Sunday, January 22, 2017

                                                    A New Year and New Changes

     Happy 2017 to everyone!!  Whether you are a Democrate, Republican, on no party person at all, we know there will be change!  As we are well aware, change is hard and often times difficult!
     Since losing your loved one many changes have taken place in you.  Perhaps, you are more serious than you were before.  Maybe laughter does not come as easy as it did.  Your diet may have changed and you are eating things that may not be good for you or not eating at all. You may have a hard time saying goodby to people you love, for you have that constant worry you may never see them again. Feeling this way is normal and you are forever changed.  Change is not all bad and maybe you were quite happy the way things were before. However, change has made it way in your life and that is a hard fact for some.
     When I think back to whom I was before the death of our son, I don't recognize that person any more.  I took too many things for granted.  It's almost like I felt entitled to things.  I didn't take my family and friends as serious as I do now. I am much more appreciative of the things people do for me and in turn want to give back.
      Religion was something I turned away from.  I thought how could there be a God if he let our son take his own life. Since time has its own way of allowing us to understand or at least know there are somethings we may never understand I have returned to my faith. I will never understand why babies die or children get horrible diseases but they do.  Another thing I have always questioned is why some suffer with illnesses for a long time. There must be a reason even if it is unknown to me.
      We will never know why our loved one choose to take his or her life.  It has changed you and every relationship you have or had.  Unfortunately, we cannot turn the hands of time back but move forward.  Granted it's not easy...but things aren't.
       I wish you a good year and hope that you find some peace in knowing your loved one has found his or hers.  We only get one chance at life and I hope you will make it a good one.  Yes, you can grieve, you can scream, say things you don't really mean, be hateful to others, but at the end of the day when the sky has turned dark your being doesn't have to be dark too.
      It's not  easy to look forward to a new day and I hope that time, love. and patience will show you the way.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summertime 2016

                                                                Summertime 2016

      The days are longer, the kids are out of school, baseball is in season, lemonade stands are in the neighborhoods, and families are enjoying what summer brings. This has been a summer of violence in many countries including ours. The violence pinpoints people of color and many others who are killed by extremist religious groups.
      This summer has political views all over the news. Never before has their been so much political slander on candidates. I am sure this will continue until our next President is elected and who knows even beyond that.  Our country is in a bad state of affairs.       If you have recently lost a loved one by suicide perhaps the news isn't anything you care about and I can understand that. Just getting up and getting through the day is hard enough. For some, it has been awhile since your loved one's death and you are aware of the issues facing our nation.
     When a loved one dies by suicide, we are often times wanting to point a finger at someone or something that caused their death. Perhaps, even the word suicide is hard to handle.  Thinking that someone killed your loved one is easier than knowing he or she died at their own hand. They were their own judge and jury and condemned themselves to death. They didn't need political activists to end their life. They fought their own battles and lost.
     As a survivor you have a responsibility to your loved one as well as yourself.  Do not condemn yourself to a life of bitterness and aloneness.  People need each other and you will find that your life does have meaning.  Perhaps, a different meaning than before and you may have to look for it.  Don't just exist but make your time on earth mean something. Do something to help others. Volunteer your time in some way.  I certainly can't tell you what to volunteer for but I can tell you volunteering has helped me.  I realize that there are a great many people who cannot even leave their homes and to have someone come in and just read to them is a real treat.  Working at a food bank and sorting items can be helpful.  Volunteering time at your religious organization is another way of helping.  There are so many organizations in need of volunteers and would welcome your presence. It does't matter whether you give a day, a week, a month, or longer. What matters most is that you have taken the first step to reach out to someone else.
     With the state of our country, it is necessary we help each other. There is always someone who is much worse off than you. Why not give this a try? I just bet you will feel better.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Piece of Peace

A Piece of Peace

   Iris Bolton said in her book that there is a gift in a suicide. I wondered what she meant by that as I read it when Brett first died. I thought to myself, "Is this lady for real" and what can possibly be a gift in his DEATH.

