Be Part of the Healing: Our Tragedy of Suicide-Murder

Tragic events, whether natural disasters or from the recent actions of humans, have ripples of impact. Those most personally connected to the area or the beings who directly experienced the tragedy are most affected. Many others feel less intense ripples of impact. We each have the opportunity to help, starting with our own healing as needed, and then through our interactions with others. The key is to let compassion be the guide.

Douglas County, Kansas, USA has recently experienced the tragedy of two sets of deaths that are believed to be from suicide-murder. Families and friends close to these four people in life and with their deaths, will never be the same. Those close ones have been shattered. They need and deserve help with their grief and healing. 

As community members, we can prepare to help by identifying our beliefs about how such tragedy happens, and who it happens to. “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion, “ says Jack Kornfield, internationally respected psychologist, author, and teacher of mindfulness meditation.

Do we believe that pain, emotional or physical, can be quickly relieved by following a great suggestion? The truth is that pain, as well as happiness, are expected parts of life. For emotional pain, one of the most powerful “remedies” is listening without judging, without interrupting, without providing answers. In the 2017 book The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, M. Scott Peck, author, Christian, and psychiatrist wrote, An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes.” 

Do we believe that talking with someone about our, or their, thoughts about suicide increases the danger of acting on suicidal thoughts? This is a myth.

Do we believe that suicide only happens because of bad parents or bad partners? As I have the long-time honor of being trusted to provide support for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, I assure you that wonderful, loving people lose loved ones to suicide each year.  And wonderful, loving people die by suicide each year.

Do we believe that grief is like a road trip that takes a certain amount of time and then we get to the destination? The truth is that grief is with us forever. With healing, our life grows and the intense pain from grief is no longer the only thing in our awareness. Throughout life, the pain of grief will come and go in waves, sometimes when we expect that pain and sometimes as a surprise.

Do you wonder why I write “suicide-murder” instead of “murder-suicide”?

Do you believe that suicide-murder happens because the one who ended their lives is always acting in anger, wishing to cause pain? Colleagues in the national suicide prevention community provide some perspectives. As with all life events, there is no one explanation. The limited research on suicide-murder within families leads to the understanding that dying by suicide is the primary goal, the perceived need. However, the suicidal one believes that they must kill family members who would not be able to bear the pain and life changes resulting from the suicide death.

We have no opportunity to prevent deaths that have already happened. We must focus on the living, those who are grieving, as well as those who are struggling for other reasons.  That may include any of us. Helping includes listening and also practical help.  As poet Toni Morrison said about grief, “Sorry doesn’t do it. I think you should just hug people and mop their floor of something.”  

Those who are grieving need to share their emotions, thoughts, questions, how they are feeling physically, how their behavior has changed, and stories about the people they are grieving. They need listeners who will not judge, and who can “hold” that pain, without trying to remove it. If the listener fears for the griever’s safety, that concern must be discussed, so together they can agree on supports for safety. In the USA two of the free, 24/7 sources of guidance are calling 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or texting Crisis Text Line at 741741

Listening is doing something to help, especially when compassion is the guide.


For grief support, including for those thinking about suicide

Personal Supports for Grief

  • Friends-family
  • Faith or spiritual or atheist communities, for those who are part of these

Some Free, 24/7 Supports in the USA

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Phone 988
  • Crisis Text Line: Text 741741

Your Local Grief Support Groups and Helpers

The Light Center Grief Support Team, for those in the Douglas County, Kansas, USA area
Contact Marcia Epstein, LMSW at M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com

Some Resources and Information for Grief and for Suicide Grief

Some tips for helping someone who is grieving

  • From Poet Toni Morrison, “What do you say? There really are no words for that. There really aren’t. Somebody tries to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.’ People say that to me.  There’s no language for it. Sorry doesn’t do it. I think you should just hug people and mop their floor or something.”
  • Video from Megan Devine, author of It’s OK You’re Not OK, “How to help a grieving friend”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2zLCCRT-nE

For more information about suicide-murder

About Marcia Epstein, LMSW

I am a mental health social worker who is a long-time member of the USA-and-beyond “suicide prevention community”, a person living with grief from close ones who died by suicide or other causes, and more.  I work with teens and adults experiencing life challenges and changes. My areas of special expertise include grief; reducing suicide risk; support for suicide grief; and support for trans and nonbinary youth and adultsMy home is Lawrence, Kansas, USA where I served as a volunteer, then as Director for 34 years, of Headquarters Counseling Center, now known as KSPHQ, which serves Kansas on 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifelineformerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. December 2013, I established my private social work practice rooted in compassion, expertise, accessibility, and collaboration. I help people learn the skills for thriving, while also carrying our variety of experiences.  I do this through individual and “family” work, as well as support groups, retreats, as well as special events for people affected by suicide and/or grief. I provide training and consultation to other helpers and/or learners. The support groups I offer: Healing After Suicide Loss, for survivors of suicide loss; Stayin’ Alive, for people living with suicide thoughts, self-harm, and attempts; and Thriving Family-Friends, for family-friends of suicidal loved ones. I am a member of the Steering Committee for NAMI Douglas County, Kansas. I am part of the Grief Support Team based at The Light Center in Douglas County, Kansas with Robin Goff, founder of The Light Center; social worker Rose Eiesland Foster; healers Donna Hanschu, Shannon Musgrave, and Jancy Pettit; and life coach Ronda Miller. Since September 2021, I am very active in two international movements: Coalition of Clinician Survivors, for mental health caregivers with personal and/or professional experiences with suicide loss; and PAUSE, People Addressing and Understanding Suicide Experiences. I also host a podcast and events at “The Intersection of Art and Emotional Wellbeing.”

