Saturday, December 19, 2015

Writing and erasing

Writing and erasing...more writing and more erasing what I wrote. That seems to be the story of my life..wanting to go back and forth to change the past. I can't change what I've been through in the past 10+ years, but I can share it with the world in hopes that it will help someone speak up and reach out to those who love them.
They say the pre-teen/ teenage years are tough..your body starts to grow and change and your hormones go up and down, you start high school where having big or small boobs suddenly matters, friendships end and begin, you start trying to figure out your feelings and who you're meant to be and what you're meant to contribute to the world.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/ teenage years is that suicide becomes the second leading cause of death. According to The Jason Foundation, more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes you fall victim to a devious depression who tells you that your worth is equivalent to the scum on the bottom of your shoe.  
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes you find yourself in the school bathroom, razor in hand, and blood swiftly running down your arm as you attempt to gain relief from the demon in your head telling you that you don't matter to anyone. You're wearing long sleeves but the shit hits the fan when the blood starts to seep through your gray school shirt. 
"Oh, that? It's just marker residue from art class..I'm such a klutz!"
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes Google isn't just for researching school projects. Sometimes its used to desperately search for "painless suicide methods", "how to successfully kill yourself", "why to stay alive", etc. You breathe a sigh of relief that there are hundreds of posts from others who seem to be in your shoes, wanting to end their pain like you.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes you get on the school bus at the end of the day hoping its the last time. You're going to go home and try to take your life with a method you researched on Google..and it better work because you're tired of living a lie.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes you need to go back to school wearing a turtleneck only because that damn rope left you with burns and nothing else but a weary beating heart and a dizzier head than before.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes methods work and kids die before they're able to drive a car, fall in love, go to college, or even go to that family party they seemed so excited about.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes these signs aren't clear. Even though many sufferers show signs, some do not until it's way too late.
The first time I thought about taking my life I was 13 years old and getting ready to graduate into high school. The last time I thought about taking my life was last week.
What they don't tell you about the pre-teen/teenage years is that sometimes suicidal thoughts don't end at the pre-teen/teenage years.
What I am telling you right now is that suicide is preventable. It's not always as clear as falling grades, increased/decreased sleeping/appetite, or any of the signs something may be desperately wrong. Sometimes it's a smiling face, sunny disposition, good grades in school, and what looks like a bright future ahead. To them, it's bleak and unimaginable to take another step through a world that has brought nothing but struggles and tears. 
Depression is a brain disorder. If you've lost someone to suicide, you need to remember that what plucked them so suddenly from your life forever was most likely a chemical imbalance in their brain. Depression is just like cancer--it can go into remission with proper treatment or it can take your life. If someone told you they had cancer, would you dismiss them and tell them to "get over it"? Would you laugh and tell them so many others have it worse than them? I hope and pray that you wouldn't, so why say those things about an illness that mirrors cancer in so many ways? No one chooses depression, just like no one chooses cancer. But why shower one disease with rallies, support, gifts, fundraisers, etc. and turn your head to the other? 
This is called stigma and if you fit the bill for turning your back on something as severe as depression, you are part of the problem. You are part of the reasons why some people don't reach out and ask for help. What our job as people is to help, not hurt. Your words can cut like a knife or help to heal a broken brain. Which would you choose if it were your child or loved one?
Together, we can help stop the stigma. You can help stop the stigma right now. 
Share this blog with someone new today. Ask a loved one how they're feeling and really listen. Make it clear to them that they can tell you if anything is wrong and you won't turn your back on them or judge them. Remember, a smiling face does not equal a happy heart. Take the pledge today to be willing to help and remember that SPEAKING UP does save lives!!
This entire post was written by a young lady named Melissa Ann. We connected on Facebook and I asked her to share her story. She had such an impact on my life after just a few short conversations. She took time out of her day to make memory pages of Sara for me. She is talented with photos. She listened and reached out. She struggles and fights every day with her own battles. She is brave in sharing her struggles. We are blessed to have her in the fight for breaking the silence. Speak up!!!! Know that you are not alone. Special thanks to one beautiful young lady -Melissa you inspire me and thank you for being raw and transparent in your words. Much love lady and to making a difference in the world. Also there is a donation link if anyone is interested in memory or honor of Sara. All proceeds will go towards suicide prevention and things in her honor. In lieu of Christmas presents, we have started a scholarship that we hope to roll out next year, all you have to do is donate through the blog or the paypal link. Thank you for ur support. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Holidays are coming and I am trying to prepare myself for what feels like the apocalypse. I feel like I should be stocking up on food and weapons for the war inside my head but I struggle to when I can’t find the strength.  It’s this pending doom that is thrown in your face. You stand up and something kicks you to the ground. You go to protect yourself but your usual tools are defenseless in this battle of grief.  Christmas was our favorite time of year…the one time of year everything was about our want to make others happy and our excitement for truly spending time making other people smile but most of all our traditions and our time together.  15 years of the same things tweaked and perfected. Holidays were something that we would look forward to and planned out months in advance now seem like to the most horrible and traumatizing experience one could face after the loss of a child/loved one. While everybody wants to be happy and cheerful and do good things for others while grieving parents are left feeling lost, broken, envious, jealous, angry, frustrated, and filled with more emotions than one can really handle. For the last 15 years that Sara was alive, we have built traditions upon traditions. My earliest memory is of her and I during the holidays. More than half my life, I was a mom. Now at the young age of 34, I no longer was a mom.  I feel as though someone has taken that from me. Now I am faced with holidays and first….but how can this be how can my beautiful smart daughter be gone…..Some of our holiday traditions would be to go to the Oak Park mall and pick out ornaments with our names on them…one for her, one for me and one for us it usually turned out that there would be five or six in our cart before we left the mall but we didn't care we loved Christmas ornaments and we love spending time together. We loved personalizing the tree with things that we liked. Another tradition lost is that every year we would make hundreds of chocolate covered pretzels, tons of pumpkin fudge and hundreds of cookies to deliver to everyone we knew. We would even ship yummies to people.  While we were baking, I was Mrs. Clause, costume and all.  She was Elf 1 and my very dear friend was Elf 2. We have hats and aprons to match. There hasn't been one Christmas Eve that I've spent without her.  There hasn't been one Christmas morning that I haven't seen or experienced with her. She was my other half…my mini me…she was everything; she was my world, as I grew up as an adult she grew with me. She made me a better mom and a better person. Christmas Eve- we would have Grandma’s special recipe hot cocoa and open up a few presents that were always new pajamas.  

