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OOD Walk 2015

It’s the emotional day again… The AFSP walk day. This day is fun, this day is hard, this day is unifying, this day is hopeful, this day is heavy, this day is exhausting.

LOSS will be there eager to meet new friends and share resources. I will be Mom – not LOSS leader. I will walk quietly with Robbie in remembrance of my son. I will weep and I will smile. I will thank God for my boy and lash out at Him for not saving him from himself. I will silently ask “why, what did I miss, and how was my love not enough to just chose life?” dozens of times. Living without Drey means living with pain. And on this day it’s just best to experience the pain along side fellow survivors. There’s something peaceful and safe about this walk. I am blessed to be part of other survivors lives.  💚💜

Here I go again…

I wish I were just singing a Whitesnake song but that’s not the case…

I’ve decided being the leader of Cornerstone of Hope Grief Counseling Center is in conflict with my passion around suicide awareness advocacy… Specifically LOSS. When I accepted the position of ED at Cornerstone we thought it was clear how I’d support – how I’d lead – both organizations. But questions have been raised.

Better now than 6 months into the role, right? Whatever.

Unfortunately my self-talk platitudes aren’t helpful.

And now I’m reminded all over again that my son is dead. No – I didn’t forget. But something was happening with my grief when I joined Cornerstone. A purpose for the pain? in a visible way? In a worldly way perhaps?

But now I’m back to “just volunteering.” There’s far more to it than that… Anyone who’s talked to me about the LOSS team for more than 1 minute can clearly see my passion. But I guess I just need a day or a week or however long to be sad. Sad that things didn’t play out the way I thought they would. And sad that I’m even in this situation. My son is still dead.

Yesterday – the same day I resigned from Cornerstone – I received a thank you card from a Mom who’s child died by suicide. I was there with another volunteer that day as LOSS team volunteers. Feeling awkward. Answering her questions – the family’s questions. Not sure if our words were helpful. Quietly praying for God’s comfort. And now a thank you card from her that brought me to my knees. The timing of it. A thank you card on the day I resigned. On the day I choose to stick with LOSS. I’m humbled by this precious gift and I am confident that some day I’ll be able to share with this Mom the impact she had on me.

And still through all of it my son is dead. He is still dead. I am sad. I have self doubt. I doubt God. I doubt my ability to discern Gods will for my life. These doubts and feelings seem permanent – but they are not. It’s just for now. One foot in front of the other regardless of my feelings. But still, just damn.

Outreach to survivors of a suicide loss.

Vaca was wonderful last week. A sweet time to enjoy good food, the ocean and a super slow pace. I knew I was coming home to a busy week. Busy from a time commitment perspective but also emotionally busy. I’ve taken steps to prepare. I’ve gotten up early to talk and listen to God in spite of the required hour for rising. I used to get up at 5:30 regularly. That seems like a very long time ago. Most mornings are harder now. We all wear our grief differently. Maybe if my son hadn’t taken his life in the morning they wouldn’t be as hard? Who knows. It doesn’t really matter now.

Yesterday was national suicide prevention day. I did nothing to recognize it in spite of its importance. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’ve “moved on” or don’t do other things to honor Drey (she says silently reassuring herself). One person can only do so much in a week.

Over the last 3 days I’ve met amazing people. People who are dedicated to serving others. And unlike last years LOSS conference I couldn’t easily divide the attendees into 2 general groups. The first being the clinicians and the second being survivors of a suicide loss. The lines were more blurry for me. But someone made a comment towards the end of the conference mentioning they could see 2 separate audiences – so the makeup of the group wasn’t different this year. I just wasn’t as aware – I wasn’t as sensitive to it. This is God at work In a miraculous way! For me to not take notice of the clinicians unique language, questions, or approach is a miracle. I’m not the prickly survivor I was last year. The survivor that was irritated by their textbook knowledge but lack of personal traumatic experience. My quills are smooth and controlled along my body now.

