Tag: writing

Jeff Pickett

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

About 10 years ago I went through a painful divorce that led me to think some pretty unhealthy thoughts. I was between jobs, only saw my kids for a fraction of the time I used to from being separated, and I felt so isolated. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel as additional challenges came my way. I remember going through this dark time, and it was hard to get out of bed.

All seemed hopeless.

But when I stopped to consider my thoughts and possible actions, I began to realize how selfish my thinking was, and that if my unhealthy thoughts turned to actions, my very young daughters would be left without a father to help them in life. My actions would result in a downstream catastrophe that I did not want to be a part of. My daughters deserved better than that.

I soon realized that my current situation was not something I would allow myself to be identified with. There was hope the whole time—I just wasn’t looking hard enough. There was more life for me to be a part of.
I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and to put others first. I renewed my faith, started going to church and even volunteered my time at church so I could think less about poor me and instead focus on how I could help others. I also started journaling.

As you might expect, life did get better. A few years later I met an amazing woman and soon-to-be stepmother, and I can put the past behind me. Today I’m in a much better place where I am still a work in progress, but still progressing and still growing, even at 54.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Journaling was a big resource for me. Faith and stoicism were other resources I turned to. Some therapy was also involved. I may get a tattoo of the Stoic phrase Amor Fati (lover of fate). It is the embrace of your fate, even if things go bad, because we learn from our mistakes and failures. If we see past failures as learning times, then we can come out on the other side a better person.


Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges?

We can work to build resilience when we remember our loved ones over ourselves and what we have to contribute, regardless of how worthless we may think we are at times. Sometimes we have to be beyond ourselves, which isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it in the end. Put reminders up (like tattoos) to remind yourself of where you’ve been and where you want to go!

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

You are not a failure. Failure is an event that you experienced.

Corey Kennedy

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

My name is Corey Kennedy, and 21 years ago my brother died by suicide. I was 25 at the time, and he was 16. I was very close with Josh and felt that he was someone I had to protect. His death was very, very difficult for me to process as I really didn’t know that there was anything wrong or that there were these feelings of anxiety or depression, especially to this magnitude. I also had to deal with the repercussions of my family falling apart. I had just recently married, and we both really struggled to come back from this loss.

I really wish that I could go back in time and change things and take another opportunity to keep him from being in that situation or give him a place to land and allow him solace to survive that situation. At that time, it was really challenging. This was in the early 2000s, and guys talking about feelings and emotions and things that were beyond just normal processes didn’t happen very much. What I learned was that I had to find a way to communicate, a way to process and find people to talk to. I was fortunate that my friends were supportive and understanding and helped me realize I had to find support. I learned that I can see a counselor and talk about what is happening, and I can try to learn how to follow what I needed to get better, and I learned that I can ask for help—that it is OK to do those things.

I also learned about my own depression and anxiety and my feelings of self-harm and when I get to those points. My life past the loss of Josh has been difficult, and it still creeps up on me sometimes. The feelings that surface sometimes surprise me. I have had dark days, and I have lost a sense of direction for myself, and in this I certainly understand why Josh got to where he got and did what he did, but I also have those resources in place to help me process those things now. I make sure that when I am feeling that way that I let somebody know, and I make sure that I’m not in a place where I’m dealing with that by myself.

In this world, things are always going to create difficult situations for us, but learning how to talk about it and learning how to deal with it and having a network of people in place to help you when you need help is critical. Now that I have learned these things, I am taking the opportunity to learn how to share these things with other people and how to do better by making sure that other people have access to these things, because I couldn’t do that for Josh back then. I hope that he sees that he’s a part of it, and I hope that he is helping me through this journey.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Counseling, suicide prevention organizations, pastors, teachers, coaches, mentors, friends and family. I have a thirst for individual exploration and did a lot of reading self-help books. I also like to write and draw my emotions so I journal and write songs, poems, and books. I also paint, draw, and create art.


Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges?

