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July 2005

By Al Vigil

After your loved ones suicide, you begin the fall into the spiral encircling the most traumatic period of your life. The shock element of this type of death, with its un-established patterns of behavior are about the most difficult that you will ever experience in your own survival.

All of this we (The Vigil's) learned for ourselves after our eighteen-year-old daughter, Mia, jumped to her death from the San Diego Bay Bridge in San Diego, California.

The loss of a life through suicide becomes the stone creating the ripples in the continued lives of many of the surviving loved ones.

An average of nine family members remain behind when someone dies. There are no set rules of conduct for their feelings and emotions. But, there are natural responsive acts to the devastating pain and grief .

FEELING OF ABANDONMENT - We're left with the loss...in many cases of someone who made us feel that we depended on them. They left us. They chose for themselves and affected us forever.

ANGER - Anger, both at the person that completed the suicide and at one's self for what we did and for what we didn't so. What we missed. For what they deceived us with.

FAILURE & HUMILIATIION - "What a terrible person I must have been. I wasn't there when they needed me." We want to take responsibility for the life and the death of the one we lost. Yet we must always remember ...if we would have been that responsible for their life...they would be alive today!



Slowly the tear ran down my face,
The cold wind swept the tear away.
I felt empty,
I knew you were gone forever.

Why did you go? Why did you leave me?
I could have helped you. I was always there .
Why didn't you talk? I would have listened.

You were so pretty.
I wanted to be just like you; I still do.
You made it hard for me.
Even tho' you hurt me, and I know what you did, you did for a reason.
I forgive you, because I love you.

I will be happy when our paths cross again,
But until then, I must live my life.
I must learn to go on.

There are two things you must know first.
I love you, and I miss you!

"I need the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

The courage to change the things I can...

... and the wisdom to know the difference."


To apologize
To begin over
To take advise
To be unselfish
To face a sneer
To be charitable
To admit an error
To avoid a mistake
To keep out of a rut
To forgive and forget
To think and then act
To make the best of little
To subdue an unruly temper
To shoulder a deserved blame
To recognize the silver lining

But it always pays ! !

FABLE -Vs-FACTS about Suicide

FABLE : A person commits suicide without warning.
FACT : Although suicide can be an impulsive act, it is often thought out and communicated to others, but people ignore or do not understand the clues.

FABLE : People who talk about suicide never kill themselves.
FACT : Most suicides - 8 out of 10 - have given definite clues and warning about their intentions.

FABLE : Suicide is usually a random happening; and there are very few cases.
FACT : Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. There are twice as many suicides as homicides.

FABLE : Suicide is a rich man's curse.
FACT : Suicide shows little prejudice to economic status. It is represented proportionately among all levels of society.

FABLE : More women than men commit suicide.
FACT : Although women attempt suicide twice as often, men complete the suicidal act twice as often as women.

FABLE : Suicidal persons really want to die, so there are very few ways to stop them.
FACT : Suicidal persons are often undecided about living or dying right up to the last minute; many gamble that others will stop them before it is too late.

FABLE : Suicidal persons can never be saved; they will do it eventually.
FACT : People who want to kill themselves feel that way only for limited time; the 'crisis period' can pass.

FABLE : If a person wants to kill themselves, no one has the right to stop them.
FACT : Just as people have the right to their lives or even death, they also have the right to receive help. Remember that no suicide has only one victim; wives, husbands, children, and friends all suffer from the loss of a suicide.

FABLE : Most suicides are caused by a single dramatic and traumatic event.
FACT : Precipitating factors may trigger a suicidal decision. More typically, the deeply troubled person has suffered long periods of unhappiness and as a result is withdrawn, depressed, and helpless to cope with life. They have little self-respect and see no hope for the future.

FABLE : Suicide is inherited. It runs in the family.
FACT : Suicide is a highly individual matter and although behavior can be modeled, there is no genetic predisposition to self-destruction.

FABLE : Children and adolescents can't really comprehend suicide, much less seriously contemplate it.
FACT : The suicide rate in adolescents has tripled in the last 20 years --it is now their second leading cause of death. Children as young as five years old have killed themselves.


