Charlotte B.

@charlieluffagus | contributor
Charlotte B.

7 Gift Ideas for the Person in Your Life Who Is Grieving

Grieving takes deeply personal emotions and puts them on display for all the world. There are no directions for navigating your world after loss, and while those who have traveled the path before you certainly understand the emptiness looming inside you, everyone’s journey is unique. It hurts to grieve and it hurts to watch loved ones grieve. While you can’t take their grief away, you can make them feel a bit brighter this holiday season. Keep reading for seven gift ideas for a loved one who is grieving. 1. A journal and a nice pen. Journaling is a great way to process emotions, remember events or simply escape for awhile. After my mother passed away, I picked up a set of colorful pocket journals and keep one in my purse and several around the house. When I find myself really missing her, I get one out and write her a letter. I tell her what I wish she was there seeing or ask for her advice, and sometimes simply tell her I miss her. Being able to write the thoughts out has been an amazing tool. A journal paired with a nice pen would make a great gift. 2. The gift of meditation. Full disclosure: until fairly recently, I would have described meditation as complete and total malarkey. Then, I challenged myself to 30 days of meditation. At first, I struggled to quiet my mind for the two-minute (yes, only two minutes) meditations and by the end of the first minute, I found myself wondering if I could speed it up somehow. Surprisingly, by the end of the 30 days, I could (usually) keep my mind quiet. And, you know what? I’m able to draw on those skills when I need them during the day. My app of choice is Headspace  — I’m especially a fan of the bedtime meditations. Are you wanting to help a friend who views meditation as malarkey? Text them a link to this video by Jason Headley. 3. A book of pep talks. Sometimes you just need a short thought to start and end your day. I looked for a long time for a book that spoke to me without being time-consuming. (Remember the trouble I had with a two-minute meditation?) What did I find? “G’morning, G’night!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I talk this book up so much, even my counselor went out and bought it. Yes, it’s written by “the guy who wrote Hamilton,” but you don’t need to be a theater lover or “Hamilfan” to fall in love with this book, just a human. Anyone on your list, grieving aside, will benefit from adding this book to their collection! 4. A handwritten letter or note. Grief is a strange beast. It makes us feel empty and alone, but can also make us recoil at the sound of a text message or phone call. How can you tell someone you love them and are there for them without making them feel like they have to engage if they don’t want to talk? Mail them a card or letter! (Who doesn’t like mail, right?) My favorite cards for friends who are grieving (or my favorite cards in general, really) come from Emily Mc Dowell. This one is one of my favorites. 5. The gift of talking … to a stranger. I’ve written before of my love for counseling, so if you are tired of hearing about it … sorry? Here’s the thing: counseling gives you the opportunity to say the things you can’t say to anyone else. You don’t need to have something “wrong” to benefit from counseling, life will take care of the reason — wouldn’t it be awesome to have someone you’ve already developed a relationship with when that happens? Counseling, specifically online counseling, puts the support you need right at your fingertips. When my mother passed away this summer, as I stood in her room at the hospital mere inches from her body, I felt my world crash down around me. In the numbness of the moment, I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone. Not fully comprehending what I was typing, I wrote the words, “She’s gone, Tim.” Within three minutes I heard back from him. Though separated by miles, in the worst moment of my life, my counselor was with me. In the months that have followed, counseling has been invaluable to helping me process my grief. Personally, I am a huge fan of BetterHelp, but there are other ones out there, too. Check them out and see what will help your loved one (and yourself) best! 6. A special coffee mug. A simple gift, right? Not necessarily. What I like about the message a coffee mug, as opposed to a travel mug, sends is the lack of expectation. A coffee mug says, “Stay where you are and be comfortable.” Whereas a travel mug gives me a panicked, “You’re late! Take your coffee with you, don’t even think about sitting and drinking!” vibe. Recently I discovered the Clay in Motion Handwarmer Mug and I don’t see myself getting through the emotions this holiday season will evoke without it. Mugs are simple, we all have too many of them, but the right one can be special. Admit it, we all have that one special mug we look for every morning to have our coffee from. The handwarmer mug has become my afternoon mug. Why? Because that is when the grief hits me the hardest. It’s when I’m starting to feel tired and when I would usually text my mom. The handwarmer mug gives me an extra feeling of warmth when I need it most. 7. A cozy blanket. There’s just something about being wrapped up in a blanket when you’re feeling sad. I tried a weighted blanket — I wanted so badly to like it, but it fell short. In my opinion, it lacked the most important quality I look for in a blanket: being able to wrap myself up. There’s an unspoken comfort in wrapping yourself up like a burrito in a nice, warm blanket. Desperate to love my weighted blanket after hearing so many good things, I wrestled with it and eventually was able to wrap myself up in it. I was left sweaty, out of breath and somewhat stressed from simply trying to put this magical blanket around me. It was then that I confirmed what I knew in my heart all along: in my opinion, the best blankets for feeling safe and secure are not weighted blankets, but Sherpa blankets. My favorite, by far, is the Chanasya Shaggy Longfur throw and I’m sure your loved one will be a fan too! These are my top choices for gifts for a grieving friend or family member this year, but really anyone would love them — maybe even sneak a little gift for yourself! I’d love to hear your gift ideas for loved ones dealing with grief, add them to the comments below.