This year there will be no pajamas under a tree. This year there will be no tree full of ornaments that we picked out together.I just cant find the energy to do any of it. This year every tradition is broken and tainted with regrets and what ifs. Memories are replaced by flashbacks.  Sara had a huge heart and wanted to make other smiles with treats. We would do everything we could to give back to others.  One year we even dressed up as Mrs. Claus and an elf at Wal-Mart as bell ringers, we raised over $250 in 2 hours. We just wanted to make an impact on people’s lives. She was always baking and cooking.  We were always trying to do for others and help people see that there was good in the world.  I am struggling to hold on to that good in the world. When I tell people I'm not doing holidays the look at me shocked or decide to tell me 10 reasons why they think I should do them. I try to explain that the world is not as bright right now for me anymore. That this world has lost someone so great it's doesn't see the full impact of the loss yet. Usually I get asked how did she pass, I do not feel ashamed to share my story and she is worth every bit of effort I have left and I often say I am not doing holidays this year which prompts people to ask why. I explain that I lost my daughter this year and I’m just not feeling it. Then the “oh I'm sorry. Was it cancer?”  At first I would struggle with this question as it creates an uneasy feeling when I say nope, I wish. And then say no she died by suicide. It’s then that I could see the stigma associated with suicide cross there face. So now when someone asks me how…I say she lost the most courageous fight against her brain. She lost the battle in July because she didn't tell anyone. She fought in silence and finally succumbed to her illness. She died by a self-inflicted wound. She died by suicide. As I'm telling them this, I see their eyes change. It's at this point that usually they want to share a story of their struggles or someone they love lost to this epidemic called suicide. It’s a small win when I can see a bond made between two people sharing a heartfelt moment and bringing light to suicide.  While I will never agree with her choice and I don't agree with her remaining silent. I also don't agree with somebody pre-judging the situation or the little girl they may not understand. So I will be happy to educate them. So as you are preparing for your holidays, remember that it’s about the moments and memories, not the gifts and the greed. 

Remember that there are people out there with holes in their heart and nightmares in their minds. Remember that you can make a difference if you choose to, doing nothing just hurts and makes us feel more alone and rejected. Don’t ask us what we need as we cant tell you. What we need is gone. Maybe ask us what we could use or just do something? It could be really simple or really hard but you will never know unless you try. Trust me Words and actions matter. What difference will you make this year for someone else? Ask yourself what can you do to help the loved one who is hurting…What does someone else need that you could do to help through this rough time…send them a card with a favorite memory of the loved one who was lost (we won’t get any more memories of our loved ones and our memory right now isn’t working, write them down for us so we can read them later), send them a text or a picture, send them something that reminds you of the loved one, say there loved one’s name (we feel like they will be forgotten), prepare them a meal (cooking while your heart is broken is hard, help them out), send them a small token to show them that you are there, make a donation in their name or honor. Just don’t do nothing. Nothing hurts and depression lies to us. It lies to me every day. It tells me that I failed as a mom. It tells me that no one loves me. It tells me horrible things that I know are not true. I have to fight those little lies which I am not equipped for most days.  Little tokens help those who like me struggle. Even if they push you away, that small token means a lot and when they are in a good moment they will go back to that. It will make them smile. Maybe send a grief Survival Kit.  I came across and thought it was a nice token. It included items with little tags attached to each thing. These are just ideas you can do more or less. I read about this lady doing this for someone else and leaving it on their front porch.
A bag of Lifesavers- "To keep you from drowning"
A bag of gold coin candy- "You're worth more than gold"
a bag of cotton balls- "To soften the road ahead'
A package of erasers- "to fix all the small mistakes"
Package of ear plugs- "to block out the things you don't want to hear"
Bag of rubber bands- "to stretch beyond your limits"
Giant paperclip- "to help you hold things together"
Bandaids- "to cover what hurts"
box of Kleenex- "to wipe away the tears
A book by Gary Roe called Surviving the Holidays Without You (any book really would help)
Gas card-“to get from one moment to the next”
Food Card-“to feed what’s been neglected”

The reality is that grief takes different forms on different days. Some days the anger takes over and all I can think about is the anger within my heart. It burns all the time. Other days, the pain of losing her takes over. It's a constant battle of stages of grief, just when you think that you are holding steady, a freaking wave of emotions sets you off. Even when you have a really good support system, you can find yourself struggling to stay afloat. So reach out during this holiday hell to someone. This is the time when it hurts the most and the lack of new memories attacks your soul. Someone one said to me recently that a mother who has lost a child is the meaning of true strength. Just because I am not standing doesn’t not mean I have fallen. I am crawling through hell right now trying to find the light. Extend the hand to someone who is also struggling. Extend a hug...just do something rather than nothing at all. 

Don't forget to share my blog as it's the easiest thing to do. You never know how my story could help someone else. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

4 Months-Scroll to the bottom and cast your vote

Nov 30th- marks 4 months. 4 months of hell since my baby girl ended her life. 4 months of therapy. 4 months of PTSD. 4 months of fighting to stay present. 4 months of the worst nightmare imaginable. 4 months of Panic attacks. 4 months of shakes. 4 months of total devastation for my family. 4 months of blame, guilt and what if demons attacking what's left. 4 months of wanting to crawl in a hole and stay there. 4 months of feeling alone. 4 months....but not one of those moments goes by without Sara in the front of my mind. She is my first thought, my every thought, my last thought, my hopes my dreams have been shattered by her choice. Now I'm faced with nightmares, regrets and what ifs but I choose to fight every day to make a difference. 4 months in what feels like an eternity already. I still have fight left in me. I hope you enjoy my video today to show support for Breaking the silence against mental illness and breaking the stigma. 