Believe when I say that one has to look for the gift! Now that we are twelve years out from his death, I can look back and say that he is at peace and maybe that is his gift. Maybe I can say that we understand better where he was coming from and the turmoil of pain he endured had to be overwhelming. Maybe I can say that God had a hand in his decision. Maybe I can say, that helping others deal with a loss is a gift he gave to us. Maybe I can say he lived life on his own terms and died on his terms.

I know he took a piece of my heart when he made his decision and that life for us has changed. I value family time more, phone calls from friends are more important, and helping others deal with their loss. I'm not the same person and I would hope better.

There are however, those days that something or someone says something that reminds me of you. I may see a profile of a young man whose resemblance is you. When I see Moms with their little ones I am reminded of those special times.

As a result, each and every day I can make your death a gift to others by

  • Remembering to tell people what they mean to me
  • Enjoying life each day
  • Helping others
  • Loving others
  • Not staying in feelings of regret
  • Taking steps to embrace new things
  • Accepting differences
  • Not dwelling on feelings of sadness

And sharing pieces of me to bring peace to others

And I promise that I will for the rest of my life.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Life Can Be A Battlefield

    It's a good thing I don't write for a living as we would be eating a lot of Raman Noodles.  I am one of those people who has to be inspired and sometimes that inspiration comes sooner and sometimes later to share my heart.
    Just this week, we gave a presentation to social workers at Truman Medical.  I came upon a  piece of writing by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale who quoted a pastor by the name of Rev. Weston Stevens. This message was delivered at a service for a congregant who took his life. I began thinking about the battles our son and many others faced every day of his/her life.  This piece of writing gave some peace to me even ten years later when I begin to question did we really do all we could?
    Since I believe few things are coincidental, I was driven to share this.
Please pass on if you feel the message is important.

"  Our friend died on his own battlefield.  He was killed in action fighting a civil war.  He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is to us.  They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance.  They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and strength.  At last these adversaries overwhelmed him.  And it appeared that he lost the war.   But did he?  I see a host of victories that he has won!"
     For one thing, he has won our admiration, because even if he lost the war, we give credit for his bravery on the battlefield.  And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could.  We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindness, thoughtfulness, and through his love for family and friends, for animals, and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely, and honorable.  We shall not remember not his last day of defeat, but we shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years he had.  Only God knows what this child suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul.  But our consolation is that God does know, and he understands."

     Peace to those who died in battle;
     Peace to those who are left;
     May we try to understand those battles;
     And may we not harbor anger but understanding and love.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Journey