Charlotte B.

How to Make Yourself a Priority for Self-Care

This year has been a roller coaster. While there have been highs — watching my daughter become more independent, returning to graduate school, traveling — there have also been some gut-wrenching lows: the unexpected death of my mother, the inevitable “firsts” without her and the self-doubt centered around wondering if I have taken on too much. There were times this year I felt I had no fight left in me and I wanted to give up. I felt so overwhelmed by things I needed to do that I became frozen in place. It was in those moments I realized I had let the needs and expectations of others trump my own needs and expectations for myself. In not wanting to let others down, I let myself down immensely. So, I made some changes. Some were easy, some were difficult, but all were worth it. Like all good relationships , maintaining a loving, healthy relationship with yourself requires patience, understanding and prioritizing. It requires valuing yourself enough to protect your time, energy and sanity, and a willingness to create your own safe space free from the clutter of others. I identified the big areas I felt I needed to work on to allow me to grow the most. These were the areas that would foster change and help me gain strength in myself. The areas I chose to work on are all works-in-progress, and some have developed further along than others. But they keep me focused on my goals, and that is the important thing. The road to self-discovery is filled with twists and turns, just have faith in your roadmap and you will get there. What does my roadmap look like? It looks like this: 1. Boundaries . I’m putting this first because it is something I still have difficulty with, but drawing even the thinnest line in the sand is a start. There are people in my life who I have a long history with and I am not ready to shut out completely, but they are also the same people who distract me from my current goals and push back my personal growth. They have custom ringtones on my phone now: silence. And you know what? I’m happier and feel more secure in who I am becoming without their influence. I still talk with these people, but now it is on my terms and I don’t feel the need for their approval. 2. Spark. Figure out what excites you and go for it. For me, this included doing volunteer work, going back to grad school and writing. Has it all been easy? Absolutely not. Have I been as consistent as I’d like? Also no. But I’ve started doing things simply for me. While I certainly haven’t created more hours in my day, I have nearly eliminated the stress and resentment that came from sacrificing what challenges me, soothes me and fuels my passion in order to prioritize someone else’s agenda. 3. Unplug. This one was also difficult for me, but I managed to chang e my relationship with my p hone. I challenged myself to Twitter-free weekends to help me become more present with my family. Instead of leaving my phone on vibrate, I turned my sound off completely and would only see what I missed if I walked across the room and looked at my phone. Finally, I disabled the majority of my notifications. I no longer feel pressured to spend my free time playing “Words With Friends” because I see a string of notifications. Instead, I take that time to do something to relax, help myself grow or simply rest. When I make a move now, it is when I open the app because that is what I want to do, not because a notification pressured me to open it. 4. Grieve. I needed to allow myself to grieve. Losing a parent is a different kind of loss in many ways. Often, they are the person you would turn to for comfort, to keep you grounded, and to help you with whatever needed to be done. When my mother passed away, I was in uncharted territory. At first, I just focused on what I needed to do in those weeks that followed without properly grieving. But after I allowed myself time to grieve, my thoughts became clearer and I could see that my world was still there, it was just different. Does it still hurt? Unbelievably so, but I am able to work with that hurt, rather than finding myself blocked by it. 5. Vent. I’ve written before that I am a huge fan of online counseling. Being able to leave a stressful situation and write it out in a message to my counselor has been life-changing. I am able to get it out and move on quicker. Life isn’t always sunny skies, but having someone who can pass me an umbrella and pull me out of the storm has been invaluable. These were the big areas I needed to focus on in order to make myself a priority. Your list may look a lot different from mine, and that’s OK; the important thing is just to have a list so you know what areas of your life you need to protect and build up. If you are unsure what to put on your list, start with mine, see what works and change it if you need to. My focus areas are constantly evolving and I feel myself becoming stronger and more secure in who I am as they do. Making yourself a priority takes work because you have to jump from what you’ve always done to something unknown. In the end, putting yourself first is the best thing you can do for your mental health .

