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"Survivors of Suicide Loss" 

Two Meetings every Month

 Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church 

1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 1st & 3rd Monday   ⁄ Information at  :  505 - 400 - 9942





-   October 2017

Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil


       IN  THIS  ISSUE

Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Linda V.   

Pg 2 :  Suicide Loss : Handling the Holidays

Pg 3 :  Not All Gun Deaths are Murders

Pg 4 :  Suicide and the Holidays : Myths

Pg 6 :  Suicide Clusters

Pg 8 :  Holidays - How Do Your Cope

Pg 9 :  Adolescents More Likely to Die From Suicide Than Traffice Accidents

Pg 10 : About Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM 




By Linda Vigil

   In the Grieving Notes from the May 2017 newsletter, Al covered our feelings about all three of our daughters, including Mia who took her life by suicide, by jumping from the highest span of the Coronado Bridge in San Diego, California. Those Grieving Notes, also brought up the name of Collin Leslie.  Collin is not only a very bright young man, but he is very sensitive and emotional.  He contacted us and asked if he could film us on some questions he had of the Coronado Bridge.

    He had researched the bridge and our name kept coming up because of the work we have done over the years  -speaking and running groups on Survivors of Suicide Loss, speaking to school groups, colleges, chaplin’s, pastors, and in our ministry of helping broken people.  People who choose to walk through our door, people who did not want to be in a survivor room, hearing other people share with one another, and yes, even hearing laughter. The bright side of these unique meetings is feeling pain and asking them to please keep coming back!  I believe that there is only one way to be happy again, and that is to go through, and feel the pain, talk about your loved one, share happy times and regretful times

    It is not easy, probably the hardest thing you will ever do, but you do not have to do it alone.  You have a roomful of people to help you, and eventually they will become new friends.  Very, very special friends

    In the last four to five months, Al & I, have found ourselves in a situation that we had to turn our SOSL mission work over to our Board Members.  We are not the greatest board members, yet I have to say, we have served with wonderful people.  We so wanted the SOSL work to continue -inviting people into the group and touching their lives.  Yes, you can be happy again, you can love again.  It does take a lot of work just learning to trust.

    Our board stepped up, took over and we know they are working hard, changing the things that needed to be changed.  They are making sure there is a safe place for Survivors, to come to and start their healing process, just like they too have done.

    The board has gently taken over our mission, and let Al and I take care of our health issues.  We are older and it was time to let go and let sensitive people carry on the journey for themselves and to be there for new broken people walking through that door.

    For me, it has taken a lot of thought and prayer to surrender our personal mission which has been a great part our lives.  I feel that Mia gave us a voice, and it kept her alive inside of me, because it was helping other people put their lives back together!  You can he happy again -but you are forever changed.  Your journey can be positive if you can work through this terrible pain.

    Mia helped me, help other people!  The awareness I have gained, let me know that my way has seldom worked in the past.  It is only when I let go and trust the inner voice that quietly nudges me in the direction to surrender.  Once I choose that, my life becomes serene and fulfilling.

    We have some health issues and they hit us both at the same time.  We feel that it’s time for a new path -a new journey.  I have an area in my brain that is negatively controlling my speech.  I have felt this part of my life was too important and emotional to turn over.  I wanted to control and change this part of my life.  I have noticed that I started to withdraw from friends and events.  So I can now put my energy where it can do me some good and surrender to a new journey.  Al has had three eye surgeries and still has one more procedure to go through. Collin Leslie, has helped me surrender, by filming us for eight hours, by filming our daughter Mindy and her daughter Courtney, even Mia’s boyfriend.  Collin has given not only me, but our family a new voice that hopefully helps change people’s mind’s, who are at risk and to help families that have lost someone they love by suicide.  It is so important that my voice continue as a mission.  I believe that people come into our lives for a good reason. Collin came into our lives when most needed after a very tough health diagnosis.  But, he has helped our mission to continue. 

    His documentary is open to people that we chose to share it with.  Collin, named the documentary,  -  “Letters From Mia” -  and it can be seen on the Vimeo web-site.

    Open site code to view ...


    The video dialogue and its presentation came from the personal, hand-written journal, that Mia wrote for the four months before her suicide.  We hope that this video will become a teaching tool and support for those at risk for suicide ...and for suicide survivors.

    Good things can come from something so tragic!  Thank you Collin Leslie!

-   In Sharing and Healing,  Linda V.   - 

         Suicide Loss : Handling the Holidays

Do what you think will be comfortable for you. Remember, you can always choose to do things differently next time.

