I love it that each person is unique and interesting in all there quirky ways. It doesn't matter to me where you are from or what you have done... I do not care what you believe, who you pray to or who you vote for.... I can be kind to any one of you, I can love you, I can help you....I will give you a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or arms to embrace you...I do not care who you work for, what car you drive, or where you live....It does not matter to me your height, weight, color of skin...
To many this seems impossible.....but it is who I am. Yet this is not acceptable to some, they need to have hate, be unforgiving, be better than others, and do all kinds of things to please themselves in an effort to find peace and happiness.
I find everyone worthy of everything even if they do not. What does that make me..... a child of God.
This morning God is in every thought, in every movement, I feel his presence within and in everything I see, hear, smell, and touch. I love those times when the world seems to have slowed down to allow you time to just 'BE'. That is when the language of God is most receptive.
The busy day has not begun yet, and I can allow myself the moments of feeling the full Love of God. With all the JOY, and Peace that brings.
My thoughts this morning..........
Feelings are the Language of the Soul....Trick is making sure this language is coming from the soul and not your mind. Our mind can play tricks with us when we allow. The true act of 'Listening' is when you can KNOW the difference. Many ways for God to communicate with us if we allow, recognize, and have a desire
There are two words in the language of the soul that can be the basis for all emotion.....fear and love. Take a moment to examine any negative emotion and behind it is fear. Fear has created doubt in even the strength of our God. Fear is crippling, Fear is a HOPE killer....Fear is a negative and God is only a POSITIVE. To truly feel and understand the Power of God you must recognize the fear and remove it. Where does your fear come from?
My journey with God has changed so drastically since the loss of Amber. I am sure many of you can say the same after a traumatic loss. I do not think the peace we look for can be found until we realize it is within...we have to learn to STILL ourselves. This was a challenge for me in many ways because I was used to being in control. I had to dig deep and get creative in my spiritual journey to find those ways of STILLING my mind so I could connect with the HEART of things......GOD. God is Love and when we can learn to Think with our Heart instead of our Mind....we will understand the language of God.
I am feeling the Glory of God this morning and Praising Him for Loving me, along with all his children.
Three years ago my husband and I were called into a ministry of hope and healing...Messages For Hope. Many of my FB friends do not understand why we talk so much about suicide, mental health, stigma, and our unconditional love for one another and our Love of God. Sometimes we mention it all in the same sentence, which can really confuse some. A reminder...my daughter, Amber, died from suicide on May 13th, 2008. She was a mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, wife, cousin, a child of God, and a friend to many. We want people to know there is help, to understand the warning sides of suicide, to understand the risk factors, to erase stigma that surrounds suicide and mental health conditions. The survivors of a suicide loss are now high risk for suicide and suffering from PTSD. We want people to reach out to others in kindness and let them know that someone cares...they need to know they are loved, they are WORTHY, and that there are other solutions. This is God's plan for our ministry, that we spread the message of God's love, God's healing, and the hope that we can spread to one another. We need to erase the fear that keeps us hopeless....We have reached thousands because of the strength of God and we will continue to speak out in love because we do not want other families to suffer from this type of loss. On Saturday, Sept 7th we will be having our 7th Annual Walk for Suicide Prevention in Huntington, WV. We need your support for our ministry and this cause....come out and help us to create awareness in your community-you never know who you may touch. The survivors can honor the memory of their loved ones and we can all reach out in support and kindness. You can register on our website messagesforhope.com
In our support groups we teach recovery and acceptance – those words are hard words to hear after a loss to suicide and it is important to understand the intent of our teachings.
Recovery or recover does not mean to recover from our loss, but to recover from the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that we are experiencing due to our loss, to regain our strength, to regain our balance. We have just been thrown into a whirlwind of pain, fear, and unthinkable grief.
Acceptance does not mean that we agree with what has happened or that we approve...it is meant only to say that we accept the REALITY of our horrible loss. The reality of our loss is extremely difficult to accept, but until we do we are unable to begin our healing process. When I say healing I do not mean that our tragedies will go unnoticed or be forgotten, or that we simply pretend that they never happened and our lives are as normal as the next. I am saying just the opposite - I believe that when we begin to accept our new reality (complete with this new life and this new person that we have become), that we can begin to heal (or recover). Through this healing we learn to understand the importance of honoring our loved ones, to talk of our tragedies to promote prevention, and to aid other survivors.
