Friday, February 15, 2019

May Brookyn

May Brookyn  was an English born American stage actress.(Her name was spelled Brookyn but is often misspelled Brooklyn). She achieved success and fame, however in late 1893, her lover Frederic A Lovecraft died by suicide. Despondent over his death, May Brookyn also died by suicide on February 15, 1894. Although her exact date of birth is unknown, Brookyn was in her mid to late thirties at the time of her death.

May Brookyn  1854/59 - February 15, 1894

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Constant Miracle

All healing is first a healing of the heart.
- Carl Townsend

It's Valentine's Day. Everywhere we turn there are symbols of love and references to the joy inherent in relationships. It doesn't matter if a person is actually experiencing pain today, and it doesn't matter if their relationship status is inclusive of a terribly broken heart. We are still bombarded by symbols of joy. For survivors of suicide loss who have lost their spouses or partners, this holiday can be particularly cruel.

Some of us though, have gone on to heal enough that we've been able to move on to a new chapter in our life. Some of us have begun to be able to love again. In fact, this is where I am today. I am in love. And while falling in love after having lost someone to suicide has had its unique challenges, I have also learned to count my blessings. I live in profound gratitude that I am able to have this type of love in my life.

But of course I am thinking about John, my boyfriend who died, too. I cannot help but think about prior Valentine's Days. Some  of the memories are sweet and some sting. But all of them lay side by side in my heart, and they remind me that this is the nature of life. Sweet and stinging both at the same time. I've learned that living in acceptance of this duality is how we get by. Living in this acceptance is how I've begun to allow myself to love once again.

Today though, I am also thinking about my fellow survivors of suicide loss - especially those whose loss is fresher than mine. This morning I decided to reread the post I'd written on this blog, one year ago on Valentine's Day. In that post, I shared the details of pulling myself out of the worst of an eating disorder relapse that had occurred shortly after John died. On Valentine's Day last year, I wrote about healing. Although I still believed I'd never experience romantic love again (I was wrong), I did understand what it was that had carried me through my first few months of grief.

I want to share that writing with you all, again, today. One year ago I didn't realize I might love again. What I did know was that I would not let a broken heart dictate how I would heal or how I would love in the future.

From last year's post:

So here I am today. I still know that John loves me. I still know that he wants me to be happy. And I still know that he wants me to be ok. This year though, I believe that John is comforted by the fact that I am loved here and now, while I am still alive. I believe he is comforted by the fact that I am happy, and that I am ok. 

Most importantly, I am still surrounded by the very same constant miracle that held me up and saved me last year. The miracle today has not lessened. Instead, like love itself, the miracle has expanded. 

If you would like to read last year's entire post, click here, or on the image below:

Happy Valentine's Day, all.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Jeong Da-bin

Jeong Da-bin was a South Korean actress. Best known for the popular television series, Rooftop Room.

According to her boyfriend, the actress became depressed over a lack of work in the years following the series. She was also devastated by cyber-bullying and malicious attacks on the Internet about her physical appearance.

Jeong Da-bin died by suicide in 2007. She was twenty six years old when she died.

Jeong Da-bin
March 4, 1980 - February 10, 2007

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mike Kelley

Michael "Mike" Kelley was an American artist. His work involved found objects, textile banners, drawingsassemblagecollageperformance and video. He often worked collaboratively and had produced projects with artists Paul McCarthyTony Oursler and John Miller. Writing in The New York Times, in 2012, Holland Cotter described the artist as "one of the most influential American artists of the past quarter century and a pungent commentator on American class, popular culture and youthful rebellion".

At the end of his life, Kelley suffered from depression. On January 31, 2012, he lost his life to suicide. Mike Kelley was fifty seven years old when he died.

Michael "Mike" Kelley
October 27, 1954 - January 31, 2012

Friday, January 25, 2019

Finding Peace

Jenn Gilstrap of Campbell, Texas has shared her writing on this blog before. As a survivor of suicide loss, her willingness to share her story is both courageous and a gift to her fellow survivors. I am honored that she has allowed me to share her most recent writing, once again:

I'm nearly two years out from my loss. Being honest about where I've been, and where I am, and where I hope to be, has been key for me; as has being determined not to let the loss control the rest of my life. 

To those of you who are new to having lost someone to suicide, my heart breaks for you. I wanted to take a few minutes to express some things that I've personally learned along the way in hopes that those of you who are new to this understand that it does get better.

I lost my husband to suicide on March 20th, 2017. I found him in our bed. I went into immediate shock. I remember very little from that morning. Mostly I remember walking the road in front of our house telling myself it had to be a dream. I didn't cry. I screamed a lot but I never cried. I was too far removed from the emotions you would think you'd feel. All I felt was numb and bewildered and stunned.

The signs had been there. Bryan talked about killing himself often; mostly when he was drunk. When he was sober, however, he'd always assure me that it was just talk and there was nothing to worry about. I loved him and I wanted to believe that what he was saying was the truth. We talked about his suicidal ideation and we agreed he needed help. He had all the tools at the ready. But the day he decided to go, he didn't talk about it. He didn't reach out. He just did it.

Now, because my husband drank and used his medications to get high, we fought. A lot. And I could be down right ugly to him. I hated what we were going through as a couple but what I hated even more was that I was being put through hell for an addiction that wasn't even mine. I had to deal with the drunken antics; I had to watch after him and hope that he didn't hurt himself or someone else. I had to deal with hostility that was directed at me. It was exhausting. I was hurting. And the man I loved, the man I was giving my everything to, just kept hurting me. 