For me, learning that my feelings are not a mistake or wrong, and that we all feel the same feelings and that we can, if we choose to, talk about them with others. Share the experience and learn from each other’s individual journeys to expand our own journey. This often requires help from counselors, mentors, teachers, coaches and other people who have training and experience in talking and offering resources. Commit to wanting change and put in the resources you need to accomplish the change and let it happen.


What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

We all have these feelings. Your feelings are not wrong. The idea that you cannot talk about certain things is ridiculous. Find a way to express what is inside that is causing you pain and set it free.

Megan Shama

What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share? 

I have definitely had a challenging life. My parents had a terrible marriage that was abusive and nasty, which led to a terrible and nasty divorce. Later, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, my step-dad was also diagnosed with cancer, and after that, my dad developed lung cancer, which eventually took his life. Losing a parent is something that is supposed to happen to everyone—just not usually when you are in your early twenties planning your wedding. I thought that the most significant grief I could ever feel was those moments when I felt lost and alone without my dad or when I felt the grief of the shattered dreams of having a perfect family. Then I experienced losing both of my children. 

The first time my husband, Jake, and I became pregnant, it happened right away without any issues. I dealt with the usual morning sickness, backaches, and food aversions. Until one morning, I woke up and there was blood. Lots of blood. I was 21 weeks pregnant and was going into labor. This led to the worst day of my life. We rushed to the ER where my water broke on the exam table, and I was rushed to labor and delivery. My beautiful daughter, Summer Aileen, died inside of me. This was the worst pain I have ever felt. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I suffered from grief and still do. Her loss not only rocked me to my core that day but continues to rock me when I see friends who were pregnant at the same time as me now holding beautiful healthy children, and when other families post birthday pictures of babies smashing cakes, I sit alone with a broken heart. The light in my world went out, and I clawed desperately around to get it back. 

With the support of friends and family checking in, making us meals, cleaning our house, encouraging date nights and dog cuddles, the ebb and flow of grief slowly relaxed. A year later, we decided to try again, this time with a plan. I have cervical insufficiency, which means my cervix opens too early and is shorter and weaker than it should be. At 12 weeks pregnant with our second child, I had surgery to fix this issue. However, at 17 weeks, tragedy struck again when blood appeared just as it did with Summer. Once again, praying, screaming, hoping against all hope that it wouldn’t happen again, we rushed to a different ER where my son, Gabriel Jakob, also died inside of me. The weight of this second loss was once again soul crushing. 

What do you do for someone who has experienced the same tragedy twice? My friends and family came around again, but this time everything seemed muted. Students at my school wrote me cards and letters yet it felt like a recurring nightmare. I’ve already done this before. I’ve already read those words. On top of our sadness, the world around us was stuck inside during the pandemic. We suffered in silence some days and screamed, cried and howled with rage during others. 

Finally, slowly, we started to feel like ourselves again. I was in grad school and began writing to pass the time—and, to be honest, to avoid work and feelings. I have always used writing as an outlet but never realized how therapeutic it is for me. That form of therapy is usually the last one my brain picks for soothing, but my heart knows once my hands begin moving across the keys or page, the feelings flow out through them. I wrote social media posts discussing how pregnancy loss has affected woman after woman and the daddies, too, who are rarely mentioned. Those little miracles that are snatched away from us never leave our minds and are part of us until the day we die.  

Other women would message me or come up to me to share their own stories of loss. “I was only 8 weeks but I loved my baby…” “My baby was born sleeping…” “My baby was the same age as Summer when I lost them…” These stories mattered. I knew I wasn’t alone even though my grief continued to tell me I was. 