send this to a friend
American Association of Suicidology NEWS LINK
Suicide Awareness Survivor Support Missouri and Kansas: The Journey
By Bonnie L. Swade
When a loved one takes his or her life by suicide, the effects ripple like a rock tossed into the water; it reaches into the lives of family, friends, co-workers, and community. Numerous statistics can be found on age groups; gender; demographics; and financial, cultural, and religious groups, but the fact is that suicide knows no boundaries and no family is immune.
Many survivors who have lost a loved one by suicide often struggle with the never ending question: “Why?” The reality is that we can never comprehend the darkness and depth of our loved ones’ despair. We often thought that if our son had just stayed around a little longer, things would have gotten better and he would still be with us. We have come to the realization, though, that things may have gotten worse. No amount of love has the power to control another person’s thoughts or actions.
I have had many titles in my life: daughter, wife, mother, aunt, teacher, counselor, and volunteer. However, I never dreamed I would belong to the group that no one wants to be part of: suicide survivor. Nine years ago, we received a call from our youngest son. He told us that he found his brother unconscious with a rope around his neck. We were in Chicago at the time and the ride home to Overland Park, Kansas felt endless.
Not a word was uttered between my husband and I on the almost nine hour ride home. Brett was 31 years old when his life came to an end. We often refer to our life with him as a rollercoaster, from the time he was a toddler. He was the oldest boy (of four children) in a blended family, and he gave us numerous opportunities to practice our parenting skills. His sisters and younger brother had reason to feel slighted because so much of our focus was spent on redirecting him, encouraging him, and hoping that he would find his way. Brett experimented with alcohol and drugs at an early age. We tried therapy and other programs, but the fixes were all short-term. Thinking back, he was his own worst enemy and he sabotaged every success he had. It became evident that he was on a path of self-destruction. No matter how hard I prayed that he would find peace, it did not come. When it finally did nine years ago, it was not the peace I had prayed for. I felt angry at God for the way my prayers were answered. Suicide has a way of making one question beliefs, choices, personal worth, relationships, and just about everything in life.
One has a choice when bad things happen: to be bitter or better. My family and I chose to take this devastating, heart breaking experience and turn it into something better. As an educator, I had several students over the years who died by suicide. I never understood the depth of sadness or the feelings of guilt until suicide affected my family. Some people are quick to assume that suicide only happens in dysfunctional families. The stigma facing survivors and families is one of the main reasons that the Suicide Awareness Survivor Support-Missouri and Kansas (SASS-MoKan) came to be.
My husband and I started our non-profit to combat the stigma and shame associated with suicide and to foster a greater understanding and sensitivity when dealing with the traumatic grief experienced by suicide survivors. SASS-MoKan supports many organizations that raise money to research the brain and behavior. However, as a grass roots organization, it also focuses on assisting people in the local community. Our annual walk is the major part of SASS-MoKan’s fundraising. We have a small budget, but members of our board are dedicated folks with huge hearts to help others. Money raised at our walk helps fund our ongoing education, public awareness, networking, efforts to unite survivors, initiatives to reduce suicide, and support for survivors. SASS-MoKan assists area support groups with funds to purchase books and other materials needed to run an effective group. SASS-MoKan also offers a Holiday Memorial Service and Healing Day for survivors at no cost to participants.
Eight years ago, my husband and I started a support group for people who had experienced a loss of a family member or friend to suicide. When our group started, we had three or four attendees. It is now bittersweet that our group averages anywhere from 15 to 25 participants who meet together twice a month. We offer support and want others to know they are not alone. Even though each family is unique, some reactions among survivors are nearly universal; these include anger, guilt, depression, denial, and the search for why. Our support group works because it focuses on receiving support, strength, and understanding from others in a non-judgmental environment.
Nine years ago, we never would have thought our lives would go in this direction. There is not a day that goes by that we do not think about our son, miss him, and love him. Making a commitment to accept things we cannot change and helping others to develop resilience and optimism has helped us with our own personal growth.
To find out more about SASS-MoKan go to You can also become a follower of Bonnie’s blog at the website.
Bonnie Swade has been in the field of education for 40 years. She and her husband, Mickey, facilitate a support group for suicide survivors, and started a nonprofit organization called SASS-MoKan. The couple coordinates a community walk, as well as a Remembrance and Healing Day yearly. They lost their 31 year old son Brett to suicide nine years ago.
American Association of Suicidology 
5221 Wisconsin Avenue, NW | Washington, DC 20015
Phone: (202) 237-2280 | Fax: (202) 237-2282
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, provides access
to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Shades of Grief

