Karen Peloquin

@karen-peloquin | contributor
I'm a mom of two little girls and I'm married to a wonderful and understanding man. I struggle with depression and anxiety after my fiance' was killed in a car accident on our wedding day, September 12, 2009 and with the loss of my brother to suicide on December 28, 2016.
Karen Peloquin

COVID-19: Why I'm Enjoying Social Distancing as Someone in Bereavement

I used to be a partier. Whether throwing them or attending them, I loved to party with large amounts of people. I used to plan hangouts, trips and anything involving friends as often as possible. I used to be someone who I don’t even know anymore. I respect and can still empathize with the people who are struggling with social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. I respect and understand how you so badly want to gather with friends and celebrate all there is to celebrate in life. I, however, am experiencing the opposite… I’m finally feeling peace and calm with social distancing. The grief I experienced from losing both my fiance and my brother created immense social anxiety for me, and without the obligation of daily interactions, I’m feeling more like me than I have in a long time. I no longer feel the guilt I constantly felt from avoiding or declining invitations to gatherings or parties because they are all canceled. Since quarantine began, I have had more energy around the house to clean, cook, bake and play with my dog and children. I’ve brushed the dust off my old teacher materials that have been tucked away for years from when I was a teacher, and I’m happily teaching my children for homeschool since schools are closed. I’m staying up later, when I used to be in bed by 7:30 p.m., and enjoying television shows and movies again. I’m reading book after book and loving the escapism I feel with new characters. During this pandemic, people are talking about real problems versus superficial problems and from what I’ve seen, there is more compassion and empathy being shown in the world. My attention span and concentration has improved with this change of dialogue. So often, I feel alone in my grief, depression and anxiety, but with quarantine and social distancing, we are all in the same boat (well separate boats of course… but in the same water) and I don’t feel so alone anymore. Now of course I’m terrified of losing more loved ones, especially to COVID 19, but I’m doing everything I can to keep my immediate family safe. I am, however, no longer as terrified to lose someone to car accidents and suicide as I have been feeling, because I have experienced loses like that. Can it still happen? Absolutely. I’m not naive. But my anxiety is at bay, therefore my thoughts are more in my control. I’m no longer picturing every.possible.horrible.scenario in my head because I have inner peace in quarantine. And of course I love my friends, strangers, neighbors and extended family no matter how much anxiety I have… but anxiety is debilitating and I’m thankful to not be debilitated during this time. I’m aware that this is probably an unpopular opinion, feeling and article. But I guarantee I’m not alone. I’m actually terrified about when all of this will be over and I’ve become so comfortable in my solitude bubble that I will be forced to conform to societal social norms again. Let us be gentle to all, as we all have our own battles in the past, present and future. We will still need to be supportive when this is all over because for some of us, it will be the beginning again. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay informed with these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness How Can You Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and COVID-19 Symptoms? New Study Suggests Digestive Issues Can Be First Sign of COVID-19

Karen Peloquin

Grieving a Birthday When You Age Past a Loved One Who Died by Suicide

Many say, “Age is just a number.” Perhaps that is true for the intended purpose in regards to vanity, fulfilling your dreams, energy levels, etc. But what about when we age past a loved one who has died? Age is no longer “just” a number to me. On March 24, I will be 38 years old. My brother, David, was 4 years older than me and his birthday was on March 23. We were 4 years and 1 day apart. Birthdays hold many special and funny memories … but not this year, nor have they since he has been gone. My brother died by suicide at the age of 38. He never saw any age past that. And now, here I am, the younger sibling, the little sister, who is about to age her older brother. I hate the feeling of getting older, but only because I know I’m going to live past David. I have no problem aging because I know not everyone has that luxury. I’m proud of my gray hair that is starting to take over my brunette head. I’m proud of the lines forming on my face from the smiles, laughter, tears and despair throughout the years. I’m proud of the feeling of contentment and desire to be who I am and not feel the need to be anything but me. I’m also proud of myself for just acknowledging this heartache of aging past my brother and not pretending everything is fine. I’m not the first person, nor will I be the last person, who will experience aging past a loved one, but I hope by bringing awareness to this topic, it can promote conversations and compassion for anyone going through this or anyone who has been through this terrible and unnatural life circumstance. Last year, a dear friend in my survivors of suicide group mentioned he would be aging past his older brother who died by suicide. I had not even thought about that factor in this never-ending grief cycle, but alas, here I am. I’m so grateful he prepared me for what was to come, just by speaking about it. We don’t wish anyone to know this feeling, but I’m so thankful to not be alone and I hope if you’re in this situation, you don’t feel alone, either. Here’s to a peaceful birthday, year and life.

