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                      "SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE LOSS - NM"  :  Two (2) Meetings each Month at:

       Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church  - 1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque

               1st & 3rd Monday of Every Month   :   More information at   505 - 400 - 9942




April 2018


Written & Edited by Al & Linda Vigil


 ..........    Pg 1 : Grieving Notes - Al V.

...........     Pg 2 : US Suicide Rate Climbs to 30 Year High

...........     Pg 4 : Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss

...........     Pg 7 : "Time Heals All Wounds" - Rose Kennedy

...........     Pg 7 : "Suicide Survivor" - Dictionary Definition

...........     Pg 7 : Preventing Teen Suicide - Evidence Shows

...........     Pg 8 : Children and Grief

...........     Pg 12 : Grief Never Ends


Grieving Notes

by Al Vigil

Joline Gutierrez-Kruger, a featured columnist for the Albuquerque Journal,

lost her son Devin Glenn, by a heroin overdose in 2017.

She recently asked our response to some questions that she could relate to, and share with her readers, on the first one-year anniversary of his death.

We want to now to share them with you, just as Joline shared them

on her ‘Up Front’ column in March of 2018.

 1. What did you do to get through that first year anniversary of your loved one's death? Is what you did then different than what you've done in subsequent years? If so, how so?

Our middle daughter Mia, took her life on January 5th, so we tried to mark the first year anniversary of her death and first Christmas without Mia, at the same time. Linda fixed the special meal. Al placed the usual five chairs around the dining table. We sat down for Christmas dinner. There sat the father, the mother, the oldest daughter Melinda, and the youngest daughter Marlo ...and there sat the empty chair. We looked at each other and turned our eyes to the Mia Chair ...then tears started. It seemed that, we talked about our Mia for hours. We never ate. Later the Christmas/anniversary dinner was refrigerated or tossed. Thirty-three years later, we still set our dinner table with the empty Mia Chair. We no longer have that immense-overwhelming sense of deep grief. But we will always mourn her loss. The spirit that Mia became after her death will always be with us.

2. For those who are struggling with grief over the loss of a loved one, what is your best advice?

Forget the advice that some people will give you, "you’ll soon be over it" and that "they are in a better place" and that "you’ll be a better-stronger person." You have lost someone you deeply love and you are forever changed. We thank God, that with time, once again, a person with deep grief can learn to live, to love, and to even enjoy a movie. We will even welcome new people our their hearts. The time you take, and need to use to grieve ...is only yours to measure.

3. What is it about grief that those who do not experience it not know?

The loss of a loved one to death, is always unique to the person that experiences it. There is always grief and, in many cases, because of the type and the cause of the death, it can move into complicated grief. Example: death such by suicide, drug-overdose, murder, a very young person, and/or undetermined reasons. Grief in such manners, tragically has to be walked through with special shoes. Old shoes worn only by those who have walked that path before you. Old shoes that have stumbled, torn, dried, and been re-softened by your own flowing tears. You have to walk the walk ...to understand the walk.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Just like in the Grieving Notes of October 2017, we once again share the documentary about our Mia’s last days before her suicide. Collin Leslie, its producer named the documentary, "Letters From Mia"   and it can be seen on the Vimeo web-site.

                   To view, please copy line below and paste on your Internet browser line.



  - In Sharing and Healing, Al V.


U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High

APRIL 22, 2017

Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.

"It’s really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group," said Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser for health care at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who has identified between suicides in middle age and rising rates of distress about jobs and personal finances.

Researchers also found an alarming increase among girls 10 to 14, whose suicide rate, while still very low, had tripled. The number of girls who killed themselves rose to 150 in 2014 from 50 in 1999. "This one certainly jumped out," said Sally Curtin, a statistician at the center and an author of the report.

There are things we as a society can do as well. We need to make things safer for teenagers, which includes reducing their access to the means they might likely use in a suicide attempt. Also important, but more difficult, we need to promote connectedness and limit isolation. The best thing we can do for teens at risk is to prevent them from isolation and cutting themselves off from others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an evidence-based guide on how to prevent suicide. There are things the government can do, including strengthening economic supports, making sure families are more financially secure and have stable housing. The health care system needs to strengthen access to and delivery of mental health care, as well as improve our ability to identify and support teenagers at risk.

We have been failing to meet these goals too often when it comes to the media, guns and community.