At the same time I was writing, I also began running. A group of friends from my online grad program decided it would be a great time to run a marathon because we were all locked in our houses during the pandemic. On those long runs when I trained alone, I sorted out my feelings. I grew up in a Christian home, attended Augustana University where my faith grew in new and challenging ways, and now as an adult, faith is still a focal point in my daily life. On those runs when it was just me and God, I let Him have it. I yelled at Him for taking my babies. I yelled at Him for providing the wrong doctors, for not stopping the trauma and post-traumatic stress reactions that occurred when I smelled hand sanitizer that was the same from the hospital when the entire world was obsessed with using it clearly out of spite for my situation. I yelled at Him for all the people who said, “God needed your babies more,” or “It’s all in God’s plan.” I cried so many tears alone on the trail that I bet I ran more miles with a wet face than without. 

Eventually, the runs became longer and my pain became less. I looked forward to the harsh winds that pushed against me as a way to connect with my son Gabriel. I paid attention to yellow flowers and butterflies from my daughter, Summer. Together, the three of us pushed on and ran a marathon while once again I cried thinking of everything I had been through and so glad I had two beautiful angels by my side. 

Resilience is a bitch. I kept moving on because I had to. Some days all I was able to do was to cross off that day on the calendar, but it was one more day that I was surviving in agony than the day before. Slowly, loudly, painstakingly, I grew and came out on the other side. I still have plenty of hard days, but now grief is more like an old friend than an enemy. The pain and anguish are really hidden feelings of love and longing. Those feelings are valid, and through this experience, I became a lover of running and writing, and a fierce advocate for women who may not believe their stories or their babies’ stories were worth telling. I am here to tell you to go run, to write a sentence, and to always tell me your baby’s name because all of those things are valid, and I’d love to hear about them.  

If you would like to read any of my social media posts, check out the hashtags #summeraileen #gabrieljakob or my instagram @meganshama  


What resources have helped you address this challenge? 

Without the support of my friends and family, I would be a mess. In addition to them, I began following other social media accounts of women who have experienced loss like @still_a_mama, @icmamaarmy, @stilllovedbabies 

I also was lucky to attend Refuel Midwest, which is a retreat for women who have experienced child or pregnancy loss. I had an emotional day in a beautiful cottage with other women who “get it,” which gave me a sense of self and once again, solidified that I am not alone and that my feelings were real and valid. 


Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges? 

Be open. We all will experience grief. Before, mental health and negative thoughts were incredibly taboo and we never shared our feelings. Now, I don’t mean that every time you are with your tribe you tell how depressed you feel. However, have that one person, maybe your counselor or therapist, that you feel comfortable and open with to discuss it. Find people who “get you” and respect you. I have a friend who always texts me before she posts anything about her pregnancy so I can prepare myself. My other friends also know if they become pregnant or have an announcement to do with babies to tell me before and separately so I can prepare for my reaction in front of other people. Advocate for yourself and figure out your triggers—then defend your mental health and wellbeing like you defend your friends. Use phrases like, “I am not in a good place to discuss this” or “Thank you for sharing, but I need to take a break for a bit.” With social media, everything is sunshine and rainbows. The average person has to search for that sunshine and that’s okay. Normalize bad days and saying, “I’m struggling today.” Then, feel what you are feeling but also let it go. Cry if you need to cry then dry your tears and find that small sliver of light to keep pushing because honestly, it might not get better, but we are amazing creatures that can adapt to the pain we experience. 


What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand? 

I mention this again and again above, but you are not alone. Grief and depression are vicious beasts that want to isolate you to make you feel like no one understands or has ever felt like you feel that you aren’t good enough or don’t deserve to do anything. It is equally an empty and crushing feeling, but grief is wrong. Depression is wrong. You are good enough. Find that small light every day, even if it is barely enough to light your feet in front of you. Maybe it was seeing a dandelion push through the crack on the sidewalk or stopping the microwave right before it beeps. Whatever brings you a small amount of joy on those heavy days, which will happen and are valid because feelings are meant to be felt, hold on to that feeling. Even a small piece of gratitude and happiness can carry you. That is why my children have their names: Summer Aileen – My warmth and light in the darkness and Gabriel Jakob – God is with thee and after my husband who understands me and my feelings. They all help me find the light in the dark.