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Forever Mom

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Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 81 had she not died in 1985 just two month’s prior to her 48th.   It is hard for me to picture what she might look like at 81. I’ve seen my father age to (now) 82 and the difference is pretty dramatic compared to photos from the last year of my mom’s life.

Before I began talking about my mother’s suicide, my memories of her were very flat, based on the real or imagined photos I was left with of specific moments and events. When I did open up, she came back to life in my mind in a way. The memories I had became more three dimensional, and many that had been packed away returned.

I then began placing her in current-day situations and conversations to get a sense of what she might say or do, how she would react to world events, or her thoughts about my life – personally and professionally. In all these scenarios everyone else is present-day, while she remains in looks, energy, and attitude, the 1985 Debbie Golden, or my version of her. My mom is forever 47.

It’s a little odd to think about since I’m now a bit older than that, but a mother is always a mother so even if I get to be 81, that beautiful young woman I’m hanging out with in my mind will still be mom – forever loved and missed.

Anxiety Attacking

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I knew this last weekend would be intense. I was organizing a large volunteer event for Saturday, right in the middle of the week I was helping a friend through major surgery. Both were things I wanted to do and deeply cared about so was planning on being on my best behavior.

A presentation I was creating for the volunteer event took longer than I expected causing a severe lack of sleep for two nights prior to the event, and the little life things I wanted/needed to do for myself fell by the wayside. Without going into any details, let’s just say my friend and I ended up fighting in her hospital room and then again at her home. Everything she said hit me wrong, and my reactions can be rash, oppositional, and – I am sure – hurtful. I felt horrible as it was happening but could not stop it. I felt self-righteous, indignant, and decided I never wanted to talk to a human again.

I was ready to run for the hills but to my friend’s credit – and the fact that I still had to pack all my stuff that I threw around in a search for my keys or something – she wanted to talk it out and get to the bottom of it.

We concluded I was overtired, overcommitted, overwhelmed, and not attending to my own needs. It’s my usual MO but it got to me this time. I likely lashed out at her because it was “safe” to do so – a kind of friend that’s like a sister that isn’t going to go anywhere.   I hope she won’t, anyway.

I feel shame for fighting with someone in such a vulnerable position. I feel guilt for adding to her stress and anxiety. I’ve been ruminating about it all day. It does not make me feel good about myself. I don’t want to be that person.

I Googled “irritation” to see what generally causes it and found a site with a 7 minute free test (basic assessment and extended both free but for extended you have to put in your email to receive it.)


My symptoms are currently high. I’ve always had anxiety and have snapped before but I didn’t realize just how much it was hitting me. Now I have to work on controlling it more. Something else to add to the list – the same list that causes all the anxiety in the first place. But I’m making this week about me and getting through a lot of that list so when someone needs my help next, my mind will be available for them.

Snub the word Snub During Awards Season

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Volunteering at the International Documentary Association’s Docu Day where all the Oscar nominated documentaries screen back to back got me thinking about the word “snub” that is used endlessly during Hollywood’s award season as apparently any film not nominated was “snubbed.” So I’m going to vent about it.

According to the internet, the word snub means “rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully.” It’s very negative. There can only be so many nominees (unless they keep adding like they did for Best Picture, which I think is a bit much now), but there are a slew of films every year, many of which are talked about as shoe-ins. But if the voting is sacred and private, could there really be enough momentum about any film to ‘spurn disdainfully’ certain actors, directors, writers, or producers? More importantly, I see awards as being given or voted about for someone or something, not against all the others. So if the votes tally up for Best Actor, film, director or any other category, that is the winner.

I may be completely wrong about the whole thing and everyone is in cahoots picking and choosing winners, but I think that would take more work than anyone working in the film industry has time for.

I was reading some celebrity intrigue on the internet this week and, in an article about a supposed feud between Kate Middleton and Princess Beatrice, one reason for the bad feelings was that Beatrice’s mother was not invited to Kate and Prince William’s wedding – with Beatrice, her sister, and father attending. Now that’s clearly a snub!