Posted on https://MarciaEpstein.biz
Lawrence, Kansas, USA
December 18, 2022


To The Editor, Lawrence Journal-World (Kansas, USA) https://www2.ljworld.com/opinion/2020/sep/09/letter-to-the-editor-preventing-suicide/

Increase awareness of a goal, share action steps for achieving that, and help a community change for the better.

During the month of September, during this pandemic, on World Suicide Prevention Day, and every day, let’s work on helping every person experience life with much goodness, with a sense of being valued, and a sense of belonging. With every person, especially those in oppressed groups, having access to health care, education, housing, nutrition, exercise, art and culture, employment, and fair salaries. With every person having a strong support network and the skills to balance the challenges that are part of life.

Most people have the ability to smile at others more often, listen more carefully, believe what a person says about how they feel, and/or perform small acts of kindness. Some of us can actively advocate for social justice, and some of us can reach large audiences, including people with the power to lead system changes. Some of us are those people.

That’s what suicide prevention really looks like.

Love really IS the answer

Marcia Epstein
Lawrence, Kansas

In Lawrence, Kansas, USA every year on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, I host Words Save Lives, a performance event. Thanks to the pandemic, this year’s event was virtual & co-hosted with 3 dear Poet-Friends: Ande Johnson, Cei Loofe, & Ronda Miller. Being virtual, the event was shorter than usual, and featured a diverse set of Artists of Poetry and Music.

This year’s performers from Kansas & Nebraska: Ronda Miller, James Benger, Annette Billings, Cei Loofe, Barry Barnes, Ande Johnson, Johnnie Exel, Poet Laureate of Kansas Huascar Medina, Macey Webb, & Louise / Michael Dieker. Thank you so much!!!!

Many of those performers shared some of their words in the WSL2020 Chapbook / E-Book. In addition, my encouragement to Be The Kindness that makes life worth living, and some of my most recommended emotional well-being (“suicide prevention”) support resources are included. The E-Book is meant to be used through a link, formatted on 8.5 x 11 pages. WSL2020 Chapbook / E-Book: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1El_MNKfqxl2oGo8xoaZjGm2AC5AznoJd/view?usp=sharing

Later in 9/13/2020 week the link to the WSL2020 recording will appear on the event page.
Words Save Lives 2020.09.10 https://www.facebook.com/events/996815617440956

A Brief History of Words Save Lives events in Lawrence, Kansas, USA

Poets of Lawrence, Kansas’ Red Tail Collective ~ Megan McHenry, David Douglas, Dustin Baxter, Anna Michener, Erica Hunter, Matthew J. Asbury, Garret Tufte, and Topher Enneking ~ and I launched Words Save Lives on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, in 2014. This very special event has grown over the years.

Words Save Lives has grown into a place that creates and strengthens connections, that reminds us that we are valued. A place with all the love and laughter and NO shame. Because We The People, in all our Beauty, need our Experiences represented by Artists of Poetry, Comedy, Story, Music, Drag, and more!

At Words Save Lives we celebrate being together. We celebrate living lives with so much love and goodness that we are able to get through the hardships. We communicate about all that, not just about our experiences with suicide. And we recognize that so many, too many, have more than one of the experiences with suicide.

Words Save Lives really is about Love. Love that is shared within the group of diverse people together in this special space ~ most years, in Lawrence Creates Makerspace. Love between all the people in all the roles: listening, sharing, hugging, performing, talking, drawing …. In 2020, we missed being together in-person, and still we are happy that technology allowed us to be together at #WSL2020

Love really IS the answer!

Marcia Epstein, LMSW
Lawrence, Kansas, USA
M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com https://MarciaEpstein.biz

PS I am a social worker with a passion for helping people affected by suicide in any and all of the ways, bringing my personal & professional experience, ongoing learning, and always heart. I know that “Love really IS the answer.”

PPS The candles represent the experiences of suicide that so many of us have too many of:
💖 Red in honor & memory of people who died by suicide
💜 Purple for living with suicide grief
💙 Blue for living with suicide thoughts, self-harm, suicide attempts
💛 Yellow for friends-family supporting suicidal loved ones
White for people working (volunteer or paid) supporting suicidal people


With hope, I share this photo taken while kayaking on Lake Shawnee.  I hope we all believe there is light at the end of the tunnel: of the most painful times of our personal traumas and struggles, of the global COVID-19 pandemic, of the hatred in our country and elsewhere.  And I hope we all experience some beauty even while we’re still in that tunnel.

A life lesson from the pandemic: In this time, doing the things that are self-care-for-you is essential.  For my husband Kyle and me, kayaking is the thing.  We live in Lawrence, Kansas which has a bunch of lovely lakes within an hour or so.  And with daylight until about 9:00pm, we kayak a couple of times weekly, weather and work schedules cooperating, which means most weeks.

