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October 2005


By Linda Vigil

During the twenty two years since we lost our daughter Mia to suicide, there have been many emotional and spiritual moments spent at Torrey Pines State Preserve, one of Mia's favorite spots.

Mia was cremated and there has been no grave to return to. Our family and friends dedicated a special Torrey Pine in remembrance of her beautiful life.

Mia's Tree sits alone on a hill overlooking the ocean and the path Mia used to jog.

The night before the dedication of Mia's Tree there was a very bad storm with a lot of wind and rain. During the dedication I noticed a large branch on the tree had been broken. I remember being very upset that the tree had lost it's original shape, but for the past twenty two years I have watched that broken branch grow in an entirely different direction. Not only did it survive but it even added more beauty to the tree.

I have also come to the realization, after observing acquaintances, friends and loved ones, that we are all like nature's trees. We are planted from a seed, we develop many branches which represent many facets of our personality, faith, love, patience, moral values, sensitivity and trust.

Different people have different branches.

There are also many storms in our lives, as in nature. Some tree's have not developed strong enough trunks and are too fragile to survive a bad storm. Others have stronger trunks, broken branches and continue to grow.

Life is like that, so many storms, so much pain and heartache. I feel our Mia was so fragile, but her tree is a symbol that her spirit has continued to grow. As survivors we all have had many broken branches and yet we choose to reach out, continue to grow and survive.

Sharing and Healing can only make our trunks and branches stronger


It is often assumed that the pain of suicide survivors, especially parent survivors, is deeper and worse than others. But it seems logical that each person can suffer only so much pain, that there is a bottom to pain, where it can only hurt so much and for so long.

If each person has this capacity to experience only so much pain, then only the details are different. The details for some people are lingering deaths by cancer; for some blindness, amputation and death from diabetes, and others grieve suicide deaths.

There seems to be a randomness that more or less fairly assigns the tragic things of life to each of us. The extra hurt of suicide survivorship is that we could reduce our numbers; we could reduce the number of us in the life category of suicide survivors. We could if we wanted to; the heart disease people did, the cancer people did, and others, but we haven't.

Suicide survivors have to speak out, band together, and stay together.

By Adina Wrobleski

"If Only "

If only I'd stopped and knocked on your door,
If only I'd known you couldn't take any more,

If only I'd been there, if only I'd called,
If I'd not been so busy, and once again stalled.

Why didn't I see then, the pain in your eyes
And know that you felt alone and despised.

Why didn't I hear the hurt in your voice,
And know you were about to make your last choice!

Maybe if I had been home on that day,
I'd have changed things for you in some way

Maybe if I'd chosen my words with more care,
I could have seen more and been more aware.

I feel so bewildered and torn from inside,
The truth of it all gives me nowhere to hide!

Each time the phone rings, I know it's not you, I'm still trying to see things from your point of view.

God, help me to find some true Peace in my mind, Without leaving the memories of friendship behind.

Grant me the courage to start once again,
To trust in the love and the life of a friend.

By - Karen Howard

Myths About Loss

There are many myths concerning loss and the grieving process. Some of these myths are:

* Time heals all. While time helps us gain a different perspective, it will not heal a loss all by itself. It takes much effort to do individual grief work.

* Just keep busy. Keeping busy will help us stay active and physically healthy but will not help us at all to move through pain and loss.

* Replace the loss. Some of us will go out and buy a new puppy, purchase a new bicycle, find a new girlfriend, etc...Replacing the loss immediately will camouflage our grief and enable us in not working through the grief process fully.

* Getting rid of our loved one's belongings. This may be done in an attempt to change our thinking. It may be believed that if the loved one's belongings are not in sight we will not experience the pain of loss. Throwing out the belongings immediately may cause financial hardship and may eliminate material we may want to keep.

*Courage is the first step, but simply to bear the blow bravely is not enough. Stoicism is courageous but it is only a half-way house on a long road. It is a shield, permissible for a short time only. In the end one has to discard shields and remain open and vulnerable. Otherwise, scar tissue will seal off the sound and no growth will follow. To grow, to be reborn, one must remain vulnerable-open to love but also hideously open to the possibility of more suffering.

The Best Way is Through

* Let yourself experience the painful feelings. It is impossible to complete the grieving process without working through all the grief. Give yourself permission to feel the pain and acknowledge the loss. Letting the tears come has been very healing to many people.

* Grieve with another person. Many people learn to express feelings concerning grief and loss. It is beneficial to be with someone during the harder stages of the grief process. Do Not Isolate Yourself From Others.

* Talk about the deceased person. It is very helpful to talk about the person who died. Talk about their good characteristics. Talk about their bad traits. Verbalize the memories, the happy times and the regrets. Expressed feelings will assist you in moving through the grief process completely.

* Get involved in a grief group. Many people benefit from exploring all aspects of the loss with people who have had the same experience. You can be of support to others as well as benefit from sharing the similar experiences of others. Many professional helpers are familiar with the grief process and can help you move through it completely. People who get stuck in some part of the grieving process may stay stuck for years. Completing the process of grieving is now understood to be the most emotionally healthy approach.

Reprinted from : "With Ease"

The Healing Web :

Networks And Human Survival

By: Marc Pilisuk & Susan H. Park

A Definition Of Social Support

There is now a mass of evidence to indicate that social support may be one of the critical factors distinguishing those who remain healthy from those who fall ill.

Social support is all that we mean by caring relationships among people, weather those people are friends, parents, spouse, work supervisor, neighbors, or a doctor. It is not only the individual relationships that are important, but our connection to a continuing network of such relationships that appears essential. This secure place in a supportive network has a strong effect upon how we feel about our surroundings and particularly about the way we value ourselves.

