Survivors of Suicide Loss: Healing Through Care and Connection

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Saturday November 22, 2014 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

In the United States, the latest evidence reports that 40,600 people died of suicide in 2012 and the number has been increasing. More Americans die from suicide than from car accidents. It is the second leading cause of death in college students, and the third leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults.

In the military the rate is even higher. In 2012 more soldiers died from suicide than in combat and as of 2014, the numbers were again on the rise.sunrise

“Suicide is a Personal and Interpersonal Disaster”

These words of suicide expert, Edwin Shneidman, underscore that for every person who dies by suicide, there are families and friends who are left behind facing devastating loss.



When Veterans Come Home: A Process of Reconnection

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

What people do not see and may not understand is that the homecoming of a veteran is both a treasured event and a complex process.



Women and Wine: Should They Worry?

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP


In a recent article by Eric Asimov, wine reviewer for the New York Times, he discusses how wine is used as a character prop on TV shows and may reflect a changing cultural perception of wine. In this article, Asimov points out that “ On TV Powerful Women Gulp Red” and references what many have observed about their favorite fictional characters.

  • Alicia Florrick, the high-powered lawyer who is “ The Good Wife,” pours a large goblet of red wine as soon as she enters her apartment no matter what else is going on and who else is there.
  • Olivia Pope, the beautiful and brilliant “ fixer” on “Scandal” is a lover of wines and is often seen drinking alone in her apartment late at night.
  • The women of “ Cougar Town” down a considerable amount of wine and Claire Underwood, the first lady in “ House of Cards,” drinks her red wine alone in her empty dining room.

Fictional Characters Are Not The Only Ones Drinking.redwine women's hand

Whether we consider that fiction reflects our behavior, influences what we do or both, the reality is that women are drinking more than they ever and their drink of choice seems to be wine. In her book, Her Best Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control, Gabrielle Glaser notes that women love wine and the wine industry loves their biggest consumers. Given its branding as a “ healthy choice,” it is consumed in public or private, …



Fine Tuning ” Positive Thinking” With A Plan

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

An important article by psychologist and author, Gabriele Oettingen appeared in the New York Times with a misleading title,“ The Problem with Positive Thinking.”

Actually what Dr. Oettingen offers is an important fine-tuning of positive thinking. What she suggests based on her research is not that positive thinking is problematic, but that positive thinking about a goal without a plan—be it about losing weight, passing the test, or finding a job- leaves you likely to fail. She suggests that positive thinking alone may “fool our minds into perceiving” that we have attained the goal.flying bird



Ebola: Coping with Fear and Uncertainty

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Something very different happens to us when we face an epidemic as opposed to a natural disaster.cemetery

When a natural disaster hits, there is anxiety, and traumatic loss but such events have a clear beginning and end. Natural disasters are devastating but there are few unknowns. With the collective loss, there is often collective care and support. In the aftermath of a hurricane that destroys and our neighbor’s home, we run to help him rebuild.

In the face of epidemics we lock our doors. Threatened by contagion, terrified by unknown risks, we move into fear-based survival mode. We isolate. We ruminate. We become saturated with media warnings and shaken by shards of frightening information and even conspiracy theories.



Facing The Factors That Fuel Domestic Violence

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

The recent media attention to domestic Violence in the NFL epitomized by the September 8th video of Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée in an elevator and Commissioner Goddell’s delayed reaction, bring to the forefront the reality of domestic violence and the factors that fuel it.

Football players are not the only men who succumb to domestic violence and they are not the only ones whose behavior is covered and condoned by silence.



Video Gaming: Unexpected Benefits for All Ages

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Well beyond the financial benefits accrued by video games producers, manufactures and event planners which have outstripped the music industry and are closing in behind the movie industry, video games and applications of game thinking offer unexpected benefits for people of every age.



Could My Partner Be A Cybersex Addict?

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

It is distressing for most partners to find evidence of their partner’s cybersex use.

Cybersex can include viewing sexual images or content online, talking about the material with others online, or engaging in two-way conversations about sex acts. It can also include the use of Web cameras to engage in sexual acts with another partner online.

  • It is common for partners to feel a mix of fear, disbelief, outrage, shame, anger, rejection, and betrayal.
  • Many don’t know what to say or do.
  • They hesitate bringing it up with their partner and they are too embarrassed to speak to someone else.
  • Some are haunted by the question – Could my partner be a Cybersex Addict?sleeping eyes


How To Improve Relationship Closeness–”Stop Talking”

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

While almost everyone working with couples and every self-help book underscores communication as central to any good relationship, there are times when the last thing that brings a couple together is “ talking.”cell phone couples

If you have ever said or heard someone say “ We Need to Talk,” you know that those words rarely invite closeness, valuable communication or good memories!

The reality is that communication between couples is complex and involves much more than talking–particularly when talking is on demand, without attention to the cues of the other and without the on-going life experiences that tell partners about each other in spoken and unspoken ways.

There is often more mutual understanding that comes from spontaneous sharing in the midst of living—than rehashing issues in the well caricatured “ Woody Allen Style.”

Here are some suggestions for those times when alternatives to talking may be worth considering:

After a Cease-Fire–Re-set the Relationship

The period of time in which there is a cease-fire after an argument is not the best time to talk.

Yes, there may be more to say…

Yes, You may feel you have the ability to just clarify…

But, the most effective thing you can do is to re-set the relationship with an experience of your positive connection as a platform for going forward.

“Do you want to get something to eat?”

“Do you want to see the next episode of that series?”

  • Making overtures to go forward allows time and connection which often soften the tension and the “ need to win.”
  • When someone isn’t …


Tragic Loss By Suicide and the Question “Why?”

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

shutterstock_148518026For every suicide there is an estimated six or more “suicide survivors,” people who are left behind trying to cope with this traumatic loss. They include spouses, parents, siblings, friends and relatives.

When the person lost is Robin Williams, a famous comedian and actor whose creativity and art brought laughs to millions, it illuminates the pain, confusion, shock, and even guilt suffered by others who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The Question WHY?

One of the haunting thoughts that survivors carry in the aftermath of suicide is “ WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?”

As Bev Feigelman, one of the authors of Devastating Losses, and the mother of a young filmmaker who died by suicide describes, “ The question mark stays in the forefront of your mind haunting you and only with time starts to slowly move toward the back.”

Depression, often unrecognized and untreated is considered the major cause of suicide. What complicates this finding is that those suffering often struggle with the fear that they will not find the proper treatment.

In her important book, Depression and Your Child, one of the contributions of author Deborah Serani, is a listing of over 300 names of famous people from athletes, actors to writers who have suffered with depression.

Suicide as “ Psychache”

In work with suicide survivors – be they family members, siblings or cops, the consideration of suicide as “ psychache” has been considered helpful.

Essentially it comes from the work of suicide expert, Edwin …



 
Healing Together

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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