It is true that we change after our loss, and it continues for many years to come and we become masters at not making others uncomfortable because of our pain and loss. Our masks can come off and go on with great ease and with skill, due to the many practice sessions we have had as the months go by.
Many say we should "move on" or "get over it" - I do not agree with these statements. They sound so insensitive and minimize the real pain that we have felt and are feeling. Those words have no relevance at all in our case---none of it applies. The life we knew is different in almost every way. This is why so many of the survivors develop a variety of anxiety disorders - our world has been turned upside down.
God has been an important part of my healing - without God I am certain that I would still be crying much of the time, still be afraid of almost everything, and be without hope. This grief has made me go through a self discovery phase that I had never planned on, and a search for answers to questions that I would have not considered before my loss. God was the only answer for me – I did not have to wear my mask, God already knew me before my loss and after, and all that was left - to know myself through God’s eyes.
After reading a post on Facebook a few days ago I began to think about the subtle ways that we throw stigmas around about our mental health. Someone stated that they were taking meds, but they were not narcotics so it was ok…Notice how subtle that was….not narcotics...ummmm.
This is the very mindset that we are trying to change…you could almost miss the undertones. So if the medicine had been a narcotic than what? I hear so many people talking this way about medicines that can help them through a multitude of mental health disorders.
When I was young, people needing to seek the help of a psychiatrist were considered “crazy as a loon” and many were placed in mental institutions whether they needed to be there or not. They simply did not know what to do with someone with a mental illness. If they were not insane when they went in they became that way.
Many religions teach that taking a pill is a clear lack of faith and therefore a sinful act against God. It was unheard of to seek the help of a psychiatrist; members would be removed from their churches for this behavior or “clear lack of faith”. There was so much shame connected to having a mental health condition and it was clearly seen as a sign of weakness. This brought great shame to the individuals that needed help and to their families.
I was asked once while facilitating a support group if I was a pill pusher. I definitely am not a pill pusher, but I do believe that our mental health is as important as our physical health. I know from my own experiences, and through many others that we aid, that medicine can save lives. I also believe that our spirituality is the basis of strength to overcome any obstacle.
My experiences, after the loss of my daughter, have taught me that without faith in God’s strength and love, and without medical attention; including a counselor, and medicine, I would not be able to keep up with the many challenges of our ministry, Messages For Hope.
After the loss of my daughter, Amber, God was the only source I knew to give me the necessary strength to get through each day. Everyone that was close was also devastated from our loss and they were having enough trouble managing themselves, and those that were friends or coworkers certainly did not know what to do to help.
I wanted God to comfort me and help me to get through each day one step at a time….along the way I had more questions than I had answers…I was talking to God every second I had a chance. I wanted to know about life? Why was I created? Why me? What did God want from me? Why were we made to experience such pain? I was very confused about everything-my life had been turned upside down.
I was taking an antidepressant and a sleeping pill which helped me tremendously. I was able to sleep a few hours each night and then upon waking I would experience her death all over again…..I would forget temporarily you see, that she had died….that my world had changed.
I began to see a counselor after 8 months and the practical information we shared helped me in coping with the every day things, and the stigmas, but each time I saw her I had the same complaints….being nervous, lack of self control, feeling flushed, being nauseated. I did not think it was anxiety…..why would I have anxiety??
These symptoms became much worse and eventually I had to question if I was becoming agoraphobic. I had no idea what was happening to me and my life seemed so out of control. I began to seek out medical attention thinking there was something physically wrong with me and every doctor I saw would tell me that I had anxiety. I think the more I heard the word anxiety the more certain that there was NO WAY that I had THAT - I was so frustrated. Then came the full blown panic attacks. If you have never experienced a panic attack it would be difficult to understand how debilitating they are…..and it was not just the attacks –it was also the agoraphobia and anxiety.
I was afraid of everything, but did not know why. I was questioning God daily and praying for guidance, wisdom, knowledge, patience, self-control, and peace. I could not understand why I could not quiet my mind-it made no sense to me on an intellectual level-I knew that I should take deep breaths when upset or take a walk, pray, read, and yet, I could not remember any of those things when faced with an anxiety attack. The fear of losing self control was worse than when I experienced an attack. I would feel less of a person….I had let God down again…I could never measure up. I wanted to be a better person. I thought that if I never got angry at anyone, no matter what they did, or if I never cried that I would be a person that God could love. I knew it was sinful to lose my temper, or be angry….I thought everything I did was sinful. It would take me days to recover from an attack and yet I would go to work and try again and again and all the while refusing to take anymore meds.
