Jill McMahon is a licensed professional counselor, focusing her work on traumatic grief and loss. She has specialized in working with Survivors of Suicide since 2003 when she was first introduced to suicide bereavement while working for the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing in Washington, D.C. Currently, Jill has a private practice called, Spring Returns Counseling Services, in Scottsdale, AZ. Through this practice she focuses on helping families maneuver this unique and complicated loss.
Jill can also be found providing suicide preventions presentations and trainings around the community, as well as speaking about Survivors of Suicide and complicated grief, nationally and internationally. She has been featured on several podcasts, and has helped to provide information for several publications.
To learn more about Jill's services visit her website at www.jillmcmahoncounseling.com and be sure to give her a follow on Instagram @grievewithjill. Also, check out her book, Frantic Unleashed: Navigating Life After Suicide a Survivor's Journal, on Amazon that she co- authored!
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The Gruler Nation Podcast is a show that focuses on conversations with interesting "Level 10" people passionate about changing the world with their work, relationships and ideas. The show is hosted by Robert Gruler, an attorney and founding partner of the R&R Law Group, a criminal defense law firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona focused on helping good people charged with crimes move forward with their lives.
Interested in being on the show or have a guest recommendation? Email Robert directly at [email protected] or visit www.robgruler.com for more information.
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This is episode 87 of the ruler nation podcast. My name is Robert ruler, joined today by Jill McMahon who is a licensed professional counselor. She helps people get through grief and trauma. We're going to talk a lot about that, so I don't want to really dive into it right now. But you're the founder of spring [inaudible] , uh , returns counseling services. You are somebody who's a really good friend of mine. You've helped me through a lot of this stuff personally. A lot of the people who listen to the podcast may know that I lost somebody in my life and you helped me through a very dark time in the world. So what I would like to do is number one, welcome you to the show. Thanks for being here, Jill. Thanks Rob . So, you know, suicide, grief, loss , uh, helping people sort through these issues is something that unfortunately seems like it's becoming more necessary today. Um, before we dive into maybe some of the reasons why or what your thoughts are on that, I would love to kind of get an understanding of how you got into this space because it's kind of a unique thing to get into, right? Most people when they're little girls, little boys, they don't say, I'm going to grow up and I'm going to talk to people who are at the bottom of a pit because they just lost somebody who's very close to them. So what's your story? How did you get into this space? Walk us through kind of the evolution into grief counseling.Speaker 2:
So the short story , um, is really interesting. Exactly like you said. I , I didn't, you know , grow up thinking I want to work in trauma and loss and um, you know, sit with people during times of death and darkness. I did go to graduate school for counseling and psychology. Um, I did not have any idea going through high school and college that this was going to be a career that I chose. Um, I got out of college and actually started working for a district court judge. Um, and during that time I just realized that, you know, people were wanting to come up to my desk and talk to me all the time. And , and my judge finally sat me down one day and he said, Jill, you know, you have this incredible way of telling people things that they don't want to hear , um, in a way that's not offensive to them. And have you ever thought about grad school? So kind of with his nudging, I went to grad school for counseling psychology , um, was going to be a fabulous marriage and family therapist. I mean, I was solely focused on that. Um, in the middle of my degree. My husband and I moved to Washington DC and I found an internship at a grief and loss agency and that kind of turned my whole world around. So , um, again, not where I saw my life going. But, you know, within the first two weeks of working in my internship for this grief and loss agency, I was asked to go work at the morgue. Um, every Monday morning I went to the medical examiners office and helped people identify the bodies of their loved ones. Um, I was asked to see children individually whose parents were dying of AIDS. And the third assignment was my supervisor asked me if I would sit in a survivors of suicide support group. And it's really interesting. That's the, I was hesitant to take , um, I went to the medical examiners office without a second thought. But sitting in a survivor of suicide group was really intimidating to me because first off, I had never experienced that loss and I felt like a fraud. And , um, I just felt like I can't sit in a room with people that are so raw and pretend to be something that I'm not, that wouldn't be fair to them. Um, and honestly, in grad school, they don't even really teach you a lot about suicide. I mean, years and years of work. And I maybe spent a total of 10 hours being educated on anything that has to do with suicide loss. So I felt unprepared. Um, I can tell you after sitting in that SOS or survivors of suicide group for the very first time, I walked out of that agency late that night, it was dark. I'm walking to the Metro and I remembered being in tears and I just thought to myself, this is what I need to do for the rest of my life. So , um, I very quickly gained an understanding for how misunderstood people who have experienced a loss to suicide are , um, and how misjudged they are and that there really was no safe place for them. So I kind of feel like my career chose me. I don't really feel like I chose it, believe it or not, those 18 years ago, this month. Um, so I'm fortunate enough to, you know, get to help and speak and walk with people through kind of really, really trying times.Speaker 1:
Yeah. It's interesting that you were talking about sort of that imposter syndrome, right, because it is, it is. I see that a lot in a lot of different areas. One in particular that I'm sort of familiar with, it is in a substance abuse treatment and recovery. You know, there's a lot of people who are in 12 step programs who they won't listen to somebody who is also not an addict because, you know, they , they just say that they, they can't relate. They can't identify it. Um, how did you, how did you get you get kind of over that? I mean,Speaker 2:
I'm not over it. Yeah . In all honesty, I mean, I think as if you're human being that has some driver motivation in your life, you continue to grow, right? So as my career continues to grow and change, I'm taking on , um , new and nerve wracking challenges. I mean, I've spoken nationally before I speaking , um, public speaking I thought was originally going to be very frightening now as something that I love to do, but I still get anxious every single time I go to speak. And sometimes I think, who do I think I am right for these people to come and listen to anything I have to say. But it to some extent, Rob, for me that's been really healthy. That keeps me honest and it keeps me motivated to keep learning more. Um, so that I feel prepared. So I think it's something that can struggle with on a healthy level for a long time. But if you allow that to overcome , um, your, your knowledge or your , um, faith in self, then it becomes a problem. Right. Your confidence.Speaker 1:
Yeah. And I think that's, I think that's the answer. You know, Michael Jordan had a coach who , who couldn't go out and win NBA championships on his own, but he , he was still able to help, you know , him become the best, the best NBA player ever. And so it's , it's like this false gatekeeping that people try to do. You know, you're not allowed to talk to me about something because you haven't personally experienced it, which I just think is kind of a naive thing to do. You want, if somebody's got good information, you should listen to that, or at least consider it without setting up these kind of false boundaries.Speaker 2:
It's naive, right. And lack of trust. Right ? So , um, wisdom can come from, from the places you would least expect,Speaker 1:
right? Yeah. And there's, there's a lot of need for it, which is unfortunate. Right. And so your practice area started kind of with grief, but you've really kind of focused into one specific form of grief. Is that accurate?Speaker 2:
It actually started quite the opposite. So I was very, very specific after I left DC that I was only going to work with survivors. And so, you know, that's kind of my baseline. Um, I have now opened it up to different areas of grief. I, I believe that if I can , um, if somebody who has experienced the loss of suicide can trust me, right , right. That I can work in probably every other area of grief as well. Um, as I've gained knowledge, I always say to that, again, there wasn't a lot to be learned about suicide and loss after , um, suicide, you know, 20 years ago. It's evolving , um, at a really fast pace recently. But you know, I didn't realize at that time that somebody that experiences this type of sudden loss more often than not also experiences trauma. And so now I've , uh , you know, a good portion of my practices is also working in trauma and that can look like , and I have so many different faces, right?Speaker 1:
Yeah. And trauma . Trauma is kind of the word does your, of, of, of late, it's, it's, you know, I go to a lot of these seminars and workshops and people are talking about how that, you know, stuff that can impact you, that's traumatic to you is you know, three, four or five years old will physically manifest itself in your body and you know, root into your central nervous system and this is stuff that you're going to be dealing with throughout the rest of your life. And that's important to peel the layers back of that onion. So interesting . It's, yeah, it's fascinating. I'm still kind of exploring that, that world. But I've had, you know, I've , I've got some friends and stuff and people are doing all the, the interesting things like the Iowasca and the combo frog poison stuff and like I'm kind of like looking into that into that space because a lot of people have said it's been extremely helpful for them. It's another tool, another modality to help them process a lot of it outside the scope of our conversation. But yeah ,Speaker 2:
but I think we're all becoming enlightened. We're all realizing it's not the 50s and 60s and 60s anymore. Like it isn't one pill fits all. It isn't one modality fits everybody. Um, you know, I love that people are starting to become more open minded about self care and self love . Right. So have you read the book? Um , the body keeps score.Speaker 1:
No, but, but I think that was the book that they were talking about. I think that came up at one of those workshops.Speaker 2:
I think it's vendor Polk is the name of the author and it's based off of world war two veterans and the trauma that they were exhibiting once they returned home and in psychiatric wards. So they studied these gentlemen for 20 to 30 years. And because of that certain community or clientele, that's the very first time we started prescribing , um, anti-psychotics, you know, the whole antidepressants antianxiety and , but really what was happening is nobody was taking care and or cleaning out the trauma, right ? Instead we just started prescribing meds. It's really, really interesting. So I've learned a lot , um, from that particular individual and it's, it's interesting, people don't realize that depression can , uh , cause physical aches and pains. If there's something going on your shoulder and you have been to every doctor and nobody can seem to trace it down, you know, what's going on up here, what's going on up, you know, down in your gut. A lot of that can be cleaned out and resolved if you just do self work .Speaker 1:
Yeah. Right. And , and it is becoming more mainstream. People are talking about trauma and their experiences. I , at least, at least in my little, you know , circle of, of world that I live in, it's, people are talking about it. And it's funny because, you know, people will, they'll buy very special water because they don't want any toxins in there. And you know, everything's organic and vegan, this and vegan that. So we're all kind of really focused on the externalities of the world that are toxic and impacting how we live our lives. But when you want to go in and dive down into that brain of yours and into that soul and that spirit, many people just say, we're not gonna , we're not going to go there. But what is that doing to them physically? What is that doing to them emotionally? How's that impacting their relationships? It's probably the most toxic thing that exists in their entire world, but they don't want to deal with it. Yeah. So I would love to dive into, you know, suicide specifically is kind of a , a unique animal, right? Right . There's, there's still, you know, I'll , I'll , I'll leave it to you, but my impression is that there's still kind of a , uh , a major difference between somebody who loses somebody in a tragic accident versus somebody who loses somebody because they decided to take their own life. Whether there's a stigma, whatever that is. CanSpeaker 2:
you speak to that? Um, I always say that the two things that separate suicide from any other type of general loss is shame and guilt. So again, we are becoming more open minded, more openminded and we're becoming more educated. However , um, you know, if you lose your father to cancer, if you lose, you know, your neighbor to a sudden heart attack. There isn't this shame and guilt that is associated with those losses that is associated with the loss to suicide. So the vast majority of our culture still believes that suicide is selfish. I like literally just makes my stomach turn every time I even say that. Um, and oftentimes, you know, there's controversy as to if it's even a choice, if that person actually made a choice to take their lives depending on what was going on with them psychologically and emotionally. Um, so it, it's a little more, it is vastly more complicated to , um, have experienced a loss of suicide in your family versus a natural cause. The rest of the world understands and has accepted cancer, right? They have, they understand medically a heart attack, you know, a blockage of a certain artery. We have yet to really understand suicide and the suicidal mind. So there's a lot of unknowns and out of our discomfort as, as a human race and a culture, we want to fill in the blanks. You know, we understand why somebody has a heart attack. We understand that going untreated cancer can kill you. We still don't understand why or how somebody can get to the place where they choose to take their lives. So as a culture, we feel like we have to fill in the blanks. So what happens often is once a family experiences a loss to suicide, if the family chooses to acknowledge it outwardly depends on the house, right? Some of them will create a story because they fear the backlash of even speaking the word suicide. But if they choose to acknowledge , um , to their friends and neighbors that it was a suicide, there tends to be this sidebar that occurs of what was happening in their house. Right. You know, what was going on in that family? Was she having an affair? Right. You know, Oh, I had heard he was abusive. He had a drug problem. Right. So everybody, the rumor mill beacons , um, and pretty soon again, it's because of lack of education, discomfort, wanting to point your finger at a cause. Because if I'm able to say, well, that family has rule really messed up, I'm not surprised at all. I'm not going to fear that anything's going to happen to my family. Yeah . Right. So pretty easily and readily. Um, those that have really lost somebody that they love to suicide can feel isolated and alone and misunderstood and then they just kind of tight lip. Keep it all inside, keep it to themselves because there's no real, there's very few safe places where you can go and express your confusion and sadness and anger and not feel like somebody is judging you or even judging your person. I can't imagineSpeaker 1:
losing them .Speaker 2:
Somebody that I love and the pain that's associated with that and then longing for them and missing them and wanting to touch them and then having the rest of the world judged them at the same time. So survivors can isolate pretty quickly.Speaker 1:
Yeah, and I think that was my experience directly. I mean we, you know, it was, it was a , a wild development for us because we had no idea. I mean with, with Eric, I had no idea that , that he was in that spot. We knew he was in a drug spot. We knew he was, you know , using an abusing drugs. But the idea that he would take his own life is just, it was outside of the realm of possibilities. And when it happened exactly what you described occurred in our world. We had no idea what to do. We had no idea where to go. Right. And of course that has led to the foundation of Eric's house.org and we're trying to kind of change the conversation on that. And, and you've been instrumental in helping us get that launched and we appreciate you for that. It's when you were speaking about it, it's , it's kind of an interesting thing. I was fascinated by when you said, we don't even know if they chose to do that. I mean, is that kind of the argument or the two sides of that coin? Because I never thought of it that way, that somebody, you know, it does to me, it absolutely seems like a volitional act. Somebody, you know, is making a decision to do that. Uh, and, and to , you know, because I'm, I'm a logical person. I have a healthy brain. I have a healthy brain. I'm , I'm good. I, you know, I, but, but I could certainly, and I, I think probably many of us have maybe thought of that. You know, when things are really bad, like what happens if I just take this car right off this bridge, you know, and you , and you go, all right, well , okay, well that doesn't make any sense. I've got this and I've got that and I actually do like these parts of my life. And so it's all functioning properly the way that it should, but that's not always the case.Speaker 2:
Well, there, there are two areas of conflict when it comes to suicide. Um, the first area of conflict, which I think we're getting closer to resolving is do we use the term committed suicide or died by suicide, right ? Committed suicide for years and years and years has been the terminology, you know, this better than anybody. Um, we still hear it all over. I heard it during a radio interview earlier this week. And , um, the proper phrase is died by suicide because nine times out of 10 , um , somebody who has experienced the loss , the suicide deems that as having a negative connotation. You know, my loved one didn't commit a crime. Um, and that just feeds right into the stigma when we add the word commit to suicide. So that's kind of , um, conflict one. And, and I think that's, we've really changed the terminology , um, to help dilute the stigma. But when it comes to choice or not a choice that is more kind of right now being heavily, heavily, heavily debated, debated , um, there are definitely some families that have impact that have been impacted that will say, if my loved one wasn't in the right frame of mind, if my loved one had been battling an addiction or had been battling a mental illness, and more times than not, there is an underlying mental illness involved, then I don't feel like he made he or she made a free choice at that moment. If they weren't thinking clearly. Right. Which is really hard for you. And I'd understand Rob, because we have healthy brains, right? If he or she wasn't thinking clearly, then they didn't make a choice. They F instead they felt like it was the only way that they could escape their pain. So this is argument as I'm hearing it from survivors themselves, that even by using the word choice , um, there also is some type of negativity associated with the act. And I don't really know what the right answer to that is, honestly. Are we arguing over semantics? Right . Um, I do understand that somebody who is in so much psychological pain or psych ache as we like to call it, they can't think clearly. I can tell you. So yesterday I went, I went to the Phoenix open, which was