Some Kayaking Suggestions for a new Kayak Kansas Family
Adaptable for other areas 🙂

Have a clear waterproof case with cord (to wear around neck) for at least one person’s cell phone: for camera and for helpful location apps

Have water and life jacket for each person.  Even though it’s much cooler on the water than on land, especially if it’s a hot day with few clouds, you need plenty of water.

Wind speed: affects ability to control direction of kayak, and whether waves may splash a lot of water into your kayak. 

“Generally, any wind under 10 knots (about 11.5 mph) offers safe kayaking regardless of wind direction.”   Our phones have a weather app that includes windspeed info.

Current advisories about Kansas lakes with the dangerous algae issue:

Perry Lake kayak ramp close to Ozawkie, KS
A basic map http://perry.uslakes.info/Maps/ shows that “Old Town Ramp” which is across the dam from Ozawkie is closest to Ozawkie.  But last week when we went there, there was so much wood debris in the cove of the boat ramp that we didn’t try going in there.  “Longview Boat Ramp” is the one that we used.  If you use that one, pay attention to the fact that it starts in a cove that’s a bit tucked in from the main body of water.  We mention this because when we were trying to end our last kayaking there, we did not recognize the area, and then kayaked another mile past it before looking at our app and figuring out what we had done.  Oops.  No harm, just more kayaking than planned.  As a friend once said, “We weren’t lost.  We knew where we were.  We just didn’t want to be there.”

Perry Lake boat ramps basic info 

App that maps your travel on the water, which is helpful to get you back to your starting point 🙂
We use the iPhone Paddle Logger app to give us a map of and log of our trips.

Some other recommendations for android or iPhone

Find your car app on phone is helpful for finding your entry point on a lake, if your car is parked near there 🙂

Peacefully Coexisting With COVID-19: Part 5, It IS Tough

During this time of “pandemic jail” I participate in many learning opportunities and conversations about suicide, grief, and this pandemic; I cry most days; I laugh each day; all because that’s who I am.  So again, I’m here, sharing some of the meaning I make related to this pandemic time.  Plus, an article and a song about what to expect of oneself during this strange time.  And a joke.

We each live with the variety of harsh experiences, beautiful highlights, and what’s between those points, that we’ve experienced in our lives up to this moment.  This COVID-19 global pandemic is unlike any previous traumatic event in the world for reasons including: this virus is happening across the globe, not just in one location; there is not yet a clear ending time; the lack of effective governmental leadership in the USA; needing physical distancing as an important tool for preventing the spread of this virus; in the USA alone, as of this hour, over 66,000 people’s deaths are attributed to this virus; and the internet means quick spread of fact and fiction, love and hate.

All of us already living with grief and other traumatic experiences plus empathy for other beings, may experience the impacts of those more intensely with the quantity of references to death and trauma that we are exposed to daily in personal conversations as well as in media.  Those who live alone may be more intensely impacted due to reduced in-person time and physical touch from safe friends-family.  People of color, and people in other vulnerable populations, are experiencing more verbal and physical aggression, and even more physical violence, as well as very limited access to healthcare for any type of need, complicating their suicide grief.  This is not just hypothetical; this is the truth of living in the USA. Yes, this is a very hard time, and we absolutely need to try to be kind to ourselves and others.

And I’m certain that I am not alone in feeling annoyed-to-infuriated by messages that hint at ~ or yell ~ pressure to stay on the bright side. Yeah, no, not always!  So, I’m sharing a couple of recent finds that resonate with me, to remind you that you are not alone in feeling challenged by life in this time of the pandemic.

This article: How To Survive A Plague: (Hint) You’re Doing Too Much
“To summarize: grieve, eat, sleep, numb out as needed. And instead of aiming for positivity or productivity, focus on being kind – to yourself, and to the ones you love.”

This song available on the Facebook of singer-songwriter Cosy Sheridan:
It’s instructive how we come apart”

And still, because as I say, “Without laughter, we explode and that’s just not pretty!” … As many days as possible: Notice some beauty.  Be the goodness in someone’s day.  Do something good-for-you.  Explore nature around your home, or beyond if you have access, including through the internet. (I’m in Kansas and this is a particularly beautiful spring.)  Laugh!  Watch or listen to some comedy; share a joke.  If you are able, cook and eat something beautiful, healthy, and tasty.  (If you need help securing food or other items, please ask for help.) When realistic for you, make at least some of your purchases from small local businesses, including local farms and bookstores.  Write a letter to someone special to you.  If you have access, use videocall for some of your conversations with friends-family.  Encourage people to get informed and VOTE in upcoming elections, local to national.  Finding ways of having some positive impact is especially important in times of uncertainty.

OK, so this joke: A frog goes into a bank. They approach the person at the loan desk and notice that their name tag reads “Patty Whack.” The frog says, “Excuse me, I’d like to apply for a loan.”  The banker, very surprised that a talking frog was in their bank, said, “We only work with humans; no animals can get loans here. Besides, you would need to have collateral.”  The frog pulled a little china elephant out of their pocket and handed it to the banker. ” My father knows your bank president and I have this for collateral.” The banker became flustered and excused themselves to speak with the bank’s president. The banker explained, “There is a frog at my desk asking for a loan. They say their father knows you and this elephant is their collateral.” The bank president said, “It’s a knickknack, Patty Whack! Give the frog a loan!  Their old man’s a Rolling Stone!”

