 5 times that for women. The rate of suicide for women declines after age 60 (after peaking in middle adulthood, age 40-54).

Although older adults attempt suicide less often than those in other age groups, they have a higher completion rate. The elderly are more lethal in their attempts and complete suicide more often. For all ages combines, there is 1 suicide for every 20 attempts. Among the young (15-24 years) there is 1 suicide for every 100-200 attempts. Over the age of 65, there is 1 suicide for every 4 attempts.

Firearms are the most common means of completing suicide among the elderly. Men (78%) use firearms more than twice as often as women (35%).

Alcohol or substance abuse plays a diminishing role in later life suicides.

Contrary to popular opinion, only a fraction (2-4%) of suicide victims have been diagnosed with a terminal illness at the time of their death. Two-thirds of older adults in their late 60's, 70's and 80's were in relatively good physical health when they died by suicide.

20% of elderly suicides over 75 have been seen by a physician within 24 hours of completing suicide; 35% have been seen by a physician within a week; 75% have seen a primary care physician within a month of their suicide; and 80% have seen a primary care physician within 6 months of their suicide.

66% - 90% of elderly suicides have at least one psychiatric diagnosis. Two-thirds of these diagnoses are for late-onset, single episode clinical depression.

As many as 75% of depressed older Americans are not receiving the treatment they need, placing them at an increased risk of suicide.

Elderly persons are less likely to reach out by calling a crisis line than their younger counterparts.

Elderly suicide rates are the highest in the mountain states of the United States for the nation as a whole.

From Our Daughter in San Diego, CA - Mindy Vigil-White

Dear Friends,
I will be joining with thousand of people nationwide this fall walking in AFSP's Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
My personal fundraising goal is $1,500.00. I would appreciate any support that you give me for this worthwhile cause. If you have been personally touched by suicide, please include your personal story to the extent that you are comfortable.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is at the forefront of research, education and prevention initiatives designed to reduce loss of life from suicide. With more than 30,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, the importance of AFSP's mission has never been greater, nor our work more urgent.
I hope you will consider supporting my participation in this event. Any contribution will help the work of AFSP. Checks should be made payable to AFSP and are 100% tax deductible.
Thank you for considering this request for your support.
Melinda Vigil-White

Please visit my Community Walk fundraising page if you would like to donate online or to see how close I am to reaching my personal goal ! ! Click on "Support Me" site direction below:

Support Me!


What is Grief?

Grief occurs in response to the loss of someone or something. The loss may involve a loved one, a job, or possibly a role (student entering the workplace or employee entering retirement). Anyone can experience grief and loss. It can be sudden or expected; however, individuals are unique in how they experience this event. Grief, itself, is a normal and natural response to loss. There are a variety of ways that individuals respond to loss. Some are healthy coping mechanisms and some may hinder the grieving process. It is important to realize that acknowledging the grief promotes the healing process. Time and support facilitate the grieving process, allowing an opportunity to appropriately mourn this loss.

Common Reactions to Loss:
Individuals experiencing grief from a loss may choose a variety of ways of expressing it. No two people will respond to the same loss in the same way. It is important to note that phases of grief exist; however, they do not depict a specific way to respond to loss. Rather, stages of grief reflect a variety of reactions that may surface as an individual makes sense of how this loss affects them. Experiencing and accepting all feelings remains an important part of the healing process.

Denial, numbness, and shock This serves to protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss.
Numbness is a normal reaction to an immediate loss and should not be confused with "lack of caring".

Denial and disbelief will diminish as the individual slowly acknowledges the impact of this loss and its accompanying feelings.

Bargaining At times, individuals may ruminate about what could have been done to prevent the loss.

Individuals can become preoccupied about ways that things could have been better, imagining all the things that will never be.

This reaction can provide insight into the impact of the loss; however, if not properly resolved, intense feelings of remorse or guilt may hinder the healing process.

Depression After recognizing the true extent of the loss, some individuals may experience depressive symptoms.

Sleep and appetite disturbance, lack of energy and concentration, and crying spells are some typical symptoms.

Feelings of loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and self-pity can also surface during this phase, contributing to this reactive depression.

