The Silent Goldens Summer Update

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I wrote my college application essay about perseverance.  When I was 15 a close childhood friend had moved back to Japan with her family and I was invited to visit over the following summer.  My parents told me if I earned half the money for the trip, they would supplement that and allow me to travel on my own for this great adventure.  Filled with wanderlust even at a young age, I promptly got myself a job at Karemelkorn in the mall, one of the few places that hired people my age for a whopping $1.65 an hour.  I enjoyed working throughout the school year, but the scheduling kept me from other activities I liked, made keeping up with school work harder, and wasn’t always the most pleasant job.  With a very specific goal in mind, however, I persevered even when I was tired of it and eventually was able to take a once-in-a-ifetime trip.

When I began The Silent Goldens documentary, I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I believed my skills from my career in television, the subject matter, and the new purpose I felt I found would bring it together.

I learned the hard way that unlike being handed an idea and all the resources to back it up, having the idea but no resources would be a different type of endeavor and, it turns out, much more of a struggle.  I have learned things I am not very good at – fundraising in particular – and that working alone can be a trial.  

I was told independent documentaries take about 10 years.  I didn’t think that was possible but now I believe it!  I’m a few years shy of that landmark and I am determined to have the film finished well before I hit it – but meanwhile, I persevere.

We are in a very good place with the script and rough cut and hope to enter edit in the next month.  Fingers crossed grant money will be forthcoming to help with the visuals, graphics, and other elements that will make it look like a film!  I wish I had a more exciting update to share but promise to keep you posted as the little steps become bigger strides.

I am so grateful to all who have supported me and believe, as I do, that my message of speaking out about suicide loss is helpful, powerful, and worthy.  I continue my work for you, for me, and most especially for my mom.  

Farewell Mona

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I am one of those dog people non-dog people might make fun of. 

Dogs have always played a very important part in my life.  My family got my first dog, Smokey, when I was 6.  He was the family dog but I attached to him right from the start, a bond that became even stronger after my mother’s suicide when I was 19.  I took him when I moved out of the family house in Memphis and he made the journey with me to NYC when I moved there. He lived until he was 18 when we, unfortunately, had to put him down, due to infirmities caused by aging.  It caused me great grief and I didn’t think I’d be able to love another dog again.

Many years later Riggs came into my life via a friend who spent a lot of her time trying to find rescue dogs good homes.  Despite her many attempts to get me to adopt, it wasn’t until she said “this is the dog for you” that something deep in my heart or head told me to go meet him.  I had big reservations about the responsibilities associated with dog ownership, but we clicked and I adopted and he became the love of my adult life.  There is nothing I wouldn’t have done for him and he traveled with me across the country when I left LA for a job in Florida and back again.  He was my family and had my heart all wrapped up in his furry self.  I gave him a good life full of hikes, furry friends, and pure, unconditional love.  And he deserved it – he came to me perfect and stayed that way.

His cancer diagnosis was the catalyst to my finally getting help for the deep depression I fell into and learning how my grief over his possible demise was related to the unresolved grief I had from never really facing the loss of my mother.  I say he helped me hit bottom and stayed with me until I was back up.  His loss a year-and-a-half later devastated me but I survived it, though I had no intention of truly loving another dog again.

When I decided to produce The Silent Goldens documentary and give up my tv career, I became a dog-sitter.  I figured I could be around dogs and really really like them but not get to attached that I’d get my heart shattered again.

And then came Mona, a little terrier mix and one of my first dog-sitting clients, along with her very big sister, Priscilla.  She nipped at my heart immediately because she was a terrier and reminded me of Smokey, but she also had the happiest personality.  And her little paws made the cutest pitter-patter on the wood floor when she came running.  And it didn’t phase her when a new bull-mastiff puppy, Izzy, joined her family.  Or when Mac came after Priscilla sadly went to the Rainbow Bridge.  Her mom called her “The Tank” because she just kept joyfully trotting along as various health issues arose along with some quirks of aging.

