Today, I made the bed…

Today, I made the bed…

What may seem insignificant to some represents something bigger to another.

Today, I made the bed. Exactly six years ago today, my husband made the bed that morning. I didn’t sleep in the bed for two months. Not doing so allowed me to hold a piece of him because you see he passed away that morning.

Today, I balanced the checkbook. Balancing the checkbook and keeping track of that account became my job. I always did it and tracked down the missing check or two. I had stopped this. Sure, I knew the day-to-day after all there’s online banking. However, this morning I made sure the numbers were correct and then wrote a contribution check for church and listed the balance.

Today, I changed the plan. My original plan today started with going to church, visiting at the cemetery and arriving home in time for the start of the Packers game. That’s until I received a text from a good friend asking to get together to catch up. I replied sure. We met up after church for hot chocolate, a pastry, and conversation before I headed to the cemetery. I missed the first quarter of the game and that’s OK.

Today, I visited the cemetery. This isn’t unusual for me to do on special days or just because. Today while there, I wrote a bit inspired by God and influenced by my faith for God takes care of us no matter what’s happening in our lives.

Today, I mailed the Christmas cards. This isn’t unusual or something new, but the time frame changed this year from years past. I’ve been good about sending them out early, but this year life got in the way. I realized it’s the same weekend six years ago that we sent out Christmas cards containing our wedding photo. Most everyone received those cards on Monday, the day after my husband passed away; a bittersweet photo.

Today, I heard a siren. The siren stopped on the next block to the south. Six years ago, the sirens stopped at our house. They left with a physical body whose heart stopped beating and his lungs stopped breathing as a result of asphyxiation. There’s nothing anyone could have done.

Today, I watched a movie. Not just any movie, but a special one, The Muppet Christmas Carol. This movie holds a special place in my heart because during this movie, Russ changed the words of the song, “When Love is Gone” to when love is found and then told me that he loves me (less than two months into our relationship and yet my heart knew that I loved him at two weeks). I shed a few tears during the movie and even if parts of it weren’t special, I’d still shed tears. The night continues with a movie he became attached to and to the song, “Hot Chocolate”. It’s time to board The Polar Express.

All this and more, all because

Today, I made the bed.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day resides this year on November 22, 2014.

Across the world, people gather as one. We all have something in common. We have lost someone to the completion of suicide. It’s a day to share journeys, hope, and healing. I found out Monday afternoon that I’ll be hosting a resource table for my book, That’s All I Got! at the Milwaukee event sponsored by the Mental Health America of Wisconsin. On this day, I am inspiring, sharing, healing, and strengthening.

If you aren’t able to attend a local event, there’s a 90 minute live video feed at 12 pm CST/1 PM EST so you too can take part in this day. Follow this link to join: Survivor Day Live

Survivor Day Website

Milwaukee Event

Re-living a tragedy

“As the world grieves, may more light be shed upon mental illness and the prevention and education of suicide”. -K.E.Voss

It’s been over a week since the world learned of the passing of Robin Williams. Since then we have learned the cause of his death by suicide — he hung himself and had attempted to slit his wrists. I apologize for my bluntness, but it’s not something to hide behind, it’s truth. We also know he had the beginning stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which may have caused his depression or added to it.

There’s so many questions and there may never be answers. He may not even know.

I do know, like many people who have lost someone to the completion of suicide, may have been affected by Robin’s death; I know I have. When I heard the details of how he died, I had an immediate flashback to the moment I found my husband. It sent a wave of emotions into me. Your breath is a powerful tool to calm the mind down. I had a visit scheduled to my chiropractor who doesn’t just assist with physical ailments. Talking about it and getting adjusted, which helped my emotional and mental health as well as physical, made for a better night. Seeking support from friends geared thoughts to other things. This created only a bump in the road for me that became smoother.

Others affected may not have had it as simple as I did. Reliving tragedies isn’t fun especially if you still have fresh wounds. Depending on what you witnessed, it takes a good amount of time to heal and even then the memories can resurface.

Death opens wounds for those affected by suicide

Remember to call upon and check on those who maybe re-affected by worldly or local/national tragedies. Show you care. Be there.

Don’t be quick to judge

A recent Dear Abby post (from Tuesday, August 5, 2014) reminded me of something I wrote in That’s All I Got. The lady who wrote to Dear Abby mentioned that no one outside her immediate family knew she suffered from depression or a suicide attempt.

When Russ and I were dating and then married, we never shared the information about Russ’ mental illnesses with anyone in my family. We wanted Russ treated without judgement, as a regular person and not someone seen as a victim or a special case. This was our mutual decision.

After Russ died and the details started to emerge, I heard or maybe asked about why we didn’t tell and that maybe they could have helped. My first thought was: How? Can you take the illnesses away? When I gave the reason behind not telling, I heard, we wouldn’t have done that (meaning judged him based on him having bipolar disorder and auditory hallucinations). Really? It’s 2014, everyone is quick to judge. How many times have you heard about someone committing (completed is the correct term) suicide and thinking they’re crazy when in reality they suffered from a mental illness known or unknown to someone else. I used to do this myself until suicide affected me. Can you say the same? Do you want to?

Think about it. Don’t be quick to judge.

A simple pair of skates

Years ago, skating as a teenager, I discovered the art of rollerblading for recreation and exercise. I remember purchasing my first pair of roller blades with saved up money from my paper routes. I wore the first set of wheels down to the bearings. The frames became so beat up that Play-It-Again Sports scrapped them for me. I replaced that pair with a better design. I still have these.