Think about your family's holiday traditions. Consider whether you want to continue them or create some new ones.   Remember that family members may feel differently about continuing to do things the way they've been done in the past. Try to talk openly with each other about your expectations.  

Consider whether you want to be with your family and friends for the holiday, or whether it would be more healing for you to be by yourself or go away this year.  Anticipation of an event can be more difficult than the event itself.  

If you find it comforting to talk about your loved one, let your family and friends know that.  Tell them not to be afraid to mention your loved one's name.   Some survivors find it comforting to acknowledge the birthday of their loved ones by gathering with friends and family; others prefer to spend it privately. 

Some survivors have found the following ritual helpful for a variety of occasions:  Light two candles, and then blow one out.  Explain that the extinguished candle represents those we've lost, while the one that continues to burn represents those of us who go on despite our loss and pain.  Simply leave the one candle burning for the duration of the holiday meal or event.  The glowing flame acts as a quiet reminder of those who are missing.  

Above all, keep in mind that there is no "right" way to handle holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays.  You and your family may decide to try several different approaches before finding one that feels best for you.
Excerpted from - “Surviving Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide”


                     Not All Gun Deaths are Murders

There are 20,000 gun suicides in the United States every year, more than 50 every single day. Nearly two-thirds of the 33,000 gun deaths in the United States are suicides, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Firearm suicides outnumber firearm homicides nearly two to one. Indeed, far more Americans die by turning a gun on themselves than at the hands of others.

They add up to a national tragedy of staggering proportions. Fortunately, there are actions we can take to help reduce the number of gun suicides in our nation. One of the most significant things we can do is to stop making it so easy for so many people to take their own lives. This means not just thinking about the why people take their own lives, but also thinking about the way, which far too often is easy access to a gun.

The fact is, even more than depression or substance abuse, the strongest predictor of how likely a person is to die from suicide is a gun in the home. Research shows a gun in the home makes a suicide three times more likely. Every day too many parents, spouses, and others who make the decision to bring a gun into the home learn how tragic the consequences of that decision can be.

There are a few reasons why the presence of a gun in the home makes a suicide so much more likely. First is the surprising impulsivity of many suicide attempts. Too often we hear grieving family members talk about how they saw no warning signs, about a teenager who took their life after breaking up with a boy/girlfriend or getting a bad grade, or about a father who recently lost his job, -always about a life that was cut tragically short because a gun was available in a completely unforeseen moment of crisis.

Guns are also so much more lethal than other methods used in suicide attempts. Most people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide, but only one in 10 people who attempt suicide by gun get that second chance. Limiting easy access to a gun for someone who considers or even attempts suicide can literally be the difference between life and death. I have met so many people whose lives have been torn apart by the tragedy of suicide, too many that didn’t understand the risks of keeping a gun in their homes.

Dan Gross, of the President/Brady Center & Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says,  “ Every day too many parents... who make the decision to bring a gun into the home learn how tragic the consequences of that decision can be.”


                   THE TRUTH ABOUT SUICIDE & GUNS

Firearms are the leading method of suicide, accounting for half of all suicide deaths. The reason is that guns are more lethal than other suicide methods. About 85 percent of suicide attempts,  with a gun are fatal, whereas only 2 percent of overdoses

Suicide attempts are often impulsive and are usually triggered by an immediate crisis. Most suicidal impulses are intense, they typically last only a short period of time. Intervention during this time of acute risk is critical.  Limiting access to firearms increases the amount of time between a crisis and an individual’s suicide attempt, giving the impulse an opportunity to pass.

A report from the CDC, academic journals, clearly show the relationship between firearm availability and suicide. It offers  a discussion of several opportunities for prevention and promising practices. Some goals of the report are the following:

 • Focusing much-needed attention on the problem of firearm suicide in the United States
 • Increasing understanding of the strong link between firearms and suicide
 • Heightening awareness of the increased risk of suicide by having a firearm in the home
 • Raising awareness that suicide can be prevented
 • Increasing limiting access to lethal means, such as guns and medications, can save lives

The report provides an important first step forward in bringing these two issues together and improving understanding of how we can work to solve them.


   Suicide and the Holidays  - Myths

                       Suicide Rates Spike During the Holidays and Other Suicide Myths

 Suicide attempts increase during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, right? Wrong. Suicide rates actually decrease during the holidays. It is commonly thought that holiday stress increases suicide attempts, but that simply isn't the case. Actually, the lower incident of suicides is now thought to be related to family time and the support this generates.