Community Voices

The Third Year of Grief

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

The good news is, is that I'm stepping out of my hibernation and rejoining society again.
The bad news is, I feel so lost and alone when I'm out and about with friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The good news is, is that I'm moving forward with writing a new chapter in my life.
The bad news is, I miss the last chapter.

The good news is, I'm sorting through and picking up the pieces of myself that I've lost through the grief journey.
The bad news is, is that it's exhausting and I'm scared that I don't know who I am anymore.

The good news is, is that I know life is full of ups and downs and I can and will go on.
The bad news is, I fear the ups because what goes up must go down.

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

#MightyPoets #Grief
#MightyPoets

5 people are talking about this
Community Voices

The Third Year of Grief

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

The good news is, is that I'm stepping out of my hibernation and rejoining society again.
The bad news is, I feel so lost and alone when I'm out and about with friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The good news is, is that I'm moving forward with writing a new chapter in my life.
The bad news is, I miss the last chapter.

The good news is, I'm sorting through and picking up the pieces of myself that I've lost through the grief journey.
The bad news is, is that it's exhausting and I'm scared that I don't know who I am anymore.

The good news is, is that I know life is full of ups and downs and I can and will go on.
The bad news is, I fear the ups because what goes up must go down.

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

#MightyPoets #Grief
#MightyPoets

5 people are talking about this
Community Voices

The Third Year of Grief

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

The good news is, is that I'm stepping out of my hibernation and rejoining society again.
The bad news is, I feel so lost and alone when I'm out and about with friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The good news is, is that I'm moving forward with writing a new chapter in my life.
The bad news is, I miss the last chapter.

The good news is, I'm sorting through and picking up the pieces of myself that I've lost through the grief journey.
The bad news is, is that it's exhausting and I'm scared that I don't know who I am anymore.

The good news is, is that I know life is full of ups and downs and I can and will go on.
The bad news is, I fear the ups because what goes up must go down.

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

#MightyPoets #Grief
#MightyPoets

5 people are talking about this
Community Voices

The Third Year of Grief

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

The good news is, is that I'm stepping out of my hibernation and rejoining society again.
The bad news is, I feel so lost and alone when I'm out and about with friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The good news is, is that I'm moving forward with writing a new chapter in my life.
The bad news is, I miss the last chapter.

The good news is, I'm sorting through and picking up the pieces of myself that I've lost through the grief journey.
The bad news is, is that it's exhausting and I'm scared that I don't know who I am anymore.

The good news is, is that I know life is full of ups and downs and I can and will go on.
The bad news is, I fear the ups because what goes up must go down.

The good news is, is that I'm no longer numb.
The bad news is, I'm no longer numb.

