Healing Support for Suicide Loss – Through Grief, into Healing

This is for adults who have lost someone to suicide.

Meeting with others who have experienced suicide grief is powerful and healing. Spending this time together provides a safe, respectful space to truly acknowledge your feelings and experiences… and to begin healing.

You are NOT alone! Sandy and many others have walked this path, and continue to do so. Healing can and does happen. It’s a very natural part of this journey, made much easier with the support of others who care deeply and understand.

Join with Sandy to walk that path, through grief, into healing.

This is FREE. Donations to the C.A.T.H.E. Center are always welcome.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020
7 – 8:30 pm
We meet at C.A.T.H.E. Center (Cathe Center)
125 E State St, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105
(Gray house attached to the parking lot)

Q&A series: Why Can’t I Sleep?

Sleep. We need it, especially after traumatic loss, but it is often elusive. The stillness of night does not bring stillness when the mind is filled with turmoil and worry, thoughts of not only the loss but also circumstances that can be quite horrible. The nervous system is on hyper-alert, with anxiety and perhaps depression adding to the melee. Too often, this is a time of pain, not peace.

If sleep does come, it may have a nightmarish quality. Certainly, a second or two after waking – whether in the middle of the night or the morning – the harsh realizations begin, sliding over a new survivor mercilessly. Everything we don’t want is there waiting.

It often takes a lot of time to find real rest again. The journey that began with the loss of a loved one is not a quick trip. It is no wonder that survivors who are left behind lose strength, become exhausted, eat little or too much, or begin to suffer health problems. From shock to the grinding period of dealing with the aftermath to the early stages of finding support and healing, a survivor’s work is just to breathe, to do what must be done.

Here are a few suggestions that might help ease the nighttime hours, for sleep is important to both healing and health:

  • Consciously make your bedroom a special and safe place. Add comforting plants, candles, or pillows. Perhaps a rocking chair and lap blanket. Use a soft lamp. This is your room for respite.
  • Place a notebook and pen beside the bed. These are for writing down any worries you think of so that you can keeping them in the book will help free your mind from the burden of remembering. Deal with them in the morning.
  • Create a gentle routine. Perhaps a bath or a cup of hot herbal tea before bed will help you relax.
  • Think of yourself as deserving and needing this kind of care. You have been deeply wounded and need an “intensive care unit” of your own. Even if no one can see your wounds of loss, they are there.
  • If you wake in the night unable to go back to sleep, sometimes it helps to check in with online support, such as the Alliance of Hope for Survivors of Suicide Loss. After a few minutes reading or posting, you may be able to sleep easier, knowing you are not alone.
  • Place a soft blanket within easy reach, just for comfort if not for warmth.
  • Take your time with recovery. This is more like a marathon than a sprint.

Remember them …


guest column and photo by Ari

I used to sit by my boy’s photo and look deeply into his beautiful hazel eyes, wondering how on earth this had happened to him, to our family. There was nothing there that told me any secrets – they were bright and clear, crinkling around the edges as he laughed. His inner demons did not come through those eyes. So much for them being a window into the soul!

But as I sat there, day after day, I stopped looking for the “why’s” and instead I started focusing on his face, his smile, his soft hair, his crooked front teeth and cleft chin, his eyes – those wonderful, kind eyes. I remembered his laugh, his voice calling me “mom,” his soft snores on the couch late in the night when I would carefully wake him to go to bed.

I remembered him, in life, not just his death and the sadness that came with it. I remembered him.

I light a candle every Sunday, early with the sunrise, and it stays lit for the whole day, unless we go out somewhere, which we usually don’t do. Sundays were always family days, when my boy was home, and we stayed in our pj’s, eating a big breakfast, watching football, snacking all day, relaxing before the beginning of another busy week.

Sunday remains a quiet, peaceful day still, even with him gone. His candle shines bright all day, the smell making me smile whenever I walk by it. It is one way to keep his memory alive, to keep him close to us still. It sits by his photograph and lights the way into his eyes, so that I don’t forget, so that I remember him.

During the holidays it is easy to succumb to the ever present grief of them being gone. But doing small, meaningful things, such as lighting a candle in their memory, can make the sadness recede just a little bit, and sometimes that’s all we need- a small respite.

Remember them!

