Archives for posts with tag: suicide

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Today I’m home from work sick and I really don’t feel good. But sometimes opportunity comes in the form of what we initially think isn’t so great.

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day too.

And I so want to talk. Anyone who knows me even a little isn’t surprised by that I’m sure. I want to talk about Mental Health. I want to talk about the fact that people you know well, people you walk by the street every day, total strangers that smile broadly at you SUFFER from mental illness, things like depression, OCD, anxiety and a plethora of other ones and YOU probably know nothing about it.

I want to talk about the myths, assumptions, stigma. I want to talk about the far too many lives lost every day to mental illness. I want to talk about the families and friends, lovers and children left wondering, trying to make sense, trying to carry one. I want to talk about the hopelessness and the hope. The fear and the courage. The present and the future.

But most importantly, today…

I WANT TO LISTEN…

I WANT TO UNDERSTAND…

I WANT TO SIT WITH YOU…

I WANT TO LEARN…

I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND…

I WANT TO BE QUIET…

I WANT TO BE LOUD…

I WANT TO BE THERE…

AND I AM.

I ask each of you to take time not only today, but everyday to really look, seek out and listen. For those needing help, don’t give up… find it. Talk to someone. And keep talking and keep trying. Please.

I don’t want add any more names to the list. It’s too long. It’s already too personal.

A young man took his life in our area just this week. A friend of his had posted on FB earlier in the summer “My biggest fear is losing people.” A cyber friend had a “lovely smiling” previous coworker taker her own life this past week.

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Bell Let’s Talk

So take the time. Don’t assume. Ask a friend. Be a friend.

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I am here. Reach out. I mean it. Whether you know me or not. I’m here. Please let’s talk. I will listen. You are not alone. Honest, even if it feels that way. Let’s work to change it together.

In memory of all those we’ve lost and in eternal hope that we lose no more.

Related blog: Out Of The Ashes We Rise (in memory of Todd Pidhorodetsky April 21, 1970-March 6, 2010)

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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To anyone ready to give up today I have one huge favour to ask.

 

Please don’t 

Don’t give up
Don’t be alone
Don’t hide it
Don’t feel ashamed
Don’t believe your negative thoughts or pretend

 

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Please

Do keep going
Do ask for help (as many times as it takes!)
Do be open
Do accept where you are, but be willing to change it
Do know it will get better and so will you

 

 

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We care

 

Life has plenty of challenges and it’s easy to find ourselves in overwhelming circumstances feeling alone and unworthy, not knowing where to turn. It can happen to anyone at anytime. But there is ALWAYS hope. Whether today is a day you find yourself short on hope, or with a little extra to share, check out Project Hope Exchange. It’s a unique project that enables people to share hope. Give a little, get a lot.

Think you’re alone? Think again.

 

Give hope. Get hope. All in 30 seconds! What if we could do just that and start spreading hope around the world? We at The Adversity 2 Advocacy Allianceand Life Vest Inside believe we CAN, and we’re thrilled to be partnering to offer you this unique and powerful opportunity. Through Project Hope Exchange, we are collecting, aggregating and sharing 30-second audio messages fromindividuals who have survived some kind of adversity to others who are currently facing that same adversity. And at the heart of our exchange are real human voices. We hope you’ll add yours! (from the PHE website)

 

A closing thought.

Often we are consumed by “what if’s”, all the things that we worry and overthink about.

Today…

what if…

everything you’re going through right now 

is preparing you…

for a dream bigger than 

you can imagine…..

What if……

Just maybe…

Maybe so…

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I was working on my How To Be Happy journal that my lovely daughter gave me for Christmas.  Like me, it is a work in progress. It has made me question “what is happiness?” and more importantly, “what is happiness to me?”  I realize it is not the same for everyone. It can actually be quite different. I also understand happiness, at least for me, isn’t really about things, not even people, places or events.  Happiness is about feelings.

I began thinking about why and how some people lose happiness completely. How do they lose sight of everything hopeful and only see hopelessness, only feel fear and pain? How can we share the same basic reality but view it so differently? A friend recently pondered this.