All signs point to the Franklin County LOSS team launching very soon. I am guilty of continually looking forward at what we haven’t yet done instead of celebrating how far we’ve come. We started this work just one year ago – and now we’re about ready to launch. Wow. I never could’ve imagined it as I walked into last years conference not knowing a single person. God has opened so many doors and has given me the strength and wisdom to be obedient and walk through them.

So this September I once again won’t collect that big, fat bonus I used to get as a result of all the hard work through the year at marketing, leading and serving customers. Instead this September I’ve collected a team of amazing, sacrificial people who have raised their hand and said, “Yes. I want to help people who are facing a tragic loss to suicide. I can sit with them in silence. I can give them resources to leverage when they’re ready. I can even cry with them. I want them to know they are not alone.” I am grateful to this team of volunteers. Survivors, clinicians, hotline volunteers. We are all so different but share the same passion. It will be amazing to see what unfolds over the next year. And maybe maybe maybe some day soon there will be no need for a LOSS team.

Suicide Postvention

Yesterday was a big milestone – the L.O.S.S. First responder training.
We had just over 40 people attend. What I was most excited about was the diversity of the group… So many organizations were represented. Counselors, a hospital chaplain. A couple of handfuls of suicide hotline volunteers. We had at least 12 survivors of a suicide loss there. 4 law enforcement folks – all homicide departments from both the county and the city. And the coroner & an investigator. Wow wow wow. God is so good.

Being available to people ASAP after a suicide loss is so very important.

During my days, weeks and even months after Drey died, several people reached out to me and many people very sacrificially poured into me. Every single interaction has been important to me. Without knowing it at the time I very much needed those cards, random text messages, FB posts, phone calls, gifts and meals.

The pain I carried for several months was sickening.

The people who could break through – even though it was just for a moment – the thick, heavy despair were the small handful of women who were ahead of me in grieving the sudden loss of their child. Those momentary break throughs gave me hope and over time they joined and became hours – and dare I say days – rather than just moments.

I am quite emotionally tired from the training yesterday. Sadly my mind is not shutting down… no sleep for me. So I lay here in bed considering the flood of feelings I wish I could name. I guess I need more time to digest them.

My thoughts continue to drift to those early days and weeks. To those momentary break throughs. They were so damn brief but so amazingly bright.

Suicide postvention is important. L.O.S.S. Teams are important. I will continue on this path.

A Priest and a foul-mouthed soccer Mom walk into a Bob Evans…

    I had lunch today with Father Leo Connelly. Father Leo delivers death notifications with the Sheriff’s department – including in the case of suicides. As our work continues towards launching a first responder LOSS team I’ve met a lot of people I never imagined I would.

    Father Leo had a lot of good information. I learned more about how Law Enforcement is structured, other agencies I may want to connect with and about different scenarios he’s been in. Most importantly I learned to expect we’ll need to “prove ourselves” so to speak as valuable at a crime scene. Father Leo talked about the ministry of presence and how important it is. But that’s hard to understand unless you’ve lived through a tragic death of a loved one. There are no words to make it better. None. But knowing someone is there with you – some times perhaps just sitting silently – is impactful beyond words. Especially when the person sitting with you is also a survivor of suicide loss. Just small comments Father Leo said… like how sometimes when he goes to a scene he is initially an unwelcomed intruder that surely just told the family a bad joke rather than the truth. But by the end of his time there he is no longer an unwelcomed stranger. Most of the time he never knows if his presence was valuable in some small way. But that doesn’t keep him from moving forward in serving others in this way. What an important ministry. Through meeting people like Father Leo I’m becoming more equipped – and learning how to equip others – to be part of a LOSS team.