wonderful. And I got up earlier , I got up at four 30 in the morning and I taught, taught a class spin class. And by the time six o'clock rolled around, I was exhausted when we were shopping for a car. I will tell you we needed to leave the dealership because I couldn't think clearly. I was so exhausted and I was so tired. I literally couldn't even like write my name on a piece of paper. And that's a silly example. But it's just a very simple way of comparing yourself to somebody who lives in that body and that frame of mind . And that brain day in and day out and being in physical pain when you have a broken arm or , or you know, a broken whatever, whatever ankle and you're on crutches, it's exhausting. Right? Being in physical pain is tiring. Well, we can see that. So as a culture we understand it, but being in psychological pain isn't seen so people don't understand it or believe it or think it is a value. It's exhausting. So you, you can't think straight, you're not making , um, real conscious decisions. You see where the debate lies in that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. In your experience when you're, when you're working with people who are survivors of, of somebody whoseSpeaker 1:
they've lost somebody to suicide are in most instances, does it seem like it's, it does, it's unexpected, like there were no warning signs or you know, is it kind of 50, 50 split or is it case by case basis,Speaker 2:
say more often than not? Um , a new survivor that comes into me will say, I knew that my person was hurting, but I never in a million years thought that it was going to lead to this. And I think that that rings true with your family as well, right? I'm completely out of the blue, probably less than 15% I mean who had zero warning signs, who, you know, there , there didn't appear to be any stressors. There didn't appear to be, you know, a recent breakup or failing grades or a drug issue just completely out of the blue. That's less common. But what is interesting to remember is even if you know that that person was experiencing stressors, I don't think we could have , our brain allows us to fathom that it could end in suicide. And more times than not, those people that experienced suicidal ideation or suicidal do a very, very good job at hiding the fact that they are contemplating suicide. They wear a mask to make everybody else happy.Speaker 1:
Right. And now, and that's kind of, I think we're a huge difficulty in this whole process lies. If , if somebody has cancer, they're gonna go to a doctor, they're going to seek help, they're going to get treatment for it. You can identify that person and you can put a plan in place to help them recover from it. Right? But from in my mind, you know, when it comes to this type of pain with this type of broken brain, you don't know until it's too late. It's, they're there , they're gone in , in a lot of the situations. So how do you study that person or how do you develop methodologies? What counseling or treatment to treat a certain segment of the population before, you know, before that, how do you get in there before that final action takes place?Speaker 2:
Well, I , I think the biggest way that we can make a curve there is social acceptance. And that sounds so big and so global because it really is that big and really is glow that global. So unfortunately for you and I who are very, very passionate about this topic, we're not going to see it in our lifetime. Um, which does actually hurt a little bit, right? But we have to start changing the way that people view mental illness, mental wellness, mental sickness. It doesn't matter what label you want to give to it. Um, mental health, right. And we're starting to leaps and bounds. We've come in the last 10 to 15 years, we're losing people, you know, we're losing the Robin Williams and the Chester Bennington, and those are people that are important in my life. So I'm just pointing those two out. But , um, it's becoming, it's not being swept under the carpet as often because it can't be because it's becoming more prevalent with social media and media in general. But we need to stop judging and we need to start bringing in the conversation. And those people that have been impacted by suicide, when they feel ready and when they feel healed , um , if they can even speak about it more, just so we have a , a level of acceptance.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I mean that , that's a big, that's a big, yeah, that's a big topic. It's a big issue. And I, and I've heard that conversation or , or that viewpoint a number of different times. I don't know how much I agree with it. I'm not an expert and I'm not in this field at all. You never have to agree with me. I know that, but I don't frequently, I don't frequently, but , but still, I mean it's a good, like I understand that viewpoint. Let's get it out into the open, let's talk about it. That way we can head off anybody who's thinking that way they know about these resources, they can come and talk to us about it and maybe we can hit it off. But then I look around and I see the rates are increasing every year. Right. I think for without, you know , I don't know the statistics and it's not really, yeah , yeah. It's like the number three leading cause of death or something like that, like suicide is, is every year it's going up and up and up. And in my mind, and it could just be a correlation, doesn't necessarily equal causation, you know? And , and maybe maybe it would happen regardless of it, but I, it feels to me like the more and more we're talking about it, the more and more we're educating 12 to 13 to 14 year olds about, Hey, suicide, suicide, Hey, we got to talk about this. Because you may, you may kill yourself one day and we got to make sure that you know everything about it and you can come talk to me about it. Yeah . For with these young people who otherwise would just go, Oh cool , I would never do that. Why would I ever do that? And so this is being implanted into their minds. Like it's a possibility. Like it is socially acceptable and I'm speaking as a, as a survivor of suicide and I have a strong viewpoint on that. It's, it's really not socially acceptable. And in my mind, right ? Like it's like we shouldn't be encouraging people like, Hey, if life's too hard, you should just take the easy road out and bow out of this thing. This is an option that we should talk about in your toolbox. It's definitely should be . No, of course not. But if it's not done appropriately and we are talking about it more and more, maybe people will think that it is an option and maybe you know, maybe that's a cause of what we're seeing in the increase in suicide.Speaker 2:
So what you just nailed right there is if it isn't done appropriately. Yeah . So have we come to the point where it is a social fad to go into schools and to train them on suicide prevention and there really is a right way do that and it really is a wrong way to do that. And so , um, what you're talking about in my opinion, cause we can always have good healthy discussions. You and I , um, you know, that's the plant, the seed philosophy. Um, I've seen the opposite have done this for, you know, a small period of time. Yeah . But probably the first 10 years that I was practicing or working in this field, the schools in particular were going gonna use them as an example were um, tight lips. They weren't going to say word. If there was a suicide on campus that it was like mum's the word. Do we even have to mention this? It would just be better because I'm afraid, you know, if I make him morning announcement, I'm afraid that I'm going to plant a seed. Yeah . So there was this real fear, well, what in my experience, what ended up happening is just the opposite. They started alienating their student body. Yeah . So the kids would lose a friend and there would be no acknowledgement that all of the sudden Tommy was gone. It was as if Tommy never existed. There was no, you know, the counselors will be available if you need to talk, would you all like to go into, you know, the arts and crafts room today and we're going to make a card for the family. It was you went to decorate the locker and the principal would say, we can't do that. That's Memorial. We have to take it down. So the kids kind of felt in the opposite as unheard. Um, disrespected, not loved, not being cared for. And their frame of mind was, well, I'm obviously not going to go to any of them for help when I'm struggling because they can't even acknowledge my buddy. Right. Really. So, you know, I mean, we can both find examples. Sure. For for either argument. I actually hear you. Yeah , I do hear you. I mean, I think that we can oversaturate on anything and it's never everything in moderation. Right. And it's all in , in about how it's done. Because there is a right and wrong way to talk about suicide. Right ? Well , I w we were at w , you know, one of these, one of these workshops to do over at the cost, I think . And somebody was talking about it and then I forget what age range of schools that they were going into, but it's like eight and nine year olds or something like that. And I'm just thinking what, right when you were eight and nine, you were playing with your Tonka trucks and your GI Joes and you're kicking soccer balls outside. You're not thinking about these things. What are we bringing a conversation to the youth that doesn't need to be had , you know? And again, this is what you've been doing for 18 plus years, you know, and I have not, I actually don't think we're disagreeing though. I actually don't think we're disagreeing. I think if we can , um, start to diminish the stigma so that families will start paying better attention or speaking to suicide within their own homes, whatever that may look like. Right. If we start educating the adults. But I understand, I absolutely understand what you're saying about going into an elementary school seems a bit much to me. Yeah . Right. And it seems like we're adding a into a toolbox that they never really knew existed. Now what I've noticed is that somebody, when somebody is impacted by suicide and yes, the numbers are getting the age numbers are getting lower and lower, 10, 11, 12. Now we do have this of course , um, eruption of social media and you know, things being filmed on Instagram and YouTube and that's all playing apart. Um, and this as well, but those even young that are impacted by suicide, that's when they find out that that is a tool that they could use in their toolbox. We don't want to give them that tool in advance of that. Yes. Does that make sense? Yes, it does. And that was kinda my next question is, you know, this is your space. This is your profession. What, what are the, the, you know , other experts saying, why is this happening? Why is, why is there an increase? Why are we seeing a sudden increase? It's not so sudden . But yeah, we are. Um, it can, it can be several things. And this is my humble opinion. Yes, it can be reporting. It could be something as simple as, you know, it's just being reported more readily. Um, some families are coming forward and saying that it's a suicide instead of trying to hide it. I do still work with families that will say, you know, that their 21 year old son accidentally fell out of his window. Right. And we see that we have a men's group that we meet with and there are certain people in that group who refuse to acknowledge that it was an overdose or a suicide. They just say, Oh , I was doing well . Weird freak health accident. Well, you know, he was 32 when his heart exploded. So you know, no other health problems. So maybe there's something else going on, but it's kind of this denial that's happening. And I think I see that often. I actually have a , a new client now who called and asked to come in because he'd lost his best friend to suicide. Um, and that was his initial phone call to me. And then when he came in to sit on my blue couch, you know, after a full hour , he's like, well, I don't really believe it . Suicide. I mean, that's what his friend is saying that it is, but I, you know, and that just doesn't make any sense to me. So sometimes when that brain's been traumatized because of sudden loss to suicide is a trauma, when that brain's been traumatized, it just is , it takes a while to fire correctly. So as far as increase in suicide rates, I think part of it is reporting. I do think in the younger age range, it is a lot of the YouTube, Instagram short videos , um, they are also experiencing specifically tend to 25, you know, right around that age. They're experiencing stress and anxiety at an alarming rate. Um , more so than I've ever seen in the past. And you know, that's a whole nother podcast for another day because I have a lot of my own hypothesis about what that's about. Um, but you know, there are a lot of different sources that are being fired at them all at one time. And yeah, stress and anxiety is rough. Right? Going into the schools and talking about suicide, it's so damn stressful. No comment, Rob crueler, no comment. Pressures , high pressures , high. So what I'm seeing in my practice lately , um, is a really rapid rise in young men ages 18 to 24 with serious anxiety. I mean, that is not what my practice is for, right ? That is what my practice is becoming. I have more college freshmen and sophomore males that are coming in to see me and their brains are just scrambled and they're like, life is not what I thought it was going to be. I can't, can I curse? Let her read . Okay, I can't get my shit together. I can't figure this out. You know, I really thought this was going to be easier. Why am I all of the sudden freezing? I don't, I don't even want to do any of this. All I'm doing, all I want to do is withdraw . I don't get like, I am so frustrated and confused and overwhelmed right now. There's a lot going on for our kids today that did not exist 10 years ago.Speaker 1:
Yeah. Yeah. And everybody, you know, definitely everybody sort of demonizes social media and I can, I can understand that it, it seems like maybe there's a disconnect between, you know, parenting and kids and, and there's a lot of trauma going on. It's a complicated issue and I certainly don't know what the answer is, but , um , it's amazing that you're doing this work because it's obviously obviously needed. So I wanted to ask you a little bit about kind of how your , you know , how you approach this. So what's , what's kind of the framework, you know, you get a phone call, somebody , uh , I mean, I know, cause I went through it personally, but , uh, that was maybe a year ago, two years ago, two years ago, three years ago, whatever it was. I felt like it was a long time ago. It was a long time ago, but it was something that was, you know, very beneficial for me. But what is kind of your, you know, the formula, the framework that you use for somebody who, who comes in?Speaker 2:
So it looks a little bit different for everybody depending on where they are mentally , um, after a loss. So, you know, I will say probably 20% of the time they don't call me their friends call me. I have a friend or family members that my case . Yeah, I definitely did not call, you know , I did not want to be anyway . We definitely did not even want to see me look at me. No . My first name, no , you just want it to leave the door. Um, so this is why I love you Rob. Crueler so , um, often, you know, you can't even formulate a thought. You're just trying to make it through your day and be okay and you have other responsibilities that you need to take care of, but you cannot seem to complete a task. Right . So it, it, it can end up being a friend or family member that calls me and says, so-and-so instructor is struggling, but they really honestly can't think clear enough to even research how to get in and how to get help. The rest of them. It's really interesting because I might get a call from somebody who is three weeks out from a loss or somebody who's three years out for loss. Everybody does it differently and there is no right or wrong way. Um,Speaker 1:
yeah, I've noticed that. I've noticed that, you know, cause I have a men's group that's over at Eric's house and it feels like the , the trauma and the loss that you know , that you experience, it feels like sometimes people can kind of put sort of a pause on it or like a block. They can just keep deferring it. I'm going to deal with that next month. Next month. Next month. Exactly right. Yeah. And you just keep kicking it down the road and then suddenly 12 years later you go, Oh my gosh, this thing exploded into my life. What is this? And it's that trauma that you've been carrying along for the last 12 years?Speaker 2:
It's interesting because the eyeopener for me was when I was running support groups. I had this young girl that came in one day and she was three years out from the loss of her father. Right. She was a college student, I want to say she was 23 years old and she looked like she had it all together, know storable. She walked in the door and I was like three years after your dad's suicide, like what got you in here today? And she just very blankly looked at everybody and said, I got a DUI. I don't get DUIs. Yeah, I knew there was something else going on. And then she just, the dam broke and then she just started crying. Like I've never forgiven myself for this, that or the other thing. And I've never truly gotten over it, but I just had so much other stuff I need to do that was sitting right in front of me. I put my head down and I got it all done. So all she did was shove it down and shove it down and shove it down probably until life calmed down long enough and then it seeps out of every poor . I mean, are you finding that in your men's group? It's really, it's really interesting. You know, everybody has their own way of processing. Some people are really, really good at compartmentalizing. I would say you're probably good at compartmentalizing. I'm, I could take every metal there is. I mean, you can't do what I do and not learn to be a master compartmentalizing. Right. But eventually the door seeps open. As much as you try to like padlock it and set stuff in front of it, eventually the door will seep open. It just depends on when and how it's going to look when it opens. Is it going to be a DUI? Is it going to be your bank account is completely run dry because you've been gambling for two years, you know? Or is it going to be, you've lost all of your relationships because you've isolated from everybody and now you're stopping standing in place and looking around and going, what happened? Right. Yeah. You're a parent. I am.Speaker 1:
And you've got how many kids to two kids. Yeah . And what, what would you be looking for or what should parents be looking for in terms of, you know, identifying problematic signs that may lead towards that? Why are you asking me allSpeaker 2:
the hard questions today? Cause what I do, dang. Um, what I will typically say when I first started practicing, I really preferred working with adults. Adults will follow a homework assignment if you give them one. Right ? Right. And adults are easier to read. Teenagers and children are going through so much biologically and chemically already that it's really hard to read them. So that's, that's a trick question. And you didn't even know it was a trick question because a lot of parents will come in to see me after losing a child to suicide and say, you know, I just thought he was upset over losing his girlfriend. I thought he just didn't want to play football anymore. And now I look back and I'm , I'm the worst parent in the world because I should've been a warning sign and I should have known. And maybe he was detaching and maybe he was just so unhappy inside and I'm like, no, no. He was behaving like a 15 year old boy who decided that he was over football and he wanted to try something new. And you know, the, the brain chemistry is changing so quickly in a young adult that they're supposed to be irrational. They're supposed to be erratic. They may actually flip you off or tell you off from time to time. They're supposed to love you, hate you, love you, hate you. They're supposed to spend time locked away in their rooms. I get a lot of that from parents. Um , I'm not opposed to social media. Actually when I go and get parent presentations, I won't let the parents blame social media. Yeah , I really won't. Again, that is another podcast for another day. I actually encourage them, tell them it's going to stick around. They might as well get engaged and they might as well learn and know and start to speak the same language as their children. Um, but a lot of parents will come in and say, I should've known. Like they were only attached to social media and they never came out of their room. Well, I can tell you as the mother of a 15 year old, I've seen her like twice in two weeks. Yeah . Cause she's in her room and she's a 15 year old. She does not want to talk to me. Yeah . Right. 