Friends and family, strangers who want to make a difference...
How else are we going to change the world...By talking about suicide...
We are selling shirts for suicide awareness. The funds raised/donated will be used for in honor of Sara to raise awareness and break the silence. We are trying to break the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Shirts are $25 adult small to adult 3X which includes shipping. $20 if you want to schedule a pick up. Bands are 2 for $5

Please email me at to order with the size ans shipping address.

Shirts/Bands must be paid for in advance via check or paypal. You can also make a flat donation as well. to make payment or donation. 

Many many hours of tears went into making this shirt special in her honor. We used Sara’s original drawings and favorite color purple. 

Thank you again for all your support through this very tough time in their lives.

Sara would love that this is helping others and love that it made a difference in the world!!! Just like she did all of ours.

Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids 
United in Partners!!!!!

It's time to ‪#‎CelebrateSara! As you all know, my daughter LOVED the Tennessee Aquarium and visiting the Penguins when she was in Chattanooga. The last day her Aunt and her spent together was at the aquarium, and she even put her occupation as "Loved penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium" on her FB page! Her nickname from her friends was "Bob" and it is time for us to get this baby girl named in her honor!! You can vote daily for each email address at the link below! VOTE BOBBER!!! LETS GET THIS PENGUIN NAMED FOR SARA!!!! Select the link below and go to penguin number 4 and then vote daily for BOBBER!!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Putting a face to such a tragic event I feel makes it more personal..makes it real for people. Sometimes unless the tragedy happens in your own life, you find yourself feeling sad but removed. What I have learned through my own conversations with outsiders is that some people still think that suicide only happens to certain groups of people.  The picture of the child above did not fit societies mold of someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts however we are learning more and more that there is no one who is exempt from this. Warning signs are a guide but don't wait to see signs before you ask those questions. So as you read this post about my beautiful, forever 16 year old daughter, I ask you to also think of how you can make a difference from talking to someone about suicide, talking about mental health, or sharing our story which could help someone else. I pray every day that no one else has to face this horror that so many of us face already. This post is all about things that she loved. I want people to see that Sara was an amazing young lady who had the world in her hands. She was loved and adored by many. Her legacy will be to help others find the courage to speak up and the hope to hold steady. 

More things she loved...
She loved air hockey. She would always stick her tongue out as she played. She loved DQ brownies but not the ice cream part. She loved DQ chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.  She loved to throw darts. She was very good. She love chips with salt. 
She  loved mango chicken from the mall. She loved making monkey bread with nanny. She loved cross words and she was really good at them.  She loved nacho cheese and chips from Taco Bell. She could eat 2 of them. She loved Hersey's kisses. She loved the claw games and would get tons of animals.  She love Anime; Hunter X Hunter and fairytail. She loved RWBY. She loved idol amimes like Aikatsu. She loved to play the game spoons. She loved to tell me "Mom it's chill" She loved to tease her friends endlessly.
She loved webkinz when she was little. We had at least 50 of them.  She loved to play the DS. She has 3 of them and tons of games.  She loved the DS game Fire Emblem. She loved books like the Percy Jackson Series, Hunger games, and anything that was a series. James Patterson was a favorite author. She loved nut crackers at Xmas time and penguins were her favorite of all time. 
She loved lots of board games such as Apples to Apples, Life, Clue and rummy-cube. She loved PANCAKES. She thought Pancake day should be a national holiday. She loved cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera. She liked turning the candles on and off with the remote. She was also a piro when it came to the fire pit. She loved playing with it. She loved Mr. Potato head when she was little.  She loved sock monkeys. She loved the classic Xmas movies like frosty the snowman. She loved butter. She loved cinnamon bread. She loved post it notes. She loved mashed potatoes. She loved magic tree house books when she was a child. She started reading her first books at the age of 3. Sara was a bright child who had the world in her hands but she struggled with anxiety and being perfect. She didn't want to be a burden to those around her by speaking up. If she only knew how much her life kept those around her going. She was our everything. Living without her isn't living most days but I am holding steady. I am holding on to hope to help others. I am set on her legacy not being defined by one moment in her short life but by the people who are impacted by her story. As her mother, I will not give up on trying to help others find there fight. Yes there are days where I feel dead inside but I have reached out to friends and family for help. To help me keep the human connection. The wounds I carry are so deep and raw right now that I am still needing lifted and helped. The first year after losing someone you love is so important to keep the human connection. I am finding my way. Thank you for reading and sharing my story. Thank you for taking a step in breaking the silence and helping remove the stigma from mental illness. 
SPEAK UP!!!!! 
Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids
United as Parents!!!!!!!

