Friday, March 29, 2019

How talking can end stigma and save lives

Stigma; Noun
a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

I have been struggling with mental health issues for many years. I have experienced anxiety and major depression. I didn't really feel seriously depressed until I was a teenager. I had tremendous amounts of anxiety and pain and I hid it behind an over the top personality, winning me "class clown," "most talkative" and even "most bubbly." When really I was dealing with an eating disorder which, self-harm and depression. I hid the scars, I hid the suicidal ideation because I was afraid of what people would think if they knew I had a mental health issue. I had wonderful, supportive parents who I was able to confide in but I tried to hide the issues from the outside world. 

Mental Health Issues are far more common than most of us think!

One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue. 
One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression.

If one in every five people have experienced a mental health issue why are we not talking about it more? Stigma makes people ashamed, and when people feel shame they are much less likely to talk about what's going on in their lives. Shame keeps people sick. Shame keeps people in toxic places. 

TALKING helps people....

When Zuka died one of the first people I called was another bereaved mother. Why? Because she understood. Frequently I would message her and tell her how I was feeling and ask her for validation if what I was feeling was normal. If she told me it was normal, I would believe her because she understood like no one else. by the way, she always told me it was normal and I hadn't gone completely out of my mind. That kept me going, helped me tell myself, I am not ok but that's ok, I am ok in my not-ok. She and her family have been a huge help to us in dealing with the loss of our son. They are willing to listen and willing to share their experience.

I received help from domestic violence advocacy when I was with the children's biological father. I was lost, I was ashamed and I was scared. Volunteers had been trained to help give advice and comfort. I appreciate all of them but do you know who I really listened to? The couple of advocates who told me, "I'm not really supposed to be talking about my personal life, but I have been there, this is my experience...." I was encouraged by their stories. They got through it, so could I.  When I went back to that violent relationship, one advocate told me, "You can always come back, I left 7 times before I left for good." This alone made me feel like I was not disappointing them, she understood. When I packed my bags and left for the final time I didn't hesitate to call and ask them to come to pick me up, I was done for good.

See, you don't have to be a professional to help someone. Using your own story helps to break down the stigma that keeps people in toxic places! 

If you are feeling unsafe please tell someone you trust or call a helpline (you can find several on the resources page)

If you have experienced mental health issues, talk about it. Help end the stigma. Not everyone is willing or able to put it out there publicly in a speech, a blog post, or on social media. What about reaching out to one person? Ask someone if they are okay, tell someone who is experiencing what you have experienced, "I have been there too!" 

Maybe you haven't been where they are but you can reach out and offer to be a safe place to talk. By safe place I mean, you listen. You don't have to say the right words,  saying nothing but "I am here to listen." is enough. Train yourself on how to be a better support by reading about the best ways to support a hurting friend.

The more we talk, the more we share this experience of being human, the fewer walls are built between us. The less stigma we have. The less we are alone.

Check your own beliefs and stigmas about mental health by clicking the link below! 

For More information on Mental Health Stigma please visit:

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Life is too short

I see so many memes online about giving up on people, people calling others "fake" if they didn't act in the way in which they expected them to. People can be so quick to give up on other people.

I have had people I care about unfriend me from social media for saying something political. I have had a petty argument and lost someone I thought was a friend over it. I don't understand why we dismiss people so quickly. I can't say that I wasn't that way once.

 When my son passed I had a few people who I had not been in contact with reach out to me and say, "Look I know we have had some differences, but none of that matters right now..." How true is that?!When life gets tough none of that petty stuff matters.

Life is too short to not talk to someone you care about over disagreements. People seem so proud of their ability to get rid of other people, posting meme's about how fast they can forget about someone. Boasting about having no forgiveness. It's really sad to me.

I saw this meme on Tiny Buddha 
 I thought it fit so well with my state of mind right now

You really never know what someone else is going through. Maybe what you thought was someone giving you a negative attitude was someone really hurting and trying to keep it inside. Maybe your friend didn't call you because they were so sad they couldn't get out of bed. Maybe they don't go out with the group due to anxiety. Maybe they are just having a bad day! We all have one thing in common, we are all human. I try to believe that people do the best they can with what they have available to them at the time, whether that be emotionally, mentally, intellectually, financially.