#MightyPoets #Grief
#MightyPoets

Karen Peloquin

How a Suicide Support Group Helped Me After My Brother's Death

The saying, “There is comfort in misery” is often viewed as a negative statement. But not when it comes to being surrounded by others who truly get where you’ve been, where you are and where you have no idea of where you are going. After losing my beloved brother, David, to suicide, I found myself in a form of grief I couldn’t navigate alone. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to hide from the world. I too wanted to die because the pain was too unbearable. But I knew I had to go on and I knew I needed help. Losing a loved one to suicide has so many layers of guilt, fear, abandonment, despair and confusion. We not only grieve our lost loved one to suicide, we also grieve ourselves, our families and our future that all appear to be lost in grief. A dear friend of mine who sadly lost her brother to suicide years before I lost mine, introduced me to our local Triangle Survivors of Suicide group that met weekly. My friend attended my first meeting with me and held my hand the whole time. That first meeting was very difficult. I was forced to touch my pain and it hurt so very much. I remember hyperventilating, trying to get my words out to explain what brought me to the group. I could have passed and if you ever attend a group, please know that passing is always an option. But something inside told me I had to get it out and I could feel I was in the safest place to share all of my pain and sorrow. The group listened. They didn’t offer advice. They didn’t flinch when I said the word “suicide.” They didn’t interrupt — they just listened. When I finished sharing what brought me to the group, everyone else shared what brought them there as well. And I listened. But not in the usual form of listening with my ears. I felt my whole body listening, especially my heart — and I didn’t have that overwhelming feeling of being alone in my grief. They heard me and I heard them. They saw me, the me I was, the me I am and the me I wanted to be — even though I didn’t even know who I wanted to be. And I saw them the same way. They shared things they would never share with even their closest friends and I shared the same. It’s been almost three years since I lost my brother. Some days, I’m truly living a life I’m proud of after such a profound loss. Other days, I still feel that overwhelming feeling of grief that brings me to my knees. But I know that’s OK. Group taught me that I loved my brother for 34 years and my feelings are valid to miss him for more than what society expected my grief timeline to look like. Group taught me that grief is going to feel like your emotions are on a rollercoaster and you can experience “high highs” and “low lows” — sometimes even in the same minute. And that’s OK. Group taught me that even though the world sometimes seems fast, scary, vain and harsh, there are people who are full of love, empathy, compassion and support. It is also full of people who are rooting for you to live your best life. Who knew that just sitting in a chair, in a circle, and only speaking for roughly five out of 90 minutes, could be so therapeutic? It’s amazing how the quote, “Find your tribe and love them hard” is so true, especially when you add, “Find your tribe and let them love you hard.” Larry Bernstein has been the Triangle Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Facilitator for over 20 years after losing his son to suicide 27 years ago. He has opened the doors 52 times a year (no matter if it’s a holiday or inclement weather) for those who have lost a loved one to suicide to come and share. He knows the power of talking and listening with others who understand, and he makes it possible for people like me (and hundreds and thousands of people through the years) to not feel alone. He’s a hero, he’s my hero — and I’m honored to know him. I’m also eternally grateful to him for seeing a light in me I thought I had lost after my brother died. He asked me if I would like to facilitate our amazing Survivors of Suicide meetings and paid for me to attend the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Facilitator Training. I’m now a facilitator once a month and I’m able to try to give back all the group has given to me. When I unlock the doors for our group to meet, I know I’m giving others a safe place to share their suicide grief. If you have lost someone to suicide, I hope you have a Survivors of Suicide bereavement group near you. If you don’t, I hope you find that beautiful, burning light that still shines deep within you to have the courage to start one in your area.

Community Voices

September

When I was a little girl, I remember always forgetting to say the month of September when reciting the months of the year…it’s fascinating now as an adult that I used to forget that month as a child.

Before 2009, September was always my favorite month as an adult. Change in temperature, leaves changing, crispness in the air, pumpkin flavors, jeans, football, and well just about everything that is being presented in meme form these days about September.

As many of you know, September 12, 2009 was one of my most traumatic days, as Chris was killed in a car accident on our wedding day. September no longer has that same feeling as it once did. I also never realized, before this year, that September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

I once was asked to go on Good Morning America to do a segment on why you should wear a seat belt in the car. You see Chris and his two groomsmen were stopped at a gas station, near our apartment and on the way to grab breakfast with his other groomsmen before our wedding at 11AM. They stopped to get gas and one of the groomsmen went inside and got an RC Cola. Chris hopped in the backseat of the car while the groomsmen sat upfront and he joked about who still drinks RC Cola anymore while he sat in the center of the backseat, and had not fastened his seat belt yet. During his joke, as they pulled out of the gas station, they drove through the green light and someone else drove through the red light, which ejected Chris from the vehicle and he died

I declined to go speak on Good Morning America and was pretty pissed, to be honest, that they wanted me to enlighten others about car safety when I was grieving such a profound loss of a human being. Now if they wanted for me to talk about the man who sat in the back seat on his own wedding day in the center of the car joking about an RC Cola…well yeah, I’ll talk all day and all night about that topic…about how to live…not die.