Please, do the things that keep you and those you encounter, and those they encounter, as safe as possible from this virus. As long as people in the USA are still lacking access to testing, treatment, and vaccination; preventing the spread of this virus is primarily up to each individual. And as the poet Gwendolyn Brooks said, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Some sources of Coronavirus / COVID-19 information
1) Whatever Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of USA’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says
2) World Health Organization
3) USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4) The governmental health departments local to you

Previous blogs in this series include suggestions and supports for these times.

Love really IS the answer!
Marcia Epstein, LMSW
Lawrence, Kansas, USA

PS I served from October 1979 – November 2013 as the Director of Headquarters, Inc., aka Headquarters Counseling Center, the free, 24/7 counseling center in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2001, Chad Sublet and I started the first Disaster Mental Health Team for Emergency Management of any county in Kansas. Currently, I provide individual, “family,” and group support for all those experiences with suicide, as well as for grief from other causes, and support for other life changes. I live with suicide grief, among other experiences of the harder kind. As well as much love and beauty. My experience and expertise in the area of crisis support and management continues to grow. However, knowing that stuff does not buffer me from the impacts of trauma. It lets me know I’m still a caring human.


Peacefully Coexisting with COVID-19: Safety from Suicide

This pandemic does NOT make people die by suicide. I know this from my decades of (and ongoing) active participation in the national “suicide prevention” community. This pandemic does NOT make people die by suicide.

If you want to “hear” this from someone else, try one of these links:
1) Fear and Isolation May Not Actually Bring A Rise In Suicide
by Emmy Betz, MD, MPH and Jessica Gold, MD, MS; April 13, 2020
2) Suicide Mortality and Coronavirus Disease 2019 – A Perfect Storm?
by Mark A. Reger, PhD; Ian A. Stanley, MS; and Thomas E. Joiner, PhD; April 10, 2020

As family, friends, and/or helpers we have the opportunity and responsibility to provide truth, as well as listening, emotional support, and when needed, help finding resources for emotional support and safety. As poet Gwendolyn Brooks said, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

We must spread the word that dying by suicide does not have to happen just because one is in some group, or has some experience, in common with others who have died by suicide. If we encourage the belief that it is natural to die by suicide because of all of the losses from this pandemic, we help people go toward that direction. When we assure people that it is human and natural to have thoughts of suicide when we are affected by too much painful stuff, we can listen, support, and help people find ways to experience life worth living, and to stay alive.

One of the many reasons that I know this is possible is that I know Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. Joiner’s research basically showed that the intersection of three things leads to high risk of suicide. When a person experiences: 1) lack of belonging; 2) believing one is a burden; and 3) acquired capability for violence/ harming oneself; the likelihood of acting on suicidal thoughts is high.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to help others believe that they belong and are valued, not a burden. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic we need to urge #PhysicalDistance and #SocialConnection through all the safe methods of technology, including hand-writing letters, as well as some safe in-person contact at a 6′ or more distance, including outdoors in sunshine.

I am also a big fan of helping people develop and periodically update a Safety Plan as designed by Barbara Stanley, PhD and Gregory Brown, PhD. This plan is about identifying what one really knows, and safe ways one really will use, for easing the pain/ getting calmer. http://suicidesafetyplan.com/

For additional suggestions and for information about some of the USA’s free, 24/7 emotional/ mental health supports, please see my two previous “Peacefully Coexisting …” posts.

Some sources of Coronavirus / COVID-19 information
1) Whatever Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of USA’s National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, says
2) World Health Organization
3) USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4) The governmental health departments local to you

And most important, BE KIND! To yourself and others! Love really IS the answer.

If you are having those thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not the only one, and you do not have to act on those thoughts or urges. Please find someone who will listen, believe you, and help relieve some of the emotional intensity or numbness. Please.

If you are someone who is living with suicide grief, you deserve caring support. When your brain has the thought that the person’s death is your fault, and you are feeling guilty, try to accept those thoughts and feelings as natural for people who are grieving, and also remember that just because your brain has a thought, that thought is not always true. Talk with others who understand. We are around.

So many of us have more than one of the experiences with suicide: grief from the suicide death of one or more people we love; living with our own suicide thoughts, attempts, and/or self-harm; supporting someone we love who is suicidal; and/or working (volunteer or paid) as a support to people who are suicidal. Talking with people who “get it” is an important part of the support we deserve.

Take really good care!
Marcia Epstein, LMSW
Lawrence, Kansas, USA

PS I served from October 1979 – November 2013 as the Director of Headquarters, Inc., aka Headquarters Counseling Center, the free, 24/7 counseling center in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2001, Chad Sublet and I started the first Disaster Mental Health Team for Emergency Management of any county in Kansas. Currently, I provide individual, “family,” and group support for all those experiences with suicide, as well as for grief from other causes, and support for other life changes. I live with suicide grief, among other experiences of the harder kind. As well as much love and beauty. My experience and expertise in the area of crisis support and management continues to grow.


Peacefully Coexisting with COVID-19: Part 2 & Part 3

I wrote these primarily for people in my groups, which are not currently meeting in person. All of those people have access to technology and internet at home. I realize not everyone does.

