Blog 4: Chapter 12 (Suicide) + Awareness

After taking this course, I have more knowledge about issues concerning death and how it affects our lives.  What stood out the most to me was the chapter on suicide.  The discussion on suicide was well-done, but I feel that though this is a difficult subject to discuss, we should bring more awareness to this subject.  For the sake of brevity, I will focus this blog on adolescent/adult suicide and awareness. I will also draw from my personal experiences. My goal for this blog is to educate others about suicide, take away some of the stigma whenever suicide is discussed, and to uplift people.  Due to the nature of the subject, I will do my best to be sensitive in how I discuss this topic.  I ask that you do the same with your comments.

Mature Topic about sucide

Mature Topic about suicide

Life is hard, especially when one is trying to find him or herself in this world.  It’s even harder when you’re stressed and you have a difficult time coping.  Everyone should be aware of a few of the warning signs for suicide : depression, anger, thinking about suicide, recklessness, and more.  High school and college students have a lot of pressure to succeed in school, at home, and in life.  That pressure to do well can overwhelm people, along with the negative feelings when they don’t succeed or feel worthy.  It is important for us to notice these signs and be brave enough to ask if one has the desire to commit suicide.  What I would like to emphasize the most is for people to be slow to listen and quick to help when someone shares what is hurting him or her.

Everyone can learn to be aware of suicide.

Everyone can learn to be aware of suicide.

I have had to deal with suicide in my own life- my own suicide attempt when I was 17.  I don’t want to be arrogant and say that my experience was the same as another person’s.  It is demeaning to the individual and I look ignorant.  I can say that the loneliness and despair I felt was painful.  When I was 17, I had a lot of events happening in my life.  I didn’t fit in my school’s cliques because I didn’t act the way I was expected.  I was bullied, occasionally because of my race (I am of Hispanic and African American heritage) and because I chose to have friends who looked at my character instead of my appearance and I did the same.  I did have family problems as well.  During an argument that my parents had between each other, I tried to stab myself with a knife.  My mother took the knife away from me before I harmed myself.  She held me, and I realized at that moment, how much she would miss me if I had succeeded.  The police came to our house and confiscated the knives.  I wasn’t baker-acted or hospitalized (as I wasn’t hurt, thank goodness) though.  In the short-term, I was glad that my mother intervened.  We talked somewhat about the problems I’ve had and how they bugged me.  It took until college for me to better understand what I was going through.  Through counseling, I discovered that I had depression.  I could communicate with my counselor, who was understanding and didn’t shame me for being depressed or getting help.  At around the same time, I found God.  It took me a while, but I learned how special and valuable I was but how everyone else is special, unique, and valuable too.  Today, I still have to manage my depression, but I’m doing better.  I have a wonderful niece, a fuzzy kitty, a loving girlfriend, and others who are supportive of me.

I know that not everyone has a happy ending, so to speak.  That’s why we have to be aware and open our hearts when we hear or learn about suicide.  Looking back, I wish I would have had the resources that I have now when I was in high school.   We can make a difference and save lives.


You can make a difference in a person's life!

You can make a difference in a person’s life!

“Best Funeral Ever”

I was watching TV the other day and I stumbled across this new reality “gem”. It is a show about a funeral home in Dallas and some of their most outrageous themed funerals. Now, we discussed in class some of traditional funeral procedures and their origins and even touched on some more non-traditional ones like making diamonds out of organic material. However, none of them come close to some of the outrageous and unbelievable ceremonies shown in this show.

The premier of TLC’s new show let us sit in on some outrageous ceremonies including an urn-wedding in which the ashes of two people were “married”. The ceremony included a cake with molded chocolate urn toppers. In another proceeding, there was a breakfast themed funeral where guests were dressed as breakfast foods like eggs and bacon and the choir sings a custom breakfast themed hymn. screen-shot-2013-12-02-at-10-15-36-pm

When I saw this, I thought about what we have learned in class this semester regarding such a sensitive topic and wondered if this show was doing more harm then good. Is it demonstrating how people cope with the death of a loved one or is it making a mockery of tradition and one’s memory? Also, can it’s over the top portrayal of funerals helping us become less death denying? I searched for some comments on the shows first episode and reviews were mixed. Some people seemed to like the show beyond any entertainment value. These viewers felt that the families were comforted and that the individual’s life was truly celebrated by a funeral revolving around what they loved. Others were upset and offended by the crazy funerals. Personally, I feel that making a show of this may be exploiting families in a sad and vulnerable time. However, if they are comforted by these crazy events and find importance in sharing it with others then more power to them.