15 year old. She's, so kids are tricky. Kids are really, really tricky. And it's almost like an evil joke because parents can look back and go, Oh my gosh, I can't believe that I missed a, B, and C. but if I deem it appropriate every single time, I will say a, B and C was socially and biologically appropriate for that age. The difference between a youth that has suicidal ideation and an adult is that the youth are far more irrational and erratic. So they don't have that. They have more of a sense of urgency. They have more of a sense of it will never get better. Right. I will never find another girlfriend. I will never be well-liked. This is going to be my life for the rest of my life. Um, and, and they act more readily and adult may think all of those same things. Um, but because their brain is more developed, they sit and ponder and think about it and go, well , I'm not sure. Is this the right decision? Is it not the right decision? In a frightening way, a 13 year old or a 14 year old can have that fleeting feeling and act on it.Speaker 1:
Does that make sense? It's scary. It's actually scary. Yeah. That is scary. Yeah. It's a lot more rash. They just, cause they're going to act quickly, they're going to get impulsive and then boom, it's done. So , so maybe, you know, maybe the answer is there is, there is no real warning sign or the things that we would traditionally refer to as a warning sign are just normal behaviors. That's what 1415 year old kids do anyway. So thank you for wrapping that up far more concisely than I did by the way. But , um , what I usually say,Speaker 2:
it doesn't provide a lot of hope. So I , I don't, you know, share this often, but I have gone and given a fair amount of suicide prevention presentations. But when you sit with families hunt , I'm enough sat with hundreds if not thousands of families that have lost somebody to suicide. Yeah, they're my educators. They're my textbook. There's an anything I learned in grad school that was going to teach me what it is like to be them. And when I really, really listened to them, I learned really quickly that there aren't really a lot of finite warning signs that you can't just depend on the warning signs. And so it's hard for me to talk about suicide prevention when I sit with families who could not have done any more. They couldn't have done one additional thing to save their person in their person still ended up dying. Right.Speaker 1:
Well and that's a, that's a dangerous game to play too , for from a suicide survivor standpoint . I mean, I look back on Eric and I , I have wrapped myself around the axle wondering maybe I shouldn't have done that or done this and maybe that would've changed anything. But at the same time, you know, looking back on it, it there, there really is not much I could have done. There's not much I could've gone. I couldn't have taken him out for pizza and said, Hey man, you thinking about, you know, pulling the trigger on this thing because it's not, cause I don't suggest it. So let's think of another plan. Right. Okay. Oh thanks for bringing that up Rob. Now, okay, I was going to do it, but now I'm not because I wasn't going to be rational discussion about it was not, it was , it was basically out of my control. That's, you know, between him and God and the , the creator of the universe, whatever, whoever's laying out the architecture of the rest of the world, you know, that's, that's up to their wisdom and guidance. But it is still, you know, it is something that I think a lot of parents are PR . I'm not a parent, but probably are concerned about, I think a lot of people, you know, the more and more it does become part of the zeitgeists in the world, people are going to be asking those questions. How do we paddle ? We prevent this thing. How should I talk to little Johnny about this? AndSpeaker 2:
again, the big global answer, which is not the quick fix that everybody wants, is that we just have to start talking about mental wellness, mental health, you want to phrase it. We have to start acknowledging the importance of self care and not pushing, pushing, pushing and being an achiever and being an accomplisher and instead little Johnny, are you happy? Yeah . You may not even know what happy is today, but are you as happy today as you were yesterday? Are you happier than you were last week? Is being in French club and being, you know, the band leader and being in football and volunteering, is that working for you? Like do you feel, are you proud of yourself? Right. We need to start having the , those are the conversations and that's not even a sure thing either. But we need to start acknowledging happiness over accomplishments, right. Cause they don't always equate and we're sending the wrong message oftentimes.Speaker 1:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a , it's a complicated, yeah , there's no clear cut answer. So as you're in this space, as you're dealing, you know, helping people through this process, you know , family after family, like you said, hundreds if not thousands of stories , uh , you've helped me. You , you know, people come in, they just pour their heart and soul out and right onto your shoulders. How do you deal with that? I mean, how do you keep your energy up? How do you keep sane, you know, something I have, I have the same question for anybody really in this space has always, it was kind of as impressive to me how you're able to , to, to manage all of that because it's just an outpouring of grief and hardship and horrors and the insane difficulties that they're putting on your, you know, on your shoulders. You've got to carry that.Speaker 2:
You said sane and I started smiling because you probably know that I'm not super sane. Um, that is a very valid question. I will say the first eight to 10 years, it wasn't that big of a deal. I had this resiliency and I had this ability to let things roll off my back. I almost thought to some extent I was a little sick. I'm like, why can I, you know, just listen to all of these stories or report to the scene of a suicide, you know, and be with a girlfriend who's watching her boyfriend leave the apartment and go home and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, you know, work on math problems. Right. Um, I did get harder as I got older, very similar. You know, I tried to learn from my clients, very similar to a way that oftentimes we shove stress and anxiety down into a hole. Eventually it just came spilling back up for me. As I'm getting older, it's, I'm finding it a little more difficult to sleep at night. Um , I'm feeling that I am affected a little bit more, so I'm just, you know, I'm just, it's almost as if your joints are losing their plasticity a little bit. I'm