That changed after leaving my job of ten years in the spring of 2010, and at about the same time I was trying to begin event planning for an upcoming walk for suicide prevention. I went to the Doctor and agreed to take an anti-anxiety medicine that changed my life. That was in July of 2010, just two years after losing Amber to suicide.
I did not realize there was anything wrong with my thinking process until I was able to quiet my mind. I realized that after the death of my daughter that I was grieving, and that some of what I was experiencing was normal, but there was a whole other level that I just could not explain.
I know now that I had always lived with anxiety until the fall of 2012. When my mind quit racing uncontrollably I was able to find peace….and understand what that really meant-I never knew what it had felt like in my 50+ years. It took a year and a half to really learn how to quiet my mind and understand the reasons for the anxiety, PTSD, agoraphobic, and panic attacks.
Spiritually I came alive! All those things that I had been asking of God began to be answered in many different ways. I have learned to “listen” to my inner voice and I have learned to forgive myself for EVERYTHING that God had already forgiven me for.
The teaching of fear religion in my youth had quite an effect on my life as an adult, and had everything to do with me healing after my great loss. The questions I needed answered had been in front of me the whole time, but my mind could not slow down long enough for me to hear.
For me, I am glad that I finally took the anxiety medicine that allowed me to come closer to God, to learn acceptance of my life and others, and to know that I am worthy of so much more that I ever knew….
I was reminded today by Jennifer Neri, a dear friend of Amber's, of what a wonderful laugh she had! Hard to believe she has been gone 5 years today. When I read her post I remembered my journey in a different way-there have been so many twists and turns. One day last summer while working in the living room in preparation of a Prevention Walk I heard Amber's laughter, I mean a real belly laugh..I smiled and giggled to myself and thought of how she had the best laugh. I realized that day that I was thinking of her in a different way than I had the 3 years before. That was back before I understood what God had planned for me, before I could see past the pain of losing her. I began to hear her laughter all the time and the memories came flooding back of all the wonderful times shared through the years.....after that for the first time in my life I began to understand true joy. I know now that I really never understood what that meant - Joy. God is Joy, always loved him but did not understand the personal relationship possible as I do now........ all when I began to hear that laughter again-a gift from God ♥
Suicide is a very REAL problem that exists in all the communities in which we live; it knows no boundaries, it affects every age group, every race, every religion and it can touch any family or friend. My name is Debbie Cardwell, and my personal journey began on May 13th, 2008 when my daughter, Amber, died by suicide. She was 29 yrs old, left behind two children, many who loved her, and our family was devastated. I speak for all of the survivors in saying that the grief and recovery process is very difficult and filled with many roadblocks as we discover the stigmas that surround suicide and mental health conditions. The stigmas are unnoticed until you have been personally touched by suicide. The survivors of a suicide loss are made to feel shame, but shame is not what I felt – for me – I was simply a grieving mother trying to understand the loss of my child. As a survivor I learned that there were no support groups available in WV, with very limited resources found, and there was much to learn about mental health conditions that can lead to suicide, and suicide related stigmas.
I began to research everything I could in regard to suicide and recovering from a death by suicide. I discovered many things in the following couple years; including the realization of how debilitating this grief can be without the proper support, along with how our moral and spiritual values are in question. I found that there needed to be more support for the survivors left behind, as they were also at high risk of suicide themselves. There was also a need to create awareness regarding suicide and the mental health conditions that can lead to suicide, and in so doing erase the stigmas that keep people from seeking the mental health treatment that can save lives.
Ninety percent of all deaths from suicide could be prevented with the proper mental health treatment. In West Virginia, suicide is the 2nd largest killer of our youth ages 15-24, and is ranked 17th for overall suicide deaths in the Unites States, per the American Association of Suicidology. In the U.S. suicide is the 3rd largest killer of our youth. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, rated the highest suicide rate (18.6) in the age group 45 to 64 years old. The second highest rate (17.6) is for the age group 85 years and older. In 2010 they reported suicide as the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. This rate expresses the number of suicide deaths that occur for every 100,000 people in the population for which the rate is reported. In the year 2010, they report that someone in our country dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes.