For many, this phase must be experienced in order to begin reorganizing one's life.

Anger! This reaction usually occurs when an individual feels helpless and powerless.

Anger may result from feeling abandoned, occurring in cases of loss through death.

Feelings of resentment may occur toward one's higher power or toward life in general for the injustice of
this loss.

After an individual acknowledges anger, guilt may surface due to expressing these negative feelings.

Again, these feelings are natural and should be honored to resolve the grief.

Acceptance Time allows the individual an opportunity to resolve the range of feelings that surface.
The grieving process supports the individual. That is, healing occurs when the loss becomes integrated into the individual's set of life experiences.
Individuals may return to some of the earlier feelings throughout one's lifetime.

There is no time limit to the grieving process. Each individual should define one's own healing process.
Factors that may hinder the healing process: Avoidance or minimization of one's emotions.
Use of alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.
Use of work (over function at workplace) to avoid feelings.
Guidelines that may help resolve grief Allow time to experience thoughts and feelings openly to self.
Acknowledge and accept all feelings, both positive and negative.
Use a journal to document the healing process.
Confide in a trusted individual; tell the story of the loss.
Express feelings openly. Crying offers a release.
Identify any unfinished business and try to come to a resolution.
Bereavement groups provide an opportunity to share grief with others who have experienced similar loss.
If the healing process becomes too overwhelming, seek professional help.

Death, The Final Stage of Growth. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1975 Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth
On Death and Dying. New York: MacMillan, 1969 Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth
When Bad Things Happen to Good People. New York: Schocken Books, 1981Kushner, H.S.

. . . . . . . . . . . .
( Re-Printed with permission : University of Iowa - Counseling Service)


Communication is the key to coping and growing as a family through grief. It is important to be together to talk, cry, rage, or even sit in silence. At the same time there should be respect for each member's way of handling their grief. Some family members will grieve privately, others openly, and others a combination of these two styles. In many ways each family member must grieve alone. Here are some suggestions to help with family grief.

Continue to give attention and time to your present family members when you are together. Let them know that you love them.

Maintain a balance of attention between deceased family members and surviving family members. Try to be sensitive to each other's feelings. Feelings are often difficult to verbalize. Listen to what is meant as well as to what is said.

Hugs, a hand on the arm or back, give comfort and a sense of closeness.

It may be helpful to set aside time to be alone together as a family or to even hold a family meeting. Encourage family members to talk and express grief in their own way. Be a good listener. Plan family projects or trips.

Make a 'family diary' in which each family member may contribute a writing or drawing. You may want to make a collage together.

Be careful not to give each other the silent treatment. Make sure the person who has died continues to be part of family conversations.

Respect the life stages of various family members; an adolescent might gravitate towards peers in coping with grief.

Everyone has a unique way of grieving which can at times be at cross purposes among family members. Accept each person's method of coping.

Discuss the loved one's former role in the family which now necessitates changes in family duties and new roles for the survivors in the family. Be careful not to expect a family member to replace or to be the same as the member who died (expecting a young boy whose father died to be "the man of the house" or a son whose sibling died to be like that sibling in schoolwork, sports, etc.) Discuss what will be missed and irreplaceable.

If depression, withdrawing, grief, or family problems are getting out of control, seek professional help.

Recognize that anniversaries, birthdays and special holidays will be difficult for the family and each member of the family. Discuss together how to observe these occasions. Should there be a variation on traditional celebrations? Do any family members have particular concerns or suggestions?

Consult family members on the disposition of the deceased loved one's possessions, including their room. Take your time and tread carefully where these precious mementoes are concerned. If possible, put off making major decisions about moving, giving away possessions, etc.

Studies show that a bereaved person's self-esteem is extremely low. Survivors should work on their image of themselves and help each family member to think and feel good about themselves.

Remember it is difficult to help your family if you are falling apart. Working on your own grief will eventually enable you to help your family cope with their grief.

As a family or individual, pray to the loved one who had died to help the family cope with their grief.

If you can learn to share your grief as a family, hopefully you will grow as a family.

. . . . . . By-Mrs. Lisa Hudson - The Compassionate Friends Newsletter - North Augusta, South Carolina


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