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April 2010

APRIL  2010

Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigiltorrey-pines


By  Linda Vigil

Grief from the death of a child is something counselors declare women can heal from, although they will always remember. We are forever changed. Some women will recall the moment the child died and memorialize it, recalling how old the child would be from year to year.

There aren’t any gifts and or gentle words that can take the place of a child that has died. Whether the child dies in infancy or adulthood, the death will  always be felt. It can come like a shock, a surprise, a painful event that takes the mind and moves it away from joy to a point of infinite pain that is so great it seems that it can never be overcome. But the pain finally moves enough, so that each day begins again, filling the empty space that can never be filled entirely.

Others can say they understand, but seldom can, unless they too have shared the same experience.

What Grieving Moms Want for Mother's Day    springflowers
Some Ways to help moms or children who have lost their Mother

1.  Recognize that they are a mother :   Offer a hug and  a  "Happy Mother's Day."  Send a card to let them know you remember that they are a mother.

2.  Acknowledge they have had a loss :  Express the message, "I know this might be a difficult day for you. I want you to know that I am thinking about you.”

3.  Use their child's name in conversation : Mothers respond, "People rarely speak his name anymore, but when they do it’s like music to my ears."

4.  Plant a living memorial :  A tree or rose bush, a living plant, like memories, will grow in beauty as the years pass.

5.  Visit the grave or memorial site :  Mothers feel that it was "extremely thoughtful" when others visited their child's site.
6.  Light a candle :  Let the mother know you will light a candle in memory of their child on this Mother's Day.

7.  Share a memory or pictures of the child : The greatest gift you can give a mother is a heart felt letter and a favorite memory about their child.

8.  Send a remembrance gift : A small gift such as an angel statue, a framed photo, a book or toy, in the child’s name is a perfect remembrance.

9.  Don't minimize the loss :  Avoid using clichés that attempt to explain the death of a child. ( "God needed another angel.")  And don't try to find anything positive about the loss ("You still have two healthy children").

10.  Encourage Self-Care :  Self-care is an important aspect healing for the mind and the spirit. Encourage a grieving mother to take care of herself.

About mid-April the commercials, the billboards, and newspaper ads begin to describe the "perfect"  gift to give or the “special”  place to go for Mother's Day.

I wish that alongside all of the Happy Mother's Day cards, there were other cards that acknowledge those of us who have a difficult time with the day. For instance, people in my situation, whose daughter has passed away. Also people who, for whatever reason, are estranged from their mothers or mothers who are estranged from their children. Somehow, if you do not have a mother in good standing, it can feel as if you don't exist.

Well, to all of you grieving this Mother's Day, I want to acknowledge YOU and offer this prayer. It has brought me comfort.

In the rising of the sun and its going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.pen-nib
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us,  as we
remember them.

~ ~  Hebrew Union Prayer Book  ~ ~
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .    
In Sharing & Healing - Linda V.

CHILD  SUICIDES  ARE  RARE  - But Tragically Possible
 children at play                           - Edited from AP Wire articles -

A 9-year-old with a toothy grin and a love for mechanical things, had apparently committed suicide in a restroom at his elementary school in Dallas.

Much of the shock comes from the rarity of such an act.

The number of suicides involving children, five to nine years old, are extreamly low —33 nationaly in the eight year period from 1999 through 2006, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  For children up to the age of 9, suicide isn’t even in the top ten causes of death.  The 10 to 14 age bracket ranks third and 15 to 24 is second for cause of death.

The 33 deaths of young children are the “completed suicides,” said Dr. Gregory Fritz, (Bradley Hospital - Rhode Island), but it’s difficult to know the number of attempted suicides. There are probably several hundred more attempts for children under 12 every day.     

Thirty years ago, professionals rejected the idea of child suicide. Cases that seem clear in retrospect were often described as “accidental.”   “It used to be thought that 5 to 9 year olds couldn’t be depressed, and that they didn’t have the capacity to think of time in the same way as adults, and thus perceive their lives as hopeless and filled with profound sadness,”  Fritz said.

Over the last few decades, a growing base of knowledge about the way kids think, and what they think about, has changed the way psychiatrists and psychologists consider child depression and suicide.

Children,  just like adults, have family relationships,  peer issues, and academic goals.  In addition, children tend to have high anxiousness of the unknown and the unfamiliar.  Anxiety, trauma, peer interaction and bipolar conditions become serious factors.  “Bullying is a big issue and hopelessness can be a risk factor,”  said Dr. Cynthia Pfeffer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical.  “The motivation that leads to suicide can be very different from child to child.”

“For some kids,”  said Dr. Fritz,  “It can be because they feel bad. They have a strong conscience and they feel guilty and worthless and they feel that they don’t deserve to be happy and to live. Sometimes they live in an environment where their pain isn’t recognized, or no one sees how unhappy they really are. For them suicide is a product of desperation.”