“Lots of times I wonder what makes people end up the way they do? Why do we have the feelings, desires and emotions we do? How do you become truly happy? Which leads me to wonder, what makes up happiness?”

Depression surrounds us, an invisible presence most of us are blissfully unaware of.  We walk by people, sit with them, talk to them and we don’t see a mental illness, their pain, their need. I know this to be true. But what makes up happiness?  How do we find happiness when we’ve lost it?

I started Rise Like Air because I wanted to be part of a change, part of making something better.  I wanted to help people, even if it was just one person, realize that there is hope and that they don’t have to give up.  I wanted to share success stories and struggles to inspire people to keep trying, to embrace their own beauty and abilities, to empower them to love and live fully, to extend a hand to let them know that when they are hurting they aren’t alone, even if we can’t understand it all, there’s a place they can go to be unconditionally accepted.

Like many ideas that simmer slowly, a catalyst occurred to move it forward.  Six years ago this weekend we received word that Todd, a family friend we knew who had been experiencing severe depression took his life. It was the classic stereotypical situation with all the whys and how could have he’s. He had so much to live for, family that loved him completely, children to watch grow up, a good job he liked.  Sure there were setbacks, but how did he lose such complete perspective, lose all hope, lose all desire to live? And how did it seem to happen so quickly?

I remember what I was doing when we got the call.  I remember how everything suddenly became surreal, time slowed down, my heart started to race and I started to feel detached. And I remember the distinct feeling of I should have been able to do something. No, really I couldn’t have, I knew it then, I know it now. But it was what eventually moved me to start Rise Like Air. His mother,  Joyce, has been one of our greatest supporters. When I was almost ready to quit because I questioned the value, it was her wisdom and kind words that made me realize no matter what, if I’m only inspiring one person, that is more than enough.

She has taught me so much on this journey, including how important it is to talk about your loss and pain as you heal. Speaking of the people we love, sharing memories is a way of not only grieving, but keeping that person with us. So when you are tempted to say something, but don’t know what or how, take the leap. Your support will mean the world.

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I was out with a severely depressed friend a while ago.  I watched the interactions they had with others while we were together. They smiled and laughed, they chattered, they went about their business.  There was no sign that said, I feel like I’ve died inside, my body just hasn’t caught up yet. There was no indication that they needed a friend, needed help, or that they were anything but a “normal everyday happy” person.  I knew the truth and was shocked at how invisible it was on the surface, except when I looked into their eyes.  Eyes that no longer held any joy, hope or life. They were already dull, empty, pained. You can train your body to lie, but the eyes are much more difficult to hide.

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Depression is an invisible demon that revels in slowly sucking the joy, hope and life out of people so quietly that often, no one else even knows the deadly stranglehold is in play.

WHO, the World Health Organization, says in October 2015 that

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

Even when we do realize that someone needs help, often what we try to do to help is completely counterproductive.  Depression is not simple sadness. Often the very things we say or do trying to help actually make it worse, make them feel like they’ve failed, are a burden, are hopeless and helpless. However! This is not a reason to stay quiet or give up.  It’s a reason to learn what to do, how to be a positive support. How to save lives!

If someone had a broken leg we wouldn’t say, “well it can’t be that bad, just get up and walk on it!” We’d do all the things that have to happen to fix the leg and support the person while they are healing.  Why? Because we can see the injury, we can see and hear the pain they are experiencing. Visible or not it does not change the severity of the dis-ease.

But there are things we can say and do that are helpful.  There are resources that can make us part of the solution instead of part of the problem. We can be supporters who help others heal.  We can help save lives.

You never know what word, smile, conversation, text or email will be the thing that makes a small or big difference in someone’s life, that might save their life. When you listen to people who have been saved in their moment of despair, it often was something very small that saved them that day, gave them the strength to carry on.   It can be as simple as asking “Are you ok?” as in the case of Jamie Harrington, from Ballymena, Dublin,  who explained about meeting a man in his 30s sitting on the edge of a bridge and about to jump off it.