Peacefully Coexisting with COVID-19, Part 2

In this time of global coronavirus pandemic, we still NEED Social Interaction, with physical distance between beings.

Two of the Safe-From-Sharing-Germs ways are:
1) Outside, with at least 6 feet between beings, and still covering sneezes and coughs
2) Videocalls while doing things that we might otherwise do together: cooking & eating a meal, sitting around a firepit, listening to music, watching something on a home screen, dancing, creating art,…

For those who are not yet users of free videocalling services, three that really are easy to use (because if I can, anyone can) are:
1) For those with Google accounts, GoogleHangouts
2) Skype https://www.skype.com/en/
3) Zoom https://zoom.us/

A friend shared this very helpful and short Zoom tutorial:
How to Use Zoom – Free Video Conferencing & Virtual Meetings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMUxzrgZvZQ

Happy socializing!

Peacefully Coexisting with COVID-19, Part 3:
#EmotionalSupport in the time of #Polarization #COVID19 #PhysicalDistanceSocializing #FinancialConcerns & more:

💖 Doing the Good-For-You-Things

🧡 Communicating with your Friends-Family through messaging, videocall, email, phone, letters & cards, at a distance of six or more feet & still covering sneezes & coughs

💛 Using some of those free, 24/7 supports for the USA, like:

~ Crisis Text Line: Text “Start” to 741-741 As the name implies, this is text not voice. http://www.crisistextline.org/get-help-now/

~ NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline: only M-F 9am-5pm CDT at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org www.nami.org/find-support/nami-helpline

~ National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233, https://www.thehotline.org/

~ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255),  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

~ RAINN, Rape Incest National Network: 800-656-HOPE (4673), https://www.rainn.org/

~ The Trevor Project: for LGBTQ+ teen and young adults http://www.TheTrevorProject.org 866-488-7386; plus chat and text options included on the website

~ Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860, staffed by trans & nonbinary people, for trans & nonbinary people www.TransLifeline.org

~ Veterans Crisis Line: http://www.VeteransCrisisLine.net 800-273-8255 Option 1; plus chat and text options included on the website

~ Plus peer-to-peer support: 7 Cups of Tea, www.7cups.com

💚 Meeting with a mental health therapist or coach: Depending on public health recommendations of the time, that might be in person, by videocall, by phone or text.

💙💜🖤💖 I’m one of those mental health helpers. I meet with people ~ by phone, by videocall, and in person ~ at a variety of times of the day & week, with the person deciding how much they are able to pay, including no pay when needed. More info on this website 🙂

You deserve support!

Take good care … really good care!
Lawrence, Kansas, USA



Peacefully Coexisting With COVID-19

The whole world and all of her beings are impacted by the existence of the Coronavirus / COVID-19.  Including you and all the people you care about, as well as those you don’t yet know.

In my area, testing for Coronavirus / COVID-19 is rationed by the Kansas Department of Health and EnvironmentTreatment specific to this virus does not yet exist.  However, opinions, recommendations,  and some facts are broadcast 24/7 in real life, on social media, online, TV, radio, in our dreams, ….

Through March 2020 and potentially longer, many public and private businesses are temporarily closing; events, including support gatherings, are being cancelled.  People whose income is from small local businesses are losing income.  Schools of all levels are closed for varying durations.  So families with adults who work while children are in school may or may not have safe options to keep working.  When colleges and universities close their campuses, even when they will continue educational programs online, residential students may have no resources for housing, food, or transportation to another “home.”

This is freaking stressful!  Expect to be impacted.  Beings are supposed to care about each other and themselves.  (And yes, that includes those of us who are designated helpers.  We helpers take responsibility for our own care, so we can help others!)

I’ve been around crisis work long enough to remember when HIV / AIDS was a new public health concern with no treatment.  And in those days, the basic recommendations were: keep your stress low and live like you, and everyone you are in contact with, are HIV+.  And that is what I advocate for current times and Coronavirus / COVID-19.

So what are you supposed to do? 
1) Periodically slow down and take a few deep breaths.  Acknowledge your emotions, where you feel them in your body, and your thoughts.  However, remind yourself that your thoughts are not necessarily true.  And be aware that rumination is not helpful, so try to “change the channel” in your brain.
2) Try to get sufficient sleep.
3) Eat healthy, nutritious foods.
4) Drink plenty of water.  (The water in alcoholic beverages does not count.  Just sayin’.)
5) Exercise in the ways that are realistic for your body.
6) Communicate with people you trust to really listen to you.  Your pets count as people!
7) Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.  When they’re clean, you get to touch your face!  Then wash your hands again.
8) Purchasing hand sanitizer is no longer an option, thanks to those who bought up mass quantities.  You may still be able to get the basic DIY supplies, though: alcohol (not the kind you drink!)  and glycerine or aloe gel.  Follow the directions on The Mighty for making hand sanitizer.
9) Clean the surfaces in your living and work environment.  If you use bleach or alcohol, CDC guidelines : Click that link for “how to.”
10) As much as possible, avoid exchanging germs with other people!  Those cleaning suggestions above are important.  And wait there’s more!  The USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers prevention tips  Use them!  And expect the tips to be updated as more information becomes known.

