Text Size

December 2015

  Coming : "Survivors Of Suicide Loss" meetings in Albuquerque

 1st Monday May 2nd    and    3rd Monday May 16th   

 1st Monday June 6th    and    3rd Monday June 20th  

  ♦   At : Shepherd of the Vally Presbyterian Church, 1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque  ♦ 

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



> Albuquerque : 2nd & 4th Saturdays, 1:00 - 2:30 : Desiree @ 505-344-4343 <

> Santa Fe : 1st & 3rd Thursdays,  5:10 - 6:30 : Janet @ 505-690-1698 <

> Las Cruces : Margaret for Information @ 575- 521-5579 <


December 2015

A Newsletter for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil


 Pg 1 : Grieving Notes - Linda V.      Pg 2 : Losing a Friend to Suicide     Pg 3 : Adoptee Suicide  

Pg 4 : Coronado Bridge Suicide Deterrent      Pg 5 : Breaking the Silence : Jewish Suicide     

Pg 7 : No Shame, No Euphemism      Pg 9 : What No One Tells You About Suicide 

Pg 12 : About SOSL and Meetings


Linda Vigil

Here it is once again, Holiday Time. Again the time of year to be thankful and joyful. The malls are getting busy, people with gifts, hurrying to the next store. Searching for that perfect gift. People are trying to work into their schedules, which are already busy and stressful, time for shopping, baking and trying to fit in the many concerts, plays, seeing Santa and Christmas cards!

Then there are many of us entering the season without the one, or ones we love, who have

made the choice of ending their lives by suicide.  People mean well when asking about your plans for the Holidays. People you haven’t seen for a long time, and do not know of your loss, or the Christmas cards missing your loved one’s name, or the special friend you lost in high school or college, or the neighbor. The Holidays bring the pain to the surface once more.

I truly believe that chance meetings are the result of Karma.  Remember,  — ‘how people treat you is their karma. How you treat them is yours.’   No one ever told me that Grief felt so like Fear.  Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor, you get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one. You will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you want to be.  Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect. It makes you human. I know what its like to lose some one you love. You don’t past something like that. You go through it.

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you go, they simply determine where you start.

Al and I learned many, many years ago, getting help and sharing our pain with others regarding the dynamic of friends and family that comes after the aftermath of suicide can be Freeing!

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

                                                                                             — In Sharing and Healing : Linda V.

Losing A Friend to Suicide

 By Danielle Campoamor / Huffington Press

Like most, I was heartbroken when I heard of Robin Williams' suicide, a year ago.  And like many, the one year anniversary of his death pulled out emotions and memories and an overwhelming anguish that I'd rather keep buried.

It's hard to explain to those that don't know, what it is like to lose a friend to suicide.  It's hard to quantify that kind of loss or describe the unavoidable hole that's left behind. It's hard to express the lingering sadness that transforms itself over time, attaching to your ribs so it can breath with you; never truly leaving the insides you try so desperately to protect.

But I can try.

When you lose a friend to suicide you feel guilty. My friend called me the night he died by suicide, asking me for a ride, and companionship, and my time. They were the simplest of requests, yet ones I could not fulfill. I had been drinking, celebrating Cinco de Mayo and unable to operate any machinery responsibly. We promised we'd talk the next day. We made plans to see one another soon.

We never spoke again.

So you rationalize endlessly, telling yourself that so much was out of your control and there was nothing you could have done and  —in the end  —it was his or her decision, but there will never be a day that doesn't pass by that you don't feel responsible.

The guilt is palpable. It attaches itself to your spine and pushes you, ever so slightly, towards the ground you sometimes want to lay on. It tells you that things could have been different. It whispers situations where they're still alive. It pokes at you, promising you that if I had done something, anything, they would be here.

When you lose a friend to suicide you hear words like "coward" and "weak" and "selfish," and the pieces of you that haven't broken yet, begin to crumble. The people who didn't know him told me that what he did was wrong. They told me that he was self-centered and feeble and unworthy of the grief so many of his friends and family were feeling. They didn't understand that he felt lost. They didn't understand that he felt lonely. He had a hopelessness I can't clarify. He had a mourning I couldn't possibly fathom.

