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Guest Blog by Leah Golden – January Mourning

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January has never been an easy month for me, marking the anniversary of my mother’s suicide (as well as the death of both my grandfathers).  After her funeral, the only year when my sister, my father, and I observed her death together was ten years later when we made a trip to visit her grave.  All the years before and since we have celebrated alone, each with our own thoughts and feelings. Separated, if not by distance, then by toxic silence. 

Every January I would struggle with my emotions.  At first chalking them up to the let down after the holiday season, usually a week or so into the month I would realize all the deaths involved were most likely the impetus for my low mood.  I would wonder what my sister and father and uncle were thinking and feeling, and when she was alive even my grandmother, but was too afraid to reach out and ask for fear of not being able to express myself, or worse yet, hurting them with my questions by bringing up pain which they perhaps did not wish to remember. 

Instead of calling them or visiting, I would mark the occasion alone, lighting the traditional candle, saying some prayers, and reminiscing. Some years I would read the sympathy cards we received, or go through her letters to me.  Other years I would look at family photos and reminisce on the wonderful fun we had. Every year I wished I had a recording of her voice – it was the first “memory” of her I lost. Some years I still do these things, some years the pull is not as strong. 

Blog Author Leah Golden

Old habits are hard to rid oneself of.  Although I still find it difficult to discuss my mother, and particularly her death, with my family, Ruth’s persistence and courage in choosing to unlock our silence has helped immensely. I usually still spend the day alone, but now I don’t dread January like I used to.  Because we all know we can talk to each other, I now have a choice and know if I need to reach out people are there for me.  2020 marks the first time in many years that I have been excited for the new year, and Ruth’s projects (her documentary and work in breaking the family silence) are the main reasons for this. 

Will it ever be easy or feel natural to talk to my family at will and with ease about my mother’s life and death?  That is hard to say.  I am by nature a fairly private person emotionally, and years of silence are hard to break.  Slowly the walls are coming down, and hopefully sooner rather than later, this will feel as natural as discussing any other topic of import.  

I hope my sister’s documentary and work will help inspire other families to break the toxic silence which often surrounds suicide.  It has meant so much to me, and I believe to all of our family.  

Note from Ruth:  If you have been affected by suicide, please consider donating in honor of a lost loved one to help The Silent Goldens raise the $15,000 still needed to finish filming the interviews.  Just click the donate button above for a secure link!  Thank you!!!!

 

My Sad Time of Year

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Today marks the 35th anniversary of my mother’s death.  While the fact that she died by suicide is typically the focus my thoughts and discussions about her, this is the one day that I my mind goes to the fact that she is gone more than how it happened. 

Right after she died  I noted every significant chunk of time – 24 hours ago she was alive, 2 days ago she told me she loved me, last week I had no idea my mother would be dead.  She dropped me off at college, but she didn’t know I quit and wasn’t around to see my sister graduate.  As time passed, I counted weeks more than days, then months more than weeks,  and suddenly the years started accumulating, but the actual date of January 15 is always one of reflection.

Until I had my mental breakdown/breakthrough, the anniversary was a sorrowful event.  I would think a lot about what she’s missed in our family and the world and, especially if I was struggling in my life, my thoughts would be more about I may have missed not having her around as I became an adult and wonder what she would think of me now.

Since beginning The Silent Goldens project, I’ve used the day as more of a moment to connect with her and “tell” her about the progress I’ve made with the project, the people I’ve met and everything I’ve learned about suicide.  

I am positive that my mom would be 100% behind the idea of this film.  I am 99.9% sure she wanted me to follow in her footsteps as a social worker and am 99.8% sure if she had not died I would have, so I believe she would like get a kick of how my ‘rebel’ life in television came back to this.

The fact that she’s gone will never not make me sad, but talking about her and using her story for good is the best way I can think of to honor her and keep her memory alive.  

Love you Mom!

Thanks and Giving

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Often I feel everything I am doing is going in slow motion while actual time keeps zipping by, but on Thanksgiving I took stock of how far The Silent Goldens documentary project has come since this time last year.  We’ve completed half of our principal interviews, edited and posted excerpt clips on thesilentgoldens.com, launched the monthly YouTube interview series Talking About Suicide Loss With, and I wrote an op-ed published on CNN.com.

While there are only so many ways to actually say thank you, I truly and consistently live in gratitude and recognition that every accomplishment has been possible because of help from others – from moral support to sharing knowledge and connections and, of course, the donations that are necessary to get this documentary done.  We are so close, the only thing keep us from reaching that goal is money.

Raising $50,000 by the end of January will allow us to finish principal filming in February and put us on target to having a solid cut of the film by the end of Summer 2020 when (breaking news!) I will be presenting at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Long-Term Survivors of Suicide Loss Summit in Cleveland, Ohio.  Any amount large or small will help us reach this goal.  The need to bring this conversation into the public is urgent and – with your help – I can do it!  And, of course, matching corporate donations accepted!

Tomorrow is  Giving Tuesday and as you spread around your charitable funds, please consider making a tax deductible donation here to The Silent Goldens documentary.  As my family and I break our 30-year silence about my mother’s suicide, this film will increase awareness of the issues facing those left behind and encourage other to speak.