The most public discussion around suicide this year centered on the Netflix series, "13 Reasons Why," adapted from the book of the same title. Supporters of the series argued that the show brought attention to teen suicide, and that it prompted more discussions of the issue — which would be a good thing. Many experts were concerned that the series glamorized suicide, though.

They were especially concerned because the producers chose to show the suicide in a long three-minute scene, where the protagonist slit her wrists in a bathtub. In the book, she overdoses on sleeping pills, and it takes place "off-screen."

Research shows that when the media focuses on the suicide of an entertainment or political celebrity, the copycat effect is much larger. This is even more true when the media focuses on the means by which the suicide occurred. Granted, there’s less of an effect when the suicide is fictional, but even then, it’s associated with more than a quadruple increase in a copycat effect.

Researchers recently published a study that examined the series’s apparent effect on internet searches about suicide. "13 Reasons Why" generated more than 600,000 news reports. In the 19 days after its release, The internet searches about suicide, were about 19 percent higher than expected. As hoped, some searches for things like "suicide hotline," "suicide prevention," and "teen suicide" went up. But so did searches for "how to commit suicide," and "how to kill yourself." The long-term effects of this are unclear, but are certainly concerning enough to monitor.

Our inability to address the issue of guns exacts a cost. There are about twice as many suicides annually using guns (more than 21,000 in 2014) as there are homicides using guns. Almost none of the guns used in suicides are assault weapons, and yet that seems to be the singular focus of many activists. In about 45 percent of suicides among those age 15 to 24, guns were used.

Those who might counter that people who want to kill themselves would find other ways if we limited their access to guns choose to ignore evidence about suicide. Research shows that most suicides are impulsive. Studies of people who came close to dying from suicide attempts, but lived, show that about one-quarter went from deciding to kill themselves to making the attempt in less than five minutes. Almost three-quarters of them took less than an hour.

Having access to guns can make a big difference, because they are devastatingly efficient. Suicide attempts by gun succeed more than 85 percent of the time; attempts by overdose or poisoning succeed less than 2 percent of the time. Access to a firearm increases the odds of a successful suicide by more than a factor of more than three.

While we can debate the relative merits of making it easier or harder to own a gun, it’s clear that guns should be kept out of the hands of children.

Finally, we are allowing teenagers to become more withdrawn from others. In an article in The Atlantic, and in a new book, Jean Twenge, argues that smartphones and social media have disconnected teenagers from society. Others fear the internet in general also may be doing the same or increasing the potential for bullying without immediate repercussions. I’m not sure we can lay as much of the blame on technology as they do, but all of these data make a strong argument that teenagers are more isolated and at higher risk than before.

We need to talk about suicide in ways that help, not harm. We need to make sure young people have no access to guns. And we need to make sure they are connected enough to each other, to family, and to the health care system so that those at risk can be recognized and given the care they need. The rising toll shows we should not ignore this problem, or pretend that it’s just too hard to work on.

- Edited from several Internet articles -


Suicide Is a Death like No Other - It’s a Complicated Grief

(From an article posted on line on Nov., 2013)

Grief is a universal experience all human beings encounter. Though death inevitably touches our lives, research shows that many people grieve in varying and different ways. From the textures of emotions, to length of time in mourning, to even the kinds of rituals and remembrances that help heal the irreplaceable loss. Grieving the death of a loved one is never, ever easy.

Suicide, however, has been described as a death like no other ... and it truly is. Death by suicide stuns with soul-crushing surprise, leaving family and friends not only grieving the unexpected death, but confused and lost by this haunting loss.


Despite science supporting a neurobiological basis for mental illness, suicide is still shrouded by stigma. Much of the general public believes that death by suicide is shameful and sinful. Others consider it a "choice that was made" and blame family members for its outcome. And then there are people who are unsure how to reach out and support those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and simply avoid the situation out of ignorance. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that the underlying structure of grief for survivors of suicide loss is intricately complicated.

When someone dies by suicide, research shows that at least 9 people are intimately traumatized by the death. Those who are directly affected include immediate family members, relatives, neighbors, friends, fellow students and/or co-workers. And because 90% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder, mental health clinicians are also included as a survivor of suicide loss.


Based on the accounts of those who have attempted suicide and lived to tell about it, we know that the primary goal of a suicide is not to end life, but to end pain. People in the grips of a suicidal depression are battling an emotional agony where living becomes objectionable. Most people who die by suicide have a significant depression narrowing their problem solving skills. Corrosive thinking reduces optimism, the hope of possibility and increases feelings of helplessness. The depressive illness itself makes it virtually impossible to hold onto any semblance of pain going away. While some may argue that a person who dies by suicide has done so by their own choice, I argue that serious mental illness, in fact, limits choice. Studies of those who have survived their suicide attempt and healed from their depression report being astonished that they ever considered suicide.