Suicide is often associated with depression, which is very treatable. Suicide is not a sign of weakness and it isn't about seeking attention or being selfish, yet these myths continue. Here are some other myths surrounding suicide:
Myth:  If you ask someone about suicidal thoughts, it may trigger them to act out.
Fact:  Talking to someone about suicide will not give them the idea. Thoughts of suicide should be discussed if suspected in a family member or friend. Many suicide survivors say if anyone had shown interest or compassion right before the act they would not have done it. 

Myth:  People who talk about suicide are not the ones that do it.
Fact: Threatening or talking about suicide is the number one warning sign. Too often we hear after-the-fact that a suicide victim threatened to end his life but it wasn't taken seriously. Joking or not, all suicidal threats should be taken seriously. 

Myth:  Suicide is always an impulsive act.
Fact: Suicide is often planned weeks, months and sometimes even years in advance. During this time, the person almost always shares thoughts of despair, depression or suicide, even if it's in a joking manner. Some suicides can be impulsive, but that's the exception. 

Myth:  The elderly do not commit suicide.
Fact: The elderly are most likely to successfully complete suicide.

 Myth:  Minorities are most likely to commit suicide.

Fact:  Particularly white men, are more likely to commit suicide. Although the absolute reasons are unknown, it is suspected the differences in social support may play a role.

Myth: Young people are not at risk to commit suicide. They use it as a threat to get attention.

Fact: Teen suicide is a real threat. Thinking it cannot happen to your teen is a dangerous and deadly way to think. Teen suicides have almost doubled over the last 50 years. 

Myth: There's nothing you can do if someone wants to commit suicide.
Fact: No one really wants to die, but couple depression with hopelessness and helplessness and suicide can seem like the only way out. Suicidal feelings do not last forever. Depression can be treated; personal problems that create crises come and go. When those contemplating suicide have someone to talk to they often will agree to get help.

 Myth: Suicide victims always leave a note.

Fact: Roughly 25 percent of suicide victims leave a note. They are consumed by isolation and loneliness, and writing a note seems absolutely pointless when they also think no one cares and that others would be better off.

 Myth: Anyone who is about to attempt suicide has already made up their mind and there is nothing you can do.

Fact: Indications are that more than half of suicidal victims sought help before their death. Seeking help obviously indicates they did not want to die.

 Myth: Suicide is selfish.

Fact: Suicide is not a selfish act but rather an act of desperation by someone experiencing unbearable pain who doesn't know how to make that pain stop. The two most prominent predictors of suicide are clinical depression and substance abusedependence. The person isn't thinking logically or clearly. Recent research indicates there could also be a genetic link.

Myth: If someone really wants to die we should let them.

Fact: Kevin Hines, who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and lived says in his recent book, ‘Cracked, Not Broken’   “ ...of the survivors, 19 of them have come forward and expressed words to this effect: 'The second my hands and feet left the rail I realized I had made a mistake, I realized how much I needed to live, or didn’t want to die.'”

Myth: Anyone who attempts or commits suicide is depressed.

Fact: While the majority of suicides are committed by depressed individuals, that is not always the case. Alcohol plays a role in 1 in 3 successful suicides.
 If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide talk about it with them and insist on an immediate appointment with a mental health professional. Ask direct questions to find out what they're thinking. Your questions will not push them over the edge, but rather will give them an opportunity to convey how they feel. If you believe that this person is a danger to themselves, do not leave him alone. Call 911 or take them to the nearest ER and be sure to tell a family member or friend about the critical situation.

As families and friends gather together this holiday season, if you suspect someone of having thoughts of suicide, speak up. It could be the greatest gift you ever give. 

       Suicide Clusters

      A suicide cluster is an excessive number of suicides occurring in close geographical proximity.

Clusters occur primarily among teenagers and young adults, with between 1 to and 5 percent of teen suicides occurring in clusters. A case-control study of two teen suicide clusters in Texas indicated that the clusters were teens who had close personal relationships within the the same community.  Suicide completers were likely to have preexisting vulnerabilities, such as emotional illness, substance abuse problems, frequent changes of residence, recent or anticipated relationship break-ups, that may have increased their susceptibility to suicide contagion.
It has been suggested that teen suicide clusters may result from the combination of assortative relating. In this case, teens at high risk of suicide, with shared life stress.

In 1980, two young girls living in northern Sri Lanka committed suicide by eating the seeds of the Yellow Oleander, a common ornamental shrub. In the following year there were 23 cases of oleander poisoning, apparently spurred by the publicity of the first suicides. There were 46 in the year after that and hundreds of cases in the following years. Suicide by oleander poisoning remains a major cause of death in Sri Lanka for young and old alike despite an aggressive government campaign to eliminate oleander plants.

While copycat suicides are not as common as feared, the existence of suicide clusters has been confirmed by studies launched by the Centers for Disease Control. The actual reason that suicide clusters happen is hard to fathom. Although suicides can come in waves, with one suicide other to commit or attempt to kill themselves, the full extent of the cluster is hard to chart . Since suicide clusters are most commonly seen in people under the age of 25 or younger, most research studies and literature reviews focus on that age range.

There are other high-risk groups however, including psychiatric inpatients, members of minority groups experiencing economic or cultural discrimination, prison inmates. Most recently, we’ve seen a very sharp rise among U.S. soldiers deployed on extended missions in remote settings such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since the suicide of a friend or age peer is often a traumatic experience for adolescents (many of whom are left bewildered by the lack of warning signs), the death of one teen might influence other teens feeling suicidal. Media influences, including the suicide of a well-known celebrity or personal idol can have a similar influence on depressed young people,

So how can suicide clusters be prevented? Despite calls for responsible reporting of suicide, especially youth suicides in the news media, the tradeoff between journalistic freedom and the possible impact that it can have on impressionable young people can’t be effectively determined.

Although young people appear especially susceptible, predicting when the next suicide cluster will occur is virtually impossible. Since suicide clusters can seldom be prevented, mental health professionals need to identify suicide clusters and attempt to intervene afterward to keep the cluster from expanding further.

In one recent study on suicide clusters in young people, a team of researchers based at the University of Melbourne in Australia examined 155 studies on suicide clusters and how experts managed to prevent additional deaths. They came up with the a of list of six recommendations for an effective strategy:

   Young people affected by suicide can be referred for educational/psychological debriefing to help them deal with grief and suicide thoughts. The debriefings can be conducted individually or for large groups. Debriefing sessions involve providing information on suicide prevention, stress and grief coping strategies, and who to contact if further help is needed.

 ❷  When debriefings are not enough, young people asking for extra help can receive psychological counseling. Group and individual counseling for young people affected by suicide can include addressing guilt and responsibility, recognizing grief reactions, learning that suicide cannot always be prevented, and how to deal with personal suicidal thoughts.
 ❸ Teachers, parents, and counselors can often recognize high-risk cases who seem particularly in need of help. Having a strategy in place for referring high-risk cases for further screening by mental health professionals is especially important.

 ❹ Ensuring responsible media reporting of suicide clusters. Although organizations dealing with multiple suicides have reported good success in establishing guidelines for responsible suicide reporting, the impact of sensational news stories on communities dealing with suicide clusters cannot be underestimated.

 ❺ Recognizing that the problem can continue despite the suicide cluster apparently being contained. When a community has been traumatized by multiple suicides, the trauma can drag on for months or years afterward. Anniversaries, irresponsible media stories, and failure to the issues that triggered the suicide cluster to begin with need to be identified.

 ❻ Although community strategies for dealing with suicide clusters show some promise, their actual validity is still undetermined. Although many of the recommended approaches have become common in recent years following multiple suicides, there is still no broad agreement on how they can be used properly. Ultimately, the responsibility is on all of us to recognize how far-reaching suicidal behavior can be, especially when the contagion is spread by word of mouth or sensational media stories. 

 Holidays - How Do You Cope?

The holidays are a common trigger for those bereaved by suicide. Survivors experience myriad emotions as the waves of grief wash over them again and again.

 The holidays can be an especially challenging time for survivors of suicide loss. For many, this time of year evokes memories of loved ones who are no longer with us, and while it’s important to express emotions and take the time to grieve, we often feel lost as to how to cope.

1.  Acknowledge life has changes and it’s OK for the holidays to change too.   Take the time to reflect on past rituals and celebrations, and ask yourself, is this still meaningful to me? Do I have the energy to do this? Do I want to do it? Will it be more hurtful than helpful? Some people feel like everything else in life has changed so much, they want to make sure the holidays stay the same. Whereas other people acknowledge the holidays are already onerous, and this is an opportunity to find some new rituals. Discover what works best for you, and accept it as your way of coping.