Fritz added, “I don’t think most children say ‘I wish I was dead’ or ‘I want to die’ at a young age, but if parents hear something like that, they should become concerned and worried.

The Intervention and Prevention Rule of Caution  is always  —no matter what age the person is, if they mention suicide, take it seriously.

O’ God, save us from being deluded into thinking that life is easy.
It is difficult and we must face it, rather than deny it.

Give us Your Grace to meet it’s challenge.
Teach us once again that we become the strongest
when we face the harshest of winds.  

We believe that we don’t walk alone.   
Faith confirms that You will always hold our trembling hands.

Why We Grieve Differently   by Jinny Tesik, M.A.       
          ( From - Wisconsin Survivor's of Suicide Groups )

We accept without question uniqueness in the physicalgrief w/hand world ...fingerprints, snowflakes, etc.   But we often refuse that same reality in our emotional world.  This understanding is needed, especially in the grieving process.

No two people will ever grieve the same way, with the same intensity or for the same duration.

It is important to understand this basic truth.  Only then can we accept our own manner of grieving and be sensitive to another's response to loss.  Only then are we able to seek out the nature of support we need for our own personalized journey back to wholeness and be able to help others on their own journey.

Not understanding the individuality of grief could complicate and delay whatever grief we might experience from our own loss.  It could also influence us, should we attempt to judge the grieving of others - even those we might most want to help.

Each of us is a unique combination of diverse past experiences.  We each have a different personality, style, various way of coping with stress situations, and our own attitudes influence how we accept the circumstances around us.  We are also affected by the role and relationship that each person in a family system had with the departed, by circumstances surrounding the death and by influences in the present.

PAST EXPERIENCE  ...Past experiences from childhood on, have a great impact on how we are able to handle loss in the present.

What other losses have we faced in our childhood, adolescence, adulthood?  How frightening were these experiences?  Was there good support? Were feelings allowed to be expressed in a secure environment? Has there been a chance to recover and heal from these earlier losses?

What other life stresses have been going on prior to this recent loss?  Has there been a move to a new area?  Were there financial difficulties, problems or illness with another member of the family or with our self?

What has our previous mental health history been like?  Have we had bouts with depression?  Have we harbored suicidal thoughts?  Have we experienced a nervous breakdown?  Have we been treated with medication or been hospitalized?

How has our family cultural influences conditioned us to respond to loss and the emotions of grief (stoic father, emotional mother, etc.)?

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE DECEASED  ...No outsider is able to determine the special bond that connects two people, regardless of the relationship, role or length of time the relationship has been in existence.  Our relationship with the deceased has a great deal to do with the intensity and duration of our grief.

What was that relationship?  Was the deceased a spouse?  A child?  A parent?  A friend?  A sibling?  How strong was the attachment to the deceased?  Was it a close, dependent relationship, or intermittent and independent?  What was the degree of ambivalence (the love/hate balance) in that relationship?   It is not only the person, but also the role that person played in our life which is lost.

How major was that role?  Was that person the sole breadwinner, the driver, the handler of financial matters?  The only one who could fix a decent dinner?  Was that person a main emotional support, an only friend?  How dependent were we on the role that person filled?

grief-shadowCIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH  ...The circumstances surrounding the death; i.e.,  how the death occurred, are extremely important in determining how we are going to come to an acceptance of the loss.

Was the loss in keeping with the laws of Nature as when a person succumbs to old age?  Or was order thrown into chaos, as when a parent lives to see a child die?

What warnings were there that there would be a loss?  Was there time to prepare, time to gradually come to terms with the inevitable?  Or did death come so suddenly that there was no anticipation of its arrival?   Do we feel that this death could have been prevented or forestalled?  How much responsibility am I taking for this death?
Do we feel that the deceased accomplished what he or she was meant to fulfill in this lifetime?  Was their life full and rewarding?  How much was left unsaid or undone between ourselves and the deceased? Does the extent of unfinished business foster a feeling of guilt?

INFLUENCES IN THE PRESENT  …We have looked at the past, at the relationship, and how the loss occurred.  Now we see how the influences in the present can impact how we are finally going to come to terms with a current loss.

Age and sex are important factors.  Are we young enough and resilient enough to bounce back?  Are we old enough and wise enough to accept the loss and to grow with the experience?  Can our life be rebuilt again?  What opportunities does life offer now?  Is health a problem?

What are the secondary losses that are the result of this death?  Loss of income?  Home?  Family breakup?  What other stresses or crises are present?

Our personality, present stability of mental health, and coping behavior play a significant role in our response to the loss.