Let your pride relax a little, don't be so defensive, communicate, look a little deeper. 

Life is too short to walk around angry!

I want nothing but peace in my life.
 If I have ever been a toxic person in your life, forgive me. 
If you have hurt me, know I have hate for no one 
 you have been forgiven. 

Losing someone who meant the world to me truly put life into perspective.

Don't wait until it's too late 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

How I clean my home when feeling Depressed

The first month of grief I went to my (then) therapist and told her that I felt like doing nothing. I was depressed, I didn't want to get out of bed and my house started to get messy, the messier the house got, the worse I felt. I made these big lists of what I was going to do each day and set out to do my chores. I became overwhelmed by barely checking off any of the items on my list. I explained to my counselor, "I am making myself lists, I am setting goals, Why can't I get anything accomplished?" My therapist told me I was expecting to much from myself. I was putting so much pressure on myself that I was failing then feeling worse about myself. She suggested I start by setting smaller goals, MUCH smaller goals. 

Set small goals

Instead of giving up and doing nothing. Which by the way is completely okay some days! Set a very small goal. Instead of, "Clean My House" or even "Clean my room" maybe just take the laundry from my bedroom to the laundry room. That's it. Stop. Maybe later or tomorrow your goal is to put it in the washer (and you kind of have to put it in the dryer because it starts to smell, believe me! lol)

Give yourself small goals and feel good when you accomplish them!

Set the Mood

This one is my FAVORITE!! When I clean I set the mood, especially when I am feeling depressed. 

Get Inspired: This looks something like sitting on my bed or couch and putting YouTube on one of my favorite cleaning channels. I love Love Meg and Clutterbug but you can search for others there are many channels out there. That step get's me inspired to clean.

Distraction: You are feeling down and probably have a million things going through your head while cleaning that aren't very motivational. Cleaning is an awesome time to listen to an audio book (there are some freebies on YouTube), Listen to some upbeat music (no sad stuff!) or play a happy movie (just as long as you are listening to it and not sitting down to watch).

Scents: This part is huge for me. I love to get my essential oils going, light candles, light incense and make the house smell good. This puts me in a happier mood and helps my house to already feel a bit cleaner because it smells so nice! I also love nicely scented cleaning products. My favorites are Mrs. Meyers and Method, or you can look up ways to make your own natural home cleaners!

Be Comfy: Throw your hair in a messy bun if it's long. Put on your most comfortable soft tee or sweats and make sure you are warm snuggly and comfy!

Get Rid of Stuff

Most of us have stuff we need to get rid of. I can always find stuff to get rid of and I purge my home often. Here's why getting rid of stuff makes me feel so good, it makes my house cleaner and it feels good to give things to people who can use them. I am not saying go Konmari method and put all the clothes you own in a huge pile, start small. You don't want to get overwhelmed. Got a drawer or shelf of vitamins? Go through it and look for expired bottles to throw away. Go through one drawer and donate clothing you no longer wear. Do small areas at a time. Relax, go slow, listen to your background music and slowly organize and get rid of what longer "sparks joy," (ok THAT part I borrowed from Marie Kondo) 

Reward Yourself

Give yourself some credit, give yourself a pat on the back. Grief and Depression are exhausting, let whatever you could do be enough. Don't think about what you did not get done, instead think about what you accomplished.

If all you did was get out of your bed and pick up your dirty socks today, I am proud of you! Be proud of yourself too!

Ask for help

There is no shame in asking other's for help if you need it. I remember being so overwhelmed one day back in college (I was a working single mother of two babies in college) I asked a friend to come over and not do any actual cleaning but help keep me focused. She would steer me in the direction of what to do next and keep me company while doing it. It's fun to talk to a friend while folding laundry or sorting socks, you don't have to be alone to clean. Whether they help or not, it's nice to have someone there to keep you company.