Death- it may be the one thing we all have in common


Recently we discussed traumatic death and that has had an impact on the way I viewed things with the loss of my grandmother. Accidents are the fifth cause of death in the United States. Having this knowledge reminds me that I am not alone in the experiencing a traumatic death and that many people have confusing coping processes because of the unexpected event. Learning the common characteristics among traumatic deaths opened up my understanding. I now understand why it was so hard for me to cope. Losing my grandmother in a car accident was abrupt and allowed me no time to adjust to life without her- no time for the idea of life without her. With my grandmother acting as my caretaker while my mother worked to support us, life after was a disaster. We all were most hurt because it could have easily been prevented in many ways. She could have come with us on our trip, my aunt could have waited until the rain had stopped to drive her home, and the other driver could have used more sense when driving recklessly. After many years, I realize it is important to let go. Things happen for a reason and are out of our control for a purpose.

After reflecting over the entire semester I also found that watching the film “Between Life and Death” also impacted me greatly. I remembering crying harder than normal during the movie, and now I know it was not because of the movie but because of the memories it evoked of my grandmother. She was in a persistent vegetative state and had no brain function. My mother was the next of kin and deemed responsible for making the decision of continuing to prolong her medical induced coma or taking her off the ventilator. We believed it was most humane to take her off of life support. After watching the movie, it confirmed my belief in that my mother made the right decision. Allowing for the memories to resurface gave me the opportunity to really process everything that happened. I had suppressed them for so long, it was time I had dealt with the big issues surrounding her death.

We talked about medical advancements changing the way death occurs. From personal experience, I do believe now in most cases it is a process rather than an event. My grandmother was resuscitated three times before arriving to the hospital. I do believe everyone deserves a fighting chance, but I must argue how much fight is in a person when they need life sustaining medical equipment. It is really hard to decide what I would want in a situation like this. I would like to think I would rather not die in a hospital, but there is something about humanity that always pushes us to try to survive instead of gracefully letting go. I appreciate this class for making me consider end of life decisions and exciting my passion for life.


。◕‿◕。 LIVE & DIE .·´¯`(>▂<)´¯`·.

There was an in-class activity that opened my eyes to the differences and similarities of how we view death. In this discussion, the classmates and I opened up on our feelings about death, how we would want to die, and how we would never want to leave this earth. From that point on, I discovered that we live in a society which fears death. Simultaneously, we are also a culture that has evolved to become numb to the news of death. Whether death is found in the newspapers, movies, games, word-of-mouth, or other media outlets, we seemed to have developed this uncanny skill of brushing the grim reaper off our shoulders.


Rather than embracing death, we’ve learned how to push death away as if it was a defense mechanism or THE cure to prevent us from the inevitable truth— the truth that we too will one day die (If only we could harness the powers and medical technologies of the Pokémon Center).

GenIIIHoennPokemonCenter (Click for a funny comic)

We’re too busy not being in the NOW. We tend to over analyze our past (I wish I wasn’t so awkward at that one party). And we also tend to over analyze our future (If I don’t do well on this “Death and Dying” exam, I am never going to be successful). Fearing the unpleasant past or the unknown future limits you as a person. Awhile you’re stressing out about two conditions which you can’t ever have full control over, you forget to focus on the present (Unless, you met the Doctor or own a time machine). The present is the one phase of time that you have absolute control over.

Once you lock in on what is around you, you will understand what it means to live. Living is doing the best with whatever you want to do by exposing your highest potential to everyone around you every day. You can have the ups and downs to life, but that’s totally natural. When a person fully appreciates life and has the will to become better every day, death will no longer be so scary. Think about it. You do what you want and you did what you want.

images (3)

We’re only afraid of death, because it is unavoidable and unstoppable. Once it happens, you won’t have the chance to do what you planned to do this weekend…Or the next weekend. Whether we believe in an afterlife or have different ideas of how we want to pass away, death will never go away. The one thing we can all agree on is that we are much happier when we learn to take control of our lives, know our goals, and work towards them.

Remember, YOLO.


Traumatic Death: Paul Walker


Nothing can be more relevant to this topic than the sudden death of Paul Walker. He was loved by many communities due to his good looks and his involvement of one of the biggest franchises, Fast and Furious. He died from a car accident on November 30, 2013 and at first many people did not believe it. It was thought of as a hoax, another celebrity has fallen into the traps of a fake death; but after countless news articles, unfortunately it was confirmed.