If we can help a person see through the clarity of our eyes instead of the clouded vision of their own, we can be the beacon of light they need until their own eyes clear.

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Project Hope Exchange is an organization committed to bringing hope to people everywhere.

Give hope. Get hope. All in 30 seconds! What if we could do just that and start spreading hope around the world? We at The Adversity 2 Advocacy Allianceand Life Vest Inside believe we CAN, and we’re thrilled to be partnering to offer you this unique and powerful opportunity. Through Project Hope Exchange, we are collecting, aggregating and sharing 30-second audio messages fromindividuals who have survived some kind of adversity to others who are currently facing that same adversity. And at the heart of our exchange are real human voices. We hope you’ll add yours!

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I have learned kindness, patience and unconditional love can make all the difference in helping people.  Life Vest Inside is an organization that  helps me and many others find their way through tough times by simply providing a safe, positive place to just be. Their video The Kindness Boomerang went viral a number of years ago and has been a catalyst for many to change their lives in positive ways.  So that is what I leave you with today, something positive, uplifting and hopeful.  We all have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives every moment of every day.  Do not waste your opportunity to help make a life better.  It just might be yours.

If you are experiencing depression or any mental health issue, please do not give up. No matter how long it’s been, how desperate or numb you feel, there are people who care and want to help. Please reach out.  There is a life vest.  All you have to do is hold on tight.  This is a dis-ease I truly believe we can beat together.

In memory of

Todd Pidhorodetsky April 21st, 1970 – March 6, 2010

You are loved, you are missed, you are treasured

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It is so easy to think I know. I know what’s best. I know what they should do. I know. I know. I know. Often this comes with a side order of If only. If only they would, if only this could. If only they would try harder. If only. If only. If only.
 
What’s hard is admitting that just maybe I don’t know. I don’t really know how someone feels, or how to fix it, or even help them. All I can be is a friend. A supporter. All I can do is try harder every day to actually understand. Not understand from where I stand, but from where THEY stand. Time to walk in their shoes. And try as we might, we can’t do that well unless we actually are walking in their shoes.
 
Sometimes we can’t . We can’t suddenly experience cancer, or depression but we can work to understand more deeply. We can work to hold true empathy and compassion, even if we don’t get it.
 
UnderstandUs is a volunteer group in Regina, Saskatchewan Canada founded by Jeremy Demeray and Thomas Le.  They are ending the stigma of mental illness in a process to move us to mental health and support those in need. They are telling people’s stories so we can get as close to walking in their shoes as we possibly can. They are naming the elephant in the room.  
Victoria Sutherland’s piece Naming The Elephant In The Room is beautifully written and hits at the heart of what it feels like to be in a depressive episode that becomes so hopeless you will do anything to end the pain. She writes in a way that allowed me to feel like I am walking in her shoes.  I got it a little bit more. An excerpt from her article,
However, after 20 odd years of repressing a mental illness, it doesn’t take a lot before something seemingly small or insignificant can trigger an all time low. (I wish it was as simple as boy breaking my heart – that can be dealt with by listening to Tegan and Sara while eating a tub of cookie dough ice cream and screaming “liar” at everyone in Love Actually). Looking back, I’m not even certain I wanted to kill myself, I just knew that I never wanted to feel the way I did at that moment ever again. I was tired of feeling the kind of debilitating sadness that consumed my life and took joy out of everything I loved. I was tired of feeling alone even when surrounded by a room full of people who love me. I was tired of letting someone else’s actions and words have complete power over my emotions. Most of all, I was tired of extreme highs followed by periods of excessive lows. I felt like a grenade with the pin pulled out just waiting to go off. I could be having the best day of my life but if someone said or did something that upset me, I down-spiralled. Fast.
A couple of days after everything hit its dramatic climax, I started feeling guilty. Seeing the effect all of this had on my family and friends and even my dogs made me feel terrible. I felt selfish and needy and like I was a huge inconvenience to everyone in my life. My mom took time off work and moved in with me, my sister became my 24 hour sounding board and all of my other loved ones were taking time out of every day to check in, see how I was doing and just trying to be there. It was overwhelming and while I felt appreciative, I also questioned why I was worth consuming everyone’s thoughts and lives. And if that guilt wasn’t enough, I started to feel guilty when I wasn’t miserable.
When we start to “get it” we can become part of the solution, part of the support network.  We can make a difference, a positive difference.  We can save lives, we can give hope, we can make a difference. We can help people become whole again. Because they are. They are whole.
While difficult to read on one hand, Victoria’s words gave me hope.  Hope because I understand better.  Hope because Victoria is proof that change can happen, that you can find ways, constructive, healthy ways to deal with depression, to learn to live again. To actually want to live again. That is an incredibly beautiful thing.  It’s a true rise like air moment.
To everyone out there who has, is or will face a time in their life where it is so painful and hopeless they see no way out, I want to thank you for still being here.  For that, I am eternally grateful. Because I’m beginning to realize just how big a commitment that is to make.