What Colors Our Lives

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A friend of mine shared a Ted Talk from a man named Drew Dudley about how something you do or say can change someone’s life – even if it’s such a small thing to you that it doesn’t even register in your memory.

I don’t want to spoil his story, but I personally have had people repeat back to me something I said long ago that stuck with them and what they repeated was totally unfamiliar to me and didn’t even sound like something I would say. But I also have about 7 of those lines from others in my life that will forever stick with me and color some of what I do that I know they don’t recall.

So see for your self what it’s all about and how much power we all have to create change something for someone just by being ourselves.


To Know Or Not To Know

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I’m not sure where my parent’s got the painting that sat above the couch in our living room in Texas, but saying that was painted on it always resonated with me and –those who know me know my love of quoting quotes- quoted and continue to quote often read

If you don’t know 

you don’t know

you think you know.

 If you don’t know

you know

you think you don’t know.

– R.D. Laing

I believe these words apply to everything we do – every action we take and decision we make is based on some sort of knowledge. It might be very basic from having information (or not) about what time the tv show you want to watch is on to having the training to practice brain surgery or rocket science.

The first paragraph explains what was going on in my head the last 30 years due to the family silence about my mom’s suicide. I made up stories about people and created motives for them based on what I did know, which was very little. I assumed many things, formed judgments, and chose evidence from their further actions to confirm my narrative.   I also assigned them opinions about me and reacted to them accordingly.

Once I began asking my family members the questions at the core of my stories, the narrative changed dramatically. I got the facts – the knowledge, and the entire picture and magnitude of what happened came more into focus.

My interpretation now of the second paragraph speaks to the “should have” paragraph in my story. My parents kept a lot of information from me and my sister once my mother was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1984. I was a freshman and my sister was a sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, MN and they led us to believe everything would be fine, her chemo was working, and they were determined not to distract us from our studies. I think we were determined to distract ourselves from her illness.

Both my parents worked at the University of Texas Medical Branch, my father as a pediatric neurologist, and my mother as a social worker. Throughout our lives my sister and I learned a lot about a wide variety of diseases, conditions, syndromes, and the various departments of the hospital while sitting at the dinner table. I’d seen those ‘70s TV movies where a kid gets a nosebleed then dies of leukemia. Back then cancer often equaled death. I didn’t think about it, but I’m sure it was somewhere in the back of my head. I didn’t ask, but if I decided to add up all the little things, I was savvy enough to “know” it wasn’t going to end well and I was in no way prepared.

I always believed those paragraphs represented the two ways of approaching knowledge. But then came my mom’s suicide and that never even crossed my mind – I neither knew, suspected, had an inkling, or otherwise. Suicide was a plot point in books on movies like Ordinary People, which I saw with my parents. We didn’t discuss suicide after the film, though. It wasn’t “real.” Until it was.

If you don’t know

What you can’t know

You won’t know til you know.

   – Ruth Golden

Milestones & Memorials

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Here it is – January 15. Thirty-three years to the day my mother died by suicide.

While I do not light a candle on for her following Jewish tradition on the Hebrew calendar anniversary, I have always lit one on the evening of the 14th, said the traditional prayer that I Google each year, and “talk” to her for a few minutes. Many people eventually develop rituals around milestone dates for the deceased. Other than what I have mentioned I have never settled on one.

A few weeks after she died there was a memorial service for her in Galveston, TX where I spent we spent my teenage years. My sister and I were not brought in to attend, but each received a cassette tape of the service thanks to my mother’s friend, Ellen Levin. For a number of years I would listen to the hour-or-so long tape on my walkman and cry as I listened to the Rabbi Alan Greenbaum and Dr. Bill Daeschner, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch where she was a social worker, speak about her. I felt pride in who she was and cried my eyes out that she was gone. I also wrote her letters expressing disappointment in myself, lamenting how lost I felt and how much I was struggling to get myself together or feel good about anything. After a few years I reread the letters and found them depressing. So I stopped.

That was also a time I was getting busy with life. My mid-twenties were fun.   I worked at MTV (when they played music). I lived in NY. I complained, I’m sure, but really had no complaints. I was free and felt like I was “going somewhere.” I do remember once or twice during that time telling my mom in our yearly “talk” that I thought she would be proud of me around then but it didn’t last.

