13 Years and Counting

For some, 13 has a dark side. It’s said to be unlucky and some buildings and hotels even remove 13 from their floors and elevators (the Pfister Hotel and the US Bank Building here in Milwaukee are two examples). I asked my friend, Kim Hall, who knows numerology to tell me something good about 13 and if four (13 reduced) was better. Her response, “…it’s a baker’s dozen, it’s the back of a turtle shell & talks of letting go of the old to allow for new ideas & situations. Four is practical, disciplined, & organized”.

For me in 2021, 13 represents the 13th anniversary of Russ’s death. The last two years have been trying in all aspects of my life. I’m lucky to have an expansive wellness team that I can count on to keep me going mentally, emotionally, and physically. I listed mentally first because mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more especially if you’ve experienced trauma.

This morning as I showered, the song “My Wish” by Rascall Flatts made its way into my head. The lyrics,

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

became prominent. I didn’t hear them again until after work as I walked in the quiet to my car. When I reached Mt. Olivet Cemetery, I had the urge to play the song and with no one else in the mausoleum, I brought it up on YouTube. I know Russ had a part in choosing the song for me to hear today. He also made me notice that his full name, Russell, has the word sell in it. I wondered if that meant to sell more of my book, “That’s All I Got! Thrival: A Widow’s Journey After Suicide” or that I have more of my story to sell? My now-retired physician told me to write my second book after I informed her that I wanted to write another.

One thing I did that always made Russ smile involved twitching my nose like a bunny. It’s no surprise that after he passed away, I continually see bunnies in the yard. They, as in five bunnies, made an appearance at the Garage Blessing and we knew it was Russ watching over his family and friends in attendance. Tonight, two bunnies munched on the grass in my backyard as I returned a pruner to the garage and later on when I returned from an errand.

See their glowing eyes

I’m hopeful in this 13th year. Looking forward to 2022, I can see parts of my life getting brighter. I’ve learned a lot in the past two years. While job loss, a pandemic, adjusting to a new job and changes therein, and medical issues have been a struggle at times, I’ve added to my toolbox additional doctors and a lot of useful health information. Zoom has been a lifesaver for my mental health as well as staying in contact with my fellow authors. Now, I’m ready to apply everything I’ve learned more to my life.

Thank You Rusty for today, for the song, for showing me “sell” hidden in your name, for the bunnies in the yard, for showing me that light follows darkness. My story isn’t over, it continues just like the ; .

Now to find a turtle to count the quadrants on its back.

Be Aware…of your mental health

Every May “Mental Health Awareness Month” receives recognition. It raises awareness to mental health in all aspects. According to MentalHealth.gov, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Wouldn’t it be wise to make every month about mental health awareness?

In the past year or so, our mental health took a toll thanks to a pandemic where people were forced to stay in and stay home from everything including work and school (in most cases). Stress became something a lot more people had to deal with due to factors that couldn’t be controlled. A few times, I’ve brought up dealing with stress and I had questions posed to me that resembled: what stress? what do you have to stress about? It’s as if stress wasn’t welcomed in my life. Yet, I’ve had to manage my mental health, physical health issues, financial struggles, and anything else that pulls at my life. Stress affects everyone at some time in their life; there’s no set rules on who’s allowed to have stress- whether or not they have a family of their own; if they’re dating or not; if they own a home, live in an apartment or are homeless; if they have a job or two or none, etc.

Not everyone had/has the ability to work on their mental health professionally due to access, cost, and other factors. I am one of the luckier people who had and continues to have access.

A stigma continues to surround mental health as well as mental illness and the completion or attempt of suicide. Suicide rates continue to be high along with depression and other mental illnesses, and yet people hesitate to talk about it. I admit that I only talk in detail to certain people about my mental health (outside of my health providers) and a few that I know I can confide in. It does get easier as I continue to learn, work through, and grow what all of me deals with. No one handles life issues like the next person so it’s important to speak to a professional who listens, encourages feedback, provides insight, guides you with strategies and makes you do your homework. I have such a person in my life; she’s definitely someone I can trust.

I am aware of my mental health daily.
I know people and places exist to assist with my mental health.
I know that seeing a therapist doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I know sometimes one requires meds with their treatment and that’s OK.
I know problems can’t always be worked out alone.
I know that asking for help gives me strength.
I know life won’t always be this way.
I know I can always reach out.

