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Dealing with grief, shock and suicide T

hough we try not to think about suicide, most of us, if we’re honest, have

considered it. Research shows that—at some point(s) in our lives—most mentally “healthy” adults consider suicide, but few of us actually do it. Suicide is such a scary concept: It’s a final solution to an often temporary problem. There are no second chances. There is no opportunity to give it another try. I once heard a young man speak on this topic to a group of therapists. He was uniquely qualified: He had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. He said

someone we know and love. When someone you love dies,

it’s hard to know what to feel. Some of us feel numb. Others weep. Others get angry at God and cry, “How could you let this happen?” I became intimately familiar with the grieving process when I worked for San Diego Hospice. I’d like to share with you some suggestions to help you cope with the death of a loved one. Give yourself permission

or herself, rather than admit to helplessness, we often look for somebody to blame. Enlightened people tend to blame themselves; less enlightened people may blame others. Regardless, blam- ing anyone is useless. It is more helpful to admit we don’t know why they did it, we wished we could have stopped it, but it hap- pened and now we are grieving, confused and helpless. An unex- pected suicide can shake us to

“Give yourself permission to feel your

one thing that has stayed with me ever since, “Once I stepped off the Bridge and let go, I knew I made a mistake and I asked God to let me live. And he did.” We are not so fortunate with our colleague, friend and former Gay & Lesbian Times publisher, Michael Portantino. We can never know what was in Michael’s mind as he made his way up to the roof of the Park Manor Suites Hotel. We can’t know his suffering, his pain or how he came to the terrible decision to end his life. We are the ones left behind. This column is about us, and how we cope with the grief and shock that accompany the suicide of

to feel your feelings, whatever they are and however fast they change. Anger, grief, shock, guilt, helplessness and/or despair are typical. Unfortunately, there’s no way around them. You can avoid them for a while, but, eventually, you have to go through them. Grief and regret are normal, healthy responses to death. When I worked at San Diego Hospice, almost every family I worked with felt regret when a loved one died. I typically heard, “I wish I had done more … been nicer … loved her more … not yelled at him that time” or some version of that.

When a loved one kills his

our very core. Even if you didn’t know Mr. Portantino personally, just the idea that this success- ful, energetic pillar of the LGBT community could take his own life is powerfully shocking. Often, this reminds us of the fragility of our own human life and is terribly uncomfortable.

When someone close to you dies—suicide or not—it’s crucial that you reach out for help. Turn to your partner, loved ones, col- leagues and anyone who loves and cares about you. Don’t try to tough it out. Admit to those close to you that your heart is broken and ask for help as you put yourself back together. San

feelings, whatever they are and however fast they change.”

Diego Hospice has a wonderful bereavement department, offer- ing both individual and group therapy. You can also search on the internet for a psychotherapist who specializes in grief counsel- ing. A therapist or group can help you sort out your losses, If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact San Diego County’s 24-hour crisis line at 1 (800) 479-3339. For gay, lesbian, transgender or question- ing youth there is the Trevor Proj- ect’s hotline, also available 24 hours a day. The number is 1 (866) 488-7386 (4-U-TREVOR) Most of us heal

in slow, incremental steps. To help heal any guilt you might be feeling, ask yourself, “What would [name of the deceased] want me to do now?” It is unlikely they would want you to be miserable forever. It’s much more likely they would want you to remember them and move on with your own life, carrying them in your heart, taking the gifts they gave you and giving them to others. The deceased live on through us, in our kindness, compassion, joy and wisdom. After the death of someone close to you, you’ll never be the same person again, that’s for sure. But perhaps you’ll find yourself

December 17-30, 2010 GAY SAN DIEGO




becoming just the kind of person your deceased loved one would be proud of: what a wonderful, yet bittersweet, legacy.♚

—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and ho- mophobia. His office is located in Kensington at 5100 Marlborough Drive and his office phone number is (619) 955-3311. For more information, check out his website at

Houston Mayor Annise Parker will be keynote speaker at the Victory Fund’s champagne brunch in San Diego on Feb. 13.


Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who received about 20 percent of her campaign funding from the organization. Parker will be introduced by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. “We’re really excited about this,” Atkins said, noting that the $100 ticket price will go toward making sure more LGBT officials are elected.

“It’s no small task,” she said.

“There are something like 500,000 elected positions in the country, but 500 is better than nothing.”♚

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