  I have been thinking a lot lately of the many shades of grief that a survivor goes through from my experience.
      Perhaps, you will find a bit of yourself.  We have had almost nine years to experience the many hues. Believe me, when I say, we have been all over the spectrum.
Shade # 1 Black...deep, dark despair and not grasping the enormity of this new reality
Shade # 2 Deep black...floating in disbelief, shock, and denial
Shade # 3 Deeper black..sleeping, lack of appetite and hoping when I woke this had all been a dream
Shade #4  Deepest black..isolation, loss of interest in life, a sense of total aloneness and detachment
Shade #5  Bright Red...anger directed at myself, my husband, and God. I was angry at what we could have done, might have done, should have done, and how often I had prayed that our son would find peace. How dare God grant him peace this way!
Shade #6 Bright orange....not angry all the time but argumentative and wanting to lash out toward others when they complained about something trivial.  How could a lost grocery list remotely compare to my loss?
Shade #7 Charcoal gray....angry at returning to work, angry at others for getting on with their lives, and angry toward my family because they did not grieve like I was.
Shade #8 Navy blue..."Show time" at work that I was getting along better.  I couldn't wait to get into the safe haven of my car and cry all the way home.
Shade # 9 Deep green...moving through what I needed to and drowning in the vastness of grief
Shade # 10 Yellow orange...clouds lifted a few minutes at a time and then I felt really guilty for enjoying something.
Shade # 11 Black...How dare I think I should go on with life.  After all, our son can't enjoy any part of life.
Shade # 12 Blue..days of sadness but not the entire day.  I was able to forget for awhile and get into something else.
Shade # 13  Light blue... I began to make plans and get some future dates on the calendar.
Shade # 14  Deep Purple...I cancelled all plans and felt guilty for making them and guilty for canceling them.
Shade # 15 Deeper Purple...Now I felt guilty about canceling plans with friends.
Shade # 16  Deep pink...Putting something on the calendar and looking forward to it but thinking I could cancel if I had to.
Shade # 17 Dark green...Spring was coming with her dress of color and hope.  I loved the season, but I couldn't appreciate all the new life.
Shade # 18 Green...The warmth of the days came, and I could feel my moods lifting.  I began planting young flowers and filling our yard with color.
Shade # 19 Lime Green...The beautiful colors of early summer and more outdoor activity kept me more content and willing to get out and socialize more.
Shade # 20 Rainbow colors....My life is now made up of a myriad of colors and mostly bright ones. On some occasions, my colors have some tinges of black.  When that happens, I know I am not and never will be over what has happened and I don't criticize myself for that. I can appreciate the days as they come- one at a time.

     A saying I found and cannot take credit for but brought me some solace and maybe it will for you.
     "The more you dwell on what you don't have the more you get what you don't want. "

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Can Love Be Yours Again?

Can Love Be Yours Again?

By Bonnie Swade

          Spring is in the air and love is blooming.  Our pond has Mr. Frog who at night sits on his rock and croaks for his mate.  The flowers are emerging from the ground and all things are in “bloom mode” except for a suicide survivor.  Often times the feelings are I am unlovable and not worthy of love. It could be too that because we have experienced such a loss it may feel like betrayal.  A wife or husband feels cheated because all the future plans they made are now lost.  The loss of a child carries all the feelings of missed occasions such as not walking a son or daughter down the aisle, not seeing a graduation, never holding a grandchild of his or hers. Losing a parent to suicide leaves many unanswered questions such as “Why didn’t I know my mom or dad was feeling that way?” Anger comes because of missed family times and financial chaos to go through.  A sister or brother feels the loss in a totally different way. The loss of a sibling brings about all kinds of memories from childhood.  Losing a close friend too leaves feelings of guilt. Why didn’t I know? What could I have done? No matter the relationship of the person you lost by suicide, the feelings of despair and moving through life without that person seem unbearable.

          After the loss of a loved one, many emotions emerge. One of the stronger emotions may be I am not worthy to give or receive love. To compensate some survivors find comfort in overeating, overdrinking, doing anything to excess to dull the pain.  Others may go in the opposite direction and stop eating, taking care of themselves, overmedicating, and isolating themselves from others.  They feel a sense of guilt and shame and do not feel they have the right to ask others who love them for help. So, our feelings stay bottled inside and our relationships with others deteriorates.  We no longer feel we have the right to have a life when our loved one is gone.

           We do have the right to love and be loved.  That is what separates humankind from other species.  Yes, we do feel life is over and we cannot love again.  However, we cannot take on the actions or feelings of our loved ones.  Just like the flowers that wilt and die when the season is over, they break through the earth every spring and seek warmth from the sun.  Allow yourself to grieve, as we each have our own timeline. Seek the life you deserve and emerge from the darkness. Bring sunlight to your soul once more and thrive in your new you and love will follow.

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