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259 | Michele Neff Hernandez - Saving Widows with Her Organization!

September 17, 2022

259 | Michele Neff Hernandez - Saving Widows with Her Organization!
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Soaring Spirits has one goal; to connect widowed people with each other.

As an organization, our leaders have personally experienced the power of the words, “I get it.” We have felt the relief of being understood by another widowed person. We have laughed, and cried, with our widowed community. We have witnessed the transformation that having access to hope makes for someone whose life has been altered by death.

Through our unique programs, we prove to widowed people from all walks of life that they are not alone. Our innovative, life-affirming events, groups, and virtual programs provide vital access to hope for widowed people everywhere; hope for the moment, as well as hope for the future.

If you are widowed: Soaring Spirits is a safe place for you to begin the process of rebuilding. We won’t pretend this is easy, and we won’t put a timeline on your process. We will provide you with a huge group of people who are making their way through their own loss, and who are willing to walk beside you through yours. We will also assure you, as many times as needed, that a full and happy life is still possible for you. Really.

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Welcome to positive talk radio evolving ideas, one conversation at a time, great guests dynamic stories and interviews plus new thoughts on a wide range of topics and concepts. I hope that you'll hang with me Kevin MacDonald, my friends. And of course, you as together we work to understand why we are all here. And what we can do to make our world a better place for all of us to be happy, be kind and live in peace together. Yep, it's positive talk radio.

Unknown Speaker  0:56  
Welcome, everybody to another episode of positive talk radio, we've got a great show for you today. Well, you know, I say that all the time. But

Unknown Speaker  1:07  
I really enjoy the guests that we have on. And Michelle is a returning veteran of the podcast wars. And she's been here a number of times, and I keep having her back because her topic is so expansive. And it has such a big deal that there is so much to talk about with it. And then it affects all of us at one point or another. And she is the boss and the head bottle washer of soaring spirits International, which is a widow and widower support group that helps that helps people reconnect with each other so that they can deal with all of the issues have gone on before and, and really begin to understand and to live life again, because

Unknown Speaker  1:55  
I think it takes somebody that has gone through it themselves, which you did many years ago now. And

Unknown Speaker  2:03  
and if you want to look at those stories, that just

Unknown Speaker  2:08  
search for Michelle Hernandez or Neff Hernandez, on the positive talk radio or my independent report, and you will find her for some of those episodes. They're all really, really good. But I don't want to tread on the old ground. I want to explore new ground with you. But first, how are you today? I'm so good. And I love being here and hanging out on positive talk radio with you. And I think that what's interesting is that when you were talking, I was thinking, you know, the reason that I keep coming back is because we have a great time. And it's funny to say that because of the topic that we discussed. But it is true. Nonetheless, I feel like we do always have a great time together. And I and I don't doubt that today will be the same, you know, despite the fact that we'll be talking about a challenging topic. Yes, indeed. Well, you know, I had no idea until I just read the the posts that Emily wrote Emily Van Van Howard, is that right? Do our is a deal. I believe you got that right. Yes. Yes. And, and she wrote on September 12 2022, which was this past Monday. My birthday was on the 11th.

Unknown Speaker  3:23  
Yeah, so I'm a 911. Baby. That's right. Happy birthday to you. Well, thank you so much. And she just did this post that I did not know. And I'm sure a lot of people in our audience don't know that. That September is suicide awareness prevention month, or Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. There you go. And

Unknown Speaker  3:45  
so let me just say that, you know, what Emily does for soaring spirits. So soaring spirits is the organization I work for. And we host a blog that is written every day. And it's written every day by a different widowed person. And Emily has had the experience of a suicide death. And so she writes for her blog weekly. And she took, as you said, the blog that she wrote, she took the time to talk about suicide prevention awareness. And I also want to just note for people that sometimes one of the things that's hard for anyone who's experienced a suicide death is hearing those words suicide prevention, awareness, because, you know, there's a sense that maybe you could have done something about it. And so while we both want to, we want to lean into the ability to be aware of our friends and our family's emotional state, we also want to be aware that sometimes, you know, every effort that we've made and everything we've done to try to help and and or maybe things we didn't even know were going on with our person still can lead to their suicide death. And so suicide prevention awareness is not about trying to express that people should have the ability to

Unknown Speaker  5:00  
stops someone from taking their lives but more this sense of awareness that suicide is, you know, I didn't know that we would be talking about this today. Otherwise, I would maybe have some statistics for you. But suicide is a growing cause of death. And, you know, many of us know somebody. And in fact, all of us know somebody, because either we know someone personally, or we've heard of the, you know, very big stories that have happened. Robin Williams as an example, you know, people who are known to us in, you know, the broader community and whose lives ended in suicide in a way that was surprising to us. You're, you're so right, you're so right. By the way, I want to get this number out early, and we want to get it out often, there is a national suicide prevention hotline, and that number is 988. Is that all there is, is it's just 988? You know, I don't know the answer to that. And so we should double check before the end of the episode. Well, we'll confirm that. But I know that there is a new, there is a new line for suicide, that people have come out to make it easier to make sure that you can get help.

Unknown Speaker  6:10  
That's why it's kind of like 911 Yeah, exactly. Right. Exactly. Right. 988. And yeah, you're right, it is 988. I just confirmed with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And that's 988 is the suicide and crisis lifeline. So you just push 988. And, you know, I was reading her blog, and, and it's okay to talk a little bit about her blog, because obviously, it's

Unknown Speaker  6:36  
but she had her husband passed away. And they had three boys that were in between the ages of eight and 13, I believe, and add it to my it's so you wonder the depth of the pain that was going on in his soul that would cause him to leave his family that way.

Unknown Speaker  7:02  
And we you feel sorry, you I feel sorry for people that that are that.

Unknown Speaker  7:09  
Not only for them that the doing that, that have that happened to them. But the people that they leave behind? I've been, I've been around a couple and it is devastating. It's devastating for everybody. Yeah. Well, I love your heart, because you're able to see that, you know, the people who take their lives are in pain, that there is some kind of mental health crisis, either an ongoing one or an unexpected one that we didn't know about, that makes a person believe that the best course of action, and you know, despite all evidence to the contrary, is that they would end their life. Because so often,

Unknown Speaker  7:49  
we will have the experience of people saying, oh, that's the most selfish thing you can do. And while you know, that's very common conversation around suicide, how dare you, you know, I'm not going to grieve you even because you made this selfless decision. And whatever it was that led, you know, to the time of crisis, that you instead of sticking it out, you know, you took the easy way out. And I just want to clarify, like, I always think of it like this, you know, when you hold your breath, and your your body fights you to breathe. And so we are actually predestined, you know, we are we are set to live, and when you have to have something so, so big and so painful to overcome that natural desire to live. And then if you add to it, like for example, Emily's husband, he had a beautiful wife, and three boys, you know, in, there's no understanding what could have made him feel that ending his life was the better option than spending time with his family, whatever that was. And here's one of the challenges of suicide death, right? We're never going to know, we can't definitively what he was thinking, and that is what surviving people if someone was soot from who died by suicide live with is that question of like, how, you know, how they felt about what, what unanswered questions they have. But you have to imagine that whatever it was, that would cause him to do that was so significantly painful, that he determined, and sometimes it's logical, and sometimes it's not logical at all. Sometimes it can even be a rash response to something, you know, really, really intense. That's why sometimes you'll hear people say, suicide is a I think it's suicide is

Unknown Speaker  9:41  
a final, like a final solution to a temporary problem. And so, you know, that sense of like I if if, you know, trying to get people to hang in long enough to see if there's a better way to resolve whatever pain they're in, and those kind of you know, but as you said

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
Understanding what would make someone feel that that was the best outcome is really, really challenging. And I think one of the things that's most difficult for families and loved ones to try to grapple with,

Unknown Speaker  10:14  
you know, I don't know about you, but I will sit here and I will tell you that there have been times in my life that were particularly low. And I felt lonely, and I had been maybe dumped by a lover, or I lost my job, and I had no money. And I have at times contemplated that.

Unknown Speaker  10:36  
But what keeps me from it is like, Oh, let's see, I can, oh, that would hurt.

Unknown Speaker  10:44  
And I can jump somewhere, and I don't want to jump either. I don't want to, you know, that would hurt. So it's like, at the end of the day, I, I never got to the point where I would say, I don't care. I'm just, I just care. Well, and that speaks to right, what must be, you know, that paint that driving force to make that choice? I think the the other piece for me is that a lot of times

Unknown Speaker  11:12  
after the person dies by suicide, you know, and it cannot be understood. And there will never be a final answer to any of the many questions that might surround what led to that choice. But the people who most often suffer the, the shame and the ongoing pain of that choice, are the loved ones who survive that person, and for whom people start saying things like, Oh, what a selfish choice. I'll tell you that, you know, there was a

Unknown Speaker  11:48  
conversation that was shared with me that I have been, I've been gifted the opportunity to speak about where a one person says to another person, oh, you know, how did your person die? And she says he died by suicide? And the response to that was, oh, well, he must not have loved you that much trauma? Oh, my right. Because sometimes these are the things that we think, and, you know, what must that feel like to have? You know, because first of all, I would be willing to bet that she'd ask yourself that question, you know, what was it? Why? Why couldn't he choose to stay with me?

Unknown Speaker  12:24  
And when we as people who are hearing about these deaths, respond, if we can be used care with what we say? Because the thing is, we think that we're disparaging the person who died, which is a whole other subject, right? We've talked about how much pain they must be in the mental health crisis that might that likely caused this, okay, we set that aside for a minute. But when you start saying things about someone's loved one who died by suicide, you're not hurting them, you're hurting the person that you're talking to. And the person you're talking to, is already hurting, and already has questions and already may have thought of many of the things you've already said, and things that are much worse, because they are struggling with the reality of what their life looks like right now, as a result of a choice that they didn't make, but they must live with. And so, you know, we as a community can do a great service to people who are the survivors of a suicide by temporary and what we say. And by even thinking about it, you know, she had thought and so the beautiful end of that story, by the way,

Unknown Speaker  13:30  
is that the person who was asked that question said, you know, he actually really struggled with mental health. And I don't think it had anything to do with how much he loved me. And the person who had first said it realized what she'd said and was like, oh, like, I can't believe I just like, I can't believe I just said that. And so they got to have a good conversation about when someone says that to you. How does that sound? How does it feel? She didn't intend to cause harm. She thought she spoke the first thing that came into her head. And so I just always ask that when we're talking to people, any grief or really, but in particular, someone who's grieving a suicide death, you know, to think about to say the question in your mind out loud before it comes out of your mouth, and wonder like, How would it feel if someone asked me this question? Here's another, you know, here's another side tip I know you didn't ask for, but I'm just going to offer some unsolicited advice, if you don't mind.

Unknown Speaker  14:23  
I appreciate that. I love that about you, Kevin. But it's just that what's the first thing that everybody wants to know in a suicide death? How did they cut themselves? That's the first thing. And and so often as a suicide survivor, the first thing people say is how did well how did they do it? And so you know, you don't want to recount that. You don't want to recount that. And at the end, it doesn't matter. What matters, of course, is that we are, you know, grieving a person, a person we love. And so another just good tip is try to refrain from asking the question, oh, how did they die? Because you know, that's the solution.