    I feel God’s hand in this. I can’t explain it but I do sense it… It’s not moving along in my preferred time table (we would’ve launched the LOSS team and hindsighted what’s working & what’s not by now – and you can bet the “what’s not working” part of the list would’ve been way longer!) I’m confident it has been God’s timing. I hope as people read this and other blogs about the LOSS team that they’re praying about it… that God would continue to open doors to these important Postvention efforts. I know this is my personal journey and my personal passion. Not everyone carries the same depth of concern for complete strangers that have lost someone to suicide that I do. We are all shaped by our own personal circumstances and experiences. I hope I can be a diligent prayer warrior for my family and friends as they pursue God and as they pursue the good works He’s given them to do.

    And for anyone reading this that knows me fairly well… Yes, I successfully enjoyed a meal and conversation with Father Leo without any colorful language 🙂

Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide – L.O.S.S. first responder team

We continue to make progress with the implementation of a LOSS first responder team here in Franklin County.  The LOSS team goes to the scene of a suicide where there are survivors.  A survivor can be a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc.  Anyone that’s been impacted.  The goal is for those of us that have lost someone to suicide to connect – even if only for a moment – and leave information and resources for support.  Then to follow up as appropriate. My blog from January 27, 2014 shares more info about this.

Today we met with the 8 investigators at the coroner’s office. It went well. They had some challenging questions about how the LOSS team would function which was good. They were engaged and honest – can’t beat that! And they were themselves… meaning they work all day every day with the deceased so they talk about horribly graphic things regularly – even casually. It’s what they live and breathe so who can blame them? One person shared a gruesome situation in detail. They were clearly making a point to me. I was up for the challenge. This investigator then closed their gruesome example by asking… “I medicate and drink in order to handle what I do – how will a survivor of a suicide loss handle it?” I reminded them the LOSS team will not see the body. “Yes, but you are there to help the people who found the body. How will you handle it?” I felt defensive. I sure hope I didn’t come across as defensive. I answered this investigator honestly by sharing personally what I was capable of – and what I may not be capable of. We left the meeting with the team’s support and with three of the investigators offering to be part of the planning/creation of the team & how it’ll function. We had only asked for one volunteer 🙂 Good stuff.

When I got home Robbie and I talked about how it went and how I was doing. I told him I got a nice big dose of reality today. If I’m going to lead these efforts it means working with folks from the coroner’s office and with law enforcement. People that live and breathe this and therefore talk about it regularly. Am I up for this? Am I pushing myself to do this when I really don’t want to (“I have to” vs. “I get to”)?

I have a fear… a fear that I will function through it. I’ll stuff it then explode but the explosion won’t come until after the LOSS team launches. Robbie reminded me that’s not been the case so far. I am talking to people about how I’m feeling, I’m doing fun things too, I imperfectly depend on God’s strength, and I’m not spending a ton of hours working on this project all at once – I’m pacing myself.

I don’t have to do this. I want to do it. I know that’s hard for most people to understand. I wouldn’t be able to understand either had I not walked the last 1 year, 7 months, 1 week, 3 days and 9 hours in these heavy, clumsy grief shoes.

What do you say to someone who just lost her son to suicide?

What do you say to someone who just lost her son to suicide?

Nothing. You listen.

And when she can’t talk because she’s staring off into space in utter shock you just sit with her. You silently stroke her hair.

You quietly pray to God in your helplessness that He’d comfort her somehow. Because only He can do the impossible.

Don’t ask her what she wants to eat. Even the littlest of questions are too overwhelming. Just set a small plate of fruit and crackers next to her. Keep a bottled water next to her, too.

Don’t tell her you understand. Don’t tell her you can imagine how she feels. She can’t even imagine how she feels. It’s the most sickening day of her life. There are no human words to describe this – just groans. The reality of living the rest of her life without her son is simply too much to bear physically, emotionally. It’s incomprehensible.

Make sure someone is with her at all times for the first several days. The temptation to be with her son may be strong.

It may take months or even years… But in time her grief will begin to turn into useful sadness.

Hang in there with her for the long haul. She needs you.