There is no immunity to suicide but there is information that offers protection when suicide is seen as an option SO get comfortable knowing your family's mental health and where to get help if or when they need it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

More than one

Since Sara died I've experienced so many symptoms of PTSD. Who would know what PTSD is and how it effects those around you, not me. I thought this was something that only soldiers can get and well I am no soldier. I was a mom, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a sister, a happy life which was all shattered that evening of July 30th.   Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard just to get through the day. I suffer from almost all the symptoms of PTSD. So much trauma has gone on in my 5'5 120 pound body. Things that I was unaware that I was doing until somebody pointed them out. I would shake uncontrollably. I would have these nervous ticks where I would pick at my nails or I would flick my wrist with my ponytail holder. Most of the time I was unaware that I was doing it but it allowed me to find some sort of grounding in the world where I struggled to find it. I felt numb. Beyond the flashbacks crippling me, I think the worst was the uncontrollable shaking that occurred I couldn't keep my hands still if you asked me to. The burning sensation that took over my chest and my stomach was crippling and I couldn't eat. There were days that I would go without food because I couldn't handle how the food felt in my stomach. Finding help was hard...finding the right person to talk to...finding the right treatment...I'm not sure where I would be if I didn't have an army behind me supporting and pushing me along the way. It's nothing short of a miracle that I am here today fighting for every step and every moment on this earth without her   Over the last few months my faith has been challenged. Every essence of who I am has been pushed far beyond anything I've ever experienced. I feel like I have been to hell and back but yet this journey is far worse than I've ever known.This journey is one that I'm not equipped to handle. This journey no mother, father, friend grandparent, aunt, uncle should have to deal with this way...this journey no one should have to walk in.  The day Sara died, more than one life was lost that life which ultimately impacts everybody who knows me and everybody who knew her. It's not without every ounce and every essence of who I am that I'm able to stand here today fighting in her honor. It's with the help of a fantastic therapist and a amazing support group that I have been blessed to be a part of that I am still here holding on. My own therapy is what you are reading here and now.  While I will tell you how much I love my family and how supportive they are the truth of the matter is that they walk the same shoes that I walk in and their weight is far too much for me to bear. I am where I am right now today because I made a choice to find help. I made a choice to ask people who came before me what they did in order to survive. I needed to know the secret path in this hell. That is where I learned about EMDR therapy and where I learned that there are no rules in grief. No one can judge me but God himself and to be honest God is not my favorite person right now. Therapy has been good and bad for me. Therapy allows me to face my flashbacks under supervision but it also forces me to face those same demons over and over again to the point of total exhaustion. Some days that therapy takes everything I am leaving pieces behind. I know that it's beneficial and I've seen the changes that it has taken just in a few short weeks but facing those demons over and over without relief. I used to have these buttons that were more intense and they were debilitating when I heard sirens or water, I froze, my heart started razing, and the total melt down would commence. It would ruin the rest of my day. I wouldn't be able to do anything else but cry. It was like seeing the scene all over again. There was no stopping it. It was like a Tsunami coming down on my head. Those buttons would trigger a catastrophic emotional devastation all over again leaving me ill-equipped and ill prepared to even open my eyes.  It presents a problem when hear sirens or water. You become frozen in fear, frozen incapable of doing anything, incapable of pushing on the brake pedal, incapable anything. After months of EMDR, my reactions are must less than they were.  I still get anxious when I hear sirens but thanks to my treatment it is less reaction. I didn't say no reaction just less. I am able to manage it. I have learned additional coping skills and mechanisms that will allow me to self calm without self medicating but there are times that self-medication has to take place. I have no other choice...grief  wins...PTSD wins...trauma wins. I lose the will and the ability to overcome and it's in those moments where family and friends help because I reach out and allow them to help me. I'm not afraid or ashamed to reach out for help and put all my struggles out there. I know people don't want to hear about other people's drama because everybody's facing their own but I assure you it can always be worse, even I know that. People always tell me that they can't imagine what I'm going through and I don't want them to but I don't downplay anybody's hell, my hell is my hell, you're hell is your hell, everybody has their own version. Everybody is forced to face things that they feel ill equipped for. I never thought I would face this and I never thought I would need to be ill-equipped to battle some of the biggest demons I've ever handled but I'm trying and I'm fighting every day. I fight for her and I fight for me. I speak out and want to break the silence. I want to be a part of the solution not the problem. While I may not be everyone's favorite guest speaker, neither was Martin Luther King. Do you think that he stopped after the first white person disagreed with his vision. No he didn't. He continued to fight for the things that he believed in and made changes in the world for the better. He stood against and fought in a time where not many changes happened easy or without issues but he never backed down. As I live and breathe, I will continue to fight so that no human decides that suicide is only choice. I have a dream where we are not judge by the things in our brain but lifted up and carried when the weight becomes to much to bear. So I continue to challenge you to SPEAK. Break the Silence which will help Break the Stigma. You can do this. Just start the conversation. 

Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. 
There are four types of symptoms:

Reliving the event

Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:
  • Hearing a car backfire
  • Seeing a car accident,
  • Seeing a news report of a sexual assault

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  • A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes.
  • A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants.
  • Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.
You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.
  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
  • You may not be interested in activities that you enjoyed in the past.
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

Feeling keyed up

You may be alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as increased emotional arousal. It can cause you to:
  • Suddenly become angry or irritable.
  • Have a hard time sleeping.
  • Have trouble concentrating.
  • Fear for your safety and always feel on guard.
  • Be very startled when someone surprises you.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms also may include:

  • Physical symptoms for no reason you can think of (called somatic complaints).
  • Feelings of shame, despair, or hopelessness.
  • Difficulty controlling your emotions.
  • Problems with family or friends.
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behavior.
  • Changed beliefs or changed personality traits.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I felt her