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
Split, right? That's the piece where people, you know, every suicide death of any kind of celebrity, any well known person, the first question is always, how did they die because people want those details. But it's a very painful question to ask someone who has survived that. First of all, you don't know what the circumstances where maybe that person literally was the one to find them. And you asking that question brings up immediately takes him right back to that moment, which was so painful and life altering in every way. And there's also a case where some people don't know. And so then that brings that whole thing up as well. So you know, just if we can, as a community say, One way we're going to support people who have experienced a suicide death is by not asking them the kind of questions that might take them right back to a moment that was so so painful. You know, I can't imagine that it's bad enough, when you lose a loved one, in like an automobile accident, or, or a cancer death or something like that, that, that you don't have a lot of, but suicide is so sudden, and it's like, here and then gone. And then and especially if you find them, and they're in your house, and, and whatever. And then and then the arrangements and then talking to people and family and friends, I can only imagine how devastating it is for someone to go through that. So I, my first advice is, if you are feeling suicidal in any way, call 988. Number one, number two, get mental help it okay these days, to go to a counselor, and to seek mental health because you're feeling depressed, you're feeling like you're doing the end of your rope, whatever it is, so, so if you're listening to this, and you're feeling that way, call 988, please, because it will pass. You know, I, I told you before the story of my my brother in law, he was 42. And I now 65 We were the same age, he missed, he's missed 23 years of beautiful life on this planet. We watching the Seahawks win a Super Bowl, watching you know the different things in life, you the kids grow up the nephews, the he, my son was adored him and and they would have a great relationship. And so when if you are feeling that way, there it will end they will get better call 988 that will help. And I think you know, it's also just really worth saying out loud to anyone who is struggling, it's okay to struggle. Yeah. You know, everybody struggles, it just doesn't seem like other people might be struggling. And so that also makes it true that sometimes, because a lot of times there is a sense for suicide survivors, people who have survived the death of someone they love by suicide, that they should have known, or that there were obvious signs that they somehow missed. And imagine you ask yourself the question, did I miss it? Was there something I should have seen? How could I have made a difference. And so for people who are struggling now, just know that there are you know, going to ask for help is a first step in dealing with whatever it is that is making, you know, that makes you feel like maybe dying is a better is a better opportunity for you. And you know, that's that's hard for people to understand. But that doesn't mean that that there aren't lots of other people feeling that way. And they're just not talking about it. And many times the assumption that somebody knew that there was a struggle, a mental health struggle going on is actually incorrect. Sometimes there's no sign of it. And people are suffering in silence. So if you are suffering in silence, 988 is a great place to start looking for a support network that can help you make your way through tiny step by tiny step, whatever it is you're struggling with today. I'd also like to point out that if you are someone that's listening to us, and has had, has been touched personally by suicide, go to soaring spirits International, and connect with them because they work with people who are widowed, and that have felt the same way that you may be feeling now. And they get the support that they need. And that is so vital. When you lose a loved one. You need love to come from somewhere. And you need understanding and people who know who've been through what you've been through, which is why your organization is so special. Well, we really, you know, we recognize too, that there are a lot of things that bring us together in our widowed community. So you know, the fact that we're widowed is one thing. And then beneath that big umbrella of the widow community, there's many micro communities and one of those is the suicide survivors community

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
and they have a unique understanding of some things that someone who hasn't lived through that experience just couldn't possibly know. And so we build programs to provide that additional support for people who've experienced a suicide death, so that they can connect with someone else who has as well. And that immediately helps you feel a little bit less alone. And it helps you access a unique kind of understanding because as much as I feel for, and have had the opportunity to provide service to and work with widowed people who have experienced the death of their person by suicide, that's not my personal experience. And so there's only so much I can understand, they need to be connected with other people who have experienced the suicide death. And I say that, you know, just globally, so if if you are a widowed persons or in spirits international could be the place for you. But I also want to point to, you know, there is a variety, there are a variety of suit of suicide survivor organizations, for any other family member that you may have experienced, or friends, you know, many of our teenagers are struggling with a friend having taken their life, and they're trying to place that within their growing understanding of the world. And so seeking out other people who have had a suicide death in their life, really does make a difference to your ability to process to heal, and to, you know, put some perspective around a death that doesn't have an explanation that's going to be neat and tidy, in the way that if someone dies by cancer, or in you know, my husband died in a cycling accident, I've no question how or why he died. I know what happened. I know why he died for suicide survivors, oftentimes, that sort of certainty is just not possible.

Unknown Speaker  21:47  
And many times, people, it's an impulsive thing. It's it's a spur of the moment, kind of thing. It's not necessarily all planned out, as you referenced Robin, Robin Williams, he in his case, he said, good, good night to his wife. And they were sleeping in separate bedrooms, for whatever reason. And he said, Goodbye, good night to her. And then he went into his own room. And he did that he had plans on that, apparently, but a lot of times it's an in, it's a fit of anger, it can be a fit of deep despair. I really feel sorry for people that are feeling so despondent about life, that they're willing to, to end it, especially when you've got like, like,

Unknown Speaker  22:37  
Emily's husband, you have so much to live for three pains, three teenage kids, a beautiful wife a life. And I just can't imagine the depth of the despair that he was in. And that I think it is what it keeps coming back to. And I do want to just circle quickly back to Robin Williams, because it was later discovered that he was struggling struggling with Lewy body dementia. And you know, there are pieces, there are just so many pieces to suicide, that that we can never understand how our brain works. What kind of chemical reactions are we having? Is it a you know, is it related to a disease like Robin Williams? Is it related to medication, like, you know, I know, a person who had a really strong reaction to a medication, and you know, you've read on the bottle, sometimes it says, you know, suicidal thoughts are a possibility. And so, you know, those actually do happen, people do. And so, you know, I feel like with suicide death, there's this sense that there's one, you know, that there's a there's a reason, there's a specific reason why someone and chose on their life. And sometimes that is true. And other times, there's 100 reasons that could not possibly be understood, be understood, including, like I said, medication, disease, you know, a traumatic break in of some sort, you know, and or maybe an ongoing struggle with mental health that has finally exhausted the person who feels that they can no longer continue. And so it think it always comes back to the depth of pain that this person is experiencing to have made that choice, either, you know, whether that's in just a moment, or whether it's, you know, response to a suicidal thought that was influenced by by a medication, they're just, there's no neat bow, right? There's no one thing that we can say, Okay, this is what happens in a suicide death. It's just it's a very muddy and complex death experience that more and more people, you know, I mean, we could talk about veterans, right, like the PTSD, all of the things that we're discovering, are really deeply embedded in our psyche and sometimes very, very difficult to untangle.

Unknown Speaker  24:46  
You know, just think about this from time to time whenever, whenever I hear about a single car accident on somebody going off road, or and hitting a tree or an overdose death or

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
Somebody that

Unknown Speaker  25:04  
what was the third one I was thinking of they overdose death, and the car accident. And they fall from a from a, you know, you don't know, and you don't know what's in people's hearts and in their minds when that when that happens, and you just like to, you know, and so I can't stress enough, go to 988 if you if you're having troubles, or if you know somebody that's having troubles.

Unknown Speaker  25:30  
Go do that. And and the other thing too is if you know somebody and you're worried about them, don't don't hesitate to ask the question. You know, you get to do if you are able, and I don't mean this to say that it's our responsibility to ensure that people don't take their lives because that's not possible. But it is definitely possible to make sure that the people in your life know you care about them. And that if they are struggling, you are a person they could come to for support in helping them to find help. That is a really good point. Because I would I would think, I don't know everybody, but my sister when I was having a moment of deep despair. And she she asked me, she said, Are you considering killing yourself?

Unknown Speaker  26:14  
And when when she said that, I had in my back of my mind, I had been considering it. But then it was like, well,

Unknown Speaker  26:23  
now the genies out of the bottle, she knows, and I can't. And then we had a deep, long discussion. rageous question for her to ask you. And that's, you know, that's that says, I care about you. And I'm asking you a direct question about this so that I can make it available for us to discuss if that's something that you are thinking or that you feel competent, talking to me about. And that, you know, again, I think that the hardest part for, I can't say, a hard part of the suicide experience, is that sense of could I have done something? Is there something I could have done to influence this. And so I always want to be clear that we cannot be responsible for someone else's life, as much as we might want to, we can't be responsible, because we need to free our survivors of suicide from the shame of thinking that there's some way they should have done something better to change this outcome. And at the same time, recognize that as humans, we are in it together. And the more often we say that to each other, the more likely it is that someone who is struggling, is, you know, just has the right person at the right moment your sister asking you right at that time, when it was a thought that was going on in your head, whether it was an active conversation with yourself or not, at least brought it into the light. And then it was like, oh, okay, I this is something we can talk about. And so we free ourselves and our and our loved ones to speak about it when we are willing to ask the question, just as a as a point of I'm worried about you. And I'm wondering if this is something you're thinking about? I think a lot of people,

Unknown Speaker  28:07  
let me backtrack, I think some people

Unknown Speaker  28:12  
have a suicide event because they don't think anybody cares.

Unknown Speaker  28:17  
And if you can dispel that, that myth, because it really is a myth. If you can dispel that, and let people know that, or you let that person know that I care about what happens to you. A lot of times that that can be that can break the dam of the emotions that they're holding in. And then you can you can get through it. And we also get very much on our head, right? And we can convince ourselves of horrible things, we can convince ourselves that no one cares, we can convince ourselves that we are not worthy of fill in the blank, we can convince ourselves that we you know that the world would be better off without us in it. And those voices in our heads can only be you know, they are a powerful force, and having other voices in your head who say I care about you, I love you. You know, again, can we always counteract the outcome? No, we can't. But we certainly can influence and take the opportunity to make sure that people in our lives know we love them and care about them, and want to be able to help them inch by inch, because that's the thing, sometimes the problems just seem too big to be solved. And, you know, I feel like for someone who maybe is struggling right now, listening to his talk, they're like, they don't know what they're talking about. They don't know my life. They don't know, you know, it's like easy for you to say call 988.

Unknown Speaker  29:41  
But I want to say again, like the calling of 988 is the beginning of saying, Okay, let's talk about you know, what kind of support can we get to solve whatever the problem is, and sometimes it's not a specific problem. Sometimes it's our heads telling us things that are not true.

Unknown Speaker  29:58  
And get the help that we need.

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
To be able to start taking the steps forward towards healing and towards feeling able to continue to remain with your loved ones and the people who care about you. And sometimes it is so insidious what you say to yourself, and the story that you that you are telling yourself, giving an example in the in again from my life, because I don't have any other examples, because I'm not in anybody else's ad.

Unknown Speaker  30:25  
Probably for the best, Kevin.

Unknown Speaker  30:29  
I think you're absolutely right. But there was a time when it was like, let's see, through work, I've got to this half million dollar life insurance policy. And I'm working hard, but I'm not making ends meet the way I want to I can be obligations, and doing stuff,

Unknown Speaker  30:48  
I would be better for me just to go and to and to have them have this half million dollar policy. And that's, that is so insidious, because if you act on that the people who leave behind love you so much, and it affects them, those three boys are going to be affected. Regardless for the rest of their lives. I want a lot of people that have had a parent commits, or excuse me, wrong word. Parents suffers from suicide. And,

Unknown Speaker  31:21  
and it affects children, generationally, I'm so proud of you right now, because you just changed your language.