In response I could be mean, but I thought if I said the "right" thing, it would stop. For a long, long time, I struggled with the idea that my angry words were what caused him to complete his suicide. I was so sure that if I'd treated him better, he'd still be here. If I would have said this instead of that; if I would have let one thing go instead of fighting for another thing. On and on my guilt went. After he died, I rarely stopped to remind myself of what had brought me to that point. I started to forget that Bryan had been a grown man and had done his part to bring our relationship to where it was.

I needed to take an honest look at Bryan's past, too. My husband had attempted suicide several times. I'm sure he'd attempted more times than even I knew; well before he and I ever got together. Had he completed then, who's fault would it be? His mother's? His father's? No. Nobody else was or is to blame. 

Today, I am still healing. I still have days that are hard. But I don't feel sad when I think about Bryan anymore. To be honest, I can't really put how I feel into words. I'm moving on. I have a new man in my life who I truly love. I'm pregnant with my first child; something I didn't think was possible when I was married to Bryan. My life is blossoming. 

I'm grateful for the beauty that's come from the ugliness of my loss. I got here though, by embracing the pain. I had to acknowledge what I'd gone through and stop looking for the whys behind it. There are no answers. There is no way of knowing what would have happened if I'd done this or that or said this or that. There is only what happened. And it happened. Not because of anything I said or did; not because I was lacking as a wife or friend but because my husband was sick. He succumbed to his illness; much like cancer. He made a choice with a mind that simply wasn't right. Once I made peace with that, it helped me move forward.

I hope those of you who are new to this glean something from my words. You are NOT to blame. You did nothing wrong. I don't care how mean or ugly you were. The decision to die by suicide was always theirs and theirs alone. I pray you find your own peace.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Survivors of suicide loss must step back and tell themselves this simple truth: We did the best we could. We must not give up. We did the best we could.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Rusty Hamer

Russell Craig "Rusty" Hamer was an American stage, film and television actor. He is best known for portraying Rusty Williams, the wise cracking son of entertainer Danny Williams (Danny Thomas), on the popular ABC/CBS situation comedy Make Room for Daddy (later retitled The Danny Thomas Show), from 1953 to 1964. He reprised the role in three reunion specials and the sequel series, Make Room for Granddaddy, that aired on ABC from 1970 to 1971.

Like many successful child actors, Hamer had difficult transitioning into adult roles, a fact over which he was deeply depressed. Injuries later in his life contributed to chronic back pain. On January 18, 1990, Rusty Hamer died by suicide. He was forty two years old when he died.

Rusty Hamer 
February 15, 1947 – January 18, 1990


Monday, January 14, 2019

Survivors of suicide attempts and survivors of suicide loss alike bear a responsibility that they did not necessarily bargain for. We, by default, have become suicide prevention advocates.

For some, volunteering for causes related to suicide prevention can be an instrumental part of the healing process. For others, speaking up about their experiences can make a difference in helping to support someone else who is also struggling.

It must also be acknowledged though, that suicide can be a very private matter. As with any death by any cause, an individual's needs around privacy are valid and should be respected. In addition, keeping the focus on yourself and/or your family is critical during times of heartbreak or during personal struggles with your mental health.

For all of us, the most important message we can give to those who are struggling with loss (or to to those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide) is that we do get through this.

Every day that we wake up and continue moving forward, we are showing the world that it is possible to do the thing that those who have lost their lives to suicide were not able to do: to go on. That alone can be inspirational and suicide prevention advocacy, enough.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

I Am the Change

Seven months ago, Chester Bennington's wife (Talinda Bennington) and sister (Tobi Bennington) made a video. A fellow member of one of my suicide loss support groups posted it on our online group page, today. It reminded me of the great work that can be done by those who have suffered such heartbreaking losses. Talinda and Tobi began the I Am the Change effort in response to the tragedy of Bennington's loss to suicide.

In particular, I appreciate Tobi Bennington's statement about stigma:

"There should be no stigma around the words 'mental health'. And without that stigma, I think that the shame and secrecy would go away. That secrecy is what is killing us."

The video has been viewed over 13,000,000 times. Bravo to Talinda and Tobi for sharing their message, especially when their grief was so fresh.

Telling our truth and speaking up is how we will change and save lives, and how we ourselves will heal.

Here is the video, in case you haven't seen it, or if you would like to watch again:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

John Flannagan

John Bernard Flannagan was an American sculptor. Along with Robert Laurent and William Zorach, he is known as one of the first practitioners of direct carving in the United States.

In his youth, Flannagan was recognized as possessing artistic talents, and in 1914 he attended the Minneapolis School of Art, now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he studied painting. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Flannagan quit school and joined the Merchant Marines. He remained a merchant marine until 1922. After his time in the military, he was hired by painter Arthur B. Davies to work on Davies' farm in New York State. There Davis encouraged the young man to return to painting, which he did, also taking up wood carving. A year later, in 1922, Flannagan appeared in his first exhibition. In 1927 Flannagan gave up painting and wood carving to concentrate on stone carving. In 1928 he produced some of the first American direct carved stone sculptures of note, one of which is entitled "Pelican."

Fargo was long troubled by his personal life. Hs father died when he was only five years old, and his mother, unable to support her family, placed him in an orphanage. Desipite his artistic success, he lived in the significant poverty for the rest of his life. In his adult years, he was an alcoholic and suffered from severe depression. On January 6, 1942, John Flannagan died by suicide. He was forty six years old when he died.

John Bernard Flannagan 
April 7, 1895 – January 6, 1942