Mental Health 2020

This past year has been like no other I’ve experienced. In October 2019, I found out my full-time job was being eliminated in 30 days; it was a week after closing on a cash refinance for the house with intentions to pay down debt and purchase a new car. Needless to say, I became stressed and full of anxiety over how I was going to pay the bills, find a new job, get a new car before mine went kaput, and all the other worries that accompany a job loss. Within a few weeks, I ended up at my physician’s office with a weird rash or hives and it turns out it was related to stress; I had shared the upheaval in my life. She provided two recommendations/forms of treatment to help with a stressful period of time. It only took me until the next morning to decide I would take her up on both. One treatment would be a temporary prescription and the other is on-going talk therapy. I realized early on that I should have taken up her second suggestion years prior and then maybe I could have handled life better, but as a friend told me, “you’re getting help now”. Yes, I am. One of my assigned homework tasks was to read my own book: That’s All I Got! Thrival: A Widow’s Journey After Suicide and I did. It brought back memories and feelings that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Little did I know there would be a big challenge in my job hunt—the Covid-19 Pandemic, where employers stopped recruiting. Luckily, in May a job I had originally applied for in March, started their hiring process again and I acquired a new job that started three weeks later. Phew! Life is better although there are a few challenges I had to work out. Throughout this series of trials, I have learned so much more about mental health and not only my own.

The year 2020 tests everyone and mental health is taking its toll on people. From job losses to income reduction to being cooped up indoors to mask-wearing to the worries that accompany businesses reopening. All of that leads some to pursue the inevitable: taking their lives to the completion of suicide. The one event that brings together our community to help prevent suicide, to educate, and to support those of us who have a connection to suicide loss won’t be happening in person (as a large gathering) this year. The Milwaukee Out of the Darkness Walk has gone virtual. While they’ve changed it to an experience rather than coming together as a group, it’s not the same. This year, we need to be stronger to support those who might be struggling. Won’t you help me raise funds to help everyone in the coming year and beyond? Your contribution may help save lives as AFSP strives to educate and prevent lives lost while getting others the treatments needed for our mental health.

Walking foRuss/Karen Voss Team donation page

Book Interview with Rochelle Melander

In January 2020, a fellow Milwaukee author, Rochelle Melander, sent me a message regarding a series of interview blog posts she was working on and asked if I wanted to participate with “That’s All I Got!”. I said yes and while it’s original installment date was temporarily postponed, I had a surprise waiting in my email this morning.

“That’s All I Got!”, and myself are featured in this week’s Writers@Work blog with author and coach Rochelle Yolanda Melander Please check it out! While you’re at it, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (all handles are listed at the end of the interview).

Read the interview here! Writers@Work: An Interview with Karen Voss


Waking Up to Song

This morning, I woke up to the song, “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled” written by David Haas, on my mind and the words spilled forth from my mouth. This isn’t the first time the song has come to mind; it showed up on Tuesday night at the Survivors Helping Survivors support group for those who have lost someone to the completion of suicide. While I haven’t attended the group for years, last month I returned for a little extra support. The following words repeat in the song as the refrain and mean a lot to me:

Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God and faith in me. I will go forth to prepare a place for you and I’ll come back to take you with me. That where I am you may also be.

The words and the song have adapted from scripture, John 14:1-14. The choir at my church introduced me and the rest of the congregation to it when they sang the song as a meditation piece. Over time my brain remembered those words and they developed a special meaning and comfort level for me. The choir sings the song at funerals as well so I had them sing it at my husband’s funeral. At Holy Hill Shrine in October 18, I found a ring bearing part of the scripture verse; it’s like it knew that I would take to it and there it was for me to purchase and wear. This year, not realizing another ring I had seen also had part of the same scripture verse, decided it too wanted to share my finger.

Today the song arrived because I lost my husband to the completion of suicide 11 years ago.

I have come a long way since that tragic and traumatic day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have things that come up for me to work through. My physician has said to the affect, “grief doesn’t fully go away; it changes” and she’s absolutely right. Sometimes you need to ask for help and that’s OK! My friend Riggs told me that “asking for help is the strongest thing you can do. Don’t forget that”. I thank him for reminding me of that.

Life doesn’t end because someone you love lost theirs. It continues, but in a different way.


Gifts for Christmas

Recently, this poem, written for Russ’s prayer service 10 years ago by a dear friend, came to mind and I had to read it again. I wanted to share it with my readers and hadn’t put it up. After hearing the homily at mass on Sunday, once again I was reminded of how each of us can be a gift this Christmas season, not only now, but throughout the entire year. Please enjoy the following poem, “Gifts”, and think about its meaning.