Unknown Speaker  31:29  
I'm so proud of you. And Kevin, we talked about this, and you and you have it, and it stuck in your head. And I just want to say it for everyone. Because, you know, we you, you will hear people say this consistently, including people who are survivors of suicide, using the phrase commit suicide. And the reason that that that we have that in our general consciousness is because that suicide used to be a crime, and was a crime to take your life. And so you use the word commit, because you were committing a crime. And as we've become more aware of the, you know, struggle of Mental Health, and the real struggle that people experience, as they suffer through, you know, suicidal thoughts, we've stopped using that language in order to start to address the shame that has been attached to to suicide death, by instead of saying commit suicide died by suicide is is an easy way to describe, you know, that that type of death. And it helps to remove the stigma that comes with the idea that this person broke the law, which is no longer no longer the case. But it also comes back to look at exactly what you just said about life insurance, is that in the during that time, you couldn't collect on your life insurance policy, if the loved the person who held the policy took their life. And there are still some limitations today on how that works. But I see what you know, it's so true that insidious voices can convince us that our loved ones having the money is so much better than our loved ones having us. And I can assure you from the side of you know, being on the other side of widowhood myself, and say that there is no amount of money that would I would have traded for my husband's life, no amount of money. And so even though that insidious voice is saying, Oh, but you don't know, lady, you don't know our financial situation, you don't know that work any better, I can tell you for sure that your loved ones would not trade you in for a pile of money. And that, you know, though, I can totally understand why it's that's a voice that might be going on in your head. You know, being able to hear someone say they wouldn't trade you. And you know that that that's a really important message.

Unknown Speaker  33:49  
Previously, on another episode, I talked about one of the

Unknown Speaker  33:55  
people that suffered suicide that that I was I was part of it. I'm not going to go back into that here. But what I am going to go into is that when I went to his house here, his brother's house the next day, there were 25 relatives.

Unknown Speaker  34:12  
And they were all absolutely crushed in clothing, including grandpa, who was sitting in the chair and, and was and everybody was just, and he didn't recognize that. And what is it that you think the stories that we get into our head that we don't recognize that we are loved by by numerous people, and even if you even if you have somebody cheats on you or decides that they don't want to be married to anymore or whatever like that.

Unknown Speaker  34:48  
You still have value. And how do we get that two people that 200 to to break through those barriers? I think it starts by recognizing you know that so often

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
And as a as a society, right? What do we put value on, we put value on money, or you want status, we put value on, you know how far we can make it in our careers. But at the end of the day, when someone dies, those are not the things that people talk about. Those are not the things that are valuable and, and what are valuable, you know, that fun trip you took with your kids, you know, where you taught them how to go fishing, you know, the family dinners that you had, where you play games afterwards, the, the, you know, the interactions with the people in your life, whatever those might look like. But I do think that, that it's also worth noting that for some people, they just don't feel like they have those like, I wonder, would your brother in law have been surprised by the people who showed up there? Did he know that those people cared about him? You know, and even if he did, sometimes, that pain is so great, that being able to acknowledge and let that reality in that people do care about you? Doesn't feel possible? And you know, oftentimes we blame the person like why didn't you know? Or how can you? What what did you think was going to happen? How would you do this to the people around you? And I just I have to believe that there's no value in that. We're allowed to be angry, we're allowed to have our feelings around a suicide death. Absolutely. But trying to figure out the hows and whys can make. You know, it's just something that is a unique, I think, to suicide death that, that the sometimes we have to just know that we're not going to know. And I think that's a really hard part. Yeah, well, in the end, it'll make you crazy. Because every, every day, you're thinking, Well, what did I see it? Could I have stopped it? Did I know, deep down was I awake, you know, and then you start telling your stories. Remember the time that he said or, or that she did this or what? And it's insidious, and it just continues on, and gets deeper and deeper. And so and that's why you if you suffered from suicide, and or you are somebody that that witness, or that was a family member, you still need to see you still need counseling, you just still didn't help.

Unknown Speaker  37:16  
For sure. And I think you know, the other thing about that 988 Number is that will access all kinds of support for people who have either actively considering suicide have considered suicide and, and need some help, and also for loved ones, to help be connected to very specific resources around suicide death, because, you know, every time we're grieving a person that we've that we intended to continue to have in our lives, that comes with its own unique challenges. And then when you add the nuance that's associated with how someone died in, in this case, suicide, death, being able to find some unique resources to deal with the questions, the shame, the stigma, the things that come up. And even, you know, again, like this is not about the person who died at this point. At this point, it's about the survivors. And when we use language that's detrimental to their healing, the person who died isn't being hurt by it, us trying to, you know, be raped, someone who's done is not helpful to the person who's listening to you, and thinking that's my person. And yes, I'm allowed to be mad at them. And yes, I might have my own questions. And you might even be saying something that I've thought myself 100 times. But having someone else say that to you, really can shut down relationships and can cause harm, where no harm is intended. So if we just tread carefully, and offer compassion first, and keep our own judgments about someone who, who took their life to ourselves, it's the best way that we can offer people who have experienced the death of someone they live by suicide support and compassion. If you're wondering why we're talking about suicide, and you might be if you just tuned in or were listening and paying attention, this because September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. And Friday, the 10th is the World Suicide Prevention Day, which is was Saturday this year, I believe, and

Unknown Speaker  39:17  
and they also unveiled a new number that you can call, it's very easy. It's 988, just three digits. And you can call if you are feeling distraught. And if you need if you need help, it's

Unknown Speaker  39:31  
haven't covered conversations like this are difficult, Michelle, but they're necessary. It's so helpful. The thing about suicide death, right is that we often don't talk about it and because we don't talk about it, that means that anybody who's struggling with suicidal ideation doesn't really have a format to bring it up. Because it's not something that we have a regular conversation about. And so you know, giving and again, I want to continue to stress because so many

Unknown Speaker  40:00  
People make the assumption that we can that we could have done something specific. But instead of like this general sense of allowing conversation about suicide means that more and more people might have the opportunity to express how they're feeling, might feel confident in reaching out to someone who has been talking about suicide, even go home tonight. And so, you know, I was listening to this positive talk radio, and they were talking about suicide. And, and I want to just, you know, ask a question about it, talk about it at the dinner table. Do we know anybody who's experienced a suicide death, you know, has anybody struggled with ideas of suicide, because these are not dinner table conversations we typically have. And if we do have them, it offers us the opportunity to, you know, start sharing things that might be helpful, including I, you know, you would be really missed if you died, or I'm always here for you, if there's something that you need, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. It doesn't. The thing is, I think, as our world we try to, we set perfection, you know, as the goal and no one's perfect, it's not possible to be perfect. And so sometimes I think that striving for perfection, is also this ongoing sense of stress that that everyone lives with. And that often keeps them from seeking help, because they want to continue to appear perfect for the people around them. People got to know that there's no such thing as perfect. And they even even Mary Poppins wasn't perfect. That's exactly right. But

Unknown Speaker  41:35  
the thing, the other thing that that surprises me, and maybe you can help me understand it a little bit, is when somebody does have a suicide episode, and then they pass away. A lot of times the newspapers don't want to talk about it. The media doesn't want to talk about it, they won't say what happened to that individual. Or in so is it do you think that's a good thing? Or is that just kind of a push it underneath the rug? Well, you know, it's an interesting thing that you that you mentioned that, because

Unknown Speaker  42:09  
so often, when they don't tell you how someone died, it typically does turn out to be suicide.

Unknown Speaker  42:16  
And I think that there's a couple layers to that. One is one, as you said, sometimes you're not certain, you know, there is a cause of death. And whether or not it was intentional, is sometimes unclear.

Unknown Speaker  42:28  
And I think secondarily, because of the way that we treat suicide in our country, in the US in particular, you know, the stigma and the shame around it, we're working, I think that that the more publicly we speak about it, the more often we're able to process it as a community, the better able we are to support people who both might be suicidal, and also those who have experienced the death of a loved one. But I think there is some level of protection for the family also. And so I am always a fan of protecting people who need some time to be able to process what's happened in suicide death. You know, just think about Naomi Judd.

Unknown Speaker  43:12  
You know, that was a recent suicide death, very surprising, not immediately reported as a suicide. And yet, we, you know, her family decides to come forward and talk about it, because she'd been struggling with mental health consistently for many, many years. And, and from the interviews that I saw, you know, it seemed to me that the understanding was, we worried that this day would come, because there seemed like there was going to be a point where she couldn't hold on anymore. And I thought that that was just a really compassionate way of recognizing the strain and the struggle that can be sometimes associated with mental health and mental illness.

Unknown Speaker  43:54  
You know, and at the same time, right, we, you know, of all people to wonder if they were loved. And, you know, if to get the public acclaim you know, we all think of that, that that's going to be the thing that would keep us alive, but in this case, even that wasn't enough for her to feel like she could continue to carry the pain of her mental illness. You know, the another case that comes to mind and this is this is goes way back and so you probably won't even remember him, but he was in a TV series called Chico and the Man and his name was Freddie Prinze. Oh yeah. For by the way that Freddie Prinze? Junior's father, right. And he was 2122 years old. He had, he was a stand up comic, he had a show on TV. He had the world was seemingly at his feet. And yet something was so any him had such despair, that he ended up taking his own life and, and that that can happen and nobody, you know, I don't

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
I don't recall if anybody said, Well, he had a lot of mental illness. And that was why he did it. But sometimes it's, it's hidden. And so you can't blame yourself, if somebody does something that is seems so out of character for them. But they're just in such pain. You know, as you said, since we're talking about suicide, prevention, awareness, you know, the word prevention for people who have experienced a suicide, death can be difficult. But the thought of awareness, I think, is critical to changing and shifting the narrative around suicide death, because, you know, you have everything from someone like a celebrity who seemingly, as you said, the world is their oyster, and why and why would they take their life and speaking to, you know, that just points to whatever it was, must have been really bad for them to feel like this. But then it also speaks to the lies we tell ourselves, you know, Naomi Judd specifically struggled with whether she was good enough. And yet, everything that you would look at, you know, seem to point to the fact that she was more than good enough that she had this huge career. And so, you know, it comes back to the voices, sometimes in our own head and the narrative that we adopt about ourselves, that sometimes pushes us into, you know, a mental health crisis that ends in suicide death. And so being aware of that, and talking about that, as a community talking about the way we speak to ourselves, talking about, you know, that it's not just about suicide is is complex, it doesn't, you know, it's different for every single person, there's no way we can say this is how you avoid it. But what we can do is talk about it so that people feel like there is a space for discussion and a space for finding ways to support people who are suicidal, and changing the narrative around suicide death, so that survivors have access to the kind of tools and resources they need to be able to heal in the aftermath of a really, really life altering and devastating experience, you know, that what you just said, is just brilliant. And we're going to make a short out of out of this episode, and put it up on because it needs to be out there more. And even if it's just, you know, when we talk about suicide prevention, awareness, even if you're just aware that that possibility, at any given time can exist for all of us. Yeah, absolutely. Right. And then ticular, for people that you love, you know, and for, you know, to normalize, that people sometimes do feel desperate, sometimes could feel suicidal, and being able to speak about that can influence the outcome. So, you know, being able to, it won't always, but it can, and that's what the awareness piece is about, and the prevention piece is about. And so, so many times, you know, there's this sense, especially in the, in the widowed suicide community, that, you know, it's somehow is the fault. You know, we started at the top of the hour with me telling the story of a woman who said, Oh, he must not have loved you that much if he took his life, because we forget that it is it is more complex than we could ever understand. And we simplify it in ways that can be painful for people who have experienced that type of death, whether it is a spouse or partner, or a child, or a friend or a co worker, you know, so often, there is a private struggle that we don't know about. And by speaking about suicide prevention awareness, we have that, you know, just that kind of niggling idea like, Oh, you're right, this could be a reality for someone I know right now, who could be influenced by hearing this conversation? Or by you saying, hey, you know, I've noticed you're really quiet lately. I'm just a little worried about you, you know, do you need to talk about anything? How are you doing? Just just being more aware of the people around us and reaching out when something seems on this?