Several major reviews of the literature on social factors affecting disease morbidity and mortality rates have pointed to the importance of social support to health maintenance.

Bereavement brings unusually high susceptibility to all forms of health and mental health breakdown. The health of a group of women was studied 13 months after the death of their husbands. The group was divided into those who perceived their social support to be adequate and those who did not.

Twenty-two percent of those who considered their support to be adequate described their health as poor. This percentage was compared with a poor health rating of 86 percent for those with inadequate social support. This percentage was compared with a poor health rating of 86 percent for those with inadequate social support. When a sample of those women with inadequate social support was provided with a program of supportive counseling, the number who viewed their health as poor went down to 13 percent. It seems reasonable to conclude that adverse health effects associated with the bereavement are absent or a least reduced when the individual maintains close supportive relationships.

Certainly support can be a factor in our methods of coping with stressful circumstances. Social support can protect the self-concept, reduce psychic strain, and therefore guard against the destabilizing effects of sustained stress upon the immune system. This beneficial effect is enough to make us take notice, yet there is still another way that support affects health. Social support is also related to our sense of control over our well-being and our ability to stick with healthful behavior patterns.

Source of social support over the centuries and in every known society, families have been the most common providers of continuing, caring relationships. In some cultures, these patterns of caring have been more carefully preserved and more closely related to health practices than in our own. In the modern post-industrial society, families are still important, but they are smaller in size, more dispersed geographically, less stable and they have more surviving frail, elderly, or disabled offspring to care for. Social support may be essential to health, but it is frequently not available.

The discussion leads to the paradoxical conclusion that, though supportive, interpersonal relationships are important in health maintenance, the traditional sources for providing such support seems to be declining. A sense of affiliation or belonging has long been recognized as a basic human need, yet the very social currents of careerism, autonomy, mobility, privacy and achievement that disrupt our traditional roots and ties also make difficult the continuity of new bonds. We are led to ask, what are the available sources from which persons now seek supportive ties?

Where there is an absence of enduring, kin-based supportive networks, the isolated individual sometimes finds support from voluntary associations of persons with similar experiences (self-help /mutual support groups) or from certain neighbors who fulfill the function of natural helpers. These supportive associations some established independently and others established with professional assistance, are now supplementing traditional, kin-based ties and providing new targets for preventive intervention.

-Edited from The California Self Help Center Quarterly : Editor-Jon Slotnick


Your grief and sadness will eventually subside and you will be able to pick up the pieces of your life and rebuild.

There will be times, however, when these feelings will surface very strongly. Holidays, or other special times, may renew your pain. Especially for the first year. On the first anniversary of the death, you may choose to do something in a manner and with people that are very special to you.

Ask for help from friends or a counseling service, if you need it. You can't expect to forget, but you will be able to cope. Just accept the fact that you will need emotional, non-judgmental support from someone close to you.


"Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?"

John Powell offers this answer which was given to his title question: "I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it's all I have." Powell thinks this answer reflects some of the fears which prevent us from growing through communication with others.
Psychologist Sydney Jourard believed that the only way people can come to know themselves is through self-disclosure to another person. In sharing one's most private thoughts and feelings with another, a person learns how to increase his contact with his real self, and he may then be better able to direct his destiny on the basis of this knowledge.

Hopeline itself is founded on the idea that freedom to disclose their most private selves to another person offers people a route to self acceptance and helps them along that self determining journey which Jourard has described. Freedom to disclose is surely the operative concept here, for without a willing listener who can accept us as who we are, self-disclosure becomes difficult indeed.
In researching this article I found support for my belief that knowing oneself is a laudable goal. I was pleased also to have another of my beliefs affirmed: through meaningful communication with others, we begin to achieve the goal of knowing ourselves and this is growth. Additionally, I found others who think we all have things inside us that need saying and that it feels good when we find someone to share them with.
I'm going to prevail on your good nature and ask you to share those beliefs with me for the moment. Let's agree that if we could all speak openly with each other without fear of judgment or rejection, there would be less confusion, hurt, and general turmoil; and we'd all be freer and feel better. So if all this self-disclosure is so beneficial, why aren't people doing it all the time? Why is there a need for a service like Hopeline, where people call a perfect stranger to say those things inside that need saying.
Let us go for a moment to the reasons why people find it difficult to share themselves with others. According to Gerard Egan, the reasons are based mostly on various fears, fears of knowing yourself, closeness, change, shame, an rejection. Another reason might be family background; if your family members didn't share much of themselves, your choice was to learn it elsewhere or not do much self-disclosure. And the reasons they didn't self-disclose much were probably based on their own fears.
As I absorbed all this I had a growing notion that, if people have fears of talking freely about themselves, many of us are equally fearful of listening freely to others. Though I often hear the phrase, "nobody cares enough to listen to me," I don't think people's failure to listen is simply a matter of not caring. Perhaps it is based on a set of fears similar in origin to those which prevent people from self disclosing.

OUT OF THE DARKNESS - "Community Walks"

Every 18 minutes in the U.S., someone dies by suicide. This fall thousands of men and women will walk in over 40 communities across the United States, each contributing their voices to break the silence surrounding suicide. They will be walking to meet their financial pledges to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The money raised will be used for vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and increase national awareness about depression, and to assist survivors of suicide loss.

In San Diego, California, Melinda White, will be walking in memory of her sister Mia, who completed suicide in 1984. Her commitment and dedication are more than met by her accomplished pledge of over $1000.00.

We are very proud of her work with Survivor of Suicide groups and towards the "Out of the Darkness Community Walks."

You too, can pledge your contribution at : Out of The Darkness


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