On this day

On this day

The feeling begins to emerge right after summer ends. When school resumes, not the official end to summer weeks later, long before the temperature dips and I start thinking about bringing out the sweaters, I start thinking about this day. This was the day – October 6th – that fell on a Monday that year and would forever change the course of our lives.

It’s been six years. Oddly it has never fallen on a Monday again in all that time and won’t again until 2025. Our lives are so different now, it really doesn’t matter what day it is. The cool breezes, shorter days, and expanding colors in the landscape give notice of the approaching anniversary. I can feel it engulf me without consulting a calendar. Although we are far from that house that fills our memories; that place where he left us.

Respect for his memory, the man who will always be my daughter’s father, is part of the reason I pause now as the years create even more distance between who we were and who I am now. The sadness over the loss doesn’t need an anniversary to appear as an uninvited guest. That could happen on a Thursday in the middle of a bright sunny summer day or in the middle of a winter snow storm when a deep memory is resurrected by an unexpected trigger. 

Now I wish to honor his memory, the good times we shared, and demonstrate for our daughter the meaning of the relationship I had with her Dad. That, and the fact that it just doesn’t seem right not to pause and reflect on this day. 

The first year, the first Monday in October, the day before the first anniversary I picked up my daughter at school, so “nothing would be like last year.” On Tuesday, the first anniversary, we went to the closest point we could find to his burial in the Atlantic: the shore at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Sun setting on the first year. Sandy Hook, New Jersey. October 6, 2015.

We walked on the beach and took in a breathtaking sunset over the bay. A sign? We had a somewhat somber dinner at an Italian restaurant on the boardwalk in Long Branch where we had shared a pre-race dinner together before the New Jersey Marathon the year before. 

Without a grave to visit, we continued the tradition of visiting the water on the subsequent anniversaries.  A dinner cruise on the Hudson. The Water Club on the East River. And since coming to Chicago, Lake Michigan.  Those outings became less somber. 

This year, a year when nothing is as it’s ever been, we talked about how to acknowledge the day when making plans is a little more challenging.  A walk to the lake? A drive someplace? Takeout? I still don’t know the answer. 

It may be that on this day we just quietly reflect and continue to move forward. I have often thought that a commemorative act would be better suited on the anniversary of his birth, a more life-affirming day, anyhow.

It may be that on this day, I should look for peace and let go of how it all ended…on this day.

One of my absolute favorite photos. Independence Day. July 2004. Paramus, New Jersey.
Suicide Prevention. Right now. Is everyone’s job.

Suicide Prevention. Right now. Is everyone’s job.

Today – September 10th – was World Suicide Prevention Day. I couldn’t go to sleep tonight without saying something.

Here in the U.S. this week (September 6-12) is National Suicide Prevention Week. This is the sixth National Suicide Prevention week for which I’ve been a survivor of suicide loss; the sixth consecutive year that I have felt compelled to say something.

What I’ve had to say in the past:

I hope what the progression through the years shows is my growth as a survivor. I believe, now at this point almost six years later, that I have provided an example of our resilience as humans and that we all do have the ability to move forward.

More importantly, I hope what I have shared has been a lifeline for someone else. I hope I have raised awareness so each and every one of you knows that it can happen to someone you know. And that reality has helped you act before it was too late.

As my personal journey with suicide loss has been focused on healing and creating awareness, we still see suicide rates continuing to rise. Now, during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts fear an even greater increase in suicides (for more on this read Are We Facing a Post-COVID-19 Suicide Epidemic | Psychology Today)

According to the CDC, “the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the morbidity and mortality caused by the disease and to mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.”

While suicide statistics have only been published through 2018, the CDC study shows that 40% of adults in the U.S. reported struggling with mental health issues. The people most at risk are those 18-24, Latinos, Blacks, and essential workers.

“According to a Boston University School of Public Health study published last week by the JAMA Network, prevalence of depression symptoms has risen 3 times higher during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to before. The 21st also takes a look at a recent piece from The Trace in July showing how in Cook County, Illinois, there has been an alarming rise in suicides in Black communities.” (The 21st Show | Illinois Public Media, 10 Sept 2020)

The bottom line is that we must lookout for our friends and family. Now. Today. We can not assume that everything will be alright. Reach out to the people you care about to see how they are.

Recognize the risks. Become familiar with the warning signs. Know what you can do to help.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a wealth of information. Please read. Please share.

From CNN “World Suicide Prevention Day: Here’s how to help”:

If you live in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for free and confidential support. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For crisis support in Spanish, call 888-628-9454.TrevorLifeline, a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community, can be reached at 866-488-7386.

Crisis Text Line provides a live, trained crisis counselor via a simple text for help. The first few responses will be automated until they get a counselor on the line — which typically takes less than five minutes. If you are in the US or Canada, text 741741. If you are in the UK, text 85258 and those in Ireland can text 50808. The National Health Service also lists a variety of resources on its website.

Five Years

Five Years

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. I’ve written a lot about suicide in this blog (use “search” to the right to bring up everything). I also wrote something about Chris, too (read “His Story” here).

You know how sometimes the first thing that comes to mind, is the most accurate and best account of a feeling or a memory? Read more

How do we talk about suicide?

How do we talk about suicide?

This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week and Tuesday, September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day.  Since I started this blog as part of my healing after my husband’s suicide, I have made it a point to acknowledge this week every year. Last year’s post provides links to the others as well as wealth of resources.

Suicide is a difficult subject. It was difficult for me to navigate in the hours, days and weeks that followed my husband’s suicide almost five years ago. It was difficult for us to tell others; it was somehow different than telling people he had died of cancer or a sudden heart attack or in an accident. But why? Because of stigma around mental illness for sure. But seriously, why? Read more

This week

This week

September 9-15, 2018. National Suicide Prevention Week. I’m in Seattle for a long weekend with my daughter. Sightseeing. Concert tickets. A visit with my college roommate who moved out here over 20 years ago. It’s my first time. First day’s impression: a little “San Francisco,” a wee bit of “Dublin,” and just enough “Newark New Jersey shabby industrial” to make me feel at home. Read more