What can we do to help: Learn the risk factors, warning signs and remember the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Speak out about seeking the proper treatment for a mental health problem and help to erase the stigmas which have instilled the idea of treatment as being seen as a “weakness”.
My husband, Chuck, and I created a non profit 501c3 organization, Messages For Hope, in 2010 to aid the survivors of a suicide loss by creating peer support groups and are currently operating four groups throughout WV. Messages For Hope has had many successful awareness campaigns to erase the stigmas that surround suicide and will continue this year with four Walks for Suicide Prevention in WV along with various other awareness activities. We are looking for survivors of a loss in your area – if you are a survivor or you know someone who has survived a loss by suicide please contact Debbie@messagesforhope.com
, or 304.389.1860 or for more resources please go to our website www.messagesforhope.org.
We are dedicated to helping those who have lost someone to suicide, to create awareness that can erase stigmas, to educate the public on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, to promote mental health wellness, and to keep any other families from suffering such a devastating loss.
Debbie Cardwell, President/Founder/CEO
Messages For Hope, Inc
It is hard to believe another year has passed, but I have had the anniversary of Amber’s passing on my mind for a couple weeks now. It will be five years on May 13th, 2013 and the changes the years have brought are hard to explain at times.
As I facilitate the support groups and listen to each story I am always reminded of my journey. My heart is touched by each person’s story as my mind drifts back to where I was in my grief at that time. It’s not hard to go back for so often it feels like months ago. Some look at me as if I am too happy, or have too much joy – like it is not possible that I had ever felt like them, but it does not take long before they realize my journey, though different, is much the same.
I remember in those first few months how I was hardly able to breathe, sleep, eat, or quit crying. I questioned God often, watched the uncomfortable silence that began so quickly after my loss, listened to heartless comments, and lost my interest in almost everything except my family. I woke up daily and had to relive the nightmare over and over, and I began to be afraid of everything. I was uncomfortable everywhere, felt as though I did not belong in any situation, I was an outcast, mostly a depressing downer that no one wanted to have around. I tried to pretend to be alright, but I could not – I had no control of the tears. I wanted to be happy for those around me when they discussed their children, their families, and all those wonderful life events that I remembered from long before. I know it was not their fault that I felt the way I did, but that did not stop me from wondering why they were so insensitive to my loss. I mean, after all, this is my child I am talking about – I wanted to scream it to the rooftops at times. I did not understand the stigmas of losing someone to suicide, PTSD, anxiety disorders, or panic attacks and often wondered if I would have treated others with more compassion or empathy if I had not have known this type of loss. I had always had compassion for all other types of death… I had no idea that suicide was to be treated differently. To me it was always as simple as a Mother losing a child. I did not feel the shame I was expected to and had a difficult time understanding this treatment.
Eventually I feel to my knees and asked God to get me through, for I knew no other way.
It was at the end of March, 2010, just shy of two years from my tragedy when my job ended. This was by mutual agreement and I was glad that it had ended. I needed time to rest, heal, and try to make some sense out of what God wanted from me. The very next month, in April, was when the name Messages For Hope appeared by my own hand in a Sudoku book while sitting in the doctors office waiting to be seen. There were many other things I drew in the book, they were all words of hope. When I returned home that day I told my husband about what had happened and showed him the book. I simply said “we need to open this company” and he said “sure”. I knew it was a message from God, but I was unsure of its meaning at the time. We did immediately open the company though and never looked back. It took many months later to discover the true meaning of the name.
There had been many prayers during those first two years and I knew that I had changed spiritually; I could feel it in everything. It was that summer after leaving my job and my getting the Messages For Hope revealed to me that I had many questions for God. I was planning another Walk for Suicide Prevention, I had begun to have anxiety and panic attacks and was confused about the future. I have shared this story with some of you, but I thought worthy of another share……..
I remember that day when I sat at my dining room table and wondered WHY. Why am I living, why was I created, and what does God expect of me? Why do bad things happen to me? If my life was predestined would you really create me to suffer? How does this God of mine who is supposed to LOVE me so much that he sent his son to die for me, allow me to suffer?