I am lucky to get to spend a lot of time with this very special pack and have become very attached to them all.  But Mona was the OG and we had a special bond.  I’d even bring her over to my place some nights when I was in between dog-sitting jobs for sleepovers.  I loved her.  And even though she wasn’t mine, just knowing she existed and I’d get to see her again made me happy.

Mona left this world two weeks ago.  And now I am heartbroken.  As I’ve heard people say, we hurt so much because we love so much.  But I’m not shutting down because she showed me I could truly love a dog again and it doesn’t take away from the love for another.  I will miss her tremendously but I am so grateful that I got to be in her life and that she was in mine. 

Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is mental health awareness month.  Since 2016 I have been volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to do what I can to help prevent suicide and to support those who have been affected by suicide as I was following my mother’s 1985 death.

By working on my documentary, The Silent Goldens, I have been able to heal a lot of the unresolved grief stemming from my loss by opening up conversations with my family about it since we collectively went silent right after it happened.  For years I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, partly because of the stigma associated with suicide, but more because we just didn’t.  I was terrified to open up the conversations, but only good came out of it, making all interactions with my family easier.

By being open about my loss, I have allowed others to open up to me about their own, which is cathartic for all.  I have made many friends in the suicide world and always feel purposeful doing the work.

AFSP has launched a new initiative #talkawaythedark with tools, resources, and creative ways to learn the warning signs and the risk factors and to have open and real conversations on this topic.  Information can be found here.

As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for a lifetime, I know asking for help is one of the hardest things you can do, but doing so can truly be life-changing.  As a survivor of suicide loss, I know there is no better way to deal with it than talking.  There is no shame.

NYC and Me

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When people ask me where I’m from my answer depends on the circumstances.  Although I have lived now in California for almost 26 years, a good portion of my younger years was spent in NY.  I was born in the Bronx and spent the first 11 years of my life in the suburbs of NYC before my family moved to Texas.  I typically say I grew up in Texas because the teen years were especially formative, but I got my start (and still have some friends) from those early days.  I then moved to NYC to start my adult life when I was 21 where I began and moved up in my chosen career in television over the 10 years I stayed there before heading west.

I’m forever grateful for the time I had there, the opportunities I was given, and the friends I made.  I’m especially happy that I did it in my 20s when I had the energy and curiosity to truly appreciate it and take advantage of so much that it had to offer.  However, by the time I left, I felt I was “over it.” All the hustle and bustle and the never-ending onslaught of people to contend with every time you walk out the door got to me, and I was excited to return more to the suburban-type existence in LA with just enough splash of city life to keep things interesting.  

The first few times I returned to NY after moving I was decidedly not excited and hit with constant reminders of why I left.  Over the years my visits got more palatable, and I am happy to say after this last visit I can once again truly appreciate the city – the convenience of transportation, the ease of getting together with people, the theater (which I love) and the variety of sights to see and things to do.

I especially enjoy walking through the city and was lucky to have a beautiful early spring day to make my way through Central Park (see pics). I don’t feel the need to move back but am glad to have reasons to be there and feel comfortably part of it all.

Valentine’s On My Mind

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I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater by any stretch, I love the idea of it, I’ve just never found Mr. Right to share it with or grew up with people close to me who make it a special day, so it’s not really a big deal to me.  But recently I’ve found some cards from my parents from my childhood, which has caused me to reflect on my journey through grief over my mom.

I have been spending time going through the old letters I received from my mom during her lifetime for The Silent Goldens documentary.  It brings up mostly good memories as the birthday, Valentine’s Day, and other holiday cards have notes of love and pride written alongside the printed greetings.  It definitely makes me nostalgic for my childhood!

Because she died when I was 19, I have a very limited stash.  The letters were sent to me either at camp or at college. Mostly they were as I remember them, very newsy about what she and my dad were doing while the kids were away, weather reports, and admonitions to study hard and write more frequently.

