Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Unnatural Death....Suicide

There are several deaths that I consider an "unnatural" loss. Loosely I define an "unnatural" death as a premature death. Meaning, the person has passed before they reach the average life expectancy rate. Some examples of an unnatural death are the death of a child, suicide, homicide, or any death that does not occur in the natural sense.
In this post I will focus on suicide. Unfortunately Suicide will take more than 30,000 lives this year. According to the CDC Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
Unfortunately many victims of Suicide do not seek help or share their suicidal thoughts with loved ones or professionals. This often leads the survivor to accepting a huge amount of guilt..thinking he/she should have picked up on the signs. Or, should have intercepted a warning to intervene.

It is also common for the survivors to have feelings of the event being a senseless act. Which leads many survivors to be angry at the suicide victim. It is perfectly normal for the survivors to feel anger. If you are experiencing anger, be mindful of your anger and don't turn around and place guilt on yourself for being angry. Just know that the feelings of anger can be very normal.

Suicide often leaves the bereaved with more questions than answers. Just realize that some of these questions will never have answers. However, the intensity of pain associated with the "why" questions should diminish over time.

The survivors of suicide often experience a shroud of shame. This shame can be the result of many different things. For example...many survivors blame themselves for not preventing the suicide, some survivors feel like they failed the person somehow, some people's religious beliefs may contribute to a sense of shame, etc. Unfortunately, feelings of shame prevent many suicide survivors from seeking help. But, if you are a suicide survivor KNOW that there are healthy coping strategies available after a loss.

An example of some healthy coping strategies are....DO NOT WITHDRAW from friends or family. Seek support from understanding friends, family members and/or an understanding faith/spiritual leader. Join a grief support group. If there is one in your area..join a grief support group specifically for suicide survivors. Being a part of a group brings an understanding and empathy that you cannot find elsewhere...because the participants HAVE traveled a similar road. Don't rush your self with grief. Grief "takes as long as it takes". There is no set period for grief to be over. However, the intense, raw and painful emotions should lessen. Along the way expect waves of grief...or setbacks. It is natural. Some things that may cause intense waves of grief are holidays, anniversaries, birthdays (theirs and yours) or any special celebrations. Waves of grief can also come on completely unexpected. Some days will be better than others for no apparent reason. It is just the nature of the grief beast.

Unfortunately, many survivors of Suicide have a bumpy road to healing. Suffering the loss of a loved one is difficult...add suicide..and it usually makes the grieving process more complicated. Just know that you CAN heal and please seek professional support and/or support groups for suicide survivors. Healing is always a little easier when you know that you are not alone...and people before you have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Seek help/support. Attempting to deny or ignore your feelings may lead to a lengthy and unhealthy mourning period. Which will not help your wounds to heal. Most importantly, if you find yourself in a deep depression with unresolved grief issues you may be experiencing complicated grief (feelings of intense and painful emotions lasting over a long period of time.....). Complicated grief can be so intense that you have trouble resuming any small thread of normalcy to resume your own life. If you find yourself in this type of situation SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a page to locate online and face to face support groups for suicide survivors.

Wishing you the best on this always wishing you Comfort, Peace and Hope.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Writing Wednesdays

Wow..where has this week gone? A lot of things are going on behind the scenes at Grief Sanctuary. I have just finished a set of Grief Affirmations Cards. They are simple phrases...and intended to facilitate a healing journey. I have received very positive feedback from the preview copies. I am looking forward to designing the art work for the cards and get them sent off to a publisher. Stay posted for more information.

Since it is Wednesday...that means a new journal prompt. This weeks journal prompt is as follows....

What is your loved one's Legacy? What and how do you want them to be remembered? What are the special things/deeds they accomplished that has made you proud? What were their positive influences? Please feel free to leave comments about the Legacy of your loved ones.

I feel everyone has left a Legacy....whether is was a newborn baby/miscarriage/stillborn......or an elderly adult. Their Legacy allows us connections...and a way to honor their life.

Wishing you Peace, Comfort and HOPE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Welcome to....Writing Wednesdays

I am declaring Wednesdays on this blog as "Writing Wednesday" hopes that this will encourage you to journal. Journaling is a great form of self expression. As well as, an inner communion with yourself. Taking the time for yourself, with pen and paper in hand, can be very cathartic. Sometimes it is easier to spill thoughts, feelings, or ideas out onto paper....rather than speak them out loud. Often times we can discover answers and/or insight when we journal. It is my belief that we have all the answers. However, sometimes we have to excavate the answers...or seek support to help us find our answers.

Journaling can be an excellent form of self-care/self-nurture. Journaling is becoming a very popular Expressive Arts activity and many consider it to be therapeutic. There are many different ways to journal. For example, you can journal in a scrapbook, in a professionally bound journal, in a spiral bound notebook, on loose sheets of paper that are kept in a journal box, etc. You can also get as creative as you want. You can use colored markers, pencils, glitter, snippets of paper glued with a glue stick (collage), etc.

Journaling Tips

Put together a journal bag or basket for your journaling supplies. This bag/basket should include a journal and pens. If you want to draw or add color to your journal, add pencils, markers, crayons, etc. to your bag/basket. Keep this journaling basket near a comfortable chair...or in a bag so you can grab and go out into nature under a big tree or in a park.

Set aside a time to journal. Give yourself about 15 minutes. If the material you are writing/expressing is traumatic, you want to limit your time and not overwhelm yourself.