And it won.

So you become defensive and angry and even violent, defending your friend who is no longer here to defend themselves. They become another sibling you never had; because you're angry and maybe, just maybe, even a small piece of yourself, fueled by that rage, begins to think the same but you won't allow anyone else to say it. You can't let someone think that they only cared about themselves because you know that isn't true. You won't allow someone to say they were weak because you know they were strong and steadfast and powerful.

 When you lose a friend to suicide you feel lost yourself.

 You begin to look inward, wondering what is wrong with you that you couldn't have seen such an insurmountable death coming. You contemplate your abilities as a friend. You wonder if they had tried to speak with you but you were too busy to really listen. You wonder if you had declined a drink around them, they would have been inclined to tone down their drinking themselves. You tell yourself that if you didn't leave town when they stayed or had gone to college when they didn't or had done the things that pulled your lives in different directions, they wouldn't have made the choices they did.

 You just can't stop wondering.

 But most of all, when you lose a friend to suicide you miss them. You miss them as much as you would if they had died any other way. A loss is a loss and a death is a death and while we like to quantify them, in the end, the pain and heartache and guilt and questions and rationality and wanting, all come from the same place.

 In the end, they're just gone. And how they left this earth doesn't make their absence any more or less painful.

 And while losing a friend to suicide can make you feel so horribly alone -- as if you are the only person on the planet who knows what this loss feels like -- I can assure you, you're not. Every day, approximately 105 Americans lose their life to suicide.  Yes, 105 Americans. Every day.

 So while we remember Robin Williams and the loss we felt a year ago, remember that it's OK to struggle explaining how it feels to lose a friend to suicide.

 Remember that it's OK if you can't explain how it all feels because, the sad truth is, so many of us already understand. 

 Adoptee Suicide: Unspeakable Pain 

                             -from  ‘Lightofday’ stories  -  Sent to Sharing and Healing by Brenda Grey - Ohio

This week I heard about the death by suicide of a young Ethiopian adoptee, reported by his US family to be about 12 years old, living in America since 2013.  My heart aches for everyone —for the boy, for his family in Ethiopia, and here in the US, for all of us.

 Adoption can be full of great joy, many gains, and lots of love. It can also have deep layers of grief, loss, and trauma. I do not know the circumstances of this most recent death. I do know that adoptees attempt suicide at higher rates than non-adoptees, and do so at alarmingly young ages. One source of information is Pediatrics.

 I am saddened by how many people I know in the adoption community who have considered suicide and who have attempted it. Almost everyone in the adoption community knows personally of adoptees who have died by suicide.

 Let’s keep talking about the realities of depression and trauma, and encouraging others to talk about their loss and fears, especially around adoption, without judgement or dismissal.  It’s tough stuff.  We have to do it.

 Coronado Bridge Suicide Deterrent ( Worth Considering )

 Al & Linda Vigil - Editors Note

Our eighteen-year-old daughter, Mia, jumped to her death form the Coronado-San Diego Bridge on January 5th, 1984.  That year alone there were 11 suicides from the bridge. The highest number of deaths were recorded in 1980  —16, and none were reported in the year of 1985.  It is the third deadliest  in the USA, trailing only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. 

Our oldest daughter Melinda White, was instrumental in the placement of several  ‘emergency & crisis,’  signs along both sides of the Coronado bridge.

Since the San Diego-Coronado Bridge opened in 1969, some 300 people have committed suicide by jumping off it. Now the Coronado Bridge Collaborative wants to explore the possibility of adding some feature to the bridge as a suicide deterrent. They  want to research barrier options for the iconic bridge that has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country.

 Caltrans, owner of the Coronado bridge, has no interest in modifying it. But we hope that a feasibility study can be done, as Lewis’ group has proposed, to see how much an effective barrier would cost, and whether it would affect the architectural integrity of the bridge.

 A study for suicide intervention at the bridge would explore, for example, whether the bridge is strong enough to support the additional weight of a fence on top of the current 34-inch-high barrier. Or whether a net would interfere with Navy ships passing underneath.