I’ve been to her grave when I’ve been in Minneapolis for work or play. It honestly doesn’t make me feel closer to her and I felt self-conscious trying to speak out loud there. I connect more when speaking to a familiar picture.

Even with all the time that has passed, I am highly conscious of the date but the deep drop in my stomach and clench in my chest I used to feel when it came up is more like a light stomach leap now. Since I asked my family to speak to me about mom’s death about a year and a half ago, she has become more alive in my mind – a 3-D image with much more of a life, and many more good memories, than were part of the concise narrative about her that I created to “explain” her suicide.

This time of year affects my general mood, but it no longer shuts me down – especially now that I am finding my own way down the path I’m confident I would have ended up on so long ago had she been there to guide me – a career focused on helping others through action. The values, ideals, and passion that my mother instilled in me have awakened and the story she left me with is ready to tell. I think she would appreciate my current path, be thrilled that I’ve found purpose, and smile a slight “I told you so” smile to herself (but never say it to me.) I love you mom, I thank you, and will give you every reason I can to be proud.

I am using this date to unveil the Donor Memorial Page on my website listing those who are adding their voices to rid the world of the stigma and shame of suicide and honor those lost by helping The Silent Goldens become a reality.


My January Jinx

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January is a rough month for me. I always approach it with the hope of a life reboot – a marker used to change things up. Unfortunately I have been seriously thwarted on a number of occasions. This year a dog walking accident and face-plant into the cement left me with a huge bump on the head, increased the size of my nose for a while, and rendered my right hand unusable for a few days. That was a week ago and happy to say I’m on the mend and able to type again for short spurts.   A few years ago right around this date I had the panic attack in Target that was really the turning point for me dealing with the grief of the dreaded date of the 15th when my mother took her life in 1985. What I haven’t included yet in sharing my family’s story about her loss is that her father, Emmanuel (Manny) Berlatsky, died just four days prior on the 11th.

I was lucky enough to have all four grandparents until age 11 when my father’ father, Clement Golden, died. We lived in Texas but the funeral was in Atlanta. My parents went and left us home as they felt it was more important for us to not miss school. My sister and I hadn’t been that close to him because he wasn’t the grandfatherly type but I still felt I should be feeling and doing more than I did to mark his passing.

Grandpa B, on the other hand, was the ultimate grandfather. He taught me to play chess, tennis, and pool. When I was young, my family lived in the suburbs of NY and he and my grandmother lived in Queens. We saw each other frequently for birthday parties, holidays, and visits to “the City.”

He was the one who took us on adventures when we visited him and my grandmother in Miami after they retired. We hit 70’s hot spots like Monkey Jungle, Parrot Jungle, and the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale.

My soft spot for him was cemented when I was a teen and my grandmother told me not to put myself down because Grandpa was “fond” of me and it upset him.

I knew my family loved me as a family does, but I always felt like Grandpa B was one of the two people that really liked me – my personality, sense of humor, and interests. The other was my mother.

His first heart attack was in December 1984. His fatal one was on January 11, 1985 and his funeral was on the 14th (Jews bury fast). It was in Minneapolis where that side of the family was from and those who have passed are buried. My sister and I were both at Carleton College in the nearby town of Northfield so were invited to come this time even though we’d be missing class. It was my first funeral.

I sat next to my mother. I sobbed. I was stunned and disturbed by the tradition of mourners throwing a shovel of dirt on the coffin once it was descended into the resting spot but my grandmother did it so I felt I had to. I don’t remember if my mother did.

After the funeral we went to a deli for lunch. We had no family left in Minneapolis at this point so there was no obvious place to go. I sat next to my mother. She was chatty and the conversations seemed normal and rather upbeat given we’d just come from a funeral. I remember Mom eating fried eggs, which surprised me because she always made scrambled. After the meal my mother and father drove me and my sister back to school. I don’t really remember the ride but clearly remember my mother getting out and giving me a millisecond longer than usual hug and saying “I love you.” I went back to my dorm, my parents dropped my sister off and then flew home.