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Up until I married, those blades rolled places. Then, tragedy occurred and I hadn’t touched them since, that is until Sunday, July 20th, 2014. A week or two before this I saw someone flying down my street on roller blades. That got me thinking, why don’t I blade anymore? I couldn’t give myself a good response; I had given up. Another time in the garage, I saw my blades poking from a storage can.This must have been a sign.

I dusted them off and located my protective gear after all, a writer doesn’t need a broken wrist. A day or two later, I suited up and started out slowly, gaining my balance on two legs and wheels. Then it was like I had never stopped rollerblading (except for remembering how to navigate curbs. I headed to the quiet park with paved walk ways and an adjoining school parking lot. At first, I straight up skated working my way to downhill squatting and attempting turns. Turns were easy to remember, but harder to do especially backwards. As I practiced and nearly fell on my butt, I had a thought I’ll finish with.

“Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward. Sometimes you need to fall in order to succeed”.-K.E.Voss

 

 

Overcoming

Ask anyone how they grieve and you’ll receive a different response every time. There’s no wrong or right way to mourn the loss of a loved one or friend. The best thing you can do revolves around taking time to grieve; some people don’t and that’s when moving forward turns into feeling stuck in wet cement or quicksand. It took me over two years to reach “acceptance” the final stage of the grieving process. With the proper support and grief/trauma counseling, I moved forward. I thrived.

In a recent episode of Extreme Weight Loss on ABC, the person whose life required transforming is the widow of an Army soldier who completed suicide as he dealt with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) after a deployment to Afghanistan. Their adopted son deals with PTSD after his dad ended his life. This lady never took the time to grieve for her husband. She hid her pain and turned to food as a way of coping. While I don’t know first hand how to deal with PTSD from serving in the military, I do have an understanding of what PTSD is since I received treatment for it following my husbands completion of suicide. One does not treat PTSD on their own; treatment exists and one can recover from it under the proper care, but it does take time. While you reduce the trauma, symptoms can linger for years to come. There’s much information about PTSD and while I won’t approach it more on here, I’ll do so in another post.

I’ve included the link to the episode of Extreme Weight Loss I mentioned.

Extreme Weight Loss, Melissa’s Journey

My first borrow

A week ago, I discovered that That’s All I Got made the list of availability at three separate libraries. On Wednesday, July 2nd, I had a hunch to check the Milwaukee Public Library website and look at the book listing. Boom! There you go! The first borrow checked out of the Cudahy Family Library on what seems like the day before, Tuesday, July 1st (you can borrow a book for three weeks which is how I figured out the date from July 22nd.

I wonder…did someone spot it in the New Books area? Did they read about the library availability on Facebook. LinkedIn, or Twitter? Did someone wait until it had a home in the library to borrow the book instead of purchasing a copy? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone borrowed it to read and that person can share with someone else. What matters is that for some reason that book found a hand to hold; a journey of discovery that may help someone or inspire or even lead someone on their own journey of inspiration, peace, hope, or guidance. That’s what matters.

Available for borrowing!

It’s been a week since I stepped inside the Cudahy Family Library to donate a copy of That’s All I Got. I admit that I’m eager to see when it’s available for borrowing. I went online today to see the progress at either this library or the two purchased from the Milwaukee Public Library System for two separate libraries.

Lo’ and behold I discovered these two entries:

regular catalog That’s All I Got – Karen E Voss

OR

classic catalog That’s All I Got – Karen E Voss

Another step forward on this journey and I’m excited to see how things progress from here.

In two months…

In the last two months, my book has slowly found its way into the world. That’s All I Got can be sold online through Henschel Haus Books as a paperback and Amazon.com as a paperback and e-book in Kindle format. I’ve also sold them personally as paperbacks.

I’ve held book signings during a Higher Brain Living meetup, at my friends’ house, twice at my local YMCA, and twice during monthly church dinners. I’ve sold single copies to my neighbors and a few friends. In a way, I’ve partnered with Udana Yoga and Wellness to sell a few copies there (I’ll be having a book signing event here in the near future). I’ve gifted a copy to my cousin at a funeral home. More recently, I sold a copy at the cemetery on my husband’s 45th birthday (this is and isn’t the unlikeliest spot to reacquaint with an old friend & finding out she hadn’t found a way yet to buy the book.

These opportunities mark only the beginning. A couple of places (and soon more): Barnes & Noble Corporate Offices and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) have been sent review copies to review and approve. Once approved, opportunities follow. Barnes & Noble can then carry the paperback in stores (you can already order it online). I’m waiting on AFSP to approve so I can possibly have the book used a resource for various programs related to suicide and bereavement (relative to suicide or tragedy). This way the book can reach more people and help more lives…either to inspire or heal.

Reaching for milestones

Two days this week of book milestones!

Wednesday night, April 30th, at a YMCA book signing, I sold my 50th copy and 9 more. On Thursday, May 1st, I sold the 60th copy to my godfather who lives in Minnesota plus one more that he purchased for me to donate to the library of my choice.

On Thursday, May 1st, the mail revealed an envelope from my publisher. It only took me a minute to realize what it contained; my first royalty check. Whoo Hoo! My first royalty check! I took a look and grinned ear to ear. I made a copy of the check before I took it to the bank today.

Last week, I gifted a book to my cousin after another cousin referenced in my book passed away in Heaven so technically that book made #50. While my cousin isn’t physically here, she’s here with me while I write and in the memories I hold in my heart.