Since my last post in July, so many things have happened in the survivor arena.
In August, Robin Williams succumbed to suicide. As someone who has attempted suicide (and has been suicidal most of my life) and a lifelong devoted fan of Robin’s, tears came instantly and easily. The entire country mourned for him. I live just across the bay from his family home and I openly sobbed for him as I stood at my sliding glass door facing the cove into to the small town of Tiburon. I felt closer to him because of proximity. I felt for his survivors, his children, his family – immediate and extended. My business side kicked in and I wanted to hop in my car and go to his house and help his family deal with all the things they would encounter. The pain that suicide inflicts is beyond the words that have ever been written and ever will be written. I have been there, and for anyone who is a survivor of someone who has committed suicide, it is no one’s fault; and for the person who commits suicide, there is no other way out, period. Being a survivor of someone who commits suicide is one of the most painful experiences in the world; worse when you are experiencing it with the world watching and judging. My heart goes out to his children especially.
In September, one of my heroines Joan Rivers died under unthinkable circumstances. Joan has meant a great deal to me for many reasons, primarily her comedy, but the first reason I felt a connection with her was because her husband committed suicide in 1987. At that time, I had already been suicidal most of my life, so I felt for her and for her husband, and for Melissa. Joan was an inspiration to me in that she was able to raise Melissa (from my perspective) quite well and with few known major disasters for a Hollywood kid. Raising kids is hard enough under the best circumstances. As for Joan’s comedy, I love the pioneer that she was and will continue to be for women in the business. As a survivor, Melissa faces the horrendous task of grief as well as her understandable litigious plight to prevent the same cause of death of her mother to ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. As if the grief isn’t enough.
October marked the widespread panic of Ebola in the US with the first death of Thomas Eric Duncan. The disease did not spread like wildfire as many news media outlets hoped (tongue firmly planted in cheek). However, it did raise awareness for preparedness and training; both of which I am an advocate. Proper training for the most basic tasks has proven to make a difference of life or death throughout history. Think of the lives saved by basic Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation which I was taught in middle school on Annie (the mannequin used for the CPR training). Although recently there has been some discussion on the amount of lives the practice has saved (approximately 2% fully recover-not enough, some say), I think anyone would agree the 2% saved is worth the training. Being a survivor of a preventable death due to lack of training is beyond painful; it happened to my family member and it has its own set of emotional obstacles to face, along with the grief.
In November, Brittany Maynard captured the world with her determination to end her life on her terms, death with dignity. Brittany’s terminal cancer gave her the unfortunate vehicle to be a crusader for the cause. The topic is no doubt one that has affected us from the beginning of civilization. The discussion, however, is more recent in our western culture. According to Compassion and Choices, in 1967 “A right-to-die bill is introduced in the Florida legislature. It arouses extensive debate but is unsuccessful.” Since then, much work has been done to address the need and evident desire for choice when one is terminally and exceptionally painfully ill. We are all survivors of Brittany; and her immediate family and friends grieve the reluctant legend in their midst who made a sea change in our views of dying with dignity.
As the year comes to a close, I reflect on the challenges survivors face. New survivor tools appear online constantly, some weather the storms, and some die out within a year. Social media’s presence in our lives makes it nearly impossible to grieve in our own way without privacy; on the other hand, the comfort that the collective positive support it may bring to a survivor has the potential to be a lifesaver.
If I do anything worthy of note in this life, helping survivors will remain my constant primary goal. Making someone feel less alone in the process is worth all the gold in the world.
Thank you all for your ongoing support and have a wonderful 2015. Peace.
P.S. Due to several requests, I am working on some planning tools for the site to be uploaded in the new year!