Life Vest Inside is a wonderful organization that empowers people and changes the world through kindness.  Being an ambassador with LVI has truly had one of the biggest most positive impacts on my life. If you need some support, a little kindness and want to be inspired every single day, surrounded by people who care and exude kindness, check them out.

Also check out Project Hope Exchange where you can give and get hope in 30 seconds. Now you know you’re curious.

©2016 J.Fries/Rise Like Air

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** This post was edited February 7th 2016

I just received word that a friend from years ago just took his own life, just after his birthday, just before he was ready to start a new chapter in his life, retirement.

I am gutted. I haven’t spoken with him in years and in truth, didn’t know him well in the first place, but I knew him.  I talked with him, laughed with him, enjoyed his creative talent.  Now to know yet another life is gone because the mental pain became greater than the alternative, at least in his opinion is almost unbearable .

“No one knew”

Maybe one word, one action, one smile would have made a difference. Maybe not. We’ll never know.

But today I will ensure I consciously do all I can to make every contact I make count.

In the UK last year over 4000 men took their own lives. Something has to change now.

I ask for your thoughts prayers and positive energy to be sent out wide today, to everyone who is struggling.

We all need each other. Even when we think we don’t.

In the piece “Why Men Kill Themselves” Paul McGregor is candid in what he has to say.  He knows what he’s talking about from very personal experience.  He suffers from depression and his father took his own life because of his own depression. Like so many others, once the slide began for his father there seemed no way to stop it. This is what we must change.

Because that uncomfortable feeling around talking about or even thinking about suicide is just one reason suicide has become the leading killer of men under the age of 50.

Why do men kill themselves?

In fact, why does a man take his own life every 2 hours in the UK alone?

Why is the suicide rate increasing year after year and why out of all of the suicides last year, a massive 76% were men?

While I’ve experience episodes of depression I admit I’ve never reached that level of despair.  I’ve always wondered how that happens, where does the mind finally say enough is enough and actually believe it.  Paul McGregor is the person who has finally made it understandable for me. And it shreds my heart to know that any one of us could reach that place.

After listening to numerous people who survived their attempts on suicide and reflecting on my Dad’s suicide, a lot of them talk about the pain in which they wanted to end.

Not wanting it to hurt anymore, wanting the pain they’re going through to go away.

When you think of it, dieing is physically painful…

But the pain they’re in at the time of making that decision is far greater than the physical pain they’ll endure.

Something I’ve never really shared before stands out to me here…

When my Dad decided to walk infront of a lorry reports from witnesses say after the collision… he smiled.

 

After I read that I felt physically ill.  Somehow I could finally understand at a level I was never able to before. ** I finally understand that the pain is as harsh, as strong and maybe even more unbearable as any physical pain can be.  The pain is real, it is not imagined or exaggerated. It is not temporary and it cannot just be pushed aside. If medication and treatment isn’t working there is no fix to give temporary or permanent relief. And in that moment of absolute endless pain, there is no sight of light or hope or anything other than the unquenchable desire for it to be over.