Research has long known that suicide survivors move through very distinctive bereavement issues. Family and friends are prone to feeling significant bewilderment about the suicide. Why did this happen? How did I not see this coming? Overwhelming guilt about what they should have done more of or less of —become daily, haunting thoughts. Survivors of suicide loss often feel self-blame as if somehow they were responsible for their loved one’s suicide. Many also experience anger and rage against their loved one for abandoning or rejecting them—or disappointment that somehow they were not powerful enough, loved enough or special enough to prevent the suicide.

These mistaken assumptions plague survivors of suicide loss for a very long time. Many struggle for years trying to make sense of their loved one’s death—and even longer making peace—if at all—with the unanswerable questions that will always linger.

Society still attaches a stigma to suicide. And as such, survivors of suicide loss may encounter blame, judgment or social exclusion - while mourners of loved ones who have died from terminal illness, accident, old age or other kinds of deaths usually receive sympathy and compassion. It’s strange how we would never blame a family member for a loved one’s cancer or Alzheimer’s, but society continues to cast a shadow on a loved one’s suicide.

What also makes grieving different is that when we lose a loved one to illness, old age or an accident, we retain happy memories. We can think back on our loved one and replay fond memories, share stories with joyful nostalgia. This is not so for the suicide survivor.

They question the memories, "Where they really good?" "Maybe they weren’t really happy in this picture?" "Why did I not see their emotional pain when we were on vacation?"

Sometimes it becomes agonizing to connect to a memory or to share stories from the past—so survivors often divorce themselves from their loved one’s legacy.

Survivors of suicide loss not only experience these aspects of complicated grief, they are also prone to developing symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder —a direct result from their loved one’s suicide. The unspeakable sadness about the suicide becomes a circle of never ending bewilderment, pain, flashbacks and a need to numb the anguish.


If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, there are many things you can do. In addition, by reaching out, you also help take stigma out of the equation.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death. Extend your condolences, express your feelings of sorrow. Make sure you use the loved one’s name. "My heart is so sad that John died." Many who have lost someone to suicide have a broken heart, clinically called Stress Cardiomyopathy, and really need your empathy, compassion and understanding to heal.

Ask the survivor if and how you can help. Though they may not be ready to accept help, asking signifies that you are there—not avoiding or distancing during this tragic event. The notion of being there if needed is extremely comforting for suicide survivors.

Encourage openness. Be accepting of however survivors need to express their feelings. It may be with their silence, with their sadness or even their anger.

Be patient. Don’t set a time limit for a survivor’s grief. Complicated grief can take years to process. Moreover, don’t limit a survivor’s need to share and repeat stories, conversations or wishes. Repetition is a key factor in grief recovery.

Listen. Be a compassionate listener. This means, don’t look to fix things. The greatest gift you can give someone you care about, who has survived a suicide loss, is your time, reassurance and honest love.


Ground yourself: It may be very painful, but you must learn to hold tightly to the truth that you are not responsible for your loved one’s suicide in any way, shape, or form.

Don’t put a time limit on your grief: Grieve in your own way, on your own time frame. It will take time to find a place for your sadness and loss. It may take even more time for you to feel hope again and envision possibilities.

Plan ahead: When you feel ready, assist your family in finding ways to mark your loved one's birthday, family holidays or other milestones. Understand that new moments, experiences or events will be met with sadness, even with emotional setbacks. Preparing for how you will move through these calendar dates will help minimize traumatic reactions.

Make connections: Consider joining a support group specifically designed for survivors of suicide loss. The environment can provide a mutually supportive, reassuring healing environment unlike anywhere else.

Give yourself permission: To cry. To laugh. To seek professional help if you need it. Remember that you are moving through the most difficult of losses—and you can take control of the path to healing.

                         A DICTIONARY DEFINITION :

             Suicide Survivor (noun)

 1. A person who continues to live and function in spite of enigma, great oppression, hardship, pain and repeated setbacks in the grief process. A person remaining alive after an event in which a loved one has died tragically by suicide. A person who survives horrendous loss, often with grace and dignity in the face of judgement and speculation about their loved one by the uninformed and/or those lacking compassion and common knowledge of manners.