Unknown Speaker  49:03  
And just again, just and don't, you know, I've said this to my kids, and don't be afraid to use the words. Are you feeling like ending your life?

Unknown Speaker  49:21  
Because if you're feeling that way, then by all means, let's go get you some help. Yeah. You know, so it's important to Z. It's important. This has been a marvelous discussion and I want to thank you for it. I'm so I appreciate that. You make space for some of these difficult conversations and I you know, again, want to say to everyone, the reason that we talk about it is to open up you know, our minds to the fact that suicide is there is no one reason anyone would take their life and also to give us the space for remembering that the way we speak to people who have experienced a suicide death.

Unknown Speaker  50:00  
can help or harm their future healing. And so when we use language that avoids the word commit, when we use language that supports rather than judges, then you know, we have the opportunity to be a force for good for people who are struggling with a really what often feels like an impossible situation in the aftermath of losing someone they love to suicide.

Unknown Speaker  50:25  
Seeing the thing is, Michelle, what you do, and what I do in different ways, are both designed to help people and people that we may not ever even meet. Yeah, there are people that are working with your organization soaring spirits International, that because it's a it's becoming a big deal, this organization of yours, as far as in the garage of your house. Exactly. Right. Yeah. And you know, what we're, what we're working towards, is just continuing to build communities for widowed people in which they can heal. And that work, I always tell people, you know, we're we are not curing a disease. We're inside offering to walk alongside people as they heal and evolve through a grief experience. And so that work is ongoing work. And we are actively working to ensure that anyone would person who comes to us has access to both relevant resources and research based programs, all held within a compassionate community that will help them not only process their grief, but rebuild a life of meaning for themselves in the aftermath. You know, I'd like to say that your organization is going to stamp out widowhood.

Unknown Speaker  51:48  
If I had a magic wand, Kevin, that would absolutely be what we would do. That's fact the matter is that it is part of life. Yeah. And, and how we deal with it is as important as anything else. And, and organizations like yours and talking about suicide on the show. If we can impact somebody to say, Wow, maybe I won't, today? Or we? Or could they call 988 and get some help? Or they or they have a friend or a neighbor or a buddy that it seems down? And and they have asked that question. Are you feeling okay, can I help you? And you're not, you know, and that question eventually will lead into? Are you're not thinking about taking your own life, are you? And I think we need to talk about that, rather than skirt around the topic. Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes that question allows people, you know, the opportunity to speak about it, and, and, and speaking about it can sometimes make a difference. And so, you know, that's I really feel like that's what suicide prevention awareness is about in and it's about normalizing conversations about suicide death, and removing the judgment that comes with, you know, assuming that suicide death is about one specific thing, or because of one specific thing. When really truly as humans, we're complex, and every circumstance is complex. And suicide death certainly is one of the most complex experiences we can make our way through.

Unknown Speaker  53:25  
You know, I was looking at your website, and I was looking at some of the pictures. And I went, and first of all, it's, it's great that everybody's together, and they're smiling, and they're feeling good, but I was looking at it going, Holy crap. There's a lot of young people here. Yeah, average age of the people we serve is 53. So, you know, when you think that's now, I didn't think at one time, I didn't think 53 was young. That was thinking 53 is like really early 80s, especially when you consider that's the average age. And so you know, we have a significant number of people on either side of that age to come to that average. And you know, I think that's the other thing for soaring spirits we work at reframing what widowhood looks like. I was widowed at 35. And I had a wife once did an interview. I had done the interview portion with the reporter. The photographer was coming later, he knocked on the door, I opened it, he asked for Michelle. I said I'm Michelle. He said no, the widow Michelle.

Unknown Speaker  54:28  
Because he was not expecting a 35 year old person he was expecting, you know, a much older person I assume. And so, you know, that's another thing that we're shifting. Everybody knows somebody who died way too young. It's just that we forget that often that person is partnered, and that might likely mean that they also have a young partner. And so, you know, changing the way people look at the widowed experience is part of the work that we do, and those pictures of our community and I'll tell you, the reason they're smiling is because they're together.

Unknown Speaker  55:00  
is because they found their pupil because they feel that they are in a safe space, they have had some compassionate understanding available to them. They, they might have been crying five minutes ago. And then five minutes later, they're laughing. And in that space, that toggle of emotion is not only welcome, it's common. And so you know, what you see in the faces on our website is not people who are pretending that widowhood is not hard. It's people who have agreed Yes, widowhood is hard. And it makes a difference, when you have people to walk alongside you while you do it.

Unknown Speaker  55:35  
We as a society are so silly sometimes, because we don't, we hide certain things. I'll give you an example. I was reading an article about baby boomers. And they were giving statistics as to who was living as a single person who was married, and so on and so forth. And, and they kept on bringing up that more and more singles,

Unknown Speaker  55:58  
retired people that are that are baby boomers, there are women, and there are women that are living alone, but they don't ever say these are people that have been recently widowed, that their husband that had been with them for 40 or 50 year has passed away. And and that is a certain segment of the population that I think is really underserved. And that's why your organization is so, so helpful. And I, you know, I live in a 55 plus community, there are people here that I have never met their place, right? It's easy to be isolated. And it's in particular easy to be isolated during grief. Because you don't feel like your best self, you don't necessarily have the energy to get out, you might be feeling like leaving the house without your person, you know, is too big of a job and also makes you miss them more. And so oftentimes people just sort of hunker down. And I'll say that's been one of the one of the blessings of having an expanded virtual program is that for people who are struggling to leave their house, we have created ways for them to be able to still connect with others. And just hearing voices and seeing other faces is like, Okay, I'm not the only one person, I see that there is a community here. And they have the opportunity to access resources right from their own home.

Unknown Speaker  57:19  
I had a laugh yesterday, a good friend of mine, because it was my birthday on Sunday.

Unknown Speaker  57:25  
And, and he said, you know, I'll come on Thursday, and we'll, we'll go out to dinner. And we'll go to a movie and stuff because I live alone, I generally don't, I don't go to movies by myself, because I don't want to have you know, that big old bucket of popcorn

Unknown Speaker  57:40  
and go down the aisle and have somebody going, Oh, that poor man.

Unknown Speaker  57:45  
You don't have any friends

Unknown Speaker  57:48  
and stuff. And there may be a movie that I just want to see. So we went out we had dinner, and we went to a movie. And as we were walking into the theater, I said to him, Do you know how many people are looking at us saying, well, there's a nice gay couple

Unknown Speaker  58:05  
which you prefer over them saying, look at that sad sack guy with a big box of popcorn on his own.

Unknown Speaker  58:13  
Let's all remind ourselves, especially since we're talking about suicide prevention, awareness, let's all remind ourselves that we tell ourselves stories about what other people think of us all that time. And the truth might be completely opposite of what we're thinking. And so just remember that, you know, be whatever it is that you say in your own head, it's it's not always the truth.

Unknown Speaker  58:36  
Well, I'll amend that it's hardly ever the truth. Because you have your own prejudice involved and your own thoughts about it and stuff. And so just, you know, and that's, we are all one, just let it be. And the Gospel according to Paul McCartney, just let it be and, and take people as they are, and care about people. And if you see somebody that's down, help, try and help lift them up. And or at least tell them to call nine and eight. And offering ourselves and each other as much grace as we can. Because life is complicated. But on the other side of complicated is beautiful. And so if we can find a way to keep making our way through the complicated and allow the beautiful to sit beside it, then we have a great opportunity to experience things that we might never have imagined. If when I was 22, I had thought and followed through on what I was thinking at the time. I would not be here today and we would not be having this conversation. That's how important it is for everybody to live your life fully and to and at the end of the day to not have any regrets. I believe, personally that when somebody when somebody suffers from suicide, unless it's a mental disorder, which I think happens more often than we than we admit to it, that that they regret that decision that they

Unknown Speaker  1:00:00  
made, and would like to reverse it if they could.

Unknown Speaker  1:00:04  
Well, and therein lies the challenge of being a suicide survivor is that there's no way to know for sure. But what we can say is that knowing that someone cares sometimes makes all the difference. So make sure that people around you know that you care, both for you and for them. And that's just all good no matter what. Now, I want I'm going to set myself aside and I want you to tell our audience, the ones that are listening now, and the ones that will be listening far, far, far into the future.

Unknown Speaker  1:00:37  
Anything you'd like them to know? Well, if you are a person who is widowed yourself, or you know someone who's widowed who is in need of support soaring spirits International is here to help you can find us soaring spirits dot o RG. Our flagship program is called Camp widow. And it's such a big program. It has its own website. So that's Camp widow.org. But of course, they all lead into each other. But more than anything, you know, the work of soaring spirits is about rebuilding and about creating a meaningful life for ourselves. And I think sometimes in grief, it feels impossible to imagine that you would have a meaningful life. And I know that for many Grievers. You know, suicidal ideation is a real thing. And so you know, surrounding yourself with as much support as you can while you grieve and immersing yourself in a community of support that can provide you with tools and resources for rebuilding is a really positive step in creating a healing space in which you can evolve. So we welcome you. We welcome any person who's experienced the death of a person they thought they were going to spend their life with. So we have a very broad definition of the word widowed. You don't have to be married you don't have to be in any sort of relationship. Gay Straight you know, polyamorous, it doesn't matter what kind of relationship you are in. If you have experienced the death of a partner, you felt that partner was your person. You're welcome in our programs.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:08  
That's outstanding. And again,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:12  
Michelle Neff, Hernandez. Hernandez, excuse me, that wasn't good. I liked that. Good that pronunciation though.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:21  
Go to soaring spirits international.com and get all the information that you can. And I want to thank Michelle she's gonna be back on the show again, because I just this this has been an hour that seems like five minutes. It flies right by I've like I said, I feel like a returning character. So I'm excited about it. You, you you are you the information that you have and, and the heart that you bring to it is just amazing. And I really I really appreciate you.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:49  
Thank you so much. Thank you. And if you'll wait right there. I'll be right back. Hey, thanks for enjoying this episode all the way to the end. Please give us a like and subscribe to this channel. This has been a production of positive talk radio dotnet please visit our website oddly named positive talk radio.net For more details about us and our mission, which is to provide great positive programming designed to inspire us all. I'm Kevin McDonald. I'm proud of these shows, and I truly hope that you'll like them and share them with friends and family. So on behalf of our entire team, remember, be kind to one another because each other's all we got to

Unknown Speaker  1:03:31  
do

Transcript

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The

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following presentation is brought to you by camedia dot Pro, please visit camedia dot Pro for more information. Now stay right where you are as we present.