I was barely holding up my head that day, my legs could barely lift for each step, and I was feeling hopeless and so very alone. I was not giving up, but I knew I needed answers for my 50 years of living. My mouth opened and I called to Father,
“Dear Father, please help me….please comfort me…. please give me the wisdom to understand what you want of me. Father, I am having difficulty understanding how you love me and want to punish me all at the same time. Father, I know you are a loving God and right now I need my Father, I need my Father to wrap his loving arms around me like any Father would his child. Father allow me to sit with you and you hold me and comfort me - help to dry my tears and give me peace so that I may rest from my grief.”
As I begged God to wrap his arms around me and I wept I wrapped my arms around my torso as if God was holding me. As I sat talking to my Father I suddenly felt his arms in my own, and knew that Father was indeed holding me, comforting me, and loving me as a Father would a child. It was an experience I would never forget and opened my mind to the power of God and how he might work in my life. I knew that what had happened was nothing short of a miracle, it was not simply my imagination. I wondered where God had been through all the other desperate times of my life – there were just so many questions that I could not answer.
I think of all these things and how in December of that year I learned of Grace for the first time and we opened two of the first support groups for Messages For Hope. It’s been two and half years now since beginning those two groups and I have met hundreds of other survivors and Chuck and I are both blessed to be able to share our lives with each of them. We are thankful to have our families, health, friends, and God with all his blessings surrounding us daily. I thank God that he has given me true joy and happiness that I had not known before this tragedy.
That joy that I have found from allowing God to be in control of everything in my life has confused many to think that I may have forgotten about my loss, or I was “over it”. I am not grieving my loss like I did 5 years ago, I understand the peace Amber has now…..But I miss her. I miss her laughter, I miss her hugs, I miss her telling me that she loves me, and her calling me Mommy.
I am always reminded of this loss at Mothers Day each year and although I miss her very much, I am so blessed to have her sister, my youngest daughter, Kristin, my very special son-in law, Josh, and three wonderful grandchildren, Kayla, Jason, and Collin.
I have very much learned to honor my daughter’s memory and as I think of her I now remember that beautiful face, and great sense of humor. She was a loyal friend, an intelligent girl, and I am a Mom who is missing one of her daughters this Mothers Day.
I love you, Amber…. Mommy
Working in a fundraising event when the subject matter is so intense and surrounded by such stigmas--it's hard to know how to "be". Are we being too happy, too sad, should I be excited, should I not care, should I be involved so soon, what will people think....I think the emotions are similar to the ones we go through everyday after we have been touched by this tragedy.
In my experience....I say that whoever has the energy to be excited--please do so. I did not have the energy to be excited the first few years of doing these walks because I was still reeling from PTSD. The excitement comes from knowing that you are joining with other survivors in a safe place where all feelings are fine - we are trying to save other families from going through this life-changing event, and we get to stand together to HONOR our loved ones without the shame that we feel in our everyday lives. We are showing those left behind and those considering suicide that THERE IS HOPE...The funds raised are necessary and are for a cause that is near and dear to our hearts and I'm not saying that as a founder of an organization---I say that as a survivor of a suicide loss. So we can cry, smile, hug, be joyful or sad....whatever is on your heart just let it out and I know that God will be there with us, shining through us all so that we can help each other with love, kindness, empathy, and all things of the Father. His strength will allow us to love each other through our grief process.
I have received much criticism for my work in suicide... Many people assume that I must love death or do not have joy or just want to mourn my personal loss forever. I have also been accused of doing this work because I needed to be looked at as a victim.
I have been told that God would not want me to work in "death".....wow so many opinions.
I have this to say......
God gave me this ministry....actually did have me write these messages of hope in a Sudoku book while waiting in a Dr's office one day...when I returned home I told Chuck we needed to open this company, Messages For Hope, he said "ok". I did not know why at the time and I did not need to know....I had great faith and I just knew that I had to do it. It was 8 months later before the first 2 support groups began.... This was never about death-it's always been about Hope, Healing, Life, Empathy, Love.
I miss my daughter, Amber very much. I am also blessed with another beautiful daughter Kristin and 3 gorgeous grandchildren. I will always miss hearing the precious voice and touch of Amber, but through my healing and my desire to know more from God I have been able to discover Joy, Self-Worth, Peace, and Pure Love. God has given me a true journey of inspiration that I hope to share with others and believe you me there is much that I can share!