What Your Loved Ones Can Expect While You Grieve

I was going through some old messages looking for something quite specific. What I found was a message that I had sent to a few special people about 8 weeks after my son’s death. It helped me to explain my thoughts and feelings and also let some of these people know where my head and heart were at the time. I’m sharing it in hopes that it may help others.


Good morning,

I was visiting a site this morning and found the helpful post that is below. I apologize for not knowing who the author is, but I still wanted to share.

This sums up and explains more clearly than I possibly can the ups and downs, clarity and confusion, interest and lethargy, etc. that have been occurring. You have been very patient and I’m afraid that if we are to continue to ‘hang out’ together I’m going to need to beg for more patience.

While I have searched, researched, read books, visited websites, etc. I cannot seem to find a guideline for moving through this time with any sort o grace or even a way to minimize the bumbling.

I’m working on not being short-tempered. Trying to hear what is said and not interpret (often in the wrong way) what is said to me. I am very aware that I often do not hear or read what is actually said or written. It’s almost as though something in my brain is filtering, but the filter is faulty.

My patience is short and my energy is very limited. It surprises me every time, but there it is. I have no idea how long this will last. It may be over by 2:17 pm this afternoon, that would be my preference! But I suspect these things may hang around or at least visit from time to time for quite a while. Only time will tell.

I want to thank you for the patience you have shown, I’m very aware of it even if I am not always able to thank you as I should and would like to do. Please know that the gratitude is there. It’s deep and it’s real.

I’m still in here, but it’s a bit murky and foggy and I’m simply finding my way one step at a time.

I have no doubt that I will resurface entirely at some point. Until then, I’ll keep bobbing up and I want you to know how much I appreciate having you around when I do.


What Your Loved Ones Can Expect While You Grieve 

My grief process will take much longer than you want it to.
You can’t fix this for me by doing anything but you can just be there for me.
I will be in a sort of fog for at least 3 months. When the fog lifts, I might get worse.
I will have periods of doing okay, then I will feel despair again.
I will be exhausted. Grief is hard work.
My desire, creativity, and motivation will be gone for quite awhile.
My ability to experience joy may also be absent.
I will have a range of emotions from irritability to inexplicable rage and it may be targeted at you. Please forgive me.
I am vulnerable, I feel brittle, and I do not feel resilient.
I can’t take too much stimulation. I probably won’t feel like being sociable.
I know you miss the old me, but I’m forever changed by the loss of my loved one.

It will feel as though I haven’t made any progress. However, I am slowly healing with occasional normal setbacks.
I will heal. Please be patient, loving, and understanding.

What if Signs from my Son are Different than I Expect?

What if the strongest signs are the very absence of things I would expect?

I’ve been thinking about this. When we lose someone we love we look for signs that they are in spirit, that they are well and still connecting with us. We eagerly anticipate smells, sounds, songs, dreams and so much more. When we experience these things our hearts are comforted. I’ve had some of these experiences and I am incredibly grateful each time. Another reminder that someone I love is okay.

But what if things are a bit different?

So many write about sleeping with a shirt or another article of clothing that their loved one wore, allowing the aroma of their loved one to comfort them as they go to sleep. But after my son died, there were no aromas in his room.  None. Nada. Zilch.

In fact, even on the day he died, I remember standing in his bedroom and telling others that it was his time because he was gone so very completely.

His bed pillows – no aroma at all. His sheets and blankets – nothing. He wore cowboy boots – again, nothing. He showered every day after work and put on cologne, but there was no hint of that cologne in his room either. How was that possible?

Again and again, I come back to this fact. The memory of smell is one that our brain holds onto for years, we’re wired that way. Smells can take us back to our childhood. Close your eyes and just think about cookies or fresh grass. I am willing to bet that a very stong part of your memory is what those things smell like. Smells are usually very difficult to eliminate, which is why odor-neutralizing sprays are a huge business. Yet there was no aroma remaining in that room what so ever.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that was the first sign that Mikey sent. A sign that it was his time, a sign that it was okay that he left the planet. He left totally and completely, not even leaving behind a smell.


Q&A series: What can I do when I need something?

People do want to help but often don’t know how. When kind friends ask what they can do to help, be prepared. Receiving the news that a loved one has ended his or her life or witnessing what happened or finding the body of someone you love is traumatic and confusing. If you can, try to keep a note pad and pen with you. As you think of things that you need, write these down and ask for specific help. Note who will help, what they agree to do, and any details.