His death was traumatic point blank. It happened so sudden and was hurts the most is the irony of it. He was part of something bigger than himself. He touched communities, one important community is the car community. My boyfriend is actually part of that world and it is not something to mess with. Once his death was confirmed an overwhelming feeling of sadness filled the community. No one wanted it to be true, people felt like it could have been prevented, why did it happen to him? Dying doing something you love is just a crazy idea. You shouldn’t be scared of doing what you love to do.

His death made me realize how precious life is and how short it can really be. Paul Walker was at his prime and was in the middle of shooting Fast and Furious 7. After he died, I was a little depressed because I reflected back to what I have been doing in my life. What have I accomplished and if I died right now would I be happy with how far I made it? When I really thought about it, it depressed me, because I am not where I wanted to be in life. My life plan was completely different to what is going on now, yet I have to be realistic. Nothing will always go as planned and so you just have to live everyday like its my last and hopefully by the time I die I will be proud of who I am and what I have become. So in the end Rest in Heaven Angel Walker.


Journey to believing in an Afterlife…


As I grew up my parents made the effort to direct me towards a Catholic life. I was baptized, I made my communion, and I made my confirmation. I attended church every Sunday and went to confession as needed. I hoped that by following God and I would go to heaven because as a child I visualized heaven as being a beautiful and painless place. I wanted to strive for a pleasant life after death.

When I got to the high school level my views started changed. I started to get more into science and I questioned if our world was created not by God, but by one of the scientific theories stated in my textbook. To add to my confusion my grandfather told me he did not believe in an afterlife; when you died that was it. My grandfather has always been a wise man, and I looked up to him. His words always left an impact on me.

Another significant, yet unfortunate event left me lost as well. My best friend passed away and I could not understand how God could take someone so special away. I stopped attending church and I stopped believing because I was so angry. I was in denial for a long time, I could not find anything to take away the pain of losing my best friend, someone I absolutely loved and adored.


When I could not figure out how to let go of all of the anger and hurt, I realized maybe it was because I lost faith in God to help me through those hard times. I decided I needed to instill my trust in God again. I started attending church again and I found myself emerging from that dark place and finding peace with the loss of my friend.

I know one day I will see her again. I know where she will be too… in heaven. I believe that if I live a life with morals and values I will get there. On Final Judgment Day when God judges us for both the good deeds we have done and the sins we have committed, I believe that my good will outweigh the bad. I believe I will go to heaven and reunite with my best friend. I am thankful my parents took the time to direct me towards a Catholic lifestyle because I think everyone needs something or someone to believe in.


An Affinity for Death on TV


For this final blog post I wanted to focus on death as it is portrayed in crime shows on tv. Everyone knows that television shows are scripted with actors and props and that the deaths that occur within them are not real. As a person who watches as least three episodes of either Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit or Criminal Minds per day, I can not answer the question, why? Is death not death? To an average American, death is terrifying and tragic yet we watch it on television sometimes daily. Why is death on crime shows so entertaining? Is it because the bad guy never wins and justice is always served? This can not be the answer due to the fact that sometimes justice is not served completely. Even if there is no death, something traumatic such as rape or torture occurs in these shows. So why do I watch them?

Another question I would like to raise is does watching death on TV desensitize me? Just like playing disasters such as 9/11, the Boston Bombing, or Sandy Hook on a loop on news channels, does watching numerous episodes of my two favorite shows numb me to real life events? This question I can answer and my reply is no. If I were to see someone murdered in front of my eyes or stumble upon a dead body, I would not be okay with it by any means. This says to me that the fact that I watch TV shows that display gruesome images does not affect what my reaction would be should I see these images in real life.
My original question was why do I enjoy watching crime shows that are structured around death or other disturbing likenesses? I still do not have an answer but hopefully I raised an issue that will cause the minds of others to jog a bit.


Grieving … an Important Process

                  Last week there was an article in the New Yorker about a lady who experienced a live birth in Mongolia after being pregnant for only nineteen weeks.  The baby did not live.  Later she was given a clinical reason called a “placental abruption” for the early delivery and was assured she did nothing to cause this early delivery. 

                The young woman describes her response as being “so sad she could barely breathe” and her marriage failed within a few weeks.  She still feels what she describes as a very “dark hurt” and at certain times she suddenly starts crying; although most of the time she seems “sort of okay.”  I wondered how a mother or father could ever overcome such an intense, sad feeling. 



                According to Dr. Kenneth Doka, there are different styles of grieving.  Intuitive style is for the most part more responsive, open and emotional.  The instrumental style person will articulate their feelings in a more masculine style as they cognitively and physically work through the grief.  However, neither style is gender specific.  Men or women can grieve either way depending on the individual.