When writing, don't focus on grammar. You don't need full sentences. Just let your thoughts pour out onto the pages of your journal.

Journaling is for your eyes only. Unless, you want to share an entry with someone. So, keep your journal bag/basket in a safe private place.

In closing, I would like to mention that some people use journaling to stay "connected" to their loved ones. For example, you can write letters to your loved one in your journal...and let him/her know what is going on in your life. You can also use a journal to write down things about your loved one that inspires you. Or, you can use your journal to write down the "Sacred Signs" you have received from your loved ones. Journaling quiets my mind and is a prayerful and meditative experience for me. I hope you will try journaling and see what it can do for you. May you gain insight, comfort and calmness in your life. Wishing you hope and peace.

Writing Wednesday Prompt

What does HOPE look like and feel like to you?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quote for the Day

On this day...I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite quotes. Please feel free to leave comments on your opinion of this quote...or what this quote means to you. Or, another suggestion, use this quote as a starting point in your journal and journal about the meaning or significance of this quote to your grieving process.

"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love - time is eternity."

Henry Van Dyke

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Return to HOPE

A Return to Hope is the first in a series of bereavement booklets I have written. A Return to Hope is a condensed book filled with healing reminders for bereaved parents.

As a grief and bereavement educator/therapist, I have learned that losing a child is one of life's greatest tragedies. It is an unfair and unfortunate event. This booklet is dedicated to all of the families that touched my heart and lit my soul with inspiration, even in the midst of their own tragedy......the death and loss of their child. They somehow found a way to return to a sense of HOPE. And I wish the same for you during your time of loss.

This little booklet is perfect to carry in your purse or in your pocket. Each booklet is carefully bound with a hand painted butterfly on the cover. It can easily be tucked into an envelope and mailed as a sympathy card.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sympathy Gifts

Sympathy/Memorial Seed Boxes

Sympathy/Memorial Seed Boxes

Sympathy/Memorial Seed Boxes

As a Bereavement Counselor/Consultant/Educator I have had a hard time locating heartfelt Sympathy and Memorial gifts. So, I have resorted to making my own sympathy cards and gifts. I have had so many requests from others in regards to my sympathy cards/gifts that I have decided to create my own line of compassionate gifts and cards for the griever. I will soon have a website open that will showcase my line. Until then, if you are interested in any of the hand made products, email me ( or leave a comment.

Hand painted dragonfly Sympathy Card.

The following is written inside each of the Sympathy Cards...

Words alone are not enough to
express my deepest sympathy.
Please know that I am thinking of you
holding you near my heart
during this time.
Wishing you Peace and Comfort.

Hand painted Butterfly Sympathy Card

Sympathy Seeds ©

Each packet of Sympathy Seeds are hand sewn and hand painted with Love and Care...then filled with a generous mixture of Wildflower Seeds or Forget-Me-Not Seeds (or a mixture of both). These are great to tuck inside of a Sympathy Card.

A close up view of Sympathy Seeds.

Wishing you love, peace and hope...

Friday, July 3, 2009

An Unnatural Loss

From time to time I will focus on specific types of loss on this blog. For today I thought I would focus on the loss of a child. Of all the losses, I do believe this is the most unnatural loss. Losing a child is not the "natural order" of loss. It is contrary to the laws of nature that parents precede their young. Often, I have heard parents say, "I was supposed to die before my child".

Whether you knew in advance that your child was dying from a terminal disorder or if your child died suddenly, it is not something that any parent should have to go through. Losing a child is an unimaginable death to those of us that have not suffered the loss. As a grief therapist I can't imagine the pain of this type of loss. Not only do you suffer the death of your child, you also grieve the loss of all the hopes and dreams you had for that child.

It is common for parents to comment "I feel like a part of me died too". In essence, I think it is a true statement. You nurtured the child, loved him/her and helped to mold them. Part of you lived through that child....whether it is your biological child or adopted child. The pain of loss is there whether your child was a baby or a 45 years old.

Thankfully, there are many support groups and organizations out there that specifically focus on this type of loss. One of those great organizations is The Compassionate Friends. The Compassionate Friends have chapters all over the United States and the groups are run by volunteers that have suffered the loss of a child. I have heard numerous parents say that the support of The Compassionate Friends has saved their life and helped them to go on living. Please check out their link and find a chapter near you if you have lost a child,

Another great organization, Bereaved Parents of the USA, also offers help and comfort to bereaved parents. Bereaved Parents of the USA specializes in helping the newly bereaved. They are also a non-profit self-help type organization. They have a wealth of information on their web site. Take time to take a look around on their site( ), you may find something helpful.

It is also important to note that many of these non-profit organizations have national and regional conferences. If you have lost a child and have not attended a bereavement conference from one of the above organizations, I would highly recommend you doing so. The connections and understanding you will receive is indescribable. Everyone is greeted with no expectations and opens arms full of love, hugs and compassion.

Most importantly, please is possible to return to HOPE. It may feel like a slow journey...or even like it will never happen, but you have to trust in knowing that you can return to HOPE. This is not a grief you will "get over". However, this is a grief that you can learn to integrate into your life. Your life has been forever changed and it will never go back to what it was.....but, there can be enjoyable moments again. If you have suffered this type of loss, please find support. This is not a journey to walk alone. Seek support from mental health professionals, understanding friends, support groups, church/synagogue members, chaplains, etc.

Wishing you Love, Peace..and A RETURN TO HOPE.

P.S. Please feel free to comment if you would like to mention additional bereavement support organizations for parents.