Unknown Speaker  0:16  
Welcome to positive talk radio evolving ideas, one conversation at a time, great guests dynamic stories and interviews plus new thoughts on a wide range of topics and concepts. I hope that you'll hang with me Kevin MacDonald, my friends. And of course, you as together we work to understand why we are all here. And what we can do to make our world a better place for all of us to be happy, be kind and live in peace together. Yep, it's positive talk radio.

Unknown Speaker  0:56  
Welcome, everybody to another episode of positive talk radio, we've got a great show for you today. Well, you know, I say that all the time. But

Unknown Speaker  1:07  
I really enjoy the guests that we have on. And Michelle is a returning veteran of the podcast wars. And she's been here a number of times, and I keep having her back because her topic is so expansive. And it has such a big deal that there is so much to talk about with it. And then it affects all of us at one point or another. And she is the boss and the head bottle washer of soaring spirits International, which is a widow and widower support group that helps that helps people reconnect with each other so that they can deal with all of the issues have gone on before and, and really begin to understand and to live life again, because

Unknown Speaker  1:55  
I think it takes somebody that has gone through it themselves, which you did many years ago now. And

Unknown Speaker  2:03  
and if you want to look at those stories, that just

Unknown Speaker  2:08  
search for Michelle Hernandez or Neff Hernandez, on the positive talk radio or my independent report, and you will find her for some of those episodes. They're all really, really good. But I don't want to tread on the old ground. I want to explore new ground with you. But first, how are you today? I'm so good. And I love being here and hanging out on positive talk radio with you. And I think that what's interesting is that when you were talking, I was thinking, you know, the reason that I keep coming back is because we have a great time. And it's funny to say that because of the topic that we discussed. But it is true. Nonetheless, I feel like we do always have a great time together. And I and I don't doubt that today will be the same, you know, despite the fact that we'll be talking about a challenging topic. Yes, indeed. Well, you know, I had no idea until I just read the the posts that Emily wrote Emily Van Van Howard, is that right? Do our is a deal. I believe you got that right. Yes. Yes. And, and she wrote on September 12 2022, which was this past Monday. My birthday was on the 11th.

Unknown Speaker  3:23  
Yeah, so I'm a 911. Baby. That's right. Happy birthday to you. Well, thank you so much. And she just did this post that I did not know. And I'm sure a lot of people in our audience don't know that. That September is suicide awareness prevention month, or Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. There you go. And

Unknown Speaker  3:45  
so let me just say that, you know, what Emily does for soaring spirits. So soaring spirits is the organization I work for. And we host a blog that is written every day. And it's written every day by a different widowed person. And Emily has had the experience of a suicide death. And so she writes for her blog weekly. And she took, as you said, the blog that she wrote, she took the time to talk about suicide prevention awareness. And I also want to just note for people that sometimes one of the things that's hard for anyone who's experienced a suicide death is hearing those words suicide prevention, awareness, because, you know, there's a sense that maybe you could have done something about it. And so while we both want to, we want to lean into the ability to be aware of our friends and our family's emotional state, we also want to be aware that sometimes, you know, every effort that we've made and everything we've done to try to help and and or maybe things we didn't even know were going on with our person still can lead to their suicide death. And so suicide prevention awareness is not about trying to express that people should have the ability to

Unknown Speaker  5:00  
stops someone from taking their lives but more this sense of awareness that suicide is, you know, I didn't know that we would be talking about this today. Otherwise, I would maybe have some statistics for you. But suicide is a growing cause of death. And, you know, many of us know somebody. And in fact, all of us know somebody, because either we know someone personally, or we've heard of the, you know, very big stories that have happened. Robin Williams as an example, you know, people who are known to us in, you know, the broader community and whose lives ended in suicide in a way that was surprising to us. You're, you're so right, you're so right. By the way, I want to get this number out early, and we want to get it out often, there is a national suicide prevention hotline, and that number is 988. Is that all there is, is it's just 988? You know, I don't know the answer to that. And so we should double check before the end of the episode. Well, we'll confirm that. But I know that there is a new, there is a new line for suicide, that people have come out to make it easier to make sure that you can get help.

Unknown Speaker  6:10  
That's why it's kind of like 911 Yeah, exactly. Right. Exactly. Right. 988. And yeah, you're right, it is 988. I just confirmed with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And that's 988 is the suicide and crisis lifeline. So you just push 988. And, you know, I was reading her blog, and, and it's okay to talk a little bit about her blog, because obviously, it's

Unknown Speaker  6:36  
but she had her husband passed away. And they had three boys that were in between the ages of eight and 13, I believe, and add it to my it's so you wonder the depth of the pain that was going on in his soul that would cause him to leave his family that way.

Unknown Speaker  7:02  
And we you feel sorry, you I feel sorry for people that that are that.

Unknown Speaker  7:09  
Not only for them that the doing that, that have that happened to them. But the people that they leave behind? I've been, I've been around a couple and it is devastating. It's devastating for everybody. Yeah. Well, I love your heart, because you're able to see that, you know, the people who take their lives are in pain, that there is some kind of mental health crisis, either an ongoing one or an unexpected one that we didn't know about, that makes a person believe that the best course of action, and you know, despite all evidence to the contrary, is that they would end their life. Because so often,

Unknown Speaker  7:49  
we will have the experience of people saying, oh, that's the most selfish thing you can do. And while you know, that's very common conversation around suicide, how dare you, you know, I'm not going to grieve you even because you made this selfless decision. And whatever it was that led, you know, to the time of crisis, that you instead of sticking it out, you know, you took the easy way out. And I just want to clarify, like, I always think of it like this, you know, when you hold your breath, and your your body fights you to breathe. And so we are actually predestined, you know, we are we are set to live, and when you have to have something so, so big and so painful to overcome that natural desire to live. And then if you add to it, like for example, Emily's husband, he had a beautiful wife, and three boys, you know, in, there's no understanding what could have made him feel that ending his life was the better option than spending time with his family, whatever that was. And here's one of the challenges of suicide death, right? We're never going to know, we can't definitively what he was thinking, and that is what surviving people if someone was soot from who died by suicide live with is that question of like, how, you know, how they felt about what, what unanswered questions they have. But you have to imagine that whatever it was, that would cause him to do that was so significantly painful, that he determined, and sometimes it's logical, and sometimes it's not logical at all. Sometimes it can even be a rash response to something, you know, really, really intense. That's why sometimes you'll hear people say, suicide is a I think it's suicide is

Unknown Speaker  9:41  
a final, like a final solution to a temporary problem. And so, you know, that sense of like I if if, you know, trying to get people to hang in long enough to see if there's a better way to resolve whatever pain they're in, and those kind of you know, but as you said

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
Understanding what would make someone feel that that was the best outcome is really, really challenging. And I think one of the things that's most difficult for families and loved ones to try to grapple with,

Unknown Speaker  10:14  
you know, I don't know about you, but I will sit here and I will tell you that there have been times in my life that were particularly low. And I felt lonely, and I had been maybe dumped by a lover, or I lost my job, and I had no money. And I have at times contemplated that.

Unknown Speaker  10:36  
But what keeps me from it is like, Oh, let's see, I can, oh, that would hurt.

Unknown Speaker  10:44  
And I can jump somewhere, and I don't want to jump either. I don't want to, you know, that would hurt. So it's like, at the end of the day, I, I never got to the point where I would say, I don't care. I'm just, I just care. Well, and that speaks to right, what must be, you know, that paint that driving force to make that choice? I think the the other piece for me is that a lot of times

Unknown Speaker  11:12  
after the person dies by suicide, you know, and it cannot be understood. And there will never be a final answer to any of the many questions that might surround what led to that choice. But the people who most often suffer the, the shame and the ongoing pain of that choice, are the loved ones who survive that person, and for whom people start saying things like, Oh, what a selfish choice. I'll tell you that, you know, there was a

Unknown Speaker  11:48  
conversation that was shared with me that I have been, I've been gifted the opportunity to speak about where a one person says to another person, oh, you know, how did your person die? And she says he died by suicide? And the response to that was, oh, well, he must not have loved you that much trauma? Oh, my right. Because sometimes these are the things that we think, and, you know, what must that feel like to have? You know, because first of all, I would be willing to bet that she'd ask yourself that question, you know, what was it? Why? Why couldn't he choose to stay with me?

Unknown Speaker  12:24  
And when we as people who are hearing about these deaths, respond, if we can be used care with what we say? Because the thing is, we think that we're disparaging the person who died, which is a whole other subject, right? We've talked about how much pain they must be in the mental health crisis that might that likely caused this, okay, we set that aside for a minute. But when you start saying things about someone's loved one who died by suicide, you're not hurting them, you're hurting the person that you're talking to. And the person you're talking to, is already hurting, and already has questions and already may have thought of many of the things you've already said, and things that are much worse, because they are struggling with the reality of what their life looks like right now, as a result of a choice that they didn't make, but they must live with. And so, you know, we as a community can do a great service to people who are the survivors of a suicide by temporary and what we say. And by even thinking about it, you know, she had thought and so the beautiful end of that story, by the way,

Unknown Speaker  13:30  
is that the person who was asked that question said, you know, he actually really struggled with mental health. And I don't think it had anything to do with how much he loved me. And the person who had first said it realized what she'd said and was like, oh, like, I can't believe I just like, I can't believe I just said that. And so they got to have a good conversation about when someone says that to you. How does that sound? How does it feel? She didn't intend to cause harm. She thought she spoke the first thing that came into her head. And so I just always ask that when we're talking to people, any grief or really, but in particular, someone who's grieving a suicide death, you know, to think about to say the question in your mind out loud before it comes out of your mouth, and wonder like, How would it feel if someone asked me this question? Here's another, you know, here's another side tip I know you didn't ask for, but I'm just going to offer some unsolicited advice, if you don't mind.

Unknown Speaker  14:23  
I appreciate that. I love that about you, Kevin. But it's just that what's the first thing that everybody wants to know in a suicide death? How did they cut themselves? That's the first thing. And and so often as a suicide survivor, the first thing people say is how did well how did they do it? And so you know, you don't want to recount that. You don't want to recount that. And at the end, it doesn't matter. What matters, of course, is that we are, you know, grieving a person, a person we love. And so another just good tip is try to refrain from asking the question, oh, how did they die? Because you know, that's the solution.