                Many years ago, my friend miscarried only two months or so into her pregnancy.  The doctor assured her that she was no longer pregnant, but he did little in welcoming her feelings during this initial phase of grief.  The problem was she felt as though she lost a baby and it was not simply a faulty “pregnancy.”  Times have changed and now, especially when the fetus is older at the time of loss, the parents get to see and even name the baby.   A funeral helps parents and family acknowledge that a life was lost.  However, in this case, my friend never had this closure.  Yet, both women have the same symbolic hopes for the child and both women feel the intense hurt in the loss. 

                Another factor in the process is feeling guilty.  My friend blamed herself -because she was cleaning with strong chemicals the week before she miscarried.  The woman in the story was assured that she was not at fault for the loss but my friend was not.  This is a heavy burden to carry especially if there is no proof she was at fault.  Sometimes these things are an act of nature.

                Grieving is important for everyone involved -both parents and the family.  There are different styles of grieving, however, mourning the loss may be necessary to overcome the deep sadness.  Carrying unwarranted guilt can extend the grieving process.  Time is probably the best asset for healthy grieving.  Even over time, some may never get over the loss and marriages sometime part over such things.

Sad saying 

Death by Choice


In class we talked about whether or not suicide is a selfish act. While I do support physician assisted suicide, I will never understand how a young or middle aged person can get to that point where they feel the only way out is to kill themselves. In my opinion, it is a selfish act. If you are not dying from a terminal illness or in chronic pain, then I do not think suicide is ever the answer. I feel very strongly about this topic because my father took his life when I was only four years old. It was three days before his 34th birthday. There was no suicide note.  It is not fair for him to voluntarily take himself away from his family, especially to his four and seven year old children who needed him. It is a selfish act because people who commit suicide do not realize how much it will affect their loved ones. There are so many people who are dying from terminal diseases who would like to live and be with their families. It is unfair to those people who are not ready to die that there are people who are choosing to take their life by choice.

The first thing you think of after a suicide is why would they do this? How did I not see the signs? What if I could have prevented it? It is normal to want to blame yourself. Since I was so young when my dad died, there was no possible way for me to have known what was going on, but sometimes I wonder if somebody could have prevented it.  I believe it is important that everyone become educated on the signs of suicide so that they may be able to save a life in trouble. Some common symptoms to watch for are personality changes, giving away personal and prized belongings, and depression. Severe depression is real, even though some people are good at hiding it. According to our notes, 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. My father was never diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, but I like to think he had one as to why he took such drastic measures to end his life. Seventeen years later, I have learned to cope with his death, but I still get sad about it because he did not get to see me grow up. This class has helped me open up about death and how to cope with loss in a positive way.

living with cancer

talia star

Living with a life-threatening illness was the class discussion from this semester that resonated most with me.  I found Talia’s story to be compelling and indicative of successful coping in the face of a life-threatening illness.

Talia Joy Castellano was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 7.  She became an internet sensation at 12 years old with well over 1 million subscribers to her YouTube channel.  She was a self-taught and accomplished make-up artist  who posted how-to videos to help herself feel beautiful after losing her hair due to cancer treatments.  Her bubbly personality and unique way of coping with her illness inspired countless people all over the world.   Talia shared her story on The Ellen Show and she was made an honorary Cover Girl.  Talia became a voice for children with cancer and an example for everyone of how to live life to the fullest.

tailia truth365

Talia developed a second cancer, leukemia, in August 2012.  At almost 13 years old, Talia was well aware of her condition and prognosis.  She made the decision to forgo a bone marrow transplant and chose to live what time she had left to the fullest.  That seems like an amazing decision for someone so young, yet Talia was wise beyond her years.  It seems easier to accept that an older person would chose quality over quantity of life, yet when a young person does this, it can be perceived as a tragedy. Many of Talia’s fans didn’t seem to understand or accept her decision.

talia mind over matter

“Basically there aren’t a lot options for treatment anymore.  The docs gave me to option of doing treatment or don’t do the treatment and just live life for the time remaining.  Having cancer has been an amazing yet horrible journey,  yet every journey has an end.”



Below is her video explaining about her latest diagnosis and why she felt a bone marrow transplant was not the right treatment for her.

“I’m going to decide on whether or not I want to do the bone marrow transplant, or whether or not I just don’t do it and the live the time I have remaining,” said Talia.  ”This isn’t fair to me anymore, I’m only 13. I shouldn’t have to be doing this.”

talia night


Talia went through so much in her short life and yet she chose how she wanted to live the last 11 months of her life.  Sadly, Talia lost her life in July 2013, but clearly her message will not be forgotten.  Follow Talia’s story at her website.