So now, here we are for National Suicide Prevention Month. I haven’t changed. Just because my brother died by suicide, doesn’t mean I’m capable or willing to discuss how someone else shouldn’t do the same. I’m not going to practice what I don’t preach myself by saying life is all rainbows and butterflies and one should not be so depressed. I am however capable of just being real and shedding light on what I do know about depression.

I’m not going to tell you to remind yourself of your joys, because it’s hard…I know it’s hard. When you’re down, you can’t see the joys, no matter how great they are. I have a phenomenal husband and two wonderful daughters, a beautiful house, wonderful family members, great in-laws, and much more…but when you’re weak, down, depressed, you can’t feel those joys. Instead of telling you to remind yourself of your joys, I’ll just say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WE ARE IN THIS FIGHT TOGETHER, AND WE CAN AND WE WILL KEEP TRYING TOGETHER.

I’m not going to tell you to go get help from a pill or a counselor or call the suicide hotline, because it’s hard…I know it’s hard. Trying to find the right medicine is exhausting and it doesn’t always work the way it should. Trying to get an appointment at a psychiatrist takes a minimum of 6 weeks to just be seen. Trying to open up to a counselor is hard and is difficult to fit into our daily, hectic lives. “Oh, it’s Tuesday, I must talk about all my feelings for the whole week, my whole life, in one hour”…it’s hard. “Oh let me call a stranger on a hotline and tell them I’m depressed”…when you feel down, you seclude yourself and turn into a recluse, a hermit and hibernate from the world. Instead of telling you to get a pill, go to a counselor, or call the suicide hotline, I’ll just say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WE ARE IN THIS FIGHT TOGETHER, AND WE CAN AND WE WILL KEEP TRYING TOGETHER.

I’m not going to tell you that tomorrow will be better, because you and I both know that’s an empty promise. We don’t know if tomorrow will be better. In fact if we look at our track record, while being in a depressed mindset, all of our days are sad and horrible…now if we were in a positive mindset, perhaps we could justify saying tomorrow will be better…but we are not there yet…and it’s ok to not be ok! Not everything is roses, rainbows, and sunshine and perhaps if we admit that more, we will get stronger. Instead of saying that tomorrow will be better, I wish us peace for the moment and I’ll just say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WE ARE IN THIS FIGHT TOGETHER, AND WE CAN AND WE WILL KEEP TRYING TOGETHER.

Together we can fight suicide by being empathetic, compassionate, real, and loving. Just remember, if you’re reading this and you are contemplating suicide, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WE ARE IN THIS FIGHT TOGETHER, AND WE CAN AND WE WILL KEEP TRYING TOGETHER.

If YOU want to help prevent suicide, share the real you. So often people think they have to hide behind this “perfect” image. What that does is just make someone else, who is already depressed, feel inferior. With reality shows, Facebook, Instagram, etc. we all portray someone who we are not for all 365 days or 24 hours a day. The more we open up about our own lives, lets others not feel alone. Now we all don’t have to turn into pessimistic zombies and think woe is me all of the time…but it’s nice to let others in your life know when you have something real going on. The more we talk, the less we hide.

Compassion and empathy are two of the most greatest qualities anyone can have. Sadly, my brother had those qualities more than anyone I have ever met…but only for others, not himself. Show compassion and empathy to others and to yourself.

So for September, National Suicide Prevention Month…I’ll just say ~ YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WE ARE IN THIS FIGHT TOGETHER, AND WE CAN AND WE WILL KEEP TRYING TOGETHER and maybe just maybe, oh please be maybe, the sunshine is on the way.