Less than 24 hours later my mother was dead and her suicide immediately overshadowed any thought of or possibility of grieving my Grandfather’s loss for me. I hadn’t even really started. I didn’t yet know how to grieve and the family shut down on talking about my mom’s death, and his as well, so it seemed he too just disappeared. I’ve had a few conversations about him now that my family has opened up and hope through working on The Silent Goldens I will also get the information about him and share memories so he, like my mother, can be brought back to life in mind he will be brought back to life in my mind the way my mother has.

But I do have flashes of memories, a general feeling of love and appreciation, and the knowledge that he led a full life and cared deeply about his social work career and his community. He has not been forgotten. He was, and is, loved.



My Podcast Debut + Happy New Year To You!

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Direct link

Ruth Golden #349

December 26 was a milestone day for The Silent Goldens documentary and for me, Ruth Golden, as I had my podcast debut on What Matters Most with Paul Samuel Dolman. We discussed suicide loss and my film about its aftermath in my family. My BFF-across-the-street-neighbor and birthday twin, Eva Whittemore Lowry, is a mutual friend who connected us and I was honored to do it and hope it was the first of many opportunities to come!

As the year comes to a close, I am stunned by how far The Silent Goldens project has come since this time last year. The process has at times seemed very slow but I realize how much perspective and insight I’ve gained through experiences over that time and it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. I am grateful for an incredible network of friends who have helped me in such a variety of ways this year allowing me to take the time to do this thing right.

My resolution is to stay on course. I hope to be filming by spring and am actively fundraising through the donate button on my website thesilentgoldens.com or just click here. We would be happy to help take some last-minute tax-deductible dollars off your hands! All the info is on the site!**

I thank all of you for your support of the project and the cause and wish everyone a peaceful New Year with love, laughter, healing, and hope.

A toast to 2018!


**Note: Once I am notified of a donation, I will contact people directly to get information about memorializing someone with their contribution.

Don’t “Commit Suicide”

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I was watching It’s a Wonderful Life last night.  Clarence and George discussed committing suicide.  Since my film project and web page revolve around the topic of suicide, and my mission is to encourage people to speak about it, I plan to share some tips I’ve learned along the way to help keep conversations productive.

The phrase “commit suicide” has fallen out of favor as it connotes a criminal act. The preferred terms now are now grammatically appropriate versions of “died by suicide,” “took their life,” or “killed themselves.”

Research shows that over 90% of people who die this way have an active mental illness at the time of death (short term, long term, situational, undiagnosed, diagnosed. (1)  We don’t refer to people who die of physical illnesses as having “committed cancer” or “committed heart failure.”

I only learned this information about the language two years ago and I still have a hard time not using the old-school phrase.  Usually it comes out when I am in the middle of telling my own story because since 1985 my narrative used “committed suicide” to describe my mother’s death.  I find, however, when I do public speaking or give a presentation for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I will use the new preferred language.  So just being aware does actually help shift a person’s language, which, in turn, reduces the stigma and shame surrounding suicide.  It’s a process, but if you’ve read this, you will now likely notice how often the phrase pops up in sit-coms, news resources, books, jokes, etc.

Use your words for good.

(1) afsp.org/statistics


Speaking Is Easy When You Have Something To Say

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Welcome all to The Silent Goldens website, project, and movement to encourage those who have survived suicide loss to share their stories.  For me, kicking this off opens a new chapter in my life.

I’ve always been curious about other people and a firm believer in the idea that everyone has a story. Throughout my 25 years as a producer in documentary and reality television, I’ve gotten to tell many other peoples’ stories. It never occurred to me that I had one. I’ve had some on-camera experience in a few shows, but never sought out opportunities to further that aspect of my job. I like being behind-the-scenes.

I was never a fan of public speaking. I wouldn’t say it was a phobia, but I absolutely would not volunteer to do it. I was shy as a kid and have always credited waitressing in my 20s with bringing me out of my shell by having to approach strangers and lead conversations. It wasn’t that difficult for me then because I had a purpose in doing it. I had something to say.

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