Community Voices

What’s your favorite smell?

<p>What’s your favorite smell?</p>
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Community Voices

Finding Your Way After Loss

My mom passed away last week.

I’m not ok. It came as a surprise — a sucker punch to gut when I wasn’t looking from the universe. It feels like a horrible nightmare and I just can’t wake myself up. I’m screaming, but no sound escapes my mouth. I’m pounding on the door of my nightmare, but it just won’t open. I feel lost.

My mom was retiring next month, and she was looking forward to it like nothing else. The day she passed, she was talking about the plans she had and the final preparations she needed to do.

You see, my mother shouldn’t have died. She was fairly young, in generally good health, and was full of excitement for what was to come. She had plans.

In one instant my mother ceased to live and I ceased to have a mother. My daughter will grow up not having a close relationship with her Nana. Perhaps that makes it hurt more. My own grandmother and I are very close. In fact, I was the one to tell her that her only daughter had passed away before her.

My heart is shattered into a million different pieces, and they will never fit back together the same way. My mother’s death has changed the very foundation of who I am. In the gaps between those shattered pieces is my mother’s love, holding me close and pushing my shattered heart to continue beating.

She is gone, but she is with me. I feel her strength surrounding me as I process her death. I feel her presence overcome me as I push thru my tears.

The thing about grief is, it is a complicated, deeply personal process that affects us each differently. But it is just that: a process. Memories come in waves, missing what might have been hits without warning, but it is all part of the process. My process.

So how do we move forward after experiencing devastating loss? We simply do, and it’s far from easy. Personally, I’ve turned to writing and helping others. I’m choosing to carry out her legacy the way she lived: by touching lives.

The legacy of our loved ones is in our hands. How will you carry it out?

Mental Health

Grief

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Charlotte B.

Pointing Out How 'Good I Have It' Does Not Help With My Depression

I have plenty of things to be happy about, but I still have depression . Unbelievable, right? Whenever I find myself becoming consumed by depression, there is always some well-meaning person who tries to point out all the good in my life as a feeble attempt to help me “snap out of it.” I appreciate what I can only assume is an attempt at brightening my day and showing me it’s not as bad as it seems, but really you only make me feel worse and like I’m a burden. I am aware of how good things are: I have a great husband, a sweet little girl, a dog that is ecstatic every time he sees me. I am able to stay home with my daughter while working on my masters degree at one of the top programs in the nation. And I live in a nice house, in a safe area and in an era where counseling is literally at my fingertips on my phone. Yet, still I struggle. Your comments, said as a means to put things in perspective and to make me feel better, actually achieve the opposite. They make me feel ungrateful for all that I have, like I’m not a good enough wife or mother, and make me feel I need to hide who I am from you. It makes me feel like I have even less control over my thoughts, feelings and emotions and instead fall victim to my struggle in a whole new way. I appreciate that you want to help me feel better, but there are better ways you can help me. Just be patient. I take medication, but sometimes it needs time to work. Its job is to fix how my brain works, and that takes time. If I want to be alone, let me be alone. Sometimes I need time for self-reflection and processing. Unless I ask, please don’t tell me what pills, books or doctors have helped someone else. Everyone is different and most people go through several treatment options before finding the right one. And even then they may need to change now and then. Don’t judge me for going to counseling. The very fact that you say to me, “Can’t you just talk to me about it?” shows me you don’t truly understand. In counseling, I can say my thoughts as they come in my head. I don’t have to censor myself or worry about my image. There have been multiple occasions where I have lashed out at my counselor, because that is what I needed at the time. And we’re cool after because he gets it. Just because I’m depressed doesn’t mean I’m going to kill myself. Trust me, I know the resources that are available. But if you want to check in on me now and then, I’d like that. The struggle is there most days, sometimes it’s just not as bad. If I’m smiling and laughing, know that I’m either having a good day, or have enough strength to hide the self-doubt and negativity from you at that moment. You’re important to me and I’m glad I have you. Sometimes all I need is for you to listen and give a sympathetic, “Yeah, that sucks” to what I’m going through. It’s not so much what you say as it is allowing me to get it out. Depression is a growing epidemic in our country as we take on more stress and there continues to be so much stigma attached to getting help. You can’t fix me, but you can support me on my journey.