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
Split, right? That's the piece where people, you know, every suicide death of any kind of celebrity, any well known person, the first question is always, how did they die because people want those details. But it's a very painful question to ask someone who has survived that. First of all, you don't know what the circumstances where maybe that person literally was the one to find them. And you asking that question brings up immediately takes him right back to that moment, which was so painful and life altering in every way. And there's also a case where some people don't know. And so then that brings that whole thing up as well. So you know, just if we can, as a community say, One way we're going to support people who have experienced a suicide death is by not asking them the kind of questions that might take them right back to a moment that was so so painful. You know, I can't imagine that it's bad enough, when you lose a loved one, in like an automobile accident, or, or a cancer death or something like that, that, that you don't have a lot of, but suicide is so sudden, and it's like, here and then gone. And then and especially if you find them, and they're in your house, and, and whatever. And then and then the arrangements and then talking to people and family and friends, I can only imagine how devastating it is for someone to go through that. So I, my first advice is, if you are feeling suicidal in any way, call 988. Number one, number two, get mental help it okay these days, to go to a counselor, and to seek mental health because you're feeling depressed, you're feeling like you're doing the end of your rope, whatever it is, so, so if you're listening to this, and you're feeling that way, call 988, please, because it will pass. You know, I, I told you before the story of my my brother in law, he was 42. And I now 65 We were the same age, he missed, he's missed 23 years of beautiful life on this planet. We watching the Seahawks win a Super Bowl, watching you know the different things in life, you the kids grow up the nephews, the he, my son was adored him and and they would have a great relationship. And so when if you are feeling that way, there it will end they will get better call 988 that will help. And I think you know, it's also just really worth saying out loud to anyone who is struggling, it's okay to struggle. Yeah. You know, everybody struggles, it just doesn't seem like other people might be struggling. And so that also makes it true that sometimes, because a lot of times there is a sense for suicide survivors, people who have survived the death of someone they love by suicide, that they should have known, or that there were obvious signs that they somehow missed. And imagine you ask yourself the question, did I miss it? Was there something I should have seen? How could I have made a difference. And so for people who are struggling now, just know that there are you know, going to ask for help is a first step in dealing with whatever it is that is making, you know, that makes you feel like maybe dying is a better is a better opportunity for you. And you know, that's that's hard for people to understand. But that doesn't mean that that there aren't lots of other people feeling that way. And they're just not talking about it. And many times the assumption that somebody knew that there was a struggle, a mental health struggle going on is actually incorrect. Sometimes there's no sign of it. And people are suffering in silence. So if you are suffering in silence, 988 is a great place to start looking for a support network that can help you make your way through tiny step by tiny step, whatever it is you're struggling with today. I'd also like to point out that if you are someone that's listening to us, and has had, has been touched personally by suicide, go to soaring spirits International, and connect with them because they work with people who are widowed, and that have felt the same way that you may be feeling now. And they get the support that they need. And that is so vital. When you lose a loved one. You need love to come from somewhere. And you need understanding and people who know who've been through what you've been through, which is why your organization is so special. Well, we really, you know, we recognize too, that there are a lot of things that bring us together in our widowed community. So you know, the fact that we're widowed is one thing. And then beneath that big umbrella of the widow community, there's many micro communities and one of those is the suicide survivors community

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
and they have a unique understanding of some things that someone who hasn't lived through that experience just couldn't possibly know. And so we build programs to provide that additional support for people who've experienced a suicide death, so that they can connect with someone else who has as well. And that immediately helps you feel a little bit less alone. And it helps you access a unique kind of understanding because as much as I feel for, and have had the opportunity to provide service to and work with widowed people who have experienced the death of their person by suicide, that's not my personal experience. And so there's only so much I can understand, they need to be connected with other people who have experienced the suicide death. And I say that, you know, just globally, so if if you are a widowed persons or in spirits international could be the place for you. But I also want to point to, you know, there is a variety, there are a variety of suit of suicide survivor organizations, for any other family member that you may have experienced, or friends, you know, many of our teenagers are struggling with a friend having taken their life, and they're trying to place that within their growing understanding of the world. And so seeking out other people who have had a suicide death in their life, really does make a difference to your ability to process to heal, and to, you know, put some perspective around a death that doesn't have an explanation that's going to be neat and tidy, in the way that if someone dies by cancer, or in you know, my husband died in a cycling accident, I've no question how or why he died. I know what happened. I know why he died for suicide survivors, oftentimes, that sort of certainty is just not possible.

Unknown Speaker  21:47  
And many times, people, it's an impulsive thing. It's it's a spur of the moment, kind of thing. It's not necessarily all planned out, as you referenced Robin, Robin Williams, he in his case, he said, good, good night to his wife. And they were sleeping in separate bedrooms, for whatever reason. And he said, Goodbye, good night to her. And then he went into his own room. And he did that he had plans on that, apparently, but a lot of times it's an in, it's a fit of anger, it can be a fit of deep despair. I really feel sorry for people that are feeling so despondent about life, that they're willing to, to end it, especially when you've got like, like,

Unknown Speaker  22:37  
Emily's husband, you have so much to live for three pains, three teenage kids, a beautiful wife a life. And I just can't imagine the depth of the despair that he was in. And that I think it is what it keeps coming back to. And I do want to just circle quickly back to Robin Williams, because it was later discovered that he was struggling struggling with Lewy body dementia. And you know, there are pieces, there are just so many pieces to suicide, that that we can never understand how our brain works. What kind of chemical reactions are we having? Is it a you know, is it related to a disease like Robin Williams? Is it related to medication, like, you know, I know, a person who had a really strong reaction to a medication, and you know, you've read on the bottle, sometimes it says, you know, suicidal thoughts are a possibility. And so, you know, those actually do happen, people do. And so, you know, I feel like with suicide death, there's this sense that there's one, you know, that there's a there's a reason, there's a specific reason why someone and chose on their life. And sometimes that is true. And other times, there's 100 reasons that could not possibly be understood, be understood, including, like I said, medication, disease, you know, a traumatic break in of some sort, you know, and or maybe an ongoing struggle with mental health that has finally exhausted the person who feels that they can no longer continue. And so it think it always comes back to the depth of pain that this person is experiencing to have made that choice, either, you know, whether that's in just a moment, or whether it's, you know, response to a suicidal thought that was influenced by by a medication, they're just, there's no neat bow, right? There's no one thing that we can say, Okay, this is what happens in a suicide death. It's just it's a very muddy and complex death experience that more and more people, you know, I mean, we could talk about veterans, right, like the PTSD, all of the things that we're discovering, are really deeply embedded in our psyche and sometimes very, very difficult to untangle.

Unknown Speaker  24:46  
You know, just think about this from time to time whenever, whenever I hear about a single car accident on somebody going off road, or and hitting a tree or an overdose death or

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
Somebody that

Unknown Speaker  25:04  
what was the third one I was thinking of they overdose death, and the car accident. And they fall from a from a, you know, you don't know, and you don't know what's in people's hearts and in their minds when that when that happens, and you just like to, you know, and so I can't stress enough, go to 988 if you if you're having troubles, or if you know somebody that's having troubles.

Unknown Speaker  25:30  
Go do that. And and the other thing too is if you know somebody and you're worried about them, don't don't hesitate to ask the question. You know, you get to do if you are able, and I don't mean this to say that it's our responsibility to ensure that people don't take their lives because that's not possible. But it is definitely possible to make sure that the people in your life know you care about them. And that if they are struggling, you are a person they could come to for support in helping them to find help. That is a really good point. Because I would I would think, I don't know everybody, but my sister when I was having a moment of deep despair. And she she asked me, she said, Are you considering killing yourself?

Unknown Speaker  26:14  
And when when she said that, I had in my back of my mind, I had been considering it. But then it was like, well,

Unknown Speaker  26:23  
now the genies out of the bottle, she knows, and I can't. And then we had a deep, long discussion. rageous question for her to ask you. And that's, you know, that's that says, I care about you. And I'm asking you a direct question about this so that I can make it available for us to discuss if that's something that you are thinking or that you feel competent, talking to me about. And that, you know, again, I think that the hardest part for, I can't say, a hard part of the suicide experience, is that sense of could I have done something? Is there something I could have done to influence this. And so I always want to be clear that we cannot be responsible for someone else's life, as much as we might want to, we can't be responsible, because we need to free our survivors of suicide from the shame of thinking that there's some way they should have done something better to change this outcome. And at the same time, recognize that as humans, we are in it together. And the more often we say that to each other, the more likely it is that someone who is struggling, is, you know, just has the right person at the right moment your sister asking you right at that time, when it was a thought that was going on in your head, whether it was an active conversation with yourself or not, at least brought it into the light. And then it was like, oh, okay, I this is something we can talk about. And so we free ourselves and our and our loved ones to speak about it when we are willing to ask the question, just as a as a point of I'm worried about you. And I'm wondering if this is something you're thinking about? I think a lot of people,

Unknown Speaker  28:07  
let me backtrack, I think some people

Unknown Speaker  28:12  
have a suicide event because they don't think anybody cares.

Unknown Speaker  28:17  
And if you can dispel that, that myth, because it really is a myth. If you can dispel that, and let people know that, or you let that person know that I care about what happens to you. A lot of times that that can be that can break the dam of the emotions that they're holding in. And then you can you can get through it. And we also get very much on our head, right? And we can convince ourselves of horrible things, we can convince ourselves that no one cares, we can convince ourselves that we are not worthy of fill in the blank, we can convince ourselves that we you know that the world would be better off without us in it. And those voices in our heads can only be you know, they are a powerful force, and having other voices in your head who say I care about you, I love you. You know, again, can we always counteract the outcome? No, we can't. But we certainly can influence and take the opportunity to make sure that people in our lives know we love them and care about them, and want to be able to help them inch by inch, because that's the thing, sometimes the problems just seem too big to be solved. And, you know, I feel like for someone who maybe is struggling right now, listening to his talk, they're like, they don't know what they're talking about. They don't know my life. They don't know, you know, it's like easy for you to say call 988.

Unknown Speaker  29:41  
But I want to say again, like the calling of 988 is the beginning of saying, Okay, let's talk about you know, what kind of support can we get to solve whatever the problem is, and sometimes it's not a specific problem. Sometimes it's our heads telling us things that are not true.

Unknown Speaker  29:58  
And get the help that we need.

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
To be able to start taking the steps forward towards healing and towards feeling able to continue to remain with your loved ones and the people who care about you. And sometimes it is so insidious what you say to yourself, and the story that you that you are telling yourself, giving an example in the in again from my life, because I don't have any other examples, because I'm not in anybody else's ad.

Unknown Speaker  30:25  
Probably for the best, Kevin.

Unknown Speaker  30:29  
I think you're absolutely right. But there was a time when it was like, let's see, through work, I've got to this half million dollar life insurance policy. And I'm working hard, but I'm not making ends meet the way I want to I can be obligations, and doing stuff,

Unknown Speaker  30:48  
I would be better for me just to go and to and to have them have this half million dollar policy. And that's, that is so insidious, because if you act on that the people who leave behind love you so much, and it affects them, those three boys are going to be affected. Regardless for the rest of their lives. I want a lot of people that have had a parent commits, or excuse me, wrong word. Parents suffers from suicide. And,

Unknown Speaker  31:21  
and it affects children, generationally, I'm so proud of you right now, because you just changed your language.

Unknown Speaker  31:29  
I'm so proud of you. And Kevin, we talked about this, and you and you have it, and it stuck in your head. And I just want to say it for everyone. Because, you know, we you, you will hear people say this consistently, including people who are survivors of suicide, using the phrase commit suicide. And the reason that that that we have that in our general consciousness is because that suicide used to be a crime, and was a crime to take your life. And so you use the word commit, because you were committing a crime. And as we've become more aware of the, you know, struggle of Mental Health, and the real struggle that people experience, as they suffer through, you know, suicidal thoughts, we've stopped using that language in order to start to address the shame that has been attached to to suicide death, by instead of saying commit suicide died by suicide is is an easy way to describe, you know, that that type of death. And it helps to remove the stigma that comes with the idea that this person broke the law, which is no longer no longer the case. But it also comes back to look at exactly what you just said about life insurance, is that in the during that time, you couldn't collect on your life insurance policy, if the loved the person who held the policy took their life. And there are still some limitations today on how that works. But I see what you know, it's so true that insidious voices can convince us that our loved ones having the money is so much better than our loved ones having us. And I can assure you from the side of you know, being on the other side of widowhood myself, and say that there is no amount of money that would I would have traded for my husband's life, no amount of money. And so even though that insidious voice is saying, Oh, but you don't know, lady, you don't know our financial situation, you don't know that work any better, I can tell you for sure that your loved ones would not trade you in for a pile of money. And that, you know, though, I can totally understand why it's that's a voice that might be going on in your head. You know, being able to hear someone say they wouldn't trade you. And you know that that that's a really important message.