Sunday night 11/8/2015, I dreamt of her. This was the dream that I was waiting for. I just wanted to see her face again and not in a picture.  I was in my dream her dad was coming to pick something up of hers from the house or give me something I can't remember which one but he was upset about it being wet. The stuffed animal of some sort was wet. I don't know how or why. As I turned around she was there...she looked beautiful!!!! She looked like nothing was wrong, not like the last time I saw her face. Not like my nightmares before. I noticed she was a little taller. I believe she was in jeans and a yellow shirt. She gave me the biggest hug and in my ear she said I love you mom! I heard it clear as I am breathing right now. She said I miss you and I'm sorry. I didn't yell at her. I didn't even want to.  I just hugged felt like the best hug. It felt real.  I remember her saying something about the score 3 and that she should've been ok with her 3. What many may not know is that Sara received a test score before she passed and it was not the score she wanted. She didn't tell any of us that we had to find that out through digging and searching after her death. In the dream she went and sat in a chair in the living room with her phone and I remember trying to take a picture saying that no one will believe me that you are here and she looked at me and said "mom you can't take a picture here." I said out loud "no one will believe me that you are here I need to take a picture" she looked up and she smiled and she had the most gorgeous smile in the world. Oh how I longed for that smile again. I woke up feeling like this had all been a bad dream and that she was going to be in her bed. That my nightmare that I was living was about to be over...yet that was not the case. For a moment, I felt safe again. For a moment, I felt like this was all a big lie...and then the reality demons hit I tried desperately to go back to sleep. All I wanted was to see her face. To see her again. To be with her. Sleep I kept telling myself sleep damn it. I begged the air to allow me to sleep again. I begged her to wait just a little longer for me to meet her in my dream again. I asked her not to no luck I was not able to get back to sleep and I spent the day with a very heavy heart...I will continue to believe that it was her in the dream and she came to me to help me find something. She gave me the courage to keep going.  However this next dream was one that I am still analyzing as I sit here...

Monday night, I was excited to go to sleep in hopes that Sara would come back and talk to me so that maybe I could get some more answers from her. Maybe then I could understand why and how I failed her but understanding doesn't bring her back. Nor does taking the blame for her actions. Acceptance isn't something that I can offer her. There will never be a time that I will be okay with losing my daughter. Never will there be a time that my heart beating longer that hers will ever be I laid down to bed I tried to clear my mind and be open to whatever came to me...I surprised to wake up to another dream with someone I loved being in it...someone who was also an angel...however this dream had my grandmother in it. Not a big deal except this grandma died when I was 16 years old and never not once have I dreamt of her until now. Last night Grandma Williams came to me but it wasn't like she was talking to me like Sara did. Sara hugged me and told me that she loved me.  This was clearly something else and it means something. I'm not sure what. In the dream I was in her old house off of 24 HWY in MO. In the dream, I needed to take a shower for some reason. After Sara died, showers were a button for me. Hearing water would send me into a full on panic attack rendering me useless for the next 12 hours. However in the dream, water was no issue for me.  Someone kept telling me to hurry that grandma didn't have much time but in my mind I needed to finish this shower. Grandma was going to help me understand something. Turns out that she was trying to help me understand irrational numbers or irrational fears. I'm not really clear on the message of this dream. In the middle of her talking to me in her bedroom of her house, I hopped up and went to get my cell phone out of the shower.  It was wrapped in the shower curtain. In the bathroom there was two showers one being like the old claw tubs.This did not look like any bathroom I have ever seen.  I remember in the dream stepping out of one tub into the other but no clue why. It was like each tub had a separate purpose. I remember that grandma was going to tutor me in math with something irrational. She looked amazing as the last day I saw her alive. Never since her death in 1998 has she come to me. I have no idea what this dream means or why my grandma is coming to me after all this time. I can only guess its because they can see the horror I face every day and are trying to help keep me grounded to this place.

I have never dealt with loss of this magnitude so I am not prepared to understand what I can not see or feel. However I can only hope that tonight I will have another dream to help bridge some of the gaps that I have with things. I feel like I will spend forever in the dark fighting to see the light.

Thank you for reading my story...for sharing my story and for supporting me in my fight to make a difference in the world in Sara's honor. It was overwhelming see how many hits my blog has gotten. I can only hope and pray that my tragedy is turning people upside down and inside out when it comes to talking about brain health.  If talking about this makes you uncomfortable, then keep trying. Keep talking until it becomes easier for you and those around you. You never know when someone is in the fight of there life.


Monday, November 9, 2015


Below is part of an article along with my own personal blogging. I have felt each one of these or done each one of these over the last 3 months.  I made comments in red after each section below. I will ask you to take the first step in helping cure mental illness stigma...share this post. It's not a fluffy cat picture or a happy baby picture, its a mother trying to save the lives of people all around the world. It starts with you and me. While I am not asking you to blast your own personal story I am challenging you to share mine. Ask yourself...could this simple action save someone? Maybe someone you love? Remember I was you thinking that it wouldn't happen to us...not the all american family with the brilliant child with her whole life in her hands....Have those hard conversations with someone you love or someone that seems to be struggling or maybe just have a conversation with someone. Remember that even the people who smile have their demons. Look at the picture of me...does it look like I have lost I look like I am mentally I look like I suffer every moment of every day with demons...does it look like I battle PTSD...does it? No I look happy but I assure you that is far from reality. I struggle and I am not afraid to share good days and bad days. I promise you that while this picture shows a smile, my heart was breaking at the lose of my daughter...the one I couldn't I beg you...share my story...

The loss of a loved-one or special friend to suicide is sudden and devastating. Some professionals refer to the healing journey in this situation as complicated grief. Through the efforts of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and many other local organizations, progress has been made to bring public awareness to the suffering of suicide survivors. 
1. Stigma and shame
Though many of us understand mental illness and the dynamics of depression, suicide sigma is still very much a factor in grieving this type of loss. Social stigma comes from a variety of influences:
>Both ancient and (some) modern religious views;
>The concept that it is not a "natural death;"
>The concept for that suicide is a crime and it's location a crime scene;
>The stigma already associated with mental illness;
>The blame and judgment survivors feel from others; and
>The guilt survivors feel about what they "should" have done differently.
The stigma and shame associated with suicide can manifest in a number of painful ways. Family members, police, funeral home personnel and other community members make subtle or overt judgment of survivors that ignores the reality of depression. Some family members may deny that a suicide has taken place. There may be efforts to hide the fact that self-harm is involved. A survivor's religious beliefs can be comforting but can also play a negative role in the family and community response. It is common for survivors to keep the secret of a family suicide for decades. I know survivors who attend group to process a parent's suicide 20 years before and describing various ways the family kept this information from them. Sometimes survivors find out by accident perhaps when an adult who was instrumental in keeping the secret passes away. Breaking the silence in a safe setting is a significant step. Whether this is in the group setting, individual therapy or with a safe friend, support can take the form of acknowledging the pressures a survivor feels to meet other's needs for silence and providing the safe place for them to voice their feelings of anger, sorrow and shame.