Donations accepted through the 501c3 International Documentary Association and memorial credits available in honor of those lost to suicide.

Suicide affects us all – or likely will one day – and a donation to this project is a direct and tangible way to help me help the millions of other suicide loss survivors deal with the aftermath of their own loss.  

Even if you can’t give financially, please follow us on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook and post about the project, like our web page, and subscribe to our Talking About Suicide Loss With series on YouTube!

Thanks in advance for giving!  Truly.

Ruth

Talking About Suicide Loss With Joshua Rivedal

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This coming Saturday, November 23, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  Throughout the world, events are held to honor those lost.  It is an intense but moving day and offers those grieving a community to help share their pain.  Local events can be found here. 

Every time I attend events like this, I am struck by how many incredible people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve formed out of tragedy. In 2016 I went to the first conference for long term survivors in Chicago where Joshua Rivedal was offering a workshop talking about how humor and creativity helped him work through his grief based on his fifteen-character, one-man play Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt (KMBB), based on his memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. 

Since then, Joshua has achieved much Joshua Rivedal is the creator and founder of Changing Minds: A Mental Health Based Curriculum and The i’Mpossible Project and has spoken about suicide prevention, mental health, diversity, and storytelling across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia.  You can read more about him at iampossible.com and watch his Talking About Suicide Loss With segment here.

I hope everyone has a peaceful Thanksgiving!

And Miles To Go Before I Sleep!

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It happened!  November 3, 2019 at 8:19 pm at La Cienega near Durango my steady companion in life, my mystic teal mica Toyota Rav 4 reached 200,000 miles!  One day shy of 19 years and 4 months in my life.  

Creeping up on this number made me do a lot of thinking about what has changed in my life since I got that car at the beginning of my life in LA.  I’ve been reminiscing about the people and animals that have come and gone and how many adventures I took with my dog Riggs.  This was the only car he called his.  

It’s also hit me that I lost my mom at 19 and 6 days shy of four months.  So at the moment the car represents an entire lifetime to me.  When I noticed this, I also realized this is happening at a time when I’m taking major steps with The Silent Goldens documentary by reaching out to prominent loss survivors to help support the film and applying for grants.

Yes, it is blurry. But festive. I meant to do that?

Though I fear for the longevity of my car, I have no plans or desire to willingly give it up. We are a perfect match.  I, therefore, am looking at this new phase as our leap into the unknown.  I have never had a 200k mile car and I don’t know what will happen.  I, too, am putting myself and this project out there.  I have big plans to bring suicide loss survivor issues into the national conversation and am pulling out all the stops.

I wouldn’t say the Rav4 is still the smoothest ride, nor would I say trying to produce a documentary has been, however, we both keep rolling along!

Talking About Rebecca Schaper

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Tragedy of any type changes us in ways we never expected and sends us in directions we never thought we’d go.  Long after the sharp pain of tragedy subsides, many people are able to recognize unexpected gifts born from it.

My mother’s 1985 suicide derailed my life, but facing my grief 30 years later helped put it back together.  Ultimately the path I chose working in television combined with my personal goal to break the decades long silence in my family about mom’s death resulted in The Silent Goldens documentary, which I hope to use as a platform to advocate for suicide loss survivors for years to come.  Direction, purpose and a story – those were the specific gifts I believe my mother left for me.

Because traumatic events immediately gives survivors entry into “the club nobody wants to be in” with others who have had similar experiences, you make instant and deep connections with people you never would have met otherwise.  The many friends I’ve met are a more indirect and wonderful gift, and being involved in the survivor community and working in outreach with those having recent losses constantly reminds me why I am making The Silent Goldens. 

Through a series of friends (shout out Laurie Shiers and Gerald Everett Jones) I was introduced to Rebecca Schaper, the guest on this month’s Talking About Suicide With….  She had already produced a documentary and written a book about her family’s struggles including losing both her parents to suicide.  Since she had already done what I was trying to do, I was eager to meet her.  

Luckily, Rebecca comes to Los Angeles on occasion from her home back east and we had a lovely lunch with the conversation running start to finish.  Her story was much more complicated than mine, but breaking the silence that settled in her family after the first tragedy – her mother’s suicide – brought her the same type of healing, curiosity and purpose that I found.

Check out Rebecca’s Talking About Suicide Loss With… segment here!

Please subscribe to the channel to help us look good for grant applications!

You can find Rebecca’s book and film through her website rebeccaschaper.com.

The Silent Goldens Film Excerpts Available

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September has always been a big month for me since it’s my birthday month. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, also generally occurs in September.  Those two events, combined with the back-to-school vibe I continue to feel (despite the fact it’s been years since I’ve attended) give me a deep feeling of gratitude, a mental reset,  and a recommitment to the priorities in my life – the biggest one right now being The Silent Goldens documentary.