What makes me sad is how limited they are and how much I missed by not having a mother while going through my adulthood – so many milestones, accomplishments, and trials she was never a part of and how much I wished over the years I had her to turn to.  The letters weren’t very personal and I never got to know her as an adult or learn much about her life with the appreciation that comes with my own maturing.  

They also make me think about the life I thought I’d have similar to the one she expected for me with a career, marriage, and kids.  It decidedly didn’t turn out that way, something that Valentine’s Day specifically makes me think about.

For a long time looking at things like these letters was more hurtful, reminding me of how my mother died and how alone I felt.  But over the years the edges of the grief have softened and doing The Silent Goldens has made my mother come alive again in my mind.  Once again I can smile at memories of her and remember how much I was loved.

Grief Trigger: The Death of Lisa Marie

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Many things can trigger feelings of grief, whether the loss has just occurred or it is decades old.  January is always a difficult month for me.  On January 11, 1985 my maternal grandfather died.  He was the fun grandpa who took me and my sister on adventures, taught us to play chess, pool and shuffleboard, and loved us unconditionally.  His was the first funeral I attended.  The day after that funeral, on January 15, my mother died by suicide.  I was 19.

Since then, the approaching anniversaries of these dates tend to affect me more than I like to admit.  My thoughts turn to the events of those days, what I lost by losing them and what they’ve missed since they’ve been gone.  Depending on what is going on in my life at the time, they can also be a time of self-reflection about how far I’ve come or self-recrimination about not living up to what I judge to be their standards.  But I always notice.

This year the timing coincided with the untimely and tragic death of Lisa Marie Presley, something that brought back the feelings of trauma and grief that I felt so many years ago.  I didn’t know Lisa Marie or have a real-world connection to her, but for numerous reasons, her story and her legacy have made an impact on me.

I was 11 when Elvis died and remember trying to wrap my head around what death meant and wondering what that was like for a little girl.  When I was in college, my family moved to Memphis, TN, and I decided to seek employment at Graceland one summer.  I got the job, enjoyed the atmosphere, and fell under the Elvis mystique as I learned more about his life, work, and family.  I was curious what it must be like to be his only offspring, not just constantly having the honor/burden of living under his shadow, but to be constantly reminded of your dead father in such a public fashion.  I didn’t make a habit of keeping tabs on the family, but when they popped up in the papers, I was always interested.

When the news of Lisa Marie’s son’s suicide came out I was devastated for her, as I am for all others who survive these tragedies.  There is a kinship you feel with others who have lost someone in this way, a basic understanding of the suffocating grief that she so eloquently described in one of her last Instagram posts that has been making the rounds.  

Hearing someone in your age range has suffered cardiac arrest is pretty jarring, especially someone who had just been up and about and in the news honoring her dad’s birthday and then attending an awards show.  Just like that.  And then they’re gone.  I remember seeing the headline declaring her dead and trying to wrap my head around it – what is death?

Then you start reading about the survivors and that’s where I get stuck wondering what they are going through, especially because young girls lost their mom.  It is a situation that haunts me and I can’t stop going back to those feelings of trying to accept that news and all the implications going forward.  It is a truly tragic place to be.  

I now have the benefit of time, which doesn’t erase grief but softens the edges of its cutting pain, and talking about my loss after 30 years of silence around it has been healing and helpful, especially when it is triggered.  I continue to try and honor my mother by living a life of service to others and by telling her story through my work on The Silent Goldens documentary, which gives me a feeling of being closer to her and her hopes for me. 

I wish the best for Lisa Marie’s family and all those who are touched by her loss and hope their good memories of her and the outpouring of support help ease their grief in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  

Talking About Suicide Loss with Rob Barnett

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Jeff and Rob Barnett

The holidays are upon us once again and I’m feeling generally festive.  But I am hugely aware that this time of year can be especially hard when dealing with loss and grief. For those who lost someone to suicide, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is recognized as International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  Events are held around the world and in the US to allow survivors to come together for healing and support, to share stories, and participate in memorial activities.   An easy way to find a program in your area is through

An article in cites several studies that show how talk and support play critical roles in recovery and growth after loss, while staying silent contributes to loneliness, difficulty coping, detachment, and other depression-related symptoms.  My personal experience of staying silent about my mom’s suicide for 30 years and then meeting and talking to other loss survivors has shown me first-hand the truth behind these studies.  