I felt shamed by some people who were afraid to talk about suicide...about Sara. I have people who I have know for years who lied to their own families about how Sara died. As you can tell I am one for breaking the silence and sharing my story regardless of how it makes people feel.  

2. Regrets – If only I had done this, seen this . . .
In addition to the normal emotions of grieving, survivors feel shock, guilt and responsibility. The nature of a suicide loss is that it can sometimes but not always be prevented. Loved-ones who die this way sometimes keep secrets about how badly they were feeling and some never fully understood the depression they suffered. Sometimes loved-ones sought and received treatment but did not get relief (treatment-resistant depression). Despite this, survivors can become obsessed with all the ways they might have prevented this act.
"What if I had taken them to the hospital? What if I had listened more carefully? What if their doctor had changed their medication? What if they had taken their meds as prescribed. I should have been a better parent, spouse or friend."
Resolving this issue is one of the greatest challenges in the healing process. The truth many survivors eventually come to understand – is that there is generally no one key action or event that could have guaranteed a change of events. Logic and rationalization is not generally helpful here. Survivors move to this realization over time.

Oh Regrets are the worst...I have literally mind f@cked myself trying to figure out how I missed this. How I could not see all the signs. I know about suicide and depression. I lost my father to sucide in 1989. I know what to look for. Then I start to pick apart every thing I said and did over the last 16 years. I have been told it can take years and years to accept the realization. 

3. Detective obsession
Many survivors experience a transient "detective" obsession where they spend time gathering information; visiting the death scene; speaking those who had last contact with their loved-one; retracing the loved-one's steps; and generally seeking every detail surrounding the suicide. The idea is that if they gather enough information, it will all make sense. The typical scenario, however, is that there are always unanswered questions about the events of the days or weeks leading to the event. Finally, the question that can't be answered except in a personal--spiritual way is: Why did this happen to me? Telling a survivor to stop focusing on these facts or questions is not helpful. Gaining comfort with unanswered questions is part of the gradual healing journey. As long as the obsession does not overtake obligations to family, work or self care, it will shift over time.

Oh yeah totally guilty...I am still in this moment from tracking down the detective that contacting my own personal collecting all the details...every last one that I could find...I would leave nothing to the imagination...after all nothing could be worse than the nightmare I face every time I close my eyes. 

4. Telling the story
A major healing component of the group process is that survivors have a chance to tell the "story" of what happened to their loved one and what they are going through. Because of their guilt and the social stigma survivors may have no other safe place to discuss this or fully debrief the event. Part of the story includes the events of the day they learned of their loved-one's death but the story evolves. Survivors report that as the whole story is told over time, it becomes less about the facts and details of the death as it is about the story of their loved-one and their own healing journey. This "telling" can initially be gory with details that others may not be comfortable with. It is not helpful to pry and ask a survivor to talk about this when they are not ready. It is helpful to be prepared when they are ready with gentle/nonjudging encouragement. The first "hearing" for a group facilitator may be during the pre-screening interview before a survivor joins a support group. This provides an opportunity for the screener to hear the story and provide support and guidance about the telling the story in the group. For facilitators or therapists, listening without judgment is essential to build participant trust.

This is also something that helps me is when I am allowed to talk about it or when someone asks me about my loss or even really cares how I am doing...Its healing for me to talk to people who knew Sara or who also have been where I am today. I find comfort in those who can give me guidance on this hell. 

5. Keeping control of feelings
Because the healing process is long with significant "downs" and hopefully, an increasing number and duration of "ups," it can be difficult to keep emotions in check as survivors go about their work or just their daily routine. Survivors describe the overwhelming feelings of deep sorrow that come upon them suddenly. It may be watching a mother and son interacting at the store, coming across information about marriage, or during a training program at work. Survivors also express embarassment when this happens long after the death occured in anticipation of some judgment by others or their own feelings that they should be finished with these kind of tears by now. The fact is that these episodes will continue for most survivors for a very long time. It is important for survivors to feel supported that this is part of a healty and "normal" grieving/healing process and that it doesn't mean there is something wrong with them. Further, it is helpful for survivors to feel empowered to control some aspects of their surroundings to avoid constant reminders. This is more difficult early in the loss but gets easier over time. Friends and coworkers can provide support by listening to cues about whether the survivor "wants to talk" when this happens and when the survivor wants to "keep it together" and wait until a more private moment to let the tears flow. For survivors who don't normally show their emotions to others, this phenomenon can be especially troubling.

Oh I call these buttons...they hit you without warning. There are times where you cant stop the feelings or the reactions. Mine happen to be shaking...I shake uncontrollably and I hate it. It cause me to become more upset when someone points it out.  It's also apart of what I have now which is PTSD. I never knew what it really was until now. It feels like living in fear every moment of every day. The moment your phone rings when it shouldn't sends you into a panic full blown attack. 

6. "Odd" ways to sooth
Survivors sometimes develop means of comforting themselves that can seem odd to non-survivors. Examples: a mother whose son killed himself by firearm keeping the bullet on a chain around her neck; a brother might keep the weapon used in a suicide; or parents might keep blood-stained clothing. Sometimes families argue about whether to clean blood stains off the floor. Another question is whether to move from the house where the event occurred or to renovate or change the room where the death occurred. The idea of holding on to objects is a common general grief response but suicide is sudden and sometimes violent. Group facilitators and individual therapists must be prepared for these disclosures and to listen without judgment. Early on, survivors have difficulty separating their need to comfort themselves in these ways from how some people may react to the information. Providing affirmation of their right to choose the way to sooth themselves is helpful.
I have run into this issue as well but thankfully I have a husband who understands that trying to push me to do something that I am not ready for will only hurt this process and me more. So when I am ready we will address any of these things that I may have kept or not kept but that is only my one else's. No one will tell me what I can and can't do when it comes to things. Showing me love and understanding is what I need. Showing me that you really love me unconditionally so when I mess up...I get a free pass because my loss is so great normal reactions are not for the griever. 