Unknown Speaker  33:49  
Previously, on another episode, I talked about one of the

Unknown Speaker  33:55  
people that suffered suicide that that I was I was part of it. I'm not going to go back into that here. But what I am going to go into is that when I went to his house here, his brother's house the next day, there were 25 relatives.

Unknown Speaker  34:12  
And they were all absolutely crushed in clothing, including grandpa, who was sitting in the chair and, and was and everybody was just, and he didn't recognize that. And what is it that you think the stories that we get into our head that we don't recognize that we are loved by by numerous people, and even if you even if you have somebody cheats on you or decides that they don't want to be married to anymore or whatever like that.

Unknown Speaker  34:48  
You still have value. And how do we get that two people that 200 to to break through those barriers? I think it starts by recognizing you know that so often

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
And as a as a society, right? What do we put value on, we put value on money, or you want status, we put value on, you know how far we can make it in our careers. But at the end of the day, when someone dies, those are not the things that people talk about. Those are not the things that are valuable and, and what are valuable, you know, that fun trip you took with your kids, you know, where you taught them how to go fishing, you know, the family dinners that you had, where you play games afterwards, the, the, you know, the interactions with the people in your life, whatever those might look like. But I do think that, that it's also worth noting that for some people, they just don't feel like they have those like, I wonder, would your brother in law have been surprised by the people who showed up there? Did he know that those people cared about him? You know, and even if he did, sometimes, that pain is so great, that being able to acknowledge and let that reality in that people do care about you? Doesn't feel possible? And you know, oftentimes we blame the person like why didn't you know? Or how can you? What what did you think was going to happen? How would you do this to the people around you? And I just I have to believe that there's no value in that. We're allowed to be angry, we're allowed to have our feelings around a suicide death. Absolutely. But trying to figure out the hows and whys can make. You know, it's just something that is a unique, I think, to suicide death that, that the sometimes we have to just know that we're not going to know. And I think that's a really hard part. Yeah, well, in the end, it'll make you crazy. Because every, every day, you're thinking, Well, what did I see it? Could I have stopped it? Did I know, deep down was I awake, you know, and then you start telling your stories. Remember the time that he said or, or that she did this or what? And it's insidious, and it just continues on, and gets deeper and deeper. And so and that's why you if you suffered from suicide, and or you are somebody that that witness, or that was a family member, you still need to see you still need counseling, you just still didn't help.

Unknown Speaker  37:16  
For sure. And I think you know, the other thing about that 988 Number is that will access all kinds of support for people who have either actively considering suicide have considered suicide and, and need some help, and also for loved ones, to help be connected to very specific resources around suicide death, because, you know, every time we're grieving a person that we've that we intended to continue to have in our lives, that comes with its own unique challenges. And then when you add the nuance that's associated with how someone died in, in this case, suicide, death, being able to find some unique resources to deal with the questions, the shame, the stigma, the things that come up. And even, you know, again, like this is not about the person who died at this point. At this point, it's about the survivors. And when we use language that's detrimental to their healing, the person who died isn't being hurt by it, us trying to, you know, be raped, someone who's done is not helpful to the person who's listening to you, and thinking that's my person. And yes, I'm allowed to be mad at them. And yes, I might have my own questions. And you might even be saying something that I've thought myself 100 times. But having someone else say that to you, really can shut down relationships and can cause harm, where no harm is intended. So if we just tread carefully, and offer compassion first, and keep our own judgments about someone who, who took their life to ourselves, it's the best way that we can offer people who have experienced the death of someone they live by suicide support and compassion. If you're wondering why we're talking about suicide, and you might be if you just tuned in or were listening and paying attention, this because September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. And Friday, the 10th is the World Suicide Prevention Day, which is was Saturday this year, I believe, and

Unknown Speaker  39:17  
and they also unveiled a new number that you can call, it's very easy. It's 988, just three digits. And you can call if you are feeling distraught. And if you need if you need help, it's

Unknown Speaker  39:31  
haven't covered conversations like this are difficult, Michelle, but they're necessary. It's so helpful. The thing about suicide death, right is that we often don't talk about it and because we don't talk about it, that means that anybody who's struggling with suicidal ideation doesn't really have a format to bring it up. Because it's not something that we have a regular conversation about. And so you know, giving and again, I want to continue to stress because so many

Unknown Speaker  40:00  
People make the assumption that we can that we could have done something specific. But instead of like this general sense of allowing conversation about suicide means that more and more people might have the opportunity to express how they're feeling, might feel confident in reaching out to someone who has been talking about suicide, even go home tonight. And so, you know, I was listening to this positive talk radio, and they were talking about suicide. And, and I want to just, you know, ask a question about it, talk about it at the dinner table. Do we know anybody who's experienced a suicide death, you know, has anybody struggled with ideas of suicide, because these are not dinner table conversations we typically have. And if we do have them, it offers us the opportunity to, you know, start sharing things that might be helpful, including I, you know, you would be really missed if you died, or I'm always here for you, if there's something that you need, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. It doesn't. The thing is, I think, as our world we try to, we set perfection, you know, as the goal and no one's perfect, it's not possible to be perfect. And so sometimes I think that striving for perfection, is also this ongoing sense of stress that that everyone lives with. And that often keeps them from seeking help, because they want to continue to appear perfect for the people around them. People got to know that there's no such thing as perfect. And they even even Mary Poppins wasn't perfect. That's exactly right. But

Unknown Speaker  41:35  
the thing, the other thing that that surprises me, and maybe you can help me understand it a little bit, is when somebody does have a suicide episode, and then they pass away. A lot of times the newspapers don't want to talk about it. The media doesn't want to talk about it, they won't say what happened to that individual. Or in so is it do you think that's a good thing? Or is that just kind of a push it underneath the rug? Well, you know, it's an interesting thing that you that you mentioned that, because

Unknown Speaker  42:09  
so often, when they don't tell you how someone died, it typically does turn out to be suicide.

Unknown Speaker  42:16  
And I think that there's a couple layers to that. One is one, as you said, sometimes you're not certain, you know, there is a cause of death. And whether or not it was intentional, is sometimes unclear.

Unknown Speaker  42:28  
And I think secondarily, because of the way that we treat suicide in our country, in the US in particular, you know, the stigma and the shame around it, we're working, I think that that the more publicly we speak about it, the more often we're able to process it as a community, the better able we are to support people who both might be suicidal, and also those who have experienced the death of a loved one. But I think there is some level of protection for the family also. And so I am always a fan of protecting people who need some time to be able to process what's happened in suicide death. You know, just think about Naomi Judd.

Unknown Speaker  43:12  
You know, that was a recent suicide death, very surprising, not immediately reported as a suicide. And yet, we, you know, her family decides to come forward and talk about it, because she'd been struggling with mental health consistently for many, many years. And, and from the interviews that I saw, you know, it seemed to me that the understanding was, we worried that this day would come, because there seemed like there was going to be a point where she couldn't hold on anymore. And I thought that that was just a really compassionate way of recognizing the strain and the struggle that can be sometimes associated with mental health and mental illness.

Unknown Speaker  43:54  
You know, and at the same time, right, we, you know, of all people to wonder if they were loved. And, you know, if to get the public acclaim you know, we all think of that, that that's going to be the thing that would keep us alive, but in this case, even that wasn't enough for her to feel like she could continue to carry the pain of her mental illness. You know, the another case that comes to mind and this is this is goes way back and so you probably won't even remember him, but he was in a TV series called Chico and the Man and his name was Freddie Prinze. Oh yeah. For by the way that Freddie Prinze? Junior's father, right. And he was 2122 years old. He had, he was a stand up comic, he had a show on TV. He had the world was seemingly at his feet. And yet something was so any him had such despair, that he ended up taking his own life and, and that that can happen and nobody, you know, I don't

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
I don't recall if anybody said, Well, he had a lot of mental illness. And that was why he did it. But sometimes it's, it's hidden. And so you can't blame yourself, if somebody does something that is seems so out of character for them. But they're just in such pain. You know, as you said, since we're talking about suicide, prevention, awareness, you know, the word prevention for people who have experienced a suicide, death can be difficult. But the thought of awareness, I think, is critical to changing and shifting the narrative around suicide death, because, you know, you have everything from someone like a celebrity who seemingly, as you said, the world is their oyster, and why and why would they take their life and speaking to, you know, that just points to whatever it was, must have been really bad for them to feel like this. But then it also speaks to the lies we tell ourselves, you know, Naomi Judd specifically struggled with whether she was good enough. And yet, everything that you would look at, you know, seem to point to the fact that she was more than good enough that she had this huge career. And so, you know, it comes back to the voices, sometimes in our own head and the narrative that we adopt about ourselves, that sometimes pushes us into, you know, a mental health crisis that ends in suicide death. And so being aware of that, and talking about that, as a community talking about the way we speak to ourselves, talking about, you know, that it's not just about suicide is is complex, it doesn't, you know, it's different for every single person, there's no way we can say this is how you avoid it. But what we can do is talk about it so that people feel like there is a space for discussion and a space for finding ways to support people who are suicidal, and changing the narrative around suicide death, so that survivors have access to the kind of tools and resources they need to be able to heal in the aftermath of a really, really life altering and devastating experience, you know, that what you just said, is just brilliant. And we're going to make a short out of out of this episode, and put it up on because it needs to be out there more. And even if it's just, you know, when we talk about suicide prevention, awareness, even if you're just aware that that possibility, at any given time can exist for all of us. Yeah, absolutely. Right. And then ticular, for people that you love, you know, and for, you know, to normalize, that people sometimes do feel desperate, sometimes could feel suicidal, and being able to speak about that can influence the outcome. So, you know, being able to, it won't always, but it can, and that's what the awareness piece is about, and the prevention piece is about. And so, so many times, you know, there's this sense, especially in the, in the widowed suicide community, that, you know, it's somehow is the fault. You know, we started at the top of the hour with me telling the story of a woman who said, Oh, he must not have loved you that much if he took his life, because we forget that it is it is more complex than we could ever understand. And we simplify it in ways that can be painful for people who have experienced that type of death, whether it is a spouse or partner, or a child, or a friend or a co worker, you know, so often, there is a private struggle that we don't know about. And by speaking about suicide prevention awareness, we have that, you know, just that kind of niggling idea like, Oh, you're right, this could be a reality for someone I know right now, who could be influenced by hearing this conversation? Or by you saying, hey, you know, I've noticed you're really quiet lately. I'm just a little worried about you, you know, do you need to talk about anything? How are you doing? Just just being more aware of the people around us and reaching out when something seems on this?