 2. One of two or more designated persons, having a joint interest, who outlive others who have lost their battle with suicidal thoughts and/or mental illness. The remainder of a group of people or things that band together to carry on, often seeking to promote education and prevention efforts. Those who break silence in order to end the stigma surrounding suicide so the these tragic deaths may be more easily prevented in the future. A person praying daily that others will not feel such emotionally crippling and senseless heartbreak as that caused by the suicide of a loved one.


                                          Preventing Teen Suicide : What the Evidence Shows

 By Aaron E. Carroll


Rates of teen suicide continue to rise, federal health officials reported, with rates for girls higher than at any point in the last 40 years. A rational response would be to engage in evidence-based measures to try to reverse this course. Too often, we assume that there’s nothing we can do.

Sometimes, we even make things worse.

Suicide rates were even higher in the 1990s. But from 2007 to 2015 rates rose from 10.8 to 14.2 per 100,000 male teenagers and from 2.4 to 5.1 per 100,000 female teenagers. In 2011, for the first time in more than 20 years, more teenagers died from suicide than homicide.

But these trends have been known for years. Our response to them hasn’t adequately acknowledged their progression.

 There are evidence-based ways to prevent suicide. The World Health Organization has a guide for how media professionals should talk about the subject. They should avoid sensationalizing it or normalizing it. They should be careful not to repeat accounts of suicide or to provide explicit descriptions as to how suicide might be attempted or completed. They should word headlines carefully, and avoid video or photos of suicides or the victims.

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has evidence-based guide on how to prevent suicide as well. There are things the government can do, including strengthening economic supports, making sure families are more financially secure and have stable housing. The health care system needs to strengthen access to and delivery of mental health care, as well as improve our ability to identify and support teenagers at risk.


Children and Grief

Significant loss can diminish a child's fundamental security and trust.

This trust may need to be rebuilt and this takes time.

Grieving children will often look for reassurance.

           At a Glance

Children learn from adult behavior and seek permission from adults.

Children often express their feelings through behavior.

It is important to acknowledge changes that have happened in the family as a result of loss to death.

Grieving children still need to experience being children.

When talking to children about death, it is important to avoid using euphemisms such as 'sleeping forever' or 'they left us...' as these phrases can often cause confusion.

Meet with your child's teacher and let them know what's happened.

Children do not always have the words to talk about what they are experiencing. They often express feelings of 'sad, bad, mad' through their behavior. Usually they are not being naughty, rather, they are saying, 'I am missing mummy, I am scared, I don't understand what is going on.'

It is important to check out these feelings and to talk about them. Remember that children learn from adult behavior and seek permission from adults. This kind of communication can help to strengthen family bonds and reduce individual isolation.

'If my daddy has died that means mummy can die too and who will look after me?'

Sometimes children become, 'little mum' or 'little dad' and assume adult responsibilities. It is important to acknowledge changes that have happened in the family as a result of the loss and to work out appropriate tasks. Grieving children still need to experience being children.

Play is natural to children. It helps children regain a sense of control and mastery. It is a safe way of giving expression to what is happening 'within'. It is a way to express all kinds of feelings. Play offers adults the opportunity to talk with children about safe ways of expressing 'sad, mad and bad.'

           Children's Concepts of Death

 Children tend to say things directly, simply and clearly and their stage of development influences their understanding of death.

There are three concepts that are important for children to grasp:

 — Death is irreversible and final; it is not 'a trip' from which they will return.

— Death brings about non-functionality - life and body functions stop, the person is not asleep.

— Death is inevitable - everyone will die some time.

 Most children understand these concepts by the age of 9 years. Studies indicate that children's understanding of death is related to age, verbal ability and cognitive development. Children who are bereaved before the age of seven are un-likely to come to a partial understanding of these concepts earlier.

It is important to avoid using euphemisms such as 'sleeping forever' or 'left us...' as these phrases cause confusion for children.

           Common Grief Responses in Children

Behavioral : Being more dependent on parents, clingy, not wanting to go to school, feeling sick more often, wanting to sleep with parents, needing extra help with tasks normally done alone, withdrawal. There may be themes of death in their stories or play.

Cognitive:  Shortened concentration span, confusion, difficulty in making decisions, nightmares, lack of self-esteem.

Emotional : Disbelief, numbness, sadness, disorganization, panic, helplessness, anger, guilt, fear, desire to be an innocent child again, anxiety about others dying.