7. Filling the void
Filling the empty space, particularly for a parent survivor, can result a powerful need to remove the pain. Deep sorrow about the fact that loved-ones are gone with no more chances for amends or reconciliation is very difficult to move through. There are adaptive and maladaptive ways survivors might use: from healthy support and self care to substance use and drugs. Encouragement for rest, taking a break from normal responsibilities and good self care is important. An underlying substance use issue complicates things and may escalate. For a few families, trauma and increased drug or alcohol use can create a chaotic environment that makes professional support for the grieving process difficult or impossible.
Thankfully I am very self aware and I have not filled my void with drugs or alcohol. I know what my limits are and I shut down when I can no longer handle what is being asked or what is needed from me. What people need to understand that grief is no rules or reason. Its often harder to tell someone what you need during this time as much as people struggle to reach out when they are having suicidal thoughts. What I have been greatly blessed with is people who randomly drop things off or randomly try to help with chores or cleaning. When you can barely take care of breathing, you forget everything. I can't express enough how blessed I have been with people who have reached out. Strangers and friends have stepped up when others have ran away. 

8. Creating a grieving ritual
Creating a "grieving ritual" is one way to get together as a family to remember the person who died. It can be helpful to show that a loved-one has not been forgotten and provides a comforting routine. The date might be the loved-one's birthday, the date of death or other significant date. These times can be difficult even several years after the death. Rituals can be simple, such as going to a location that meant something to their loved-one. It could be spending the day with a trusted friend talking about the loved-one. It may also be a more formal religiously sanctioned celebration. Challenges for survivors can arise in families with conflict where the religion has difficulty with the concept of suicide or where the fact of suicide is a secret from some members. When families will not follow the same ritual, individual survivors can create something personal. A sacred location such as: gardens, the shore or even the place where the person died are often mentioned as places survivors feel close to their loved-one. Survivors should be supported to craft rituals that mean something to them. As time goes on, this can be a day that survivors feel comfortable letting their sad feelings flood in and then resume activities after a time.
I am looking for ideas that maybe when people read this they can comment below on things you have done or seen or think would be a good idea. 

9. Individual grieving process
Each individual's grieving is unique; there is no correct way or accepted timetable for the grieving process though there are some common stages survivors may move through. Close friends and relatives may wish to "move on" or find it painful to discuss the suicide. This can transmit subtle or not-so-subtle messages to the survivor that because family and friends don't want to hear about it any more there is something wrong with them for wanting to process their feelings. Friends may suggest that the deceased's room be changed, that the family move or that the deceased clothes be given away. Comments about dating (when a spouse has died) or having more children (when a child has died) probably reflect the speaker's need to conceive of hope for the future. It is, however, insensitive to the long process of adjustment needed by the majority of survivors. The fact that others are moving on or see ways that the survivor might move on, can increase the survivor's feelings of islolation. Survivor support will include much, repeated reassurance that this is not their problem nor is it their role to make those around them comfortable. Another common scenario is for some family members to seek helpful support outside the family and for others to withdraw or refuse to discuss it. The ideal is for everyone to become more comfortable with the fact that differences exist and not to hitch one's healing to someone else's internal process or needs.
This is as true as a thumb print being only to you. My process is unlike anyone else's because its my process and every thing in my life prior to this event has impacted me in some way. While I understand that it may be painful for someone to talk about it. Its harder to pretend like its not in the fore front of my mind all the time. I can not think about everyone else during this time because I have to focus on what I need. It may seem like its selfish but its what I have to do to get to the next moment. Every day is a battle to keep going and having to carry someone else is nothing that a mother who is grieving can do for those around her. I have had a few people tell me or ask me if I plan on having more well I can't make it through a day so that will not fill the giant hole in my heart. Its very true that seeing others go on with life is hard to watch while I feel like my life is stopped. 

10. Blaming and family conflict
Family conflict is common among survivors. Family members can blame spouses or significant others when unhealthy relationships or a difficult break-up precedes a partner's suicide. I have seen overt blame for signs that "should have been seen." I have also heard of towns splitting with police and the deceased blood relatives on one side and those related to the deceased by marriage on the other. In extreme cases, survivors actually move to get away from this dynamic. Group participants typically come to learn that blame and shame are an expression of someone else's grief. Survivors can be supported to understand that they cannot be responsible for family member's anger or grief or the loved one's death. But this part of the journey is very painful. It is important for a loved-one in a family conflict situation to have a safe place to talk about the isolation and sorrow that comes with it. Here, the loss may not be just the loved-one, but friends, neighbors and others. Professional, individual counseling would be helpful in this situation.
Thankfully we have had none of this. No one has placed blame on anyone in the family. I own my own blame and my own issues with her death but no one has or will place blame on anyone in the family. It was no ones fault and her life will not be defined by the last moment she had. We will remember who she was and what impact she made in our life. 

11. Parental grief
While any loss by suicide is very difficult, parents feel a special position of care for a child who dies by suicide. The guilt and shock when a child or young adult is lost can be especially debilitating. Often survivor parents are unable to share their true feelings of shame except with other survivor parents. Particularly when a child is young, outsiders wonder how parents missed the signs –parents are supposed to keep their children "safe." In reality, no parent is with their child every minute of every day. Suicide by a child is so unexpected. I heard Frank Campbell, PhD, Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center, at a presentation indicate that family members are exactly the wrong people to rely on to see these signs clearly. According to Dr. Campbell, their love and hopes for the best for their children prevents parents from forming thoughts that children could actually be unsafe in this manner. In addition, children like adults, are not always honest about their feelings. They sometimes tell bits about how they are feeling to more than one person leaving no one individual with the whole picture. It is essential that facilitators and therapists provide a nonjudgmental atmosphere for grieving parents. Aside from participating in a group, survivor parents benefit greatly from contact with a fellow parental survivors.