What kind of role expectations do we have for ourselves?   What are those imposed by friends, relatives and others?  Are we expected to be the "strong one" or is it alright for us to break down and have someone else take care of us?  Are we going to try to assume an unrealistic attempt to satisfy everyone's expectations, or are we going to withdraw from the entire situation?

What is there in our social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds that give us strength and comfort?  What role do rituals play in our recovery?  Do our religious or philosophical beliefs bring comfort or add sorrow and guilt?  What kind of social support is there in our lives during this emotional upheaval?

CONCLUSION  ...When a person who is a part of our life dies, understanding the uniqueness of this loss can guide us in finding the support we will need and to recognize when help should come from outside family or friends.

When the loss is experienced by someone we would like to help or by someone under our care, this same understanding is essential.  Thus we can guard against a temptation to compare or to judge their grief responses to our own.  The awareness of those factors which affect the manner, intensity and duration of grief, should enable us to guide the grieving person in seeking those forms of support suggested by the nature of their loss and the unique way it affects them.

MYTHS ABOUT SUICIDE                      myths

Many myths have developed about suicide and those who engage in suicidal behaviors.

The following are the most “common myths” and are “NOT TRUE”

> FALSE.    Many people who die by suicide have given definite warnings to family and friends of their intentions. Always take any comment about suicide seriously.

> FALSE.  Most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying. While a part of them wants to live, death seems like the only way out of their pain and suffering. They sometimes gamble with death, leaving it up to others to save them.

> FALSE.   Bad events can push depression forward, but most suicide results are from serious psychiatric disorders rather than from any single event.

>  FALSE.  Most all people have thought of suicide as a viable movement to stop un-ending, and unbearable pain.

>  FALSE.  Not all completed suicides are by depressed people.  Persons in tragic
circumstances, painful societal events, and debilitating health conditions, will sometimes complete suicide.

> FALSE.  Mental illness, though a strong factor in suicide ideation, is not always the only or the exact condition and nature for a person’s suicidal ending.

> FALSE.  Every hour hundreds of suicidal persons are brought back to a safe mental health level through intervention by professionals, family, friends and peers.

> FALSE.   Many suicidal persons have a history of multiple attempts. Talking to someone about suicide will not put a new idea into his or her head. In fact most intervention and prevention is successful with frank and honest discussions.



Americans, always fascinated by celebrity suicides, have a number of recent excuses for voyeurism.  Andrew Koenig, 41-year-old son of actor Walter Koenig, hanged himself in a Vancouver park after leaving a despondent note. Days later, Michael Blosil, the 18-year-old son of singer Marie Osmond, jumped from his eighth-floor apartment after writing that his depression had left him feeling friendless.

A few years ago, Brad Delp, lead singer for the band Boston, killed himself after writing, "I am a lonely soul."   South Korean super-model Daul Kim wrote before her suicide last year, "The more I gain, the more lonely it is  . . . I know I'm like a ghost."

People seem naturally interested in news indicating that the famous share our struggles.  In this case, it is true.  Suicides outnumber homicides in America. In 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 1.1 million Americans had attempted suicide during the previous year. By one estimate, "successful" suicides have left behind 4.5 million family  ‘suicide survivors’ each day.

Suicide is most prevalent among the young and the old.  It is associated with depression, feelings of hopelessness, substance abuse and low levels of serotonin in the brain. Females attempt suicide more often than males.  Males complete it more often than females.  Suicide rates are higher among people who are divorced, separated or widowed, and lower among the married.

But such quantification provides only the illusion of control. The mind does not experience itself as a scientific object but, rather, as an interpreter of reality.  One's brain can contemplate one's spleen objectively. One's brain cannot consider one's brain objectively, because its judgments seem real even when they are distorted.

Suicide  causes intense suffering for loved ones that few would intend in their right mind. It is not a valid expression of autonomy or choice, because it ends all autonomy and choice. It represents the tyranny of one moment of hopelessness over every future moment of possibility.

But it is the peculiar cruelty of hopelessness and severe depression that they attack insight and perspective. People can experience themselves as someone they hate and cannot escape, except by shedding the self.   Once a person decides to take their own life they enter a shut-off, impregnable but wholly convincing world where every detail fits and each incident reinforces decision.

Yet suicide can often be preventable.  Coping can be learned.  Medication can treat underlying depression. But precisely because despair can rob individuals of judgment, it may require family and friends to intervene. This task is complicated by the pervasive loneliness of our society.  Americans have become more mobile, more isolated and more likely to live in single-person households. When a 1985 survey asked, "How many confidants do you have?"  the most frequent response was three.  In 2004, the most popular answer was zero. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago calls this trend "frightening."  It leads, he says, to loneliness which leads to depression, which causes further lethargy and withdrawal.