 A grassroots effort to add a barrier to prevent people from jumping to their deaths from the Coronado Bay Bridge received the support of the Coronado City Council Tuesday.

 Cari McLaughlin’s brother, Bryan Bell, jumped to his death from the span eight months ago. She believes if he was unable to take his own life that day, the family may have been able to get him help.  "He’s not the only one. The day after he did it, somebody was up there," she said. "It’s just so easily accessible."

 The side rails of the bridge are just 36 inches, she said. McLaughlin also said the phone positioned for those feeling suicidal was not functioning on the day her brother walked across the bridge. McLaughlin was among the supporters who showed up to the council meeting Tuesday night wearing yellow ribbons and sharing stories of heartache.

 Research shows people with suicidal impulses may not act on them if they can’t use a "suicide magnet," such as a famous bridge. We agree with Jennifer Lewis, a professor and co-founder of the Coronado Bridge Collaborative:  "It feels irresponsible not to at least take a look at the possibilities."  Members of her group are heartened by the success of a similar group in San Francisco, which won approval of a $76 million plan to put a net below the Golden Gate Bridge. It is expected to be completed in 2019.

 In San Francisco, more than a dozen alternatives were considered before a net was chosen. It will be 20 feet below the roadway, and extend out 20 feet over the water. The net will be stainless steel cable that collapses slightly, and will be angled to make crawling out of it difficult. Several research projects show suicide barriers have proven successful in not only reducing jumping deaths at the selected bridge site, but in the surrounding areas, as well.

 Al Molano of Bankers Hill also spoke to the council. His 23-year-old step-daughter, Lisette, suffered from alcohol abuse and depression.  He said he doesn't want to see any more families go through the heartbreak that he and his family have suffered.  


                      Breaking the Silence

                 : Jewish Suicide

By Judith Posner (Retired professor from York University, in Toronto. She lives in Jerusalem.)

A few weeks ago a professional window cleaner came to work at my house in central Jerusalem. The window guy was an affable, middle-aged, native English speaker. After a brief episode of Jewish geography, he began cleaning on the top floor, working his way down to the main floor, where I was writing on my laptop at the kitchen table. When he was nearby, we engaged in a few more predictable exchanges: where we were born, when we made aliyah and so on.

Then he put down his cleaning tools, turned to me and asked, "You have kids?" I told him that my daughter lived in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.

 My answer did not suffice. He responded with, "Is that it, or do you have more?" There would be nothing unsettling in his question, especially in the Land of Israel where we are commanded "to be fruitful and multiply," and were it not for the fact that I used to have another child, a son. Eric, my first-born, who died more than eight years ago, just short of his 27th birthday.

I decided to tell him: "I lost a son." In the developed world it is unusual to lose a child. It’s a peculiar expression, a euphemism we use in relationship to death, as though Eric were a 5-year old and we were shopping at the mall and got temporarily separated. Sometimes, after hearing that I have a deceased child, a person will be quiet for a moment or change the topic entirely, perhaps not wanting to pry (even in Israel, where prying is practically a national pastime).

 Others, like my window cleaner, are genuinely curious and unabashed about pursuing the matter: "How did he die?" This question prompted me to make another split-second decision: To tell or not to tell?  "By suicide," I answered, as neutrally as possible. It is hard to be neutral about suicide. I no longer use the phrase "committed suicide," as it implies that a crime has been committed. My son was not a criminal.

He was bipolar. He was also brilliant, funny, compassionate, charismatic and loving.

The window cleaner mumbled a sympathetic word or two, but as is often the case the conversation came to an abrupt halt. This decision of whether or not to mention the subject of suicide is a recurring dilemma. It is part and parcel of the conversational social life of a parent of a suicide, especially in a family —centered society like Israel. My daughter experiences similar challenges when people ask her if she has siblings.

Most people have nothing much to say after hearing about a loved one’s suicide. Death can be difficult enough to handle, but suicide is a double whammy, the taboo of taboos. It terrifies, and their association with it sometimes taints "suicide survivors."