Physical : Headaches, tiredness, stomach aches, lack of energy, hyperactivity, restlessness, nervousness, appetite changes, sleeping changes.

Spiritual : Why did this happen? Where is Mummy now? Where is heaven? What do you do there? How is God looking after Daddy?

           Grieving Child at School

Meet with the child's teacher and talk about what has happened and that the teacher has correct and appropriate information about the death.

The child's class is appropriately informed and that a decision is made about who will do this and when. The child may want or need to have a say about this. This gives some sense of control and safety.

The teacher puts in place ways of supporting the child if distressed, e.g. phoning the parent and/or taking the child to a quiet place in the school.

There is regular contact with the teacher to check perceptions about the child, to share ways of ongoing support for the child and to inform the teacher of any significant occasions that might be coming up.

           Ways of Supporting a Grieving Child

               Provide a safe space

               Have a regular routine

               Be consistent

               Be honest

               Be reassuring

               Give adequate and appropriate information

               Include and involve the child in appropriate decision making and in what is happening

               Acknowledge feelings and give support when they are overwhelming

               Provide opportunities to remember, create a memory box and make a memory book, draw, paint, make a collage,

                      write  stories, poems, collect photos

             Prepare for special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries and celebrated holidays.


Grief never ends ...but it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith.
It’s the price of love !



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Adapted by Al & Linda Vigil     (from an Essay by Emily P. Kingsley)

We are often asked to describe the experience of having lost a loved one to suicide, by people who have not had the loss happen to them, so that they can imagine and try to understand how we feel and thus maybe help us and others.

"You are going to feel," we tell them, "that what has happened to you has never happened to anyone else like you before. The belief that these things happen to other people, certainly not people like us, will be shattered forever."

We compare it to planning a trip,  -this being the trip through life ...but you're going to Italy. You have bought and studied all of the guidebooks. You know that you will visit Rome. The Coliseum. You will see the works of Michelangelo. You will ride the gondolas in Venice. You will even take the time to learn some handy phrases in Italian. Italy is going to fill a lifelong dream.

After months of eager anticipation the travel day finally arrives. You pack your bags, check your passports, and you get on that airplane. Off you fly into blue skies. Several hours later the plane lands. The stewardess comes down the aisle and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland," you scream. "What happened to Italy? I signed up for Italy. I planned for Italy. All my life I've dreamed of Italy."

"But," she tells you, "there has been a change in plans. You have now landed in Holland and so ...here we are."

We must now convince ourselves that we haven't really been taken to a horrible, disgusting filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. A place that wasn't in our plans to ever travel to. So now you must go out and get new maps and new guidebooks. You must learn a whole new language. After some time you will meet a new group of people you would have never met before.

You will find that when you catch your breath, and you look around, you will begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has Rembrandts. Hollad has tulips. Yes, you can learn to live with the un-expected Holland.

But, you will meet people who have been to Italy.  You will probably say to yourself, for the rest of your life,  "...yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned for myself."

For you  ...things will be different. And the pain of that loss will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream will always be a very significant loss in your life. After the suicide of a loved one ...you are Forever Changed.

The HOLIDAYS - SUICIDE MYTH By: Dan Romer (Dec. 2008)

One of the more persistent myths about the end-of-year holidays is that suicides rise during this period. According to a recently completed analysis of news reporting during last year's holiday period, there was renewed repetition of this myth in the newspaper reporting. Despite the sizeable drop that occurred during the preceding holiday period in 2006, newspapers displayed a surge in both the number and proportion of stories that supported the myth.

The analysis today by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) shows that about half of the articles written during last year's holiday season that made a direct connection to the season perpetuated the myth. That represents a statistically significant increase from previous holiday period when less than 10 percent supported the myth.


SO WHY ASK WHY By : Tim Jackson

Survivors can't stop asking why-at least for a while. Margaret Atwood describes a survivor's incessant search for answers:

Curiosity is not our only motive: Love or grief or despair or hatred is what drives us on. We'll spy relentlessly on the dead. We'll open their letters. We'll read their journals. We'll go through their trash, hoping for a hint, a final word, and explanation, for those who have deserted us -who've left us holding the bag, which is often a good deal emptier than we'd supposed. The search for clues to help them understand propels survivors to ask, "What could they possibly have been feeling or thinking that made dying seem like the only opinion they had left?"

What Caused Them To Choose suicide?