I was suddenly taken back to when I gave birth to my first born. I was as prepared as any mother to be could be, but there still came a point where I thought, what have I gotten myself into, I can’t do this, make it stop now.  I don’t for an instant pretend that this is the same, but my own experiences with depression and giving birth, the dots were finally connected. I finally got it, or at least I’m starting too. I’ve lost my arrogance about how to “fix it”, maybe that’s the biggest part of understanding. I hope the connection I’ve made will make me a better friend, a better supporter, a better person all around. **

Paul not only knows the pain, he’s reached a point where he is unafraid to ask the questions that need to be asked. He’s starting the dialogue, offering solutions, offering hope.

Paul offers 4 things to start the process of changing the stigma of mental illness into a move toward mental health

  • Think about it, talk about it, do something
  • Shift societies attitudes through dialogue and the media
  • Change our language of suicide
  • Treat it

 

Let’s do all those things and more.  And let’s start today, right now, this second.  One small word, one small smile at the right moment does save lives.  Take every opportunity to make a difference.  I believe that’s what we’re all here to do.

Namaste

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©2016 J.Fries/Rise Like Air

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Do remember watching the performers who used to entertain us with spinning plates? I remember watching the Ed Sullivan show years (and years and years) ago, holding my breath and gasping if a plate fell, thinking that oh no! Catastrophe!

Somedays this is exactly how I feel. The potential for great disaster is there and sometimes disaster even strikes – the plates fall; but in the end…. somehow, it all comes together, even when the plates break and there are pieces to pick up.

This plate spinner makes it look fairly easy. My favourites always were those who dropped plates, who had to go back and almost start over, many times. They always came supplied with plenty of extras and with each challenge they faced, they smiled a little harder, concentrated a little deeper and sweated a little more but they always kept going (and smiling) until every plate was spinning…. even if it was only for a few seconds, but they saw success and that success, that fleeting moment, was enough to drive them ahead to more.

Just because the china breaks doesn’t mean a beautiful mosaic can’t be created. A work of art is just that, a work of art – even when it’s made up of broken pieces.

Don’t let your wounds, your scars, your past, your doubts, your present stop you from becoming all you are meant to be. No matter how long it takes, or how much effort it is.

It’s never over until you decide to quit.
AFFIRMATION FOR TODAY:
It is safe for me to believe in myself and my abilities. I have to courage to ask for help and support. There is no failure, only lessons and adventure.

Repeat and repeat and repeeeeeeaaaaaat.   And does it feel “crazy” to repeat positive instructions to yourself? Does it feel unrealistic, like you’re being fake, like lies? Well, here’s the thing though. Most people repeat negative instructions to themselves hour on end every single day, and think nothing of it. Why? Because they’ve been doing it so long it has become an ingrained habit.  They actually believe that everything they are telling themselves, or being told by others must  be true.  It’s become such a habit that they consider it to be realistic, true and just the way it is.

Next spoiler alert: How you see life? That’s what’s going to be your reality.  How you see life is ALWAYS A CHOICE.  Always.

 

 

 

Another look at perspective and how we allow ourselves to see the world through the eyes of Lily Allen and her song LDN

 

And lastly, how to look at life not matter what is thrown at you, here is an interview Anthony Robbins did with World War II survivor Alice Herz-Sommer.  One of my favourites of all time.  No matter what, there is always beauty to be found if you believe in it and choose to see it.  It is always your choice.

 

 

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Being a mom is an interesting path to walk at the best of times. We joke that kids don’t come with a manual and it’s true. No matter how well read you are, how trained you are, even with all the skills and patience you bring to the task, there’s still a lot of trial and error and just plain luck involved. We all have our plans about how we’ll be super moms, but in reality our relationships with our children will have ups and downs and will grow and morph in many ways over hopefully many wonderful years.

Unknown-1I believe most mother’s really do want the best for their children. Sometimes, I admit, we make mistakes and miss the mark. It can range from simple to complex. We’re  a little over protective, maybe we make too many choices for them. For the most part we all work it out and over time our relationship, we hope, grows stronger.