This is one of the hardest for sure...the guilt you feel as a parent for not being able to protect your child. We are all in a place that this could happen you anyone. We need to bring attention to brain health as well. Mental health is just as important as physical health. One thing I am good at is sharing my feelings...good bad...raw they are there and in your face. I have no choice but to get them out of my head. If I don't my insides feel like they are going to explode from the inside out. I hope that you take a moment to talk about mental health in your home be it with your children or your loved one. Open those lines of communication..there are too many people struggling out there. No one is alone to fight in this world. We will speak!!! We will share our stories and we will make a difference by reading and sharing this post. 


1. Created by the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center, The History of Suicide, accessed June 2010 on the website of the Jacob Crouch Foundation
2. Sudak, Howard, MD, Maxim, Karen, MS, RN, and Carpenter, Maryellen, Suicide and Stigma: A Review of the Literature and Personal Reflections, Journal of Academic Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.: February 16, 2007
3. Office of the Surgeon General, Mental Health, a Report of the Surgeon General, Chapter One: Introduction and Themes: 1999, accessed June 2010

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Saving a Life one Step at a Time

So over the last few months, I have been trying so hard to make a difference in the minds of children and parents. I have met so many people who would rather hide their heads and pretend like this could never be them. I pray that is right every day. I have been trying to use my horror to educate those around me. It has been a constant battle between fighting for my own life and fighting to save those around me. You must put on your own oxygen mask before you help your neighbor is what they tell you on a plane. Same principle applies to grief.  However it’s in my battle to make a difference that I find the will to live and to go on. It keeps me mentally well and allows me to feel as though she will not be forgotten. I have learned that some people would rather go about their days and pretend like this only happens to bad people or people from broken homes. Let me assure you that Sara was not bad and did not come from a broken home. Suicide does not discriminate. Every 12 minutes, we lose another child, a human being to suicide. I want to be an advocate for mental health. I want to become a guest speaker someday where my story touches the lives of people everywhere. Kevin Hines is such an inspiration to me and recently I got to meet him in person. He is world renown for his constant fight to get the word out there about living mentally well and to educate others about suicidal thoughts. He has so many awards I can’t even name them all. Recently he visited all 5 schools in the Shawnee Mission District because someone cared enough to bring him here and touch the lives of other children. Karen and Steve Arkin lost their beautiful, smart and caring son Jason to depression in May of this year and since then they have also been advocates for suicide prevention. They have been instrumental in getting the word out there about depression and living mentally well.  Jason and Sara both lost their lives this year. They were both gifted children who had amazing potential.  They both loved penguins and liked to doodle them when they were young.  They both cared dearly for their friends and family. While Jason’s struggles were known to his family, Sara’s were not. Same ending but different paths and that is the point…suicide does not pick the person or family. Suicide is the result of a person losing the ability to fight the pain that they are feeling inside their heads. That pain can only be described as unimaginable. As many of you know, I am doing everything I can to keep getting the story out there about suicide, the signs to look for, and the questions to ask.  This is what I do these days in order to survive my loss of my only daughter.  In honor of Sara, Jason, and all the children who lost their battle, I will continue to speak up. I will continue to fight to make a difference. Over the last 3 months, I have been a guest speaker at a walk, helped bring Kevin Hines to all the SM schools, continued to push the schools to do more for the kids at Sara’s school from community meeting for parents to training for teachers to special support groups for the kids to bringing awareness to the PTSA that they had no resources on their website. Well I am happy to report that they do now.  I have written my senator and  the president, made shirts and bands to get the word out there, came up with an awesome name SPEAK which stands for Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids,  interviewed for a book about suicide, participated in the Out of the darkness walk helping raise money for suicide prevention,  and anything else that I can get involved in. Why you may ask? Because Sara’s life mattered more than her one choice she made that day. Because she will not be defined by her death but her death will educate others. Her death will open people’s eyes like they have mine. I started this blog a few months ago to help others who are like me suffering from a loss and to educate people about an epidemic that is taking our children. Below is the most recent post from the SM South Newspaper supporting a great cause and raising money for suicide prevention. The children see that things need to change in schools. They are the ones who are continuing to fight against the school demanding change. I am so proud of the hundreds of students who are fighting alongside me demanding a change and demanding something be done. Continue to SPEAK RAIDERS Continue to FIGHT!!!!! 

Saving a Life one Step at a Time

Claire Johnson
A group of South students made T-shirts and walked 3 laps to support the out of the darkness suicide prevention walk in honor of Sara Prideaux. Photo by Claire Johnson
Trevor Tolar, Heritage Reporter

Ignite officer junior Karina Siegrist participated and helped organize the event ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’  Oct. 3, a walk dedicated to suicide awareness.
“It took place at Berkley Riverfront Park, and we walked around 2 to 5 miles,” Siegrist said.  
Ignite Club was surprised to see as many students and teachers who showed their support.
“Our initial goal was$ 300 but we raised it to $1,000 because we were able to raise over $800 just inside of our school,” Siegrist said.
Sophomore Niki Chamberlain was not only there to walk, but also to help promote a  suicide hotline.
“I gave everyone I could a suicide hotline card with numbers on them, so that people can talk their way through their problems,” Chamberlain said.
Even though Chamberlain gave everyone the chance to get help she felt mixed emotions about the walk.
“I felt a depressive vibe giving off, but it also made me happy. It showed that people were not alone, the people who were feeling this depression were able to go and get help,” Chamberlain said.
People were not afraid to show their support in their time of mourning.
“If I had to say somewhere around 1500 to 2000 people participated in total,” Chamberlain said.
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