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.

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.


Seasonal Support

For many people, the holidays aren’t very joyous, but difficult. While normal holiday stresses exist, other not so normal unseen stresses appear. For people who have lost a loved one for whatever reason, grief joins in for the holidays. With winter settling in, the gloomy and cloudy days, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and depression become part of some people’s days. They require sources that can aid them: books, friends, and support.

Do you know someone who has been or is going through a tragic situation or life event whether or not related to this journey? Do you know anyone this holiday season that would benefit from reading, “That’s All I Got! A Widow’s Journey After Suicide”?

Why not give the gift of healing this holiday season. Why not direct them to sources that may assist in their grieving. Reach out.

Saying goodbye to save a life

Today, March 1st, has been emotionally charged as we said goodbye and bid peace to someone whose life ended too soon from the completion of suicide. He suffered from his own demons, which included depression. I know this story too well, our neighborhood grieves again. In December 2008, the neighborhood grieved the first time after my husband, Russ, passed away from the completion of suicide as a result of mental illness: bipolar and auditory hallucination, which associates with schizophrenia.

My neighbor, Michael, passed away on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 as a result of a gunshot after dealing with troubling times in life. His life has me reflecting back to the date and time of Russ’s death and how far I’ve come since. I not only survived, but I thrived.

As I sat during the funeral, I pictured Russ and now Michael Goetzinger in Heaven sitting in the yard and talking. They’re both released from their pain and looking down on their families and friends giving encouragement and making sure we’re all healing and moving forward. One of the songs played at the service, Wideness in God’s Mercy, hit home because it played at Russ’s funeral six years ago. Even in death we’re all connected.

The service composed of music, readings, and poems that found their place into people’s souls. From the poems, The Journey by Mary Oliver and The Farewell by Khalil Gibran, to music of Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, Everything’s Not Lost by Coldplay and If You Lead Me Lord I Will Follow, and an anointing of essential oils to aid in healing and hope created voices in song, hugs in hundreds, and tears of sorrow.

I’m thankful to all the neighbors who came together to support each other and for making sure that I’m doing alright and offering lots of hugs. Connected by love, connected by sorrow, all of us have a brighter tomorrow. Rest in Peace Michael and to all of people who have lost their lives to the completion of suicide.

Once again we’re reminded that suicide’s real and we must break the stigma that surrounds it. If you’re contemplating suicide, preventing suicide or support others, please see: AFSP.

If you are in crisis, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
With your help, we can all save lives.

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.

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.



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




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