As I discovered just a few years ago, the planets also aligned to make September Suicide Prevention Month, giving me the perfect opportunity to unveil the new excerpt video created from the family conversations filmed in January on thesilentgoldens.com.  These clips are being submitted with the grant applications we’ve been writing this summer and accompanying our pitches to potential large donors.   So far we’ve had overwhelmingly positive response from all who have seen it, which is extremely encouraging and motivating!!

I must note that this is still a rough edit in terms of coverage, color correction, audio mix, and all the precision work that makes you not notice all those aspects of the film when they are done well.  It is our “proof of concept” that interesting conversations are interesting to watch and that talking about suicide loss is highly interesting.  Unlike a “teaser,” the clips don’t explain the whole story, but will ideally encourage anyone who views them to read the backstory and proposal information we send or that is on our website.  And then to give us money!  

Please feel free to share the clips, your feedback, and any contacts you have that might be interested in supporting a project like this.  It’s ready to go – we just need the dough!  

Also, we are always happily and gratefully accepting individual donations here, which are tax deductible through our fiscal sponsorship with the 501c3 Intl Documentary Association.  Our current goal is to raise $15,000 this fall to finish filming all my family conversations by the end of the year.  Memorial credits are available for those wishing to donate in honor of someone lost to suicide.  Thanks!

My Summer Vacation

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This year I really, truly had a summer vacation.  The old fashioned, family kind thanks to a fortunate confluence of events.

First, a friend offered me a cat-sitting job at her lovely home with a back balcony overlooking the Russian River in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, CA.  I took that job, asked my friend if I could invite the cousins who always host me in Florida and she said yes.  They took me up on that invitation and voila, a vacation was born!

Eric, Jennie, Katie, and Julia came for 4 out of the 10 days I was there, so I focused on doing the work I planned to do in my lovely hide-a-way prior to their arrival and gave myself the 4 days of family vacation immersion with the least amount of guilt I’ll ever allow myself to have.

Among our activities were going to the Charles M. Schulz museum, which I didn’t know about but was excited for as I’ve always been a big Peanuts fan.   

We met Eric’s friend from college and played Bocci ball at a winery.  We ate Wicked Slush.  Twice. We wandered the town. We canoed in the Russian River. And we saw Yesterday.  

It was mellow, it was fun, interesting conversations all around, and a good feeling being around people – despite my isolationist tendencies.  Especially important to the vibe was the fact that we were not on their turf or mine.  All we could do was explore and create each day’s adventures together!

Things That Make Me Happy Part 4 – The Squeegee

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Every once in a while I feel compelled to write about something that just simply makes me happy.  Today I share my thoughts on The Squeegee

There is a thrill I feel when I go to a gas station and there is a good squeegee waiting for me.  It’s an amazing little tool and having the right tool is often the only way to get the job done well.

The motion of doing it and watching the water disappear is soothing to me and I feel satisfaction in seeing the clean, clear glass.

I live in many lovely homes while dog sitting and now use squeegees in glass showers, saving so much time and energy in doing the wax on/wax off cleaning motion.  The squeegee makes keeping it nice fun.

My love of the squeegee actually goest back to 1986 when I spent time on a kibbutz in Israel.  The floor of the kitchen and dining hall were designed so instead of mopping, you would pour the water onto the floor and squeegee it out the door.  I don’t have pictures, but the memory is vivid.

Long live the squeegee!

A Punny Story

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Having been in a creative career most of my adult life, I know how long the process can be and how much end products generally differ from the starting vision.  Drafts of blogs I’ve been composing in my head for weeks or months always come out strikingly different once my fingers start flying over the keys.  Sometimes I watch in amazement as these other thoughts I didn’t know I had just seem to form on paper.  Recently this phenomenon happened in a simple, clear way that  while I was working on a simple art project I conceived of years ago.

I have an affinity for being “punny, ” much to the dismay of those who must spent time with me.   About 4 years ago I thought it would be funny to get an old weathered board and just paint “I’m bored” on it.  A board is saying it’s bored, get it? The picture in my head was a piece was a piece of weathered white board like it had been part of a fence.

The idea has never left my mind but for whatever reasons I never did it.  When I saw a board I liked in a friends driveway, the project was finally underway.  It wasn’t white though, so I had to think about things for a while.  I drove around with it for weeks before getting myself to storage to pull out my paints and painting tools and found a place to set it all up.  During this time a smaller brown board caught my eye.  It wasn’t the rough kind of wood I wanted, but I said to myself “Ruth, you really should try this out before you paint the board you spent 4 years looking for. You should do a practice one.” I agreed with myself.

I tried painting it white and but it wasn’t working for me – at least not on that kind of wood so I had fun with paint and then when I went to write my funny, punny words, I suddenly thought “would it be funnier if I did the accurate b-o-a-r-d spelling and the pun is made in the head, not thrown in your face.” And so I did.  All who I’ve shown it to or told about it agree that is punnier.

What fascinates me is the spontaneity of the change, given that I’d never thought about doing that before.  And that I immediately committed to try.  I wonder if I’d done it a year ago would it have come out different?  Was the wait necessary for my brain to make the shift?  I wasn’t ready to create this masterpiece?  I have no answers but am in awe of the creative process, whatever it is.  And the painting does make me happy – because it’s funny.