Charlotte B.

How Writing About Mental Health Makes a Difference

Since I’ve been advocating more, I’ve received a lot of support and encouragement from those who are struggling or have watched loved ones struggle. However, there have been a few who have asked me why I write about mental health. The short answer is, I’m not ashamed of my mental health journey and through writing about it, I am able to reach others feeling isolated, lost and confused. But there are so many other reasons I write. 1. To increase awareness about mental health. I think many people have a complete misconception of what mental health issues really are. The majority of people battling mental health issues are not dangerous, they do not hear voices and they have certainly never been put in a straitjacket. I think they would be truly surprised by how many people they interact with on a daily basis who are facing mental health issues. I think they would be even more surprised to learn that their own tiredness, anger or lack of concentration are actually signs that they need to check in with their own mental health. 2. To bridge the gap between generations. The younger generations get it. They can recognize their own struggles and want to help their friends. As a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, I know that 75% of our texters are under the age of 25. Often, when I ask if they have talked to anyone else about how they feel, they tell me their parents don’t believe depression or anxiety are real. But these kids know they are experiencing things those in older generations have not — cyberbullying, school shooting drills, social media, etc. — and they are very aware of the effect these things are having on their mental health. Yes, being emotional is often a part of the teen years, but when it affects life in such a strong way, we have to acknowledge that it is more than teenage hormones. The earlier mental illness is treated, the better the results. 3. To help others. It is hard to struggle with mental illness in a world that doesn’t understand it. I write about my thoughts and experiences hoping someone will be able to connect with my words and understand themselves a bit better. Or will become more comfortable in who they are and how they are. Or will have a moment of, “That’s how I feel, I just couldn’t put it into words.” I believe there really is strength in numbers, and the more people we can relate to, the easier it is to heal, move forward and face another day. All while still having a mental illness. A community of hope and encouragement is essential, and I write to help foster that. 4. To help myself. I don’t speak well. My anxiety often tangles up my thoughts and sends them to my mouth at awkward intervals and speed. But when I write, I can find the words I’m looking for. Writing helps me process what I am struggling with. It empowers me to overcome my anxiety and depression and to share my story. When I see other people benefitting from my words, it helps me embrace my struggle a bit. The point is, it doesn’t matter why I write; it just matters that I do it. It makes a difference in many small ways: advocating, educating, supporting and coping. And the more small things you put together, the more big changes you can create. If you ever have anyone challenge your advocacy efforts, ignore their words and use yours to educate.

Charlotte B.