I know when I became a mother, my world changed in many ways. Nine months of gestation produced more than a baby.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

As I saw mother’s day played out on social media I realized that there is truly a huge range of emotions and experiences that transpire around this celebration. Within my own group of friends and news feeds, the expected joy and beauty was truly apparent. Right along side of it, with the same intensity was grief and anguish.

There were mothers who lamented children no longer alive to celebrate this special day with them. A hole left in their lives that will never be filled.

Loving daughters and sons who didn’t look forward to the day because mom was no longer with them to celebrate. It didn’t matter if the loss was recent or decades ago. An old wound was reopened.

Moms who feel aching loneliness, lamenting their children’s indifference over outdated misunderstandings. Grandchildren who  only know stories but not grandma’s warm embrace. The absence of celebration or the pain of loss while celebrating the joys that remain.

Children and husbands holding tightly to mothers who they know will be leaving them far too soon.

A mother who celebrated her very first mother’s day unaware it was the last day she would there to celebrate at all.

The new mother welcoming her first born just before mother’s day only to lose her a few days later.

Mothers separated by vast distances from their children, connecting through technology that didn’t exist when the mothers were their children’s age. Not the same as sharing the same space but so much better than the alternative.

Grown children who were certainly babes in arms a short time ago, towering over mothers in loving embraces. The smiles and joy spilling from the page and into my heart.

The little child’s fist full of dandelions thrust up towards his mother, her most treasured gift.

What became clear was that Mother’s Day was different for each mother, as different as each of our children are. What remains constant is that each mother and each child no matter how old, how far away or estranged, is in someway moved. The bond, no matter how strained or strong is marked somehow, whether it is visible or invisible, acknowledged or not.

My mother is aging faster than I’d like to admit. I know that my time with her is limited. Time goes by too quickly, we never know just how much we have.  One of the biggest things people say they wish they would have done differently was to have forgiven someone, or to have said “I love you.” more. I was reminded of this even more this year. In which case, there is really only one thing to do.

phonto

It really doesn’t matter who it is, if there’s a relationship to repair, appreciation to show, love to give, choose to do it now. Life life, make memories, no regrets.

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years~ Mike & The Mechanics “In The Living Years”

I love you mom.  Thanks for all you’ve done and all you do, especially for making memories that will keep you with me forever.

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Loss is a tragic thing, hard to understand, even more difficult to cope with.  The loss of a child is unimaginable.  My palms grow sweaty and my heart pounds at even the thought.  Maybe that’s what makes it hard to know what to say or what to do when someone loses someone they love.

I love words, writing them, reading them, thinking them. When it comes to grief and grieving my words almost always fail me.  “I’m sorry” is honest, but seems so empty and hollow.  I want my words to fix things or to make a positive difference, but instead they are left hanging.

I know people who have lost children and today, one of them passed this article along. She said that she could relate to every point in it. With that recommendation I thought it was a good place to start. I hoped that it would help me in future situations and I believe it will.

What I Wish More People Understood About Losing A Child is a short but excellent guide to supporting people who are going through one of, if not the worst experience in their life.  It’s not only the loss of a loved one, but the loss of their child. As parents, none of us start out by thinking one day our children will leave this earth before us.

Paula Stevens lists 5 things that we can do to help those who are suffering with inconsolable grief.

  1. Let them know that you remember their children, and celebrate them.
  2. Know you can’t fix the grief, but you can be a patient friend.
  3. Birthdays and the anniversary of the death will always be tough days that they will always mark and struggle with, even if they don’t talk about it.
  4. Happiness is a struggle every single day, even when wearing a smile.
  5. Accept that their grief probably makes you uncomfortable, and that’s ok. It’s not supposed to be comfortable.

We will never forget our child. And in fact, our loss is always right under the surface of other emotions, even happiness. We would rather lose it because you spoke his/her name and remembered our child, than try and shield ourselves from the pain and live in denial. Paula Stevens

Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness.  It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.  The only cure for grief is to grieve. Earl Grollman

Maybe putting words together doesn’t have to be as hard as one might think.