"Suicide survivor!"  What telling terminology. Ordinarily, we think of a survivor as an individual who has pulled through after an atrocity, as in rape or cancer, or the Holocaust. But "suicide survivor" refers not to the person who survives a suicide attempt, but to the friends and family left behind after a "completed" suicide, the current buzzword in suicidology. This tells us something about the social enormity of such a death. It reflects our deepest, primal fears that the suicide might take our loved ones. When children die by "normal" means, however horrible, be it leukemia or a traffic accident, we call it a tragedy, but we do not refer to the parents and siblings as survivors. And our sympathy toward survivors is oftentimes ambivalent. A negative reaction to suicide is nearly universal except for some very specific and unusual circumstances.

 Judaism is no exception. Not so long ago, Jewish suicides were buried outside the cemetery gates and were not given the respect of a proper burial and full mourning rites. As in most other mainstream religions, suicide was viewed as a sin against God. Today, Judaism defines the suicide as mentally ill and therefore not responsible for his sinful behavior. But these changes in the interpretation of Jewish law and the more general worldwide trend toward decriminalization of suicide do not eradicate pre-existing, and largely unconscious, social taboos.

 There are many reasons for me to avoid the topic of suicide in casual conversation. Aside from the fact that I may be regarded as an inadequate parent, I do not enjoy making people uncomfortable. On the other hand, I am increasingly aware that when I don’t tell the truth, I am collaborating with the enemy. The enemy is silence, which stems from shame and embarrassment about mental illness. I am also being disrespectful to my son and his interrupted life. He did exist. I did have a son. My daughter had a brother. It is a grotesque lie to suggest that I had no other children.

When I talk about my son, many people react as though suicide were unusual or rare, even though statistics prove otherwise. In Israel, suicide is the second most common cause of death for young males. Among the Israel Defense Forces, there are more deaths from suicide than from actual military operations. In Israel, as in America and elsewhere, rates of automobile deaths and homicides are significantly lower than suicide rates.

The general silence on the topic may actually propel a potential suicide toward his final act, as some experts are beginning to argue. It accentuates their alienation. I recall with great regret and some anger the misguided advice I was given by both my son’s therapist and his psycho-pharmacologist.

They knew that my son was obsessing about suicide. At the time, I knew very little about the subject myself, so I deferred to them when they specifically instructed me to avoid discussing the issue with him. They did likewise. We will never know the effects of this strategy of silence on my son’s ultimate decision.

 No Shame, No Euphemism : Suicide Isn't A Natural Cause of Death

           By John Henning Schumann  : Writer and Doctor in Tulsa, Okla

Beware the mention of  'natural causes’  —as in my mother's obituary:

"Norita Wyse Berman, a writer, stockbroker and artist

... died at home Friday of natural causes. She was 60."

 Sixty-year-olds don't die of natural causes anymore. The truth was too hard to admit.

Fifteen years on, I'm ashamed of my family's shame. Those attending her funeral and paying shiva calls knew the truth anyway. People talk.

One of the many ironies of dying young is that my mother was a true believer in modern medicine. She had a cabinet full of elixirs and potions for which she paid top dollar. For most of her life she never paid retail for anything, so the medicine cabinet was testament to her insecurity about fleeting beauty and a quest for longevity. Others around her might succumb to aging, but my mom had confidence that her vitamins and nutraceuticals could hold back Father Time.

 Her anxieties predated the Internet and the rise of  Dr. Oz.  I know she'd have become a big fan of the telegenic surgeon, and would have asked why I couldn't have a practice more like his. After all, she told me more than once, "Making money is not a sin."

She divorced my father when I was 12. She wanted a career, which was an idea my father did not support. Eventually she became a stockbroker, and in spite of limited financial acumen, she became very successful. She had natural sales ability and made brilliant use of her greatest talent — networking. The fact that the 1980s and '90s witnessed two of the greatest bull markets in Wall Street history certainly helped.

My mother remarried soon after my parents' divorce. But 15 years into her career, my stepfather convinced her to retire because of his own declining health. They moved to Florida, accelerating their senescence by living in a gated golf community. Finances were no issue, but my mother's mental state soon started to unravel.