Do YOUR things that help YOU cope with hard stuff in life
You need to limit your exposure to “news” as well as how much time you spend thinking about this virus!  And you are more likely to succeed when you substitute a different activity.  As mentioned above: do YOUR level of exercise, and communicate with YOUR people.  Do the things that are helpful to you, that you will really do.  In case you need some prompts to come up with your list, here are some, in no special order:
1) Journaling can be a good way to dump stuff out of your brain, or a good way to remind yourself of some goodness that you experience each day.
2) Arts, crafts, coloring, cooking, ….  Focus on, and enjoy, creating things, whether or not you will share them with others
3) Distract yourself in other healthy ways that fully occupy your brain so that it has no room for a while to focus on worries about the virus.
4) Indulge your senses:
~ soaps, candles, incense, oils with scents that you really enjoy,
~ look for the beauty outside of your front door or even in your home,
~ eat or drink something that tastes really good,
listen to music, stories, poetry, books
~ soothing touch might include wearing really comfortable clothing, a soft blanket on a cold day, petting a beloved dog, cat, ferret, or other fur baby
5) Do the things that anthropologist Angeles Arrien found to be healing activities across cultures: sing, dance, share your story, and spend some time in silence.

And most important, BE KIND!  To yourself and others!

Some sources of Coronavirus / COVID-19 information
1) World Health Organization
2) USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3) The governmental health departments local to you

Take good care… really!

PS  I served from October 1979 – November 2013 as the Director of Headquarters, Inc., aka Headquarters Counseling Center, the free, 24/7 counseling center in Lawrence, Kansas.  In 2001, Chad Sublet and I started the first Disaster Mental Health Team for Emergency Management of any county in Kansas.  Chad and I each completed several courses from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, as well as Disaster Mental Health training by American Red Cross.  My experience and expertise in the area of crisis support and management continues to grow.


Those who know me know that I do not shy away from that L word. My email signature begins with, “Love really IS the answer.” My posts on Facebook include #LoveWins and

Love is part of my work as well. In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck explains that True listening, total concentration on the other, is always a manifestation of love.”

A question in my inbox reminded me yet again, that I cannot describe my work with people in just a few sentences. My work is based in love, respect, listening, hope, and “doing what works.”

Who am I as a helper?  I frequently have the opportunity to introduce myself to someone who has been told by a trusted someone (or a search engine) that they should talk with me. My business card above is a start. My commitment to learning and improving must also be spoken about. And that fortune which has lived in my wallet since a November 2013 dinner with dear friend and colleague Bill Geis, Ph.D. is another important statement about me.

And what do I do when people contact me for help? People contact me through a variety of technologies. As my voicemail states, I reply as quickly as is realistic. I do not want to be the reason for a delay in a person finding the help they need, whether or not that help will include me. I encourage the person to let me know some specifics about their need, and I either offer to talk soon, or provide suggestions for other help.

To people in the Lawrence, Kansas, USA area: If you or someone you care about is looking for a compassionate and skilled companion in some personal work, please consider contacting me. The best start is by email to M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com

Much more info is on this site https://MarciaEpstein.biz


This post is for all the pet-loving people, especially those with elder dogs. This note is because our pets are members of our families. This note is because we love the pets of our friends-families, even the pets we only know through social media. This note is because there may be some bits of information that help someone else care for their pet.

This note is because… LOVE.

In 2008, after our younger son had moved to Washington to study at The Evergreen State College, Kyle and I agreed to adopt a dog. Looking at Petfinder.com, I was drawn to a sweet-looking brown and white dog. I read about Springers, and learned about the English Springer Rescue of America (ESRA). I completed the adoption application. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving 2008, Kyle and I went to the home of the ESRA representative. Mark Samuel introduced us to Beau, who had been found injured and would have been euthanized if not taken in, and cared for, by ESRA. Sporting several scars, but otherwise a healthy two or three year old, Beau joined our family. And in our opinion, Beau is one of the best dogs ever.

Beau is that sweet dog who little kids can pet and lay on. That dog who has so many friends from being part of my social work and being Kyle’s companion on walks and runs. And Beau is now also that elder dog living with health challenges.

Early this year, I asked Facebook friends to share tips for caring for elder dogs. The responses were very caring and helped guide us. And this autumn, some additional guidance came unexpectedly. In September, Beau had a serious leg injury, and Michelle Hall, the new veterinarian available at our vet’s clinic not only helped us heal Beau’s leg, but also suggested a new medication to improve his mobility. In October, at our annual retreat at The Light Center for people with suicide grief, I met an out-of-state veterinarian who was receiving training in veterinary chiropractic medicine from an area veterinarian. It only took a little internet searching for me to find that expert, and for him to become part of Beau’s care.

And the rest of this note has the specifics of what we have tried for our beloved Beau, for those who are seeking some guidance for their own beloved pets.

Much love,
Because love really IS the answer.


Elder Dog Care


Beau’s abilities at this point:
Loving his people
~ Walking slowly, and only short walks
~ Trouble getting up after a nap & getting started walking
~ Cannot walk up or down stairs
~ Lack of awareness of peeing and pooping
~ Little to no appetite, and no consistency in what he will eat
~ Sleeps lots
Veterinary care:
Our long-time primary vet is Dr. Bill Bayouth at Animal Hospital of Lawrence (Kansas). Also at AHL, Dr. Michelle Hall treated Beau for a leg wound and got Beau started on Adequan injections for hip/ mobility issues.
March 2019, we had Beau examined at K-State Veterinary Health Center’s Pet Health Center in Manhattan, Kansas  https://www.vet.k-state.edu/vhc/services/phc/
November 26, 2019, we began a series of treatments at Wellsville (Kansas) Veterinary Clinic with Dr. Drew Spisak who teaches & provides veterinary chiropractic, cold laser, & acupuncture.