“Your child was a sweetheart.  Everyone who met him just could not stop talking about him.  He is going to be relentlessly missed by everyone.”

And when words fail us, hugs and quiet company seldom do.

Edit 25Mar2015

The Kindness Blog shared a story today called When a parent loses their child, there’s really not much, if anything, that can bring them comfort.  It’s about what one family did as part of their grieving in order to honour their little boy who passed away.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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image from Shari Okeke/CBC

image from Shari Okeke/CBC article

“I learned that people are much more accepting even though there is hatred in the world, because I have experienced that. I learned that people are very OK with [who I am] and I should be OK with it, and that’s what the LGBT Club has helped me understand. It is OK to be ‘different,’ ” Bry said.

via Bry Bitar, Montreal LGBT teen, sparks school uniform revolution – Montreal – CBC News.

This really made my day on so many levels. First of all, they are only 13 years old.  Just goes to show how strong people can grow when they are supported. Sure I know some of us are stronger just by nature, but I think we’re all aware of how even a strong person can be hurt and feel diminished.

I also love that Bry doesn’t adhere to labels. Labels always seem like such a good idea, until they paint us as someone or something we aren’t. Suddenly everyone else falls for the label, and then sometimes we end up believing it too. I’m quite all right with the pronoun “they”. Let’s face it, using he or she in this case doesn’t actually tell the whole story does it? Maybe that’s exactly the point. We’re forced to look beyond a label. Using they makes us take a second look and reconsider our assumptions. For those who would suggest ‘it’, I agree with a commenter who explained that he, she, and they refer to people, but ‘it’ is used to refer to objects, things. Using ‘it’ in this case would also give a very poor message.  I think ‘they’ works just fine.

In my opinion I see a youngster who not only has an opinion, it’s a well thought out opinion and a well articulated one at that.

However, getting to this happy place, this place of support and love didn’t come easily.  It had many tough patches, a dark side that many people who are considered ‘different’ know all to personally.  At Bry’s other school they weren’t accepted and things became unbearable.

“I became depressed, like severely. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I thought everyone hated me…. I did become suicidal and I attempted, but thank God nothing happened because I’m better today,” Bry said.

Bry’s parents and Royal West Academy in Montreal are proving to schools, parents, students, community and the world at large that change is possible. It’s not only possible, it’s needed.

Bry’s father explained that when Bry finally discussed how bad things had gotten at the other school Bry it was like a weight lifted, “I could see it in his face what a big relief it was for him.”

The LGBT club at the school is a safe place where the students are accepted and build community.  It would appear that the school takes their students seriously and does more than tolerate differences, they advocate accepting differences.

Recently Bry approached the school about wearing the girls’ uniform and even Bry was a little surprised when the school agreed. They are willing to look at options and ideas openly.  Their goal appears to be inclusion wherever possible. Navigating this territory is new for most of us, this school is appears to be doing an admirable job, just like Bry’s parents.

It’s not all rosy, not everyone in the community is as accepting or tolerant.  The safety Bry feels in school isn’t always available outside the walls.  But Bry isn’t letting those potential dangers stop them from being who they are, a cool kid who wants to live life, have fun and do some good in the world.  Now what’s wrong with that?

By supporting our children in their differences, in becoming who they are meant to be, we are setting the world stage for every person to be all they can be, to help others, to make the world a better, kinder, happier, accepting place where we can achieve anything.  Why? Because instead of extinguishing their light we let it shine brilliantly.

I truly hope that more communities, schools and parents take the lead from Montreal’s Royal West Academy and Bry and his parents.  The alternative is losing these brilliant lights that could provide so much.  Not a viable option.

If you have a story you’d like to share about support you’ve received as a LGBT person we’d love to hear it. Shine on and Rise Like Air. You’ll find your way.

edit 21mar2015

Raising My Rainbow shares another story about a 17 year old named Morgan whose school has not proven as supportive in accepting differences. The story has sparked #ClothingHasNoGender.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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Bullying and the potentially horrific results from it, have played out across media graphically. It’s a subject most of us are aware of, but few of us truly feel comfortable or capable of adequately addressing the issue that has plagued us, probably in one form or another, since the beginning of time. The Huffington Post recently ran the piece I Was The Maid Of Honor For The Girl I Bullied Mercilessly For Years.  Author xoJane admits to being bullied and then becoming a bully herself, something that’s not that uncommon.