Unknown Speaker  49:03  
And just again, just and don't, you know, I've said this to my kids, and don't be afraid to use the words. Are you feeling like ending your life?

Unknown Speaker  49:21  
Because if you're feeling that way, then by all means, let's go get you some help. Yeah. You know, so it's important to Z. It's important. This has been a marvelous discussion and I want to thank you for it. I'm so I appreciate that. You make space for some of these difficult conversations and I you know, again, want to say to everyone, the reason that we talk about it is to open up you know, our minds to the fact that suicide is there is no one reason anyone would take their life and also to give us the space for remembering that the way we speak to people who have experienced a suicide death.

Unknown Speaker  50:00  
can help or harm their future healing. And so when we use language that avoids the word commit, when we use language that supports rather than judges, then you know, we have the opportunity to be a force for good for people who are struggling with a really what often feels like an impossible situation in the aftermath of losing someone they love to suicide.

Unknown Speaker  50:25  
Seeing the thing is, Michelle, what you do, and what I do in different ways, are both designed to help people and people that we may not ever even meet. Yeah, there are people that are working with your organization soaring spirits International, that because it's a it's becoming a big deal, this organization of yours, as far as in the garage of your house. Exactly. Right. Yeah. And you know, what we're, what we're working towards, is just continuing to build communities for widowed people in which they can heal. And that work, I always tell people, you know, we're we are not curing a disease. We're inside offering to walk alongside people as they heal and evolve through a grief experience. And so that work is ongoing work. And we are actively working to ensure that anyone would person who comes to us has access to both relevant resources and research based programs, all held within a compassionate community that will help them not only process their grief, but rebuild a life of meaning for themselves in the aftermath. You know, I'd like to say that your organization is going to stamp out widowhood.

Unknown Speaker  51:48  
If I had a magic wand, Kevin, that would absolutely be what we would do. That's fact the matter is that it is part of life. Yeah. And, and how we deal with it is as important as anything else. And, and organizations like yours and talking about suicide on the show. If we can impact somebody to say, Wow, maybe I won't, today? Or we? Or could they call 988 and get some help? Or they or they have a friend or a neighbor or a buddy that it seems down? And and they have asked that question. Are you feeling okay, can I help you? And you're not, you know, and that question eventually will lead into? Are you're not thinking about taking your own life, are you? And I think we need to talk about that, rather than skirt around the topic. Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes that question allows people, you know, the opportunity to speak about it, and, and, and speaking about it can sometimes make a difference. And so, you know, that's I really feel like that's what suicide prevention awareness is about in and it's about normalizing conversations about suicide death, and removing the judgment that comes with, you know, assuming that suicide death is about one specific thing, or because of one specific thing. When really truly as humans, we're complex, and every circumstance is complex. And suicide death certainly is one of the most complex experiences we can make our way through.

Unknown Speaker  53:25  
You know, I was looking at your website, and I was looking at some of the pictures. And I went, and first of all, it's, it's great that everybody's together, and they're smiling, and they're feeling good, but I was looking at it going, Holy crap. There's a lot of young people here. Yeah, average age of the people we serve is 53. So, you know, when you think that's now, I didn't think at one time, I didn't think 53 was young. That was thinking 53 is like really early 80s, especially when you consider that's the average age. And so you know, we have a significant number of people on either side of that age to come to that average. And you know, I think that's the other thing for soaring spirits we work at reframing what widowhood looks like. I was widowed at 35. And I had a wife once did an interview. I had done the interview portion with the reporter. The photographer was coming later, he knocked on the door, I opened it, he asked for Michelle. I said I'm Michelle. He said no, the widow Michelle.

Unknown Speaker  54:28  
Because he was not expecting a 35 year old person he was expecting, you know, a much older person I assume. And so, you know, that's another thing that we're shifting. Everybody knows somebody who died way too young. It's just that we forget that often that person is partnered, and that might likely mean that they also have a young partner. And so, you know, changing the way people look at the widowed experience is part of the work that we do, and those pictures of our community and I'll tell you, the reason they're smiling is because they're together.

Unknown Speaker  55:00  
is because they found their pupil because they feel that they are in a safe space, they have had some compassionate understanding available to them. They, they might have been crying five minutes ago. And then five minutes later, they're laughing. And in that space, that toggle of emotion is not only welcome, it's common. And so you know, what you see in the faces on our website is not people who are pretending that widowhood is not hard. It's people who have agreed Yes, widowhood is hard. And it makes a difference, when you have people to walk alongside you while you do it.

Unknown Speaker  55:35  
We as a society are so silly sometimes, because we don't, we hide certain things. I'll give you an example. I was reading an article about baby boomers. And they were giving statistics as to who was living as a single person who was married, and so on and so forth. And, and they kept on bringing up that more and more singles,

Unknown Speaker  55:58  
retired people that are that are baby boomers, there are women, and there are women that are living alone, but they don't ever say these are people that have been recently widowed, that their husband that had been with them for 40 or 50 year has passed away. And and that is a certain segment of the population that I think is really underserved. And that's why your organization is so, so helpful. And I, you know, I live in a 55 plus community, there are people here that I have never met their place, right? It's easy to be isolated. And it's in particular easy to be isolated during grief. Because you don't feel like your best self, you don't necessarily have the energy to get out, you might be feeling like leaving the house without your person, you know, is too big of a job and also makes you miss them more. And so oftentimes people just sort of hunker down. And I'll say that's been one of the one of the blessings of having an expanded virtual program is that for people who are struggling to leave their house, we have created ways for them to be able to still connect with others. And just hearing voices and seeing other faces is like, Okay, I'm not the only one person, I see that there is a community here. And they have the opportunity to access resources right from their own home.

Unknown Speaker  57:19  
I had a laugh yesterday, a good friend of mine, because it was my birthday on Sunday.

Unknown Speaker  57:25  
And, and he said, you know, I'll come on Thursday, and we'll, we'll go out to dinner. And we'll go to a movie and stuff because I live alone, I generally don't, I don't go to movies by myself, because I don't want to have you know, that big old bucket of popcorn

Unknown Speaker  57:40  
and go down the aisle and have somebody going, Oh, that poor man.

Unknown Speaker  57:45  
You don't have any friends

Unknown Speaker  57:48  
and stuff. And there may be a movie that I just want to see. So we went out we had dinner, and we went to a movie. And as we were walking into the theater, I said to him, Do you know how many people are looking at us saying, well, there's a nice gay couple

Unknown Speaker  58:05  
which you prefer over them saying, look at that sad sack guy with a big box of popcorn on his own.

Unknown Speaker  58:13  
Let's all remind ourselves, especially since we're talking about suicide prevention, awareness, let's all remind ourselves that we tell ourselves stories about what other people think of us all that time. And the truth might be completely opposite of what we're thinking. And so just remember that, you know, be whatever it is that you say in your own head, it's it's not always the truth.

Unknown Speaker  58:36  
Well, I'll amend that it's hardly ever the truth. Because you have your own prejudice involved and your own thoughts about it and stuff. And so just, you know, and that's, we are all one, just let it be. And the Gospel according to Paul McCartney, just let it be and, and take people as they are, and care about people. And if you see somebody that's down, help, try and help lift them up. And or at least tell them to call nine and eight. And offering ourselves and each other as much grace as we can. Because life is complicated. But on the other side of complicated is beautiful. And so if we can find a way to keep making our way through the complicated and allow the beautiful to sit beside it, then we have a great opportunity to experience things that we might never have imagined. If when I was 22, I had thought and followed through on what I was thinking at the time. I would not be here today and we would not be having this conversation. That's how important it is for everybody to live your life fully and to and at the end of the day to not have any regrets. I believe, personally that when somebody when somebody suffers from suicide, unless it's a mental disorder, which I think happens more often than we than we admit to it, that that they regret that decision that they

Unknown Speaker  1:00:00  
made, and would like to reverse it if they could.

Unknown Speaker  1:00:04  
Well, and therein lies the challenge of being a suicide survivor is that there's no way to know for sure. But what we can say is that knowing that someone cares sometimes makes all the difference. So make sure that people around you know that you care, both for you and for them. And that's just all good no matter what. Now, I want I'm going to set myself aside and I want you to tell our audience, the ones that are listening now, and the ones that will be listening far, far, far into the future.

Unknown Speaker  1:00:37  
Anything you'd like them to know? Well, if you are a person who is widowed yourself, or you know someone who's widowed who is in need of support soaring spirits International is here to help you can find us soaring spirits dot o RG. Our flagship program is called Camp widow. And it's such a big program. It has its own website. So that's Camp widow.org. But of course, they all lead into each other. But more than anything, you know, the work of soaring spirits is about rebuilding and about creating a meaningful life for ourselves. And I think sometimes in grief, it feels impossible to imagine that you would have a meaningful life. And I know that for many Grievers. You know, suicidal ideation is a real thing. And so you know, surrounding yourself with as much support as you can while you grieve and immersing yourself in a community of support that can provide you with tools and resources for rebuilding is a really positive step in creating a healing space in which you can evolve. So we welcome you. We welcome any person who's experienced the death of a person they thought they were going to spend their life with. So we have a very broad definition of the word widowed. You don't have to be married you don't have to be in any sort of relationship. Gay Straight you know, polyamorous, it doesn't matter what kind of relationship you are in. If you have experienced the death of a partner, you felt that partner was your person. You're welcome in our programs.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:08  
That's outstanding. And again,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:12  
Michelle Neff, Hernandez. Hernandez, excuse me, that wasn't good. I liked that. Good that pronunciation though.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:21  
Go to soaring spirits international.com and get all the information that you can. And I want to thank Michelle she's gonna be back on the show again, because I just this this has been an hour that seems like five minutes. It flies right by I've like I said, I feel like a returning character. So I'm excited about it. You, you you are you the information that you have and, and the heart that you bring to it is just amazing. And I really I really appreciate you.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:49  
Thank you so much. Thank you. And if you'll wait right there. I'll be right back. Hey, thanks for enjoying this episode all the way to the end. Please give us a like and subscribe to this channel. This has been a production of positive talk radio dotnet please visit our website oddly named positive talk radio.net For more details about us and our mission, which is to provide great positive programming designed to inspire us all. I'm Kevin McDonald. I'm proud of these shows, and I truly hope that you'll like them and share them with friends and family. So on behalf of our entire team, remember, be kind to one another because each other's all we got to

Unknown Speaker  1:03:31  
do

Michele Neff Hernandez Profile Photo

Michele Neff Hernandez

Author and CEO

Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Soaring Spirits International, a non-profit organization providing peer support programming for widowed people worldwide. Michele is the author of Different After You: Rediscovering Yourself after Grief or Trauma set for publication by New World Library in February of 2022. Her passion for supporting widowed people and the power of integration fuels her presentations and her community activism.
Michele has received a local, state, and national recognition for her work in founding Soaring Spirits, including a letter of recognition from the Vice President Joe Biden and being named a 2021 Top Ten 2021 CNN Hero. Michele’s work is featured in an upcoming AppleTV docuseries, slated for release in the spring of 2022. She resides in Simi Valley, California and shares her life with her three amazing kids, their awesome partners, her grand-cats, and one very Australian husband.

kevin mcdonald Profile Photo

kevin mcdonald

Owner

Creator and Host of Positive Talk Radio and its Parent Company KM Media.pro