2.  Manage your energy.  When you are grieving, your energy levels are significantly impacted due to all of the emotional work you are doing. Self-care becomes even more important, and you must pay attention to your energy levels at this time of year. Be prepared to expect less of yourself  –it may not be possible to do all of the things you have done in the past. Be sure to ask for help or modify your plans in your energy level is not there. It’s imperative to be good to yourself, and to be active in your self-care in a conscious way that we often struggle with during the holidays.

3.  Have a discussion with family and friends around how you will remember the person who is not there.  There are new traditions you can create, or special rituals to include the memory of your loved one in the celebration and in the activities you do.  It’s so important to remember the person’s life, and know that the way they died does not define who they are, their value, or what they meant to you when they were alive. Have a discussion with the signficiant people in your life and ask them: how do you want to remember? Determine whether any options are off the table, and find a solution that everyone is comfortable with. Perhaps you would like to serve a particular food the person enjoyed, or acknowledge them by participating in a special activity.

4.  Be aware of your social support network.  Focus on creating a meaningful social support network around you –people in your life who are sensitive to what your needs and moods might indicate. These are people who you can rely on as your allies in challenging times.

When we think of social support, we tend to limit our options and look to one person to satisfy all of our needs. But your social support network should be made up of closer to three or four people. It could be colleagues at work, friends, family, even the neighbor next door. You’ll need someone who makes you laugh, someone who can be quiet with you and support you, someone who can cry with you, even someone who can help with the shopping. No one person can fill all of those needs. It’s important to identify who you can turn to depending on what you need at that point in time.

Recognize the gifts the various people in around you  can give you at challenging times, and let them know what you need from them. Tell them, “I don’t need anything else from you except for you to make me laugh,”  or  “I just need you to be quiet with me.” This might be a gift to them, and you’ll be more likely to get the support you need. 

 Adolescents More Likely to Die From Suicide

  ...Then From Traffic Accidents

                                             By SABRINA TAVERNISE - WASHINGTON

               “Adolescents more likely to die from suicide then from from traffic accidents."

That grim fact was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They found that the suicide rate for children, ages 10 to 14 had caught up to their death rate for traffic accidents.
The number is an extreme data point in an accumulating body of evidence that young adolescents are suffering from a range of health problems associated with the country’s rapidly changing culture. The pervasiveness of social networking means that entire schools can witness someone’s shame, instead of a small group of girls on a school bus. With continual access to such networks, those pressures do not end when a child comes home in the afternoon.

“It’s clear to me that the question of suicidal thoughts and behavior in this age group has certainly come up far more frequently in the last decade than it had in the previous decade,” said Dr. Marsha Levy-Warren, a clinical psychologist in New York who works with adolescents. “Cultural norms have changed tremendously from 20 years ago.”

The unprecedented rise in suicide among children at such young ages, is troubling. In all, 425 children ages 10 to 14 killed themselves in 2014. In contrast, 384 children of that age died in car accidents.

The crossing-over point was reached in part because suicide had spiked, but also because fatal traffic accidents had declined.
Far more boys than girls killed themselves in 2014 — 275 boys to 150 girls — in line with adults in the general population. American men kill themselves at far higher rates than women. But the increase for girls was much sharper — a tripling, compared with a rise of about a third for boys.

The reasons for suicide are complex. No single factor causes it. But social media tends to exacerbate the challenges and insecurities girls are already wrestling with at that age, possibly heightening risks, adolescent health experts state.

“Social media is girl town,” said Rachel Simmons, the author of  Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.  “They are all over it in ways that boys are not.”

Statistically, girls dominate visual platforms like Facebook and Instagram where they receive instant validation from their peers, she said. It also is a way to quantify popularity, and take things that used to be private and intangible and make them public and tangible, Ms. Simmons added.

“It used to be that you didn’t know how many friends someone had, or what they were doing after school,” she said. “Social media assigns numbers to those things. For the most vulnerable girls, that can be very destabilizing.”

The public aspect can be particularly painful, Dr. Levy-Warren said. Social media exponentially amplifies humiliation, and an unformed, vulnerable child who is humiliated is at much higher risk of suicide than she would otherwise have been.  “If something gets said that’s hurtful or humiliating, it’s not just the kid who said it who knows, it’s the entire school or class,” she said. “In the past, if you made a misstep, it was a limited number of people who would know about it.”



Grief never ends ...but it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith.
It’s the price of love !


 About  : "Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM"

Two (2) Meetings each Month at :

Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church 
1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1st & 3rd Monday of Every Month

More information at  :  505 - 400 - 9942



E-Mail  :  Sharing & Healing - Newsletter






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