So it was pretty great for me when Flick showed up in school. Finally, I wasn’t the biggest weirdo in town. I was pretty relieved everyone seemed to be bored of picking on me, and had moved on to something else.

And, as is unfortunately the case in too many schools,

In my school, tormenting others was the top social currency. I soon realized that not only did I need Flick to distract people from my own inadequacies, but if I joined in with everyone else, maybe I’d finally be accepted.

And while wounds may heal, as my mother loved to remind me, the scars may not fade away.

Years later and eating dinner at Flick’s house, her kid sister burst out, “Didn’t you used to bully Flick?” As I sat, frozen in shame, Flick replied, “Yeah… how embarrassing for her!” She winked at me, a familiar expression. That night, I gave her a long-overdue apology. “When it happened to me, I wanted to die sometimes,” I said. “Yeah,” she replied. “I know what you mean.”

It reminded me how complicated reality can be, victim, perpetrator, the lines can easily become blurred. Stress, fear and trauma can do strange things to very ordinary people. At least for these two best friends, past transgressions didn’t stop a true friendship from blossoming.  It was refreshing to read such a candid and honest experience that resulted in a very happy ending.

Not long after reading that piece, some friends and I were discussing a video  shared with us on Facebook. While bullying is a tough subject to deal with death is one a great many of us try to avoid or dance around completely. Suicide is even harder to face. This senior project created by Kenzie Marcigan riveted us to the screen while shredding our hearts. We each related to this video for our own reasons.

I’ll warn you up front that it is rather raw and heart wrenching. It brought every parent’s fear to the surface; the possibility of losing a child because they’ve given up on themselves, believed the lies other people have tormented them with, or maybe that they’ve tormented themselves with.

One of my friends shared an insight and it kept running through my mind for the rest of the day so I thought it was worthy to share.  The emphasis in the following quote is mine.

So very sad. I was bullied in Middle and High school. I was just the new kid who moved there, but I never fit in with those who grew up together. I had abuse at home and at school. And I too tried to kill myself more than once.

I’m so very glad I was never successful because I would have missed so many wonderful things that came after those terrible school years.

But kids need to be held responsible for their actions and have severe punishment for what they say and do. I was mean to one girl in collegeeven knowing how awful I felt when others were mean to me – and 30 years later I still feel bad about it, but she is no longer here to apologize to. So I strive to do better every day. ~ name withheld by request

Bullied, just the new kid, never fit in, abused at home and at school all becoming too much and creating the sole desire to make it all go away for ever.  But when it gets overwhelming and you can’t find a way to cope, or to make it go away, you decide there is one thing that you can make go away.  Yourself.

Experience doesn’t necessarily develop empathy or compassion. We know that the abused can become abusers.  For many of us who have been bullied though, eventually, even if we’ve bullied someone else, the seeds of empathy and compassion often slowly sprout and we grow from our experience, but live with the regret of our actions.

As for our friend, I have to say I’m so very glad too. Words of truth, “so many wonderful things that came after those terrible school years.” There are a lot of us who value this person, I’d hate to think that those horrid times in middle and high school may have robbed us of an opportunity to call them friend.

And that’s the thing, I’m willing to bet that every single person who has given up on themselves would ultimately find a loving, welcoming place, if only they could find the will to wait, to realize there is more beyond where they find themselves right in that instant, even when the instant feels like eternity.

Why do so many of us feel compelled to refer to at least a portion of our school years as “terrible” or “horrible”. Why is it still so and for how much longer must it remain so?

Close the door to your past, open the door to your future. Take a deep breath and step through to a new life.  Unknown

Close the doors that cause you pain, anger and suffering so you can open the ones that bring you love, acceptance and inner peace.  Unknown

They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. Uknown

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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