Karen Peloquin

How I Survived Losing My Fiancé on Our Wedding Day

September 12, 2009 was supposed to be a day of celebration, a day of happiness and the “1st Annual RAYNORMANIA.” But instead, it turned into a day (and perhaps forever) full of tragedy, confusion, sorrow and pain for all who were there. The 150 people that were invited to our wedding were all obviously ready for a wedding…not a funeral. It was a year of weddings for our friends. All of our 2009 calendars were filled with wedding events for each other: engagement parties, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, destination weddings, etc. There were so many weddings that the group of groomsmen all bought the same tuxedo to wear to each other’s weddings, instead of renting a new one for each event. None of them could obviously plan that one of their best friends, Chris, would end up wearing his tuxedo in a coffin, instead of in church, on his wedding day with them all standing beside him. It is still fascinating for me to think about the guests. There was no manual or etiquette tip book for “How to Comfort the Bride and Family After a Fiancé is Killed on the Wedding Day,” for anyone to read. There was no time. It happened all so quickly for the guests to compose themselves in order to offer support and love. Everyone was put in this very fragile situation, all while not having a clue on how to navigate this unfathomable event. I can honestly say, since I have lived it, that not many people could survive losing a fiancé on their wedding day. Is that because I’m stronger than the average person? No. Is that because I’m more of an “inspiration” than the average person? No. Is it because of the love that we received as a family from the guests, acquaintances and complete strangers? 100%, yes. Even though there was no manual or etiquette tip book on September 12, 2009, and all the days after it, the guests ended up writing it themselves through their actions for me to be able to live life after that terribly sad day. Each guest turned into a completely selfless human being and tapped into their own love language to express their love to me and Chris’ family. Some sent daily letters, cards, texts, phone calls and emails. Some organized a chili cook off at Chris’ parents’ house to celebrate his 29th birthday (Chris loved chili and really loved cooking competitions). Some collected money to give as a sign of love to Chris’ parents, which was spent on a beautiful granite bench next to Chris’ grave. Some brought us food for days and months. One teacher I worked with brought me an egg and cheese sandwich to school every day for a year that her husband made me. Some just came to sit and cry with me at my apartment. Some sent prayer requests and went to church often to pray for the Raynor’s and myself. Some sent me money and gift cards to just take care of myself because they knew I wasn’t. To this day, even though I’m remarried, I still receive love from Chris’ childhood and college friends. Many send me Christmas cards, many “like” and comment on my Facebook posts and many just do little things to remind me that they still love me and miss Chris immensely. Again, it’s fascinating to think back on all of the love we received because I know for certain that that is the only reason why I have been able to move forward in my life. When most people hear that a fiancé died on his wedding day, the first reaction is to think about the bride and the immediate family. But everyone who attended the wedding had to grow up faster than they should have…especially my first grade students who came to see their teacher get married. Years ago I created an analogy comparing grief to a game of pool. The force of the stick hitting the cue ball symbolizes someone dying. The cue ball heads for the perfectly triangular shaped rack of balls and bam, the balls go in completely different directions. Some balls head straight for the pocket…all they needed was that push. Some balls spin out of control. Some balls jump off the table because of the force that was so strong. Some balls just stop…as if watching the other balls react. Thankfully, and sadly, I’ve seen all of these after Chris died. Each person at that wedding has been affected by Chris’ death. I hope to live my life with as much purpose, passion, positivity and love that I possibly can to show my appreciation and respect for Chris, his family (which is now a part of my family) and our friends who have loved us through all of our ups and downs.

Community Voices

The Game of Pool and Grief

Life moves on for most after hearing of

a tragic loss…touched and impacted briefly but forgotten until

reminded. Life moves forward for some, hopefully in a better

direction than where they were originally going because they know

that life is short and it’s important to love now because there is no

guarantee of tomorrow. And life stands still for those who were

directly impacted by the loss of a dear loved one…watching others

react while feeling numb at this new life that you had never planned

or wanted to have. Years ago I came up with an analogy comparing

#Grief to a game of pool. The force of the stick hitting the cue ball

symbolizes someone dieing. The cue ball heads for the perfectly

triangular shape rack of balls and BAM, the balls go in completely

different directions. Some balls head straight for the pocket…all

they needed was that push. Some balls spin out of control. Some

balls jump off the table because of the force was so strong. Some

balls just stop…as if watching the other balls react.

May we all have compassion for others,

for everyone is dealing with their own “game of pool”.