Ways to Cope With Postpartum Anxiety

Throughout my pregnancy my doctor would go over the signs for postpartum depression (PPD) so I knew what to look for. After my daughter was born our follow-up visits always included questions to look for postpartum depression. To be honest, it was a real concern of mine. I had struggled with depression in the past and felt almost destined to have it steal my joy of celebrating the life of my precious daughter. Then my daughter decided to make her entrance four weeks early – we were not ready at all. I was ordering last minute things from Amazon while in the hospital so we would have the essentials for her when we brought her home. Certainly, this was going to bring on PPD, but it never came. Sure I had the usual “baby blues” shortly after returning home, but it was short-lived and not nearly as bad as I expected. Instead, I began to feel something entirely different; anxiety like I had never experienced before. It didn’t start right away, and when it did start it came on gradual. At first, I noticed I’d get dizzy at times and I’d have heart palpitations. I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Eventually, it progressed to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house and would get panic attacks in the car. I felt like I was losing my mind, my thoughts were racing so quickly that I had trouble finishing my sentences. Desperate for answers, I began documenting when episodes occurred, how long they lasted and how severe they were. I also noted the onset of things – two or three months after my daughter was born. I began researching and found information on postpartum anxiety. I wasn’t losing my mind after all! The following are some important tips I have gathered on PPA.  I hope they helps someone else, as they have really helped me. 1. You are not alone. Postpartum depression gets all the attention, but it is actually believed that almost the same number of woman experience some degree of postpartum anxiety  (PPA), but it gets under reported. The key is the degree of the PPA.  Some will experience far less anxiety and may just have trouble sleeping, for instance. Each person has her own unique experience when it comes to anxiety and it is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. 2. The earlier you seek treatment, the better. If I could go back in time, I would have mentioned it to my doctor right away. It started out as something small, which I just assumed were my hormones settling back down, but then it escalated to something that was keeping me from doing my daily activities without a sense of panic. By the time I mentioned it to my doctor, it was out-of-control. It’s taken a long time to find the right combination of medication to get it under control, but I’m there now. 3. It may not go away. Just like some other unpleasant effects of pregnancy, postpartum anxiety may not go away. But the good news is there are so many mindfulness and grounding techniques that are available to help you can feel in control. Counseling is also helpful because it allows you to get those thoughts out and face them head on in a supported environment. For some people, that may be enough to combat PPA, but for others there are medications available to help you cope. 4. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. The last thing I wanted was to leave the house to meet other moms. Fortunately, there is a huge online community of parents building each other up. If you are looking for more of an in-person thing, there are mom groups, library story times and more to interact with other moms. There is even a “Mom Tinder” app, Peanut, that helps you meet moms and their babies in your area. The key is to have somewhere to share your concerns and joy. 5. Don’t feel like a failure. It is easy to beat yourself up when you don’t feel absolute bliss after your baby is born. But think of all the changes your body went through to bring this new life into the world. Your entire body was involved in growing your baby; your hair changed, your hands and feet swelled, food started tasting different. There is no reason to feel like a failure if you come out of this experience a little different. My journey with postpartum anxiety has had its ups and downs, but knowing that it is something others experience as well has helped me, and counseling has been fantastic. So while postpartum depression gets most of the attention, I believe there is a need to educate more people about postpartum anxiety so they can get help before it snowballs out of control. You’ve got this. I believe in you. And while you’re still reading —you are doing a great job raising your child.

Charlotte B.

If You Feel Like You Can't Go On, Read This

Hey there. I wanted to let you know I noticed you today. I saw you give a smile to the person across from you at the gas station this morning and respond, “Thanks, you too,” when they said, “Have a nice day.” I saw you look at your phone and see the four urgent emails that came through just while pumping gas. For a brief moment I saw the burden of it all in your eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror as you were calling your co-worker while driving away. My heart broke for you, carrying the stress of your job and supporting your family while your own needs are being pushed aside. As I saw you settle into, “This is just how it is,” I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to impose so I stayed silent. I saw you at the park with your toddler, cheering as she gathered the courage to go down the slide. I saw you share a picnic lunch and felt the love when she rested her head on you while watching the clouds. As you were pushing her on the swing, I saw the self-doubt in your eyes and the isolation you feel. My heart ached for you, wondering if there was more for you but feeling selfish because you love your daughter. As I saw you tell yourself to stop dreaming, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to seem judgmental, so I stayed silent. I saw you in chemistry class, laughing at your lab partner wearing his goggles backwards. I saw you at lunch, surrounded by friends, talking about what you did over the weekend. I saw you get off the bus and walk home alone, and I saw fear sweep over your face as you tried to process your parents’ divorce. My heart shattered for you as you wondered what your future would be. As I saw you feel your world crumble, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to make you feel worse, so I stayed silent. I saw you at the grocery store, angry with the cashier and demanding to speak to the manager. I saw you in a meeting at work, anxiously clicking your pen with your shoulders tense and your jaw clenched. I saw you driving in traffic on the way home, abruptly switching lanes and yelling at other drivers, and I saw a glimpse of the worry you felt for your sick mother. My heart cried for you as you wondered if this would be your last visit with her. As I saw you replaying memories and wondering if you had said the right things, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to make you angry, so I stayed silent. I saw you at home in your basement alone in the dark, skipping school and drinking. I saw you checking your phone to see if there was anyone wondering where you were. I saw you pick up a bottle of pills and stare at them for a long time before tossing them in a drawer, and I saw the desperation in your eyes. As I saw you desperately needing someone to tell you that you matter, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t because I it wasn’t my business, so I stayed silent. I don’t know you, or maybe I do, but I am not going to stay silent any longer. I see you pretending like you are OK and putting on a brave face when you are feeling the water rise around you. I am here to tell you that you are not alone, you can get through this, and it’s OK to let you guard down and not be strong. No one should feel invisible, not good enough, too burdened or have to go through anything alone. If you are feeling this way, please reach out to someone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), text Crisis Text Line (741741), talk to a friend or a teacher. You matter and this world needs you.

