The bereaved are at risk for a variety of serious problems

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Photo by Philipp Sewing on Unsplash

This article deals with the grief of people who have lost someone to suicide. It is not graphic, but the subject matter may be distressing.


One of my dearest friends killed himself last month. He had been seriously depressed for several years. He had tried everything, Everything. He was totally worn down. I wasn’t at all surprised. And yet I still feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I miss him terribly. I see something funny and I instinctively go to e-mail him. I see anything remotely sentimental and I am reduced to a puddle of tears. I think about him a lot and I wonder when I will ever be free from this sorrow. …

How the 3 Wise Men’s “epiphany” pointed me in the right direction.

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Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

This article deals with the impact of loss from suicide. It is not at all graphic, but if even the subject is disturbing, know that you may reach out to the National Suicide Prevention line (800–273–8255).

This holiday season has been one of great sorrow for me. I am lost in it. And I am afraid. I can recite the “reasons” for it — suicide of a friend, grief, and depression.

I’m a psychologist. I’m good at it. But sorrow doesn’t care about “making sense.” It doesn’t want your mind. It wants your self, and your soul. The more I try to understand it, explain it, or focus on my negative thinking, sorrow finds every crevice, every safe and dry place in me and it fills me to flooding. …

The words that encourage me.

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Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

One of the great indignities of severe depression is that I lose my capacity to communicate — with myself and with other people. It doesn’t matter that I’m a therapist and make my living off language. Words are my life, yet they elude me as I try to convey my pain, or receive peoples’ messages of encouragement.

As a voracious reader, this is also an insult, since I am unable to focus on books, or even a long magazine or journal article. I’m good for a paragraph or two, and that’s it.

Kids in therapy

As a clinical child psychologist, I met lots of kids who were brimming with fears and sorrows but were unable to express them. I always smile at an old New Yorker cartoon in which a mother and child are in an ice cream shop. The kid’s ice cream has just landed “Splat!” on the ground. The mother leans over and asks very solicitously, “Would you like to talk about it?” …

How to translate outlandishly great intentions into pretty good change

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Every January, like lambs to the slaughter, we set ourselves up for a fall.

From year to year, we grasp on to the arbitrary date, January1, to begin our new lives and with our highly improved selves. At 12 midnight we have another chance at a do-over. At the first notes of Auld Lang Sine we flick the switch and begin the dive into our pursuit of total reconstruction.

We aren’t alone. Research demonstrates that weight loss and fitness fill the top slots for resolutions, with quitting smoking and drinking right up there. Jobs and money are important. People want to read, travel, and learn new things. Interestingly, the top ten are all focused on ourselves, rather than behavior towards others.

How do you let go, when you may never see your loved one again?

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Photo by José de Azpiazu on Unsplash

Covid’s far reach

The agony of covid extends so far beyond physical symptoms and viral loads. The uncertainty, the isolation, the heroic measures to save lives, the vitriol about its prevention and treatment. The deaths. The inability to observe the deaths.

One of the most chilling parts for me, was always the requirement that at their very sickest, loved ones had to be separated from one another. I had watched the TV images of people watching their spouses, their children, or grandparents strapped onto a gurney and rolled into an idling ambulance, only to cope with the next part alone. I was overcome with sorrow for them. They are gut punched with the possibility that they will never see each other again. …

Building resilience over the long haul is a challenge for all of us

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Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Let’s face it. We are in a collective and personal crisis. It’s been going on for almost a year, and though there are reasons for optimism, their impact won’t be felt for quite a while. The Covid pandemic has conspired with the ugliest and sometimes frightening political and cultural issues of our history.

It’s like the band-aid that has covered several wounds, has been ripped off, and we are left with all our hurts exposed and not yet healed. A vulnerable wound is at risk for more pain, as well as the potential for new complications like spreading or infection.

As a therapist and a person who already suffers from mental illness, I can testify about this vulnerability, combined with uncertainty about how to keep my equilibrium. …

Unexpected tidings of comfort and joy

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Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Who cares?

The prospect of spending a horrible Christmas, locked in on a psychiatric unit, was one of the low points of my life. For weeks, the day room was festooned with cheesy decorations and a sorry pink aluminum tree. All of our “activity” therapies revolved around the holidays. We baked and decorated cookies. We fashioned quick-drying clay into ornaments that turned out to be too heavy for the tree. Crappy Christmas carols were background torture. It was hard to get pissed off at the staff because they were making the best with what they had.

Because of my severe depression and ECT treatments, I only felt it all through a haze. After all, Santa wasn’t going to unlock the unit and leave of box of mental health for me. The day would be no different, or perhaps even worse than the past and probably the future. …

I can’t keep anything alive

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Photo by pouria oskuie on Unsplash

I kill goldfish.
If I’ve done it before. Could it happen again?
Bought for my distracted daughter, they always became
mine. By default.

“Too much of a good thing?
All right, I was a little free
with the food and the drops.

The awkward stabbing of the cold
New England backyard dirt. Enough
for a depression
deep enough for a baggie coffin. And a
moment of fleeting sorrow.

Five tiny mounds in the yard.
Five reminders of my failure.
With each death, a same-day
replacement. The circle of life
was quick and painless.

Finally, I knew that I just
couldn’t keep a simple fish alive, which made me
since as a mother and a healer,
that was sort of my reason for being. …

A parent’s chance to live the magic.

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Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash

For most children, the debunking of the existence of Santa Claus is the biggest lie grown-ups have told them. It also unveils a “domino effect” of deception. With the truth about Santa, can The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy be far behind?

Of course, other lies are likely to be detected soon after, including, “You’re adopted,” “We like your brother better than you,” and “Mommy and Daddy can’t stand each other.” But those can wait for another time.

Most of us don’t even know the context of the myth of Santa. We are content that it “just happened.” …

The marriage may be over, but the relationship never will be.

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

OK! I can almost hear what you’re going to say:


And probably a lot worse. I know. I’ve said those things to myself. Three years ago, my first Christmas alone, I couldn’t even look at him. There were no decorations, no tree, no anticipation, no magic.

Two years ago, when I had gained some distance, I bought a tree the size of my hand that fell over with the first ornament. I was Scrooge, entertaining myself with “Grinchy” gift possibilities, although I had no intention of giving him anything but heartburn. I thought a snake would make a nice statement. I considered a beautifully wrapped box of air. …


Martha Manning, Ph.D.

Martha Manning, Ph.D is a writer and clinical psychologist, whose memoir, Undercurrents deals with her severe depression. Like heavy stuff with lots of humor.

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