Being able to share my grief and talk about my mother has also taught me the importance of remembering and honoring the lives of our loved ones, not just always being focused on the way they died.  Telling my story helped me heal. Perhaps most importantly, the simple act of talking allowed me to join a community of strong, resilient people who are loving and empathetic and who bring strength and hope to each other even in the face of tragedy.  

My mission with The Silent Goldens documentary is to try and open and normalize the conversation around suicide loss.  Very few people are not touched by these deaths at some point whether it is someone close, an acquaintance or co-worker, a community member, or an admired celebrity, yet it still is a taboo topic.  For the last couple of years, I’ve been recruiting other suicide loss survivors who have gone public with their stories to share why they feel it’s important to do so and how it has changed their relationship to their grief for my YouTube Series Talking About Suicide Loss With…

This month I am proud to feature Rob Barnett.  I met Rob over 30 years ago when we were colleagues at MTV in NYC.  We recently reconnected regarding my projects when I learned that he, unfortunately, lost his brother to suicide.  While we didn’t know each other well way back when, talking to him was like talking to a long-lost friend because of the bond of shared traumatic experience.  Unlike many of my guests, Rob spoke out very publicly immediately after his loss and since then has been finding creative ways shine a light on this important topic and support others who have lost someone.

Talking About Suicide Loss with Tammi Ginsberg

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One of the reasons it has been so important for me to tell my story about my family’s silence after my mother’s suicide is the validation I feel hearing other people’s stories.  Although the details of everyone’s loss vary greatly, it seems that those who faced the aftermath in silence struggled the same type of fallout I did in the long-term – years of suppress pain eventually manifesting into their own mental health struggle.  Meeting and sharing stories with Tammi Ginsberg at the Long Term Suicide Survivors Summit I attended in Cleveland was one of those connections that really hit home for me. 

Tammi is the mother of two and a mental health professional in Frederick, MD. She is the president of the Maryland chapter of AFSP where she focuses on educating as many people as possible on the risks and warning signs associated with suicidality.  Tammi’s brother, Brian, died by suicide when she was a junior in college. At that time, there was a huge stigma around mental health and going to therapy was considered a weakness. Her journey of healing includes her own struggle with depression which catapulted her into her second career as an LCPC. In that role, she works with people with mood disorders as well as those who have been affected by suicide. 

The work she has done for herself and for others has been what I see as a very refreshing take on acceptance of grief and living in the journey of healing.  Find out what Tammi has to say in the latest episode of Talking About Suicide Loss found here.

Talking About Suicide Loss with Janet Schnell

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Even though I had lived with losing my mother to suicide in 1985, it wasn’t until 2015 that I discovered I was part of a community of people called “suicide loss survivors.” Intellectually I knew other people had lost loved ones this way, but it never occurred to me that I would feel a deep connection to them, one born of shared experience.

It wasn’t until I attended an Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that Fall (they are happening now, check out to find one near you) that I met others who had been through what I had but were willing to be open and talk about it, unlike my family had been for 30 years.  The relief I felt was instant, not just meeting people I could talk to but in finally telling my story.

I became deeply involved in the loss survivor world and was able to speak at a conference for long-term survivors this past July.  Pictured are those who attended.  I met numerous fascinating people, shared stories, and was impressed by the numerous and different ways people have dealt with their grief and used their experiences for good.  A friend of mine once said, “we can’t save our loved ones but we can save each other.”  And that’s how it feels.  Talking about it saved me from a path of misery and pain I was on.