Charlotte B.

If You Feel Like You Can't Go On, Read This

Hey there. I wanted to let you know I noticed you today. I saw you give a smile to the person across from you at the gas station this morning and respond, “Thanks, you too,” when they said, “Have a nice day.” I saw you look at your phone and see the four urgent emails that came through just while pumping gas. For a brief moment I saw the burden of it all in your eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror as you were calling your co-worker while driving away. My heart broke for you, carrying the stress of your job and supporting your family while your own needs are being pushed aside. As I saw you settle into, “This is just how it is,” I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to impose so I stayed silent. I saw you at the park with your toddler, cheering as she gathered the courage to go down the slide. I saw you share a picnic lunch and felt the love when she rested her head on you while watching the clouds. As you were pushing her on the swing, I saw the self-doubt in your eyes and the isolation you feel. My heart ached for you, wondering if there was more for you but feeling selfish because you love your daughter. As I saw you tell yourself to stop dreaming, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to seem judgmental, so I stayed silent. I saw you in chemistry class, laughing at your lab partner wearing his goggles backwards. I saw you at lunch, surrounded by friends, talking about what you did over the weekend. I saw you get off the bus and walk home alone, and I saw fear sweep over your face as you tried to process your parents’ divorce. My heart shattered for you as you wondered what your future would be. As I saw you feel your world crumble, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to make you feel worse, so I stayed silent. I saw you at the grocery store, angry with the cashier and demanding to speak to the manager. I saw you in a meeting at work, anxiously clicking your pen with your shoulders tense and your jaw clenched. I saw you driving in traffic on the way home, abruptly switching lanes and yelling at other drivers, and I saw a glimpse of the worry you felt for your sick mother. My heart cried for you as you wondered if this would be your last visit with her. As I saw you replaying memories and wondering if you had said the right things, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t want to make you angry, so I stayed silent. I saw you at home in your basement alone in the dark, skipping school and drinking. I saw you checking your phone to see if there was anyone wondering where you were. I saw you pick up a bottle of pills and stare at them for a long time before tossing them in a drawer, and I saw the desperation in your eyes. As I saw you desperately needing someone to tell you that you matter, I wanted to reach out, but I didn’t because I it wasn’t my business, so I stayed silent. I don’t know you, or maybe I do, but I am not going to stay silent any longer. I see you pretending like you are OK and putting on a brave face when you are feeling the water rise around you. I am here to tell you that you are not alone, you can get through this, and it’s OK to let you guard down and not be strong. No one should feel invisible, not good enough, too burdened or have to go through anything alone. If you are feeling this way, please reach out to someone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), text Crisis Text Line (741741), talk to a friend or a teacher. You matter and this world needs you.

Charlotte B.

How to Help Young People After Second Parkland Shooting Suicide

Heartbroken. That’s how I feel when I see the impact the Parkland school shooting continues to have on the survivors of that terrifying day over a year ago. Long after their classmates were laid to rest, the survivors are plagued with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and survivor’s guilt. They are kids. The news of the two Parkland survivors who recently died by suicide is a reminder of where we are as a country as far as mental health. The terror of that February day lives on inside each survivor. From tragedy has come great passion and activism as they heal from trauma most adults will never experience, by doing everything they can to make sure their classmates didn’t die in vain. But what about the latest victims of the Parkland shooting? Their deaths remind us of the very real and heavy continued trauma from that day, and the very real struggles many people battle every day all over the world. They were kids. So, what can we do? 1. Stop whispering about mental health behind closed doors. Educate and advocate. 2. Vote, vote, vote! Let’s get politicians in office who want to fix America’s mental health crisis. 3. Check in with your friends and loved ones. Even the ones who seem OK. Be there to listen and support without a judgmental ear. 4. Volunteer. Help organizations get the word out. Encourage loved ones to join you. If you are comfortable, volunteer at a hotline or text line. 5. Take care of yourself. Self-care is important — have several options for yourself. Seek help if you need it. Recognizing your struggle and getting help is one of the bravest things you can do. Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can move forward. Together, we can support each other.