My mother hated golf. She tried other pursuits like painting and travel. But retirement simply wasn't for her. My sense was she'd lost her self-worth when she no longer felt like a stock market titan.

One day my stepfather called to let me know that he found my mother lying on the floor of the garage with the car running. It was time to get help. Thus began my family's odyssey in the mental health care system.

Over the next five years, my mother would bounce between despondent lows and powerful highs. Diagnoses abounded, depending on where in the cycle she was. One doctor labeled her bipolar, another "majorly depressed with psychotic features."

Medicines were started, adjusted and then new ones were added. Her doctors tried mightily to find the right cocktail of drugs so she could stay in balance.

Eventually most of her improvement came from lithium. But she hated taking it because it made her urinate frequently and because she saw it as a relic. If she had to be on medication, why couldn't it be one of these newer-fangled drugs with a more impressive name and less stigma?

My mom was the type of patient who thinks there's a pill for every ailment. Antibiotics for colds. Weight-loss pills. Sleep aids. The silver-bullet theory of medicine. She even underwent shock therapy as a potential quick fix. But because her psych meds earned her the label "crazy," she sought any opportunity to shed them.

Twice this behavior led her to other suicide attempts. Her doctors called them gestures. We wanted to believe that she didn't have real intent.

My mother's behavior taught me the first practical thing I learned in medical school: Don't stop taking medication for a chronic condition without first telling someone. Like hospitalized patients that "cheek" their pills, my Mom lied to her doctors about taking her medications because she didn't want to be nagged and didn't want to be dependent on them. But without her pills her mental health was far too fragile.

We were stuck in twin binds. My mother loved medicines and their potential for miracles, but she always sought to ditch them the moment she felt better. As my mother's mental health struggles surfaced, I was on my way to becoming a doctor. But I was powerless to help someone closest to me.

It's not that my mother didn't believe in my healing powers. On my very first day of med school I called home to debrief. "I have a rash I need you to take a look at," she interjected.

Did she really think after ‘Day 1'  I knew anything about doctoring?

Looking back, I can now see that my mom was giving me my earliest lesson in the culture of expectations. There's a reason medical ethicists warn against treating family and friends. Corners get cut. Judgment becomes impaired. Honesty becomes scarce.

Throughout her illness I believed that I was there for my mother. In our talks I was able to cut through the bull she fed everyone else. My intention was to let her know that my newly acquired medical knowledge would always be available to her. I wanted her to trust me.

But the more I pressed, the farther she receded. She put up a brave front, so convincing that she bluffed her way past my fledgling diagnostic skills. In her last rise out of the depths, we all hoped against reality that she was on the road to a permanent recovery.

Then she hung herself on the day after Thanksgiving.

It's painful to admit even now. But I no longer feel shame. Sadness, yes. Even anger still, though that ebbs.

I also harbor the hope that others can learn from her illness and death. If suicide remains in the shadows of stigma and superstition, it will always plague us.

...and once again I will repeat : Norita Wyse Berman, a writer, stockbroker and artist ...died at home Friday of natural causes. She was 60."

Suicide is not a natural cause of death.

 What No One Tells You About Losing A Loved One To Suicide

                                                    By Rheana Murray - ABC News

Despite the great loss that suicide, like any death, brings, there are still things suddenly left behind —homes to clean out, clothes to give away, pets to find shelter for, social media accounts for which you have to figure out the passwords.

My little sister left a kitten, an apartment she shared with her boyfriend just outside Charleston, SC, and an unfinished college career in political science. Most importantly, she left behind so many unanswered questions.

 It was a Tuesday in July when my mother called me, tense on the phone, asking if I could drive to my sister’s apartment. She’d gotten a frightening phone call from my sister’s boyfriend, but he was crying too hard to get many words out. My mom just wanted me to make sure everything was okay. It would be a couple of hours before we learned that it wasn’t.