Cleaning your home is a form of self-care

When I started setting the mood, not setting my goals too high, and giving away what was causing clutter I noticed I started to ENJOY cleaning. GASP! This was new for me! It started to become something that lifted my mood. My house being clean makes me happy and when it's organized it's so much easier to keep clean. The actual act of cleaning, while setting the right state of mind and atmosphere makes cleaning feel good for me, and not some form of torture. My home is far from perfect but I am okay with that!

Keep it simple. Be easy on yourself. Do what you can do and Be Proud of Yourself!! 

Got more cleaning and organizing tips for cleaning while depressed? Drop them in the comment box below!!

None of the YouTube channels or companies mentioned in this post are in anyway sponsored!

The 7 month anniversary of my son's death, guilt

Emotionally, I have been up an down. I talked yesterday about being thrown back to the beginning again just when I felt like I was making progress. I was bewildered, I thought I was doing so much better, then suddenly I spent several days in tears. I am just on the tail end of that. I couldn't look at his picture without crying. I had to really think about why this was suddenly happening, it didn't mark any significant date or event, it just came out of nowhere. I was beating myself up a bit about it. I had to come to a level of acceptance, this is GRIEF. It doesn't have to make sense, it doesn't. There isn't always a specific reason why we break down, we are grieving!

Today I want to address a question or topic that has come up a few times in conversation, "How did you not know?" Or many variations of the same question. There is somehow this perceived notion that we were oblivious to Zuka's emotional state. Were we so wrapped up in our own lives that we missed that our son was suffering? Did he hide his secret pain?

The day Zuka died I went to work from home, but maybe was at work for an hour and realized he wasn't acting okay. I called my supervisor and told her that I needed to be with him, she was familiar with his situation and encouraged me to be with my son. She was very supportive about it. I was with him, one on one, for most of the day until my husband came home and we could make some decisions about whether we were going to force him back into the hospital or try to handle things outpatient. I was in the bathroom just a couple of minutes when Zuka took his life. We were right there.

A month before Zuka took his life he was in the hospital for a medication overdose. That day I called 911 and he was taken by ambulance to the ER where we spent 8 hours, then another hospital where he was observed another 8 hours and finally got a bed in the psychiatric unit. He was discharged 48 hours later! I tried to explain to the psychiatrist that I KNEW Zuka was not in a good state of mind. Zuka being extremely intelligent, had convinced the doctors that he was fine, he was having trouble sleeping and just took some extra meds to help him sleep, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY! They believed him, they discharged him.

The two nights before he took his life he kept me awake all night talking. I would like to tell you I happily stayed up and gave him full attention but after so many hours I was exhausted. I was completely wrapped up in his emotional state. It's hard for my husband, Antonio, and I to not play the "what if" game, what if we had taken him to the hospital the minute he showed signs of having difficulty that day? What if we had done this or that differently?  There is a lot of guilt involved in losing a child to suicide. You can't allow yourself to go there, you have to try to block out those thoughts and know that you did the best you could. We got him all the help we could. We did the best we knew how to do. You can do everything "right" you can be completely present, fully understand the persons mental health struggles and sometimes it's not enough. That is the painful truth. 

If you are struggling with guilt over a loved one's suicide I would encourage you to seek help, reach out! There are many support groups and resources for suicide loss survivors.

You're never alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you are struggling emotionally or thinking about suicide

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Grief is not Linear, My experiences with the 5 Stages of Grief

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. 
Just remember your grief is an unique as you are.

David Kessler

One if the biggest misconceptions I had before experiencing grief was that the stages of grief are this linear path we follow until we "get through" the grieving process. What I learned from grief is that it is much messier than that. At times I felt like I was experiencing all these stages at the same time. Part of me accepting he was gone, yet still is disbelief that he isn't coming back. Anger has been present from day one, I am angry at life, at myself, at the universe, at God. There is so much anger about the situation. 

Sadness and depression are not exactly the same. 

According to Psychology Today, "That is one key difference with depression. People suffering from major depression tend to be isolated and feel disconnected from others, and may shun such support and assistance. People who don’t get such support, or who avoid it, may be at greater risk for slipping into clinical depression during the grieving process." 
I have experienced depression on and off throughout my life. In grief there has been constant sadness but I feel like there are periods where I am in major depression, I have no desire to be around anyone, to work on goals, to try to help myself heal in these times I rarely reach out for support (which is not healthy, I recommend reaching out for support, especially when you are at your lowest). I have other times when I am sad but I want to work on my sadness, I want to practice self-care, reach out for support, and help myself heal.