These are some of the things you may need help with in the first few days.

  • Picking up out-of-town relatives arriving at the airport
  • Running errands (pharmacy, grocery)
  • Making calls to family and friends
  • Answering the telephone and greeting visitors
  • Helping in the kitchen (note who brings food and type of dish)
  • Occupying children in a quiet room (read stories, draw, games)
  • Walking and feeding pets
  • Making a monetary donation for immediate expenses

In the weeks ahead, you may need some of the same things. These help, too.

  • Brief visits or calls
  • Help with errands and driving to appointments
  • Assistance with shopping or someone to go out to lunch with you
  • Help with household chores
  • Someone who can make small repairs/cut grass
  • Babysitting or transportation for older children
  • Helpful resources and assistance in finding support groups

There are charts for this kind of practical help and other information on Way for Hope’s home page. Visit https://wayforhope.weebly.com/ and download your free digital copy of Hope in the Aftermath of Suicide (Second Edition).




Q&A series: When will stigma end?

I wish I could say the stigma surrounding death by suicide will end soon. I wish I could say everyone understands that people experiencing trauma and illness, stress, anxiety, and mental/personality/behavior disorders deserve our kindness and support. Maybe I can’t say that today, but I am hopeful that as survivors of suicide loss speak about the reality and complexity of this type of death, others will take up that message and knowledge.

I do know that many people understand. Already. Right now. And I can say that surrounding yourself with these people will help you as you process deep loss so complicated that medical science does not have a complete picture of how suicide happens, much less how to prevent it in every case.

You can understand. Through reading and seeking support, locally and online, you can find help and hope. Right now. More books and blogs and resources are available today on this subject than ever before. More people are studying the pain that leads to suicidal thoughts, and more researchers are looking at those who are left in the aftermath.

Start here: https://allianceofhope.org/bookstore

Start here: https://forum.allianceofhope.org/

Start now.

When will stigma end? It can end with you. I’m not saying you can control the people around you. No one can do that. But you can end stigma in the most important place of all: in your heart.

Sending Hope,



Is it Wrong to Feel Happiness when Grieving?

Ahhh, the amazing complexities of being human.

So very often I will hear someone say that if they laugh or even chuckle, that they feel guilty. Somehow they feel that if they are not exhibiting intense pain at every moment – that perhaps they are not honoring their loved one.  As you might imagine, I believe otherwise.

I have often shared that on the day I learned that my son Mike was dead, at only 23 years old and by his own hand, there was laughter in my home.

Yes, there was sobbing. The sort that shakes your entire being. The sort of crying that feels as though a permanent trail is being carved into your face. The pain was intense. The heartbreak was real. And yet, there was laughter.

And yes, I was one of the people that smiled and laughed. Many stories of things Mike said and did were shared that day and many times since. Because Mike was a person who loved to laugh, to do silly things, to push the buttons of others – a big part of sharing these stories was once again experiencing the thoughts and feelings when these things first occurred. This brought about longing to once again hug my boy, but it also resulted n chuckles and some outright laughter.

No, sharing these warm memories and even the laughter did not in any way diminish my love for Mike or the grief that I felt knowing he would not walk into the room again, that in fact, Mike had died.

These feelings existed within me at the same time. Along with many other emotions. I felt gratitude that I had been given this special person to love and have in my world for 23 years. I felt worried and even fear for my husband and surviving sons. I felt nurtured and cared for by all of them and the many amazing people who reached out in love.

We can and do often experience many feelings at one time.  At this moment, I’m feeling calm and relaxed. I feel a wee bit of sadness that Mike can’t heckle me about my feelings right now while I’m typing this. I know he would have a lot to say.

Even while holding those feelings I am happy and grateful to the amazing teacher and mentor who just interviewed me for business. And I also am a bit worried about someone that I care about who is experiencing a health issue.

Yes, all of these feelings and more are co-existing within me at this moment.  Humans are multi-faceted, complicated beyond comprehension and absolutely capable of feeling many things at one time.

It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to enjoy a meal or an outing, a book or a movie. It’s okay to think about something different and become completely absorbed in that thought or experience.  Even when your grief is very new, raw and intense.

Feeling moments of respite, even joy does not mean that you don’t love the person you are grieving with your entire being. It simply means that you are quite wonderfully human.