Mobility tools we continue to use:
raised food and water bowls
~ rubber grips on his nails, which we keep trimmed

For sleeping overnight:
A memory foam orthopedic dog bed with removable cover; in our kitchen, as he is no longer able to go up and down stairs to our bedroom

Because of his incontinence, we use:
disposable pads for him to lay on
~ male dog diapers/ wraps for pee

We are giving Beau, twice daily:
750mg of GABA amino acid (Info about GABA is included at the end of this note.)
~ a pre- & pro-biotic mix capsule
~ a joint supplement chewable tablet

In October 2019, he started Adequan injections:
twice weekly for four weeks, and now every two weeks. This has improved his walking somewhat.  However, we may discontinue due to finding non-medication treatment that works even better.On November 26, 2019, he started receiving care from Dr. Drew Spisak: veterinary chiropractic and cold laser treatment, supplemented by some acupuncture. These treatments were administered twice weekly for a few weeks, then lweekly until realistic benefits have been achieved. We also stopped giving Beau the NSAID Carprofen (Rimadyl is one version), which might be contributing to diminished appetite and other health issues. His walking has improved very much, his movement overall has improved, and his appetite may be returning.
He has little interest in eating, and this year has gone from 60 lb to 45 lb.
~ He stopped eating the boiled chicken and broth that was his standard for a while.
~ On the list of foods he will sometimes eat are mostly just-cooked items: home-cooked hamburger, home-cooked cornbread, fried eggs, pieces of ham, chicken nuggets from fast food restaurants, vanilla ice cream, or any animal protein we are eating as part of our meal.
~ Our primary vet, Dr. Bill Bayouth, prefers older dogs being on a prescription kidney diet dog food, however Beau would not eat the Hill’s version and will no longer eat the Purina version.
~ For a long time, he has had no consistent interest in dog food, with the rare exception of eating some Purina puppy food when we are visiting our son’s family, which includes a puppy.  We continue to offer different high quality kibbles.
~ He will rarely eat any of the wide range of dog treats that we try, other than Smoked Pig Ears from a local meat market.
Anti-inflammatory and pain relief that we have tried:
50 mg of the NSAID Carprofen (generic name of Rimadyl) morning and 50 mg evening: Quellin from Bayer
~ 100 mg Gabapentin every 36-48 hours – We quickly discontinued Gabapentin, because it was way too strong for Beau, even at this very small dose for his weight
~ CBD oil purchased from our local natural pet food store – No benefit for Beau from that

With episodes of diarrhea, which were frequent at times in the past, when he was eating more and we had not yet added pre- & pro-biotic to his daily routine:
Immodium (generic version) after first incident: one capsule, occasionally a second after 12 hours
Additional mobility tools that we tried, but are no longer helpful:
after right rear leg which was diagnosed with ACL tear in March 2019 – compression brace for several weeks
~ underbelly wraparound sling with handles for times when he can’t get up or down hardwood stairs inside our home
~ step stool for getting in and out of car
~ carpeted steps/ ramp for getting onto bed, but he never liked using this
About GABA:
Note: This is not the same as the pain relief medication Gabapentin GABA is non-prescription and is available through natural food/ supplement stores.

From a health coach friend, Christy Kennedy’s, readings:
GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain with a principle role of”reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system.” Lower-dose supplements are generally understood and used for mood, anxiety, and sleep problems, but it is used at higher doses and in the form of gabapentin/neurontin (analog [mimic] of GABA) for its anti-inflammatory/inhibitory effects to treat inflammatory pain and seizure disorders. 

This article is about GABA for older dogs; see page 3 of 4
https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jvms/67/10/67_10_1063/_pdf/-char/enWhat we saw initially with GABA and Beau was a very quick and very positive reaction. His mobility and gait improved within 5-10 minutes. However that is no longer true.

Thriving While Living With Suicide: Activities in KC-Lawrence-Topeka Area

Red candle: in honor and memory of loved ones who died by suicide
Purple candle: living with suicide grief
Blue candle: living with suicide thoughts, self-harm, attempts
Yellow candle: supporting suicidal loved ones
So many have more than one of those experiences.

v.2019.06.12 at 9:40pm CDT
Especially to: Kansas City-Lawrence-Topeka Area Friends
Re: Reducing suicide risk by helping people thrive
At and since the April 2019 annual conference of the American Association of Suicidology, AAS members and others have had many “loud” conversations about the impact of language, culture, and environment on the high number of suicide attempts and deaths in the USA. We need all of us, representing all the experiences with suicide, at “the table” working together to help more people have more reasons to be glad to keep living, even though life will continue to include challenges.
My experience with suicide is both personal and professional, including 34 years as Director of Headquarters Counseling Center (in Lawrence, KS), and since December 2013, working privately with individuals and families in a very non profit way with high accessibility and low fees. I was told in 2015 that I do not fit in the Douglas County (KS) Suicide Prevention Coalition. I value collaboration, and finding and sharing information. I hope that by sharing information in quarterly or so emails (most recent of which I updated for this sharable note), and by some of you sharing information with me, we work together to provide more help to more people.
Support groups that help reduce suicide risk, based in Lawrence, KS:

NAMI Douglas County, KS hosts support groups each Wednesday from 6:00-7:30pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont. The first Wednesday of the month is a one hour combined group for people living with mental illnesses as well as family-friend support people, plus a 30-minute educational presentation. Other Wednesdays, the two groups meet separately. NAMI Douglas County also provides the 12-session Family-To-Family program each spring. I serve on the Steering Committee and believe wholeheartedly in NAMI locally and in other communities across the country. More info about NAMI Douglas County is at: https://www.facebook.com/NAMI.Dg.Co.KS

In Lawrence, Kansas I host support groups (and special events) for adults with experiences with suicide. These groups welcome people from KC-Lawrence-Topeka area. Each group is focused on one type of experience, although many people have two or three of these types of experiences: suicide grief; one’s own suicide thoughts, self harm, or attempts; and/or supporting a suicidal loved one. For more info please email M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com
Suicide bereavement support groups in other communities:
And wait, there’s more!

1) For those of you who are mental health caregivers, who have experienced the suicide death of a colleague, a client, a friend or family member, the Clinician Survivor Task Force of the American Association of Suicidology is a resource for information and support http://cliniciansurvivor.org/

2) For those who are interested in some mental health resources by and for black youth and adults, I would send some information that I gathered for a family in NYC whose teen is suicidal.

3) For those who are interested in mental health resources for people with TBI and suicidal thoughts, I would send some information that I have gathered for an area family.

And these upcoming special events!

Douglas County (KS) Behavioral Health Prevention Summit
Thursday, June 25, 2019 at DoubleTree by Hilton, Lawrence, KS
Info, including how to register: http://www.dccca.org/2019-douglas-county-behavioral-health-prevention-summit/

2019 Regional Missouri Suicide Prevention Conferences:
Finding Help and Hope in the Intersections of Despair

July 23 in Kansas City, MO; July 24 in Columbia, MO; July 25 in Cape Girardeau, MO

Building Partnerships to Address Suicide among Adolescents and Young Adults in Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska)
Thursday, August 8, 2019 in Kansas City, MO

USA’s National Suicide Prevention Week
Sunday, September 8 – Saturday, September 14, 2019.

World Suicide Prevention Day is always on September 10.

SASS-MoKan 16th Annual Remembrance Walk
Sunday, September 8, 2019, starting at 9:00am. at Loose Park, 5200 Wornall Rd., KC, MO. For people bereaved by suicide. $25 charge includes registration and shirt. More info from Bonnie at bonswade@gmail.com or http://www.sass-mokan.com/Sass-walk/

Words Save Lives 2019.09.10
Tuesday, September 10, 2019, our annualWorld Suicide Prevention Day event: performance night, to build connection and a sense of being valued for everyone at the mic and in the room. Lawrence, KS venue and more info to come from M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com and at https://www.facebook.com/events/399224907600627/

A Night To Remember
Friday, September 13, 2019 at Gage Park Amphitheater, Topeka, KS, “to celebrate our loved ones” who died by suicide. Contact Alicia Newberry at Alicia.Newberry@se2.com

7th Annual Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition 5K Walk/Run
Saturday, September 14, 2019 at Crestview Shelter, Topeka, KS. For more info scspcoalition@gmail.com Registration athttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/7th-annual-5k-runwalk-tickets-59713659162

13th annual Freedom of Expression retreat
October 12-13, 2019 at The Light Center in southern Douglas County, KS, our 13th annual retreat for people with loved ones who have died by suicide. More info to come from M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com

SASS-MoKan Healing and Hope for the Holidays
Saturday, November 16, 2019 from 1:00-3:00 pm at Shawnee Mission Hospital, Rogers Conference Center, Shawnee Mission, KS More info from Bonnie at bonswade@gmail.com or http://www.sass-mokan.com/remembranceservices/

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day community workshop
Saturday, November 23, 2019. Lawrence, KS venue and more info to come from M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com

53rd Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidology
April 22-25, 2020 at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront, Portland, OR
Info will be available at https://www.suicidology.org/

During 2019,  (TLC) in southern Douglas County, KS will host a variety of healing workshops for grief, including grief after death by suicide. Our “Thriving While Living With Suicide” Team in 2019 is M.E.; Robin Goff, BSN, RN, MAV, TLC founder and leader, energy healer, bereavement specialist; healer and bereavement specialist, Donna Hanschu; and Shannon Musgrave, Intuitive Medium. Donna and Shannon will be offering a workshop on “Signs & Symbols of Our Loved Ones” with date and location to be announced. Learn about TLC events on Facebook, through their e-newsletter, and at https://lightcenter.info

Very best wishes,

PS Love really IS the answer. Yet to those of us who have lost loved ones to suicide, I say: If love could have saved our loved ones, they would have lived forever.

Marcia Epstein, LMSW
Specialist in life changes, reducing suicide risk,

and suicide bereavement support
Steering Committee Member, NAMI Douglas County

Lawrence, Kansas, USA