When I pulled up, I saw my sister's boyfriend, surrounded by police officers, on their lawn —slumped over with his hands on his knees as he choked on tears, unable to speak. The sight of him like this made the hair on my arms stand up, my throat suddenly threatening to close as my eyes welled up in fear of what might really be happening. My sister's kitten, named Izzy after Katherine Heigl’s character in Greys Anatomy, was strangely sitting in a cage on the grass.

 She left behind so many unanswered questions.

These are the things that no one tells you about suicide.

I did not know that my mother and I would become "survivors " what the loved ones of someone who dies by suicide are called.

I learned that in support groups.

I was struck by how peculiar it seemed that my phone kept buzzing with messages from friends who wanted to go out that night, that my boss at the newspaper where I worked was emailing to see where I was that the world kept spinning, even though mine was crashing.

And then, even though you’re grieving, there is work to be done. We had to clean that apartment and tie up the loose ends of my beautiful, 19-year-old sister’s life. We packed it all away, neat and tidy, so she could be put to rest with respect. We had to organize the funeral. And then, we had to grin and bear it when the church told us they couldn’t send a priest. Suicide is a sin, they said. Of course, grief and pain come with any death, natural or otherwise. There are always things to clean up after someone dies, but there are many nuances unique to dealing with suicide. A common one is the incessant itch to scan the past for red flags, for ways that you might have stopped it from happening. I have only one: The night before my sister died, we had dinner together at a local Thai restaurant. She didn’t finish her meal. But when the waiter wrapped it up for her, she instead offered the leftovers to me, explaining that she probably wouldn’t get the chance to eat them later.

Things like that will drive you crazy if you let them.

There are many nuances unique to dealing with suicide.

In the months after my sister died, my mother scanned her social media accounts, staying up all night to read what people wrote on a Facebook memorial page. She kept my sister’s phone and listened to her old voicemails and re-read her text messages over and over. She ached to find a clue. And for a while, it seemed like everything was a clue.

 This search for the reason, for any reason, is a desperate attempt to explain the inexplicable. It’s easy to wonder if there was, perhaps, something my mom and I didn’t know about —money problems, a stalker, or an undiagnosed mental illness, —maybe. Anything would have brought us a tiny step forward toward closure. Over the years since her death, I’ve come to the conclusion that my sister, the one person on the planet with whom I was closer than anyone else, was simply sad and angry. And maybe more so on that particular day. It was her boyfriend’s 21st birthday, and they’d gotten into a fight about their plans for that night. That’s all I know, but I wonder : Could something that simple have pushed her over the edge?

Maybe there’s no person or thing to blame.

This search for the reason, for any reason, is a desperate attempt to explain the inexplicable.

There’s a shock factor to suicide: You should see the look on people’s faces when I tell them my story. And later, how they grimace when they accidentally make a flippant remark in my presence, usually something like, "I want to kill myself today."

There’s also still stigma, despite wonderful initiatives like National Suicide Awareness Month. I think that’s the reason suicide survivors tend to find each other. I can’t help but feel a connection with other people who’ve gone through this. Friends and acquaintances are quick to introduce me to someone they know who is also a survivor. Safe from shame, we share the details that are too dark to tell anyone else, like how it was done and who was unlucky enough to find our sister or mother or uncle or friend. It’s like swapping war stories with a secret club.

Let me be clear: All death breaks us down, and apart, in ways we can’t imagine. But suicide does something worse in the way it forces us to question everything. We search for answers in old emails, in diaries, in CD collections, and even in the contents of someone’s fridge : Why would she have bought milk yesterday?

Eight years after my sister’s suicide, I still have no real explanation for why she’s not here. That’s something else no one tells you about suicide —that one day, you’ll have to find peace in not really knowing why someone you love is gone.




                                     SOMEONE THEY LOVE BY SUICIDE


1st and 3rd  MONDAY

  7:00 - 8:30 p. m.




  Al & Linda  at  505 / 792-7461

E-mail :  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "


"Know That You Are Not Alone

                              — Sharing Can Be Healing"

Sharing and Healing is © by SOSL-NM

Non-Profit : #NM ID 4996054

Non-Profit : FED : 501-c-3
























































































Security code