starting to lose my plasticity. Um, so I've had to learn other ways to actively seek out out myself, loving and myself help. Um, you know, I'm , I'm a spin instructor on the side, which is kind of silly, but I really , um, go to the gym and I get into that cycle room and I get into another space and I consider that my therapy 100%. You know, sometimes little, you know, be notes to the people in the room with me. I'm, there are memories slashing in front of my head. I am dispelling the day's stories and tiring myself out and working it out in my head. And you know, I sit in , um , death dying tears all day long. Yeah . It's really nice for me to be able to go into a different space in a different room and make people happy and joke with them and make them laugh. You know, they may want to throw things at me while I'm screaming at them to turn up the tension. But at the end of the day, I'm building endorphins. So physical exercise is definitely , um, become a mainstay for me. I'm also on this journey and have been for about five years now of just understanding the universe and spirituality a little differently and being open minded to, I try to meditate every day even as even it's for five to 10 minutes. Um, mindfulness. So I have to intentionally surround myself by positivity. Um, and I know that's for the greater good. Like I have to, I have to tell myself like, if you want to continue to do what you love, if you're an NFL football player, you need to continue to take your cold plunges and you need to continue to do your stretches and you need to continue to all the things that aren't, you know, fancy , um, that don't get you any attention and notoriety in order to maintain your career as long as possible. I have to tell, you know, I, I, that's why I do mindfulness meditation , um, positivity all of the time because I love what I do. Yeah . Um, I , and I hope that's pretty apparent to almost everybody I work with. You know, it's, it's a bizarre thing that I have chosen to do. But again, I feel like my career chose me and in order to be as connected, truly, truly connected to people, as long as I can be, I need to work on myself.Speaker 1:
And I knew what the answer was to that question. I knew, I know that you love what you do. And I know from my personal experience, and I mean you've been somebody who's always checked back in with me. You know, you've, you saw me in a very dark place. You helped me process that and get through it in my life is monumentally better now because of the work that you've helped me help me do. And I know I get text messages from you every now and then about some nonsense, which I love. I am on Rob's board of directors of life, board of directors of life, myself onto Rob's board of directors of life. Chief of staff of the board. Yeah. And it's true, you know, you just got a promotion to chief of staff and it's a good, it's well , well earned . But my point is that, you know, that is energizing in and of itself. When you can see people make a major transformation, go from zero to 10 in a matter of a couple of years, I would imagine that's extremely boring .Speaker 2:
So you're going to , you're going to appreciate this. I woke up this morning, checked my email , um, and I received an email from a friend of mine who used to be a client of mine probably 10 to 12 years ago for a very short period of time. He's doing really great. He lost his son to suicide. Um, and he reached out to me to say, Hey Jill, a friend of mine has reached out that is doing some work with Eric's house. It's awesome. And through her work with Eric's house, she's doing a journaling workshop. I believe she has been really, really impacted and moved. And I just wanted you to know that I probably wouldn't have known about Eric's house if it wasn't for you. And that my friend is being dramatically impacted and feeling some peace for the first time after the loss of her child through her work with Eric's house. And that was it. There , there was, he wasn't asking me for anything. He didn't need anything of me. It was, I just wanted you to know and I literally at six 55 in the morning set at my kitchen counter sort of crying. Yeah. Yeah. I love like that's it. That's all I, that's all I need. That's all I need and I will keep going for that reason and that's Eric's house. But to see that full circle that feeds me and all now keep going as you know, as, as long as I can until I receive another one. I call those warm fuzzies. I have a warm fuzzy file. That's another way of self care for me , a warm fuzzy file in my, in my house. Um, as if I keep receiving warm fuzzies every once in a while and people check in and they let me know how they've grown and healed. Oh my gosh, Rob. I mean, take yourself back. Like I sit with people that say I will never feel any better ever. I don't see myself ever, truly, genuinely experiencing joy again, ever. Jill . I don't even care what you tell me. It's not going to happen. I don't see it because if I do, then I'm leaving my loved one behind. Then what does that say about me? Then? Apparently I'm a horrible person. Then it , you know, and then to have three, four or five years later, have them circle back and go like, Hey, guess what I'm doing? And I'm good and I'm remarried and I still love my wife, but I've realized I can be remarried and I can experience joy elsewhere. I mean, things like that give me so much faith in life and in my work. Yeah ,Speaker 1:
and it's powerful. What you're doing is, is amazing and it's not something I want to encourage people. It's not something that you necessarily have to believe in that it'll work. You just got to go and show up and do the work. And I'm a, I'm a shining example of that because I was in your office. I did not want to be there. I thought this was all stupid. I could handle it on my own. This is not a , you know, this is, this is, this is within my, my world, within my hula hoop. And I know how to deal with my hula hoop. Everybody else be damned. But I kept [inaudible]Speaker 2:
two or three times. I actually think you came and left. Literally you came and left like two or three times. I did not want to be there, didn't want to talk aboutSpeaker 1:
it. I was just, I was holding myself off in my little, you know, in my little bunker. But I, my point being, I didn't necessarily even have to believe it. I just needed to show up. Talk to you about it. You know, w we would have a little game plan, you know, I'd say, how about these three things by the, by the next time we talk in two weeks and okay fine, I'll go do those stupid things and you know, I'll go do them. And I'd come back and I'd do him and then we talk. And you're just slowly kind of unraveling the , the, the, the barn, the ball of yarn that is just all, you know , messed up inside your soul. So that would be my takeaway for anybody who's listening is to just, you know, reach out, just reach out. There's, there's help and you don