One person I met was Janet Schnell. Janet is an LCSW who completed her master’s degree in Social Work in 2010 at the University of Southern Indiana. She is currently in practice with CareATC serving the needs of employees in a commercial furnishings company. Janet specializes in suicide prevention, intervention, and after a suicide occurs; depression; anxiety; and substance abuse. She has experience in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Brief-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (B-CBT), Motivational Interviewing, and Narrative Therapies. Janet is a suicide prevention instructor for Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), She is a suicide prevention trainer for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). Janet is a founding member of the Retrospective Fatality Analysis – Consultants (RFA-C). The protocol is an investigative and research instrument with the goal to inform suicide prevention by using the stories of those who died by suicide. Janet is a public speaker sharing her experience as a suicide loss survivor and becoming a social worker after her brother’s death. She grew up as the middle child in a closely connected family of 7. Janet has been married for 38 years and has 1 son. Her hobbies include public speaking, gardening, and meeting people.

I Read a Book and Am Inspired

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I didn’t know what to expect when a friend (thank you Rob Barnett!)  gifted me The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.  I had reached out to him for help in getting The Silent Goldens documentary across the finish line as I am working to raise the final $50,000 to finish it off.  The difficulty with this part of has been made even harder by my issues with asking for anything, but especially for money.

The book is an outgrowth of her TED talk on the subject that has been seen over 10 million times.  Her talk came about from her success in being the first musician to reach $1 million dollars on Kickstarter for an independent album.

I found the book inspiring on so many levels – her authenticity, vulnerability, resilience, fearlessness, persistence and her ability to find the good (or at least the lesson) in any situation.  Her story is about the relationships she spent years building with her fans by staying connected and creating a community online and in person and in how creating this, gifts show up in many forms. She illustrates how it’s easy for those who love you to give, whether it’s a monetary gift or loan, a couch to crash on, or a flower given as a thank you.

Her experiences and writings also show how gifts aren’t just about one person giving and one person taking.  There is a trade involved.  Her fans gave her the money to make an album they could listen to, attend shows where she performs and to allow her to exist and be the person who gives these things.  Sometimes, she points out, just allowing someone to give to you can be a gift in itself, allowing the other person to feel helpful.

I am a big fan of being a helper and find purpose and satisfaction when I know I have been useful, whether it’s a favor, a paid opportunity or even just lending an ear.  As long as what I’ve done fulfills a need, I’m all good.  I am also big fan of the trade.  In my current life has a roving dog sitter, I have had numerous times where I have traded dog care, cleaning or (when I can) money to have a place to rest my head when I’m in-between jobs.  Just last night I traded a ride to the airport for a place to crash for an evening. A win-win, I like to say.

What has been most difficult for me in the asking for help on The Silent Goldens documentary is that the story is personal so in a sense I feel like I’m asking for help for myself.  But while it is my family’s experience, the intent is to share it for the benefit of many.  To help those affected by suicide and teach others about the suicide loss experience so that they, in turn, can be part of the conversation and have an understanding that helps breakdown the stigma and shame surrounding it.

The ability to tell my story is what I have to give to the world and those that have heard it at conferences, my college reunion, and other venues I’ve spoken at have told me it is meaningful.  I’ve tried to spread the word through podcast appearances, written articles and interviews I’ve given.  The help I’ve asked for (and continue to need) are the funds and resources to get my film done, and many people I know, along with some I’ve never met have stepped up, warming my heart each time.  The trade I offer (along with the knowledge that the help is specific and  tangible) are memorial credits in the film and on my website honoring their loved ones lost to suicide.

I have a lot more work to do to achieve my goal and build my community and I hope by putting myself and my “ask” out there more consistently will be the key.  Amanda has proven that people are fundamentally generous when they care about someone or something and, given the success politicians find in fundraising, I know it can be done.  

So I humbly ask, in the spirit of the book and the perspective it gave me, if you are able to give and support suicide awareness in the form of my film, please visit and make a tax deductible donation and honor those lost to suicide.  And please post and share about the project so others may join the cause. 

And read the book!  It’s fascinating.

Thank you for your consideration!