By James W. Hermann

Let us be gifts to one another
This Christmas season
Not the kind under the tree
Not the kind that is a surprise waiting inside wrapped packages.
Not something we shake before opening to speculate the contents
Not something we wish for from Santa.
Or something that comes from a retail store.
Let us not be a fad, or a gadget or a something that someone had to stand in line for
Or worst of all something that was returned the next day

Let us Be, Let us BE.
Let us be the kind of gift that comes from our heart
That comes from our time
That comes from our soul
That comes from our strength
Let us be the gift of ourselves for those who need us.

Let us be Russ’ kind heart
Lets us turn to Faith
Let us be his humility
Let us be his quirky jokes
Let us be unassuming and gentle
Let’s us be like Russ and be everything we can be without asking for anything in return

Let us be what Russ was to us – Let us BE that for each other

Copyright 2008, 2014

5 Star Review!



In June, I signed up to participate in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. Today, I was notified that my book has finished its review and received a 5 star rating (in all five criteria). The review is listed below.


Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite

That’s All I Got! Thrival: A Widow’s Journey After Suicide by Karen E. Voss is the author’s poignant and heartbreaking memoir as she shares her pain through the book and gives readers an intimate look into her life of grief, loss, and betrayal. The book sheds light on the daily struggles of those living with mental illness, and those who deal with the effects of loving and living with someone who has mental illness. The author speaks about reaching out for help during her days of struggles, and how it is possible to live an extraordinary life again. Her journey after her husband Russ’s suicide will touch the hearts of readers in many ways. Her story is one of pain, grief, betrayal, survival, thrival, hope, and recovery.

The author’s words are not only about her trauma and pain; she gives a good perception to readers about what it takes when it comes to living and dealing with people with mental illness. She speaks about her life extensively and intimately, and her moments of despair and difficult times are palpable. The book reaches out to readers through the author’s words and prayers and she calls herself a ‘thriver’, a warrior moving forward after tragedy, instead of a survivor. The book also sheds light on the alternate and holistic types of healing and well being that are helpful when it comes to treating mental illness. Stories like this will touch the hearts of readers – and many of them will be able to connect with the author’s pain and tragedy – but will also help them overcome their trauma and get on with their lives.


Post-Traumatic Growth

“I believe that you can have post-traumatic growth. You can find greater meaning.” -Sheryl Sandburg

I read the above quote in the article, “Finding Strength” in Great Loss” from the May 2017 issue of Redbook Magazine. The only other times I have seen the words post-traumatic have been during references of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Post-traumatic growth refers to growth after trauma and following grief. While I haven’t used the words, I too have experienced post-traumatic growth.

In December 2017, nine years passed since my husband completed suicide. Due to the traumatic events, I dealt with, worked through, and overcame PTSD. Since then I have persevered. With tools and resources to assist, I THRIVED!

In order to thrive, one must be able to work through their troubled waters. With the support of family, friends, a wellness team, my faith, keeping physically active, and other programs, I navigated the rough waters and arrived safely to shore. The tools I gathered along the way continue to fuel my journey of thrival.

“There’s bound to be rough waters and I know I’ll take a fall, but with the Good Lord as my captain, I’ll make it through it all”. -“The River”, Garth Brooks

Taking Inventory


Currently, I have 55 copies of That’s All I Got! in my personal inventory. These copies would like to be purchased (adopted) into your hands or to someone you know who may be interested in this book hands.

Please contact me at kevoss@earthlink.net if you’re interested in owning or gifting a copy of That’s All I Got!.

If you currently own a copy and read the book, please review it on Amazon.com.

Thank You!


Published Again!

Thanks to Project Semicolon that chose to publish this book:


with Harper Collins, I’m published once again. Project Semicolon called out for contributors to share their story in the book Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over gearing towards 18-25 yr olds, ages where people are more susceptible to mental illness and contemplating suicide.

For those who know me, know that I’ve been on a journey after losing my husband to the completion of suicide as a result of mental illness. I’m happy to share my story because my motto states: “if I can help one person then I know I’m doing my job.” My story appears within the pages 18-19 of the Project Semicolon book. It shows my name and lists the story as “In Memoriam.”


Please consider purchasing this book for anyone you know who might find it useful and want to discover stories of courage, strength, and perseverance. Because like the ; stands for; their stories aren’t over yet.