The suicidal may actively withdraw from family and friends or alienate them with unfair burdens.  Suicide is usually preceded by warning signs:  suicide threats, seeking access to firearms or pills, increased use of alcohol or drugs, purposelessness, rage, recklessness, recent loss or humiliation, writing a will, giving away prized possessions. Those whom we wish to save we must first notice.

Walter Koenig's message following his son's death is apt:  "For those families who have members who they fear are susceptible to this kind of behavior, don't ignore it, don't rationalize it, extend a hand."

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.

~ From a headstone in Ireland ~


FACTS AND FIGURESnumbers                   



Already in this new century there have been more than 5 million suicide deaths worldwide. Each year approximately one million people in the world die by suicide. This toll is higher than the total number of world deaths each year from war and homicide combined. Suicide is an important public health problem in many countries, and is a leading cause of death amongst teenagers and young adults.

In addition, it is estimated that there are from 10-20 times as many suicide attempts as suicide deaths. These suicide attempts range in intent and medical severity from mild to very severe. At a personal level, all suicide attempts, regardless of the extent of injury, are indications of severe emotional distress, unhappiness and/or mental illness.
Suicide and suicide attempts have serious emotional consequences for families and friends. The burden of bereavement by suicide can have a profound and lasting emotional impact for family members. The families of those who make suicide attempts are often especially anxious and concerned about the risk of further suicidal behavior, and about their responsibilities in trying to prevent further attempts.

There are also substantial economic costs associated with lives lost to suicide. These costs arise from the loss of economic potential due to lives lost to suicide, from the often devastating effects of symptoms of bereavement by suicide, from the medical and mental health costs associated with suicide attempts, and from the burden of family care for those who have made suicide attempts. Internationally, the annual economic cost of suicidal behavior is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

The scope of the problem :

In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent in some countries.

Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years.

In the year 2000, approximately one million people died of suicide. This represents a global mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds.

For every suicide there are at least 20 suicide attempts.

Self-inflicted injuries represented 1.8 percent of the global burden of disease in 1998 and are expected to increase to 2.4percent in 2020.

Suicide rates among young people have been increasing and they are currently the group at highest risk in one third of all countries (developed and developing).

At least 100,000 adolescents die by suicide every year.

                        Figures from the World Health Organization.


"Suicide affects an entire community and, because it is a complex issue, it will take a community to work on it." This quotation came from Madison native Pat Derer, president of HOPES (Helping Others Prevent and Educate about Suicide).

Pat understands the indescribable pain of suicide and its effects on the family and community. Her son died by suicide in 1997. Pat co-founded HOPES to make a difference for families dealing with mental health issues. She has recognized the need to increase awareness of the signs of depression in order to prevent suicide while also removing the stigma associated with depression.wisconsin flagUntil recently, there was no significant state or federal leadership guiding mental health issues such as suicide prevention. Treatment communities believed if troubled citizens had access to an emergency room, a toll-free suicide hotline or a mental health facility, they had done everything to prevent suicide in their communities.

In 2000, Wisconsin developed a public health plan called Healthiest Wisconsin 2010. As part of the plan, statewide public health priorities were established. For many communities in Wisconsin, including Wood County, improving mental health services became a priority.

Vital mental health work has been done throughout the years since the health plan's inception. In 2008, Wood County formed a Mental Health Implementation Team with a goal of improving suicide prevention awareness.

Recently, the Wood County Mental Health Implementation Team initiated an evidence-based suicide prevention program called QPR, developed by Paul Quinnett, Ph.D. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. Most people are familiar with the acronym CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation). QPR is similar to CPR in the following areas:
CPR relies on a citizen recognition of threat to life.

CPR relies on an early citizen response and activation of the EMS system.

EMS provides intermediate assistance and access into professional care.

The goal of QPR is to create a community of "gatekeepers"

Citizens in the community who are in the best position to identify people at risk.

Citizens trained to recognize a threat to life, respond by offering hope and referring individuals into professional help.

QPR is not a form of counseling or treatment plan but a citizen response to a mental health crisis. It is intended to offer hope through positive action. QPR teaches people to recognize the warning signs and verbal clues of people in trouble and improve their confidence to intervene and prevent possible tragedy. The program raises awareness about the most preventable cause of death in our society. It provides facts about suicide, common causes of suicidal feelings, and dispels common myths and misconceptions about suicide.

Most people who contemplate suicide don't want to die; they just want the pain to go away. They see suicide as a solution to what they perceive is an unsolvable problem. QPR can be applied to offer hope, encourage positive solutions and build a bridge to support systems and professional care.

As Pat Derer's quote says "suicide affects an entire community." Life isn't always easy; many people need help from another person. You can be trained to prevent this tragedy affecting families in our community. You could be that "gatekeeper" who has been trained to save a life.

Practice patience. Accept help.
Sit in silence. Struggle for pace, and not race.
Happiness is a choice. We are forever changed.

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