We offer these thoughts when talking with children about a death

It is important, especially when the child might have some knowledge that the death is a suicide, to be honest with the child. Parents and relatives may think that they are protecting the child by not telling him or her the truth; but the child will more than not, see the lie and become resentful .

Six Basic Guidelines for explaining the suicide to a child are:


Be honest - but consider the age of the child.

Listen carefully - they also have questions and concerns.

Be consistent - they need reassurance that you will not leave.

Respect what the child says, does, or hears.

Talk about the deceased person.

Involve the child in what is happening. Children often have some difficulty expressing their emotions
and may need help in doing this. Some suggestions are :


Learn to be together and talk about feelings. Games may help those who cannot express themselves verbally.

Drawing simple pictures and doing cut and paste projects is a very helpful outlet for younger children.

Writing letters, notes, an daily event journal, poetry, or a short story, may be helpful for older children .

Physical activity is excellent for releasing pent-up emotions. This is a great release for energy and pent up anger.

Pets give children an excellent sense of being needed and responsible. Maintaining usual 'pet' chores offers them some normality.

Laughter is still the very best medicine. A greeting with a smile and a hug offers the child much needed affection at this time.

A child may react with anger, behavioral problems, psychosomatic illness and other indirect manifestations. The most important concern to keep in mind is that children look to parents and older siblings as role models. A child who has been exposed to suicide has a greater chance of seeing that as a legitimate way of coping with problems.

Thinking about other ways of dealing with problems and reassuring the child that you are there and interested in him or her can be crucial in helping them deal with the suicide.



"Silent Grief - Living In The Wake of Suicide" is a book specifically written for the person who has lost a loved one to suicide. It is well written and researched. The authors, Christopher Lukas, a survivor of multiple suicides within his family, and Henry Seiden, a psychologist, present numerous case histories and profiles of survivors in a warm, highly readable style.

The text reflects the differing backgrounds of the authors, achieving a sensitive balance between heartfelt, personal narrative, and clinical professionalism and objectivity. The survivors are given ample space in the book to speak for themselves, which makes it easy for the readers to identify with them.

Several chapters are devoted to discussions of the many painful and confusing feelings that accompany a suicide, and the methods survivors use to cope with them. The major point of the book is that survivors need to express their feelings of grief, and must not repress them.

The authors address the historical reasons suicide survivors have for so long remained silent with their grief , but they emphasize repeatedly that grief must be acknowledged for healing and recovery to occur. Many survivor histories reveal that denial not only precludes healthy resolution of grief, but may even result in emotional and/or physical disorders.

As an additional resource to readers, "Silent Grief " contains an extensive bibliography, and a list of support organizations across the country that may also be of suicide survivors benefit.


You are welcome to this circle where we hope you may find space to grieve, to search, to listen and to reach out. Each one of us brings here a story; the story of our brokenness and sorrow, the story of our survival, our need to get more out of life.

We come here to be with people who understand our struggle and our hurt; they too have tears in their eyes and pain in their hearts.

This is a sacred place where we can exp[lore our feelings, our loneliness, our shock, our anger, our guilt, our sadness, or whatever is hurting us inside. This is a place where we can share our humility, and find strength and inspiration in each other.

Let us remember that each one of us is at a different point of our journey; let us respect where each one is and let us learn about each other.

For all of us, life remains a mystery and we can only choose to trust and to love, we cannot chose for others. Although we remain deeply wounded people, let us find comfort and healing in what we believe and in our ability to care for each other.

- from a "Journey Together - A Reflection"
by Fr. Arnaldo Pangrazzi

"There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle - or to be the mirror that reflects it."

..... Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

"Life is not a problem to be solved...but a mystery to be lived." ....... Marlo Brooks

"It is part of the cure to wish to be cured." ....... Seneca

"Don't be afraid to light a thousand candles. Although most of them will flicker, sputter and blow out, a few will burn brightly. And those few could make a world of difference during some dark night of you soul." . .... Anonymous


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