When my son first passed the pain was excruciating, it was like a pounding ear infection. I can only use what I know, and as a person who has suffered with ear infections my whole life, I know that a bad ear infection consumes you. It's constant, no matter what you try to do the pain is so loud it blocks out anything else. As time went on, it was still in my mind but a tiny bit quieter so I could hear messages of hope and start my healing journey. What surprised me was that it's not linear, I didn't get to a certain point and stay there, or move on. At times, life an ear infection, the pain would grow loud again. I felt disappointed in myself, "what happened?" "You were doing so well!" I would question myself. 7 months into this journey and I am back at day 1? How does that happen?

Grief is more like a roller coaster

Grief is not linear. In fact, my grief is more like a roller coaster. It's all over the place, it's messy. That's okay! That's grief. It's nothing you are doing wrong, it's not your fault. Don't add to your pain by feeling guilty about your self perceived "lack of progression." You can be healing and hurting and, happy and sad and all those things at the same time. You can accept what has happened and be in disbelief at the same time. You can be all over the place and still working through it.

Grief isn't something you work through and the job is done

Grief is not a job to complete, you work through it and it's done. Or maybe for you it is, everyone's grief is different. For many, like myself, grieving is an ongoing process. You never "get over it" but you work on being able to live with it. You learn to live with the pain, and some days it won't be blaring so loud that you can hear life again. Be patient with yourself!! 


Thursday, March 14, 2019

How to Kill Yourself

Hey Friend... I am so sorry that you are in so much pain that you are looking up ways to end it. 
I don't think you want to die, you just want the pain to stop.

How do I know? I have been in that much pain. 
I have wanted to die too, but I am so glad that I survived. 

My son, Zuka, unfortunately did not. 
At 18 years old my amazing son passed away from suicide...leaving behind his sister, his parents, grandparents, family and sooo many friends, all who were truly devastated by his loss. 

I understand tremendous pain, I also know it doesn't last forever!!




Please tell someone. Please talk to someone.

If not for yourself, for someone you love!! 

If you are a teen or young adult, several have used this guide to figure out how to tell a parent or loved one you want to die. It’s worked well for many.  For the Teen Contemplating Suicide and Looking for the Strength to Reach Out. I hope you will use it. 
It takes courage to reach out for help, but you are strong, you have made it through so many tough days!! Make it through today!! 

U.S. Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255

U.S. Crisis text line 741-741

Canada 1-833-456-4566

United Kingdom 116 123

Australia 13 11 14

You're never alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you are struggling emotionally or thinking about suicide

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The book, Do you want to contribute?

I am writing a book about Zuka and Grief. I am in the beginning stages, I have been doing a lot of research and reading books on writing books.

I would love for friends and family to contribute. If you have a story, a letter to Zuka, or anything you would like to contribute to the book, please email to Please give written consent to use your name and the content you have provided.

I will also be posting an application to be a beta reader when I am a little further along in the book.

Some topics I am very interested in hearing more about include:

1. How did you find out about Zuka's passing?

2. If you found out in school, could you elaborate about what the scene looked like.

3. Stories about events planned for Zuka, the balloon launch, candle light ceremony etc..

4. Personal stories about Zuka, what was your relationship? Share a story, adventure or memory of him.

5. As someone who has lost a friend or family member to suicide, what would say to another person who is suffering the same loss?

6. What would you want to tell someone who is contemplating suicide?

7. Anything else you feel like sharing, even if you have shared it with me before.

Thank-you and lots of love to you! ~Jenn

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Grief Dreams

I have so many grief dreams, I think I could write a book. They are always strange and symbolic, sometimes they seem silly but they all impact me greatly. In my last grief dream Zuka was a toddler, as he often is. I had been rejected by most of my friends and family and Zuka was the only person I had (Jamilah was not born yet). I walked with Zuka through this mall type place and and outside was some soft of music festival. We walked through the doors, I carried Zuka in a makeshift sort of baby carrier on my chest, so only his little head peeked out. We stood on this cement walkway and looked at this beautiful music festival before us. There were trees and lights and people dressed in bohemian and tie dyed clothing. I was happy, just carrying my baby boy around, talking to him, it was he and I against the world. I walked down these cement steps towards the festival, and I looked down at him, I couldn't see his face in the carrier anymore. I quickly searched through the carrier to find I was carrying an empty bunch of cloth. I looked back and I had somehow dropped Zuka at the top of the staircase, He was completely okay. He stood there, waiting for me, his chubby little baby self. Other people came out and stood with him as he waited for me to come back and get him.

I walked towards the stairs, and suddenly the cement stairs were too high to climb, they were giant. The stairs were cement walls, on on top of the other and my baby waited for me at the top. I couldn't get to him. I struggled and struggled to get up the cement stairs but I couldn't get to him. I was crying and calling out for him. I woke up in tears, I am in tears writing this. These dreams sound silly...but each is a heartbreaking way in which I lose my son or try desperately to find him. They are torture.

Friday, March 1, 2019

What if Happiness is not a choice?

I used to say that happiness was a choice, that we choose to be happy when we do the things to create happiness. I felt like I had to always work to create happiness and "positivity" even when I wasn't feeling it. After all, there must be a million meme's out there that tell me if I want to be happy, I must choose to be. After my son passed away and grief hit me, I felt a little angry when I saw these posts, and cringed at some of the posts I had shared. 

What I didn't realize is that sometimes no matter how much you decide that you're going to be happy you just cannot. When you say things like "choose to be happy," It can make those who are grieving or depressed feel a sort of guilt like their unhappiness is a choice and that somehow people can will themselves out of that feeling. 

 "Positivity" was something I tried to promote but there are times when there is no positive side! People will try to show you silver linings, but there really are none in certain circumstances. Yes, I have another child, YES, we had 18 years worth of memories, Yes, someday I hope to help other's with grief, depression and mental health but NONE of that makes losing a child any easier!! 
My son dealt with mental health issues, struggling with depression and bipolar disorder. No amount of "looking on the bright side" was going to take that away, he didn't choose to be unhappy. Happiness is not a choice for everyone. 

You cannot rise from the ocean of sorrows and will yourself onto a mountain top, so you just have to swim. Happiness may not be a option for you right now but survival is. 
Keep swimming

Sending you all Love, Jenn

Not Pennies from heaven (adultish content)

I have heard a lot of people in my grief groups talk about signs from their loved one. For some it's birds, for other's it's pennies they find throughout the day, "Pennies from Heaven" as they call them. Well, I have had any occurrences with birds, butterflies, or pennies but, I have has some little reminder of Zuka's sense of humor popping up every once in awhile and it makes me laugh every time.

If you knew Zuka you know he had a wild sense of humor. For Christmas 2017, he sent his Dad, Antonio, a very nice present but, the week before that he sent him a hilarious present. Zuka sent him a "Bag Of D*cks" inside were two bags of phallic shaped gummy's and a whole bunch of phallic shaped metallic confetti.

I have vacuumed my floor, and washed my carpet so many times since December 2017. I have reorganized and gone through everything "Konmari" style and yet we still find these from time to time. Now, I am not saying they are from heaven, or that I believe Zuka is somehow leaving these for us. I don't really know what I believe in terms of all that...

but what I know is these little worn out metallic confetti pieces keep showing up, in clothing, on the carpet, in drawers and each time I see one I have to laugh and remember my sons awesome sense of humor. I remember the look on my husband's face when he received this gift, and the look of pure joy on Zukas face when I described, in detail, his dad's reaction to opening this gift. He thought it was hilarious!

He was smiling like THIS!

Antonio got him back by buying him the most loud, metallic pink tiger striped underwear. 
Turns our Zuka LOVED them and wore them often!! 

Sometimes it's the little things that add a little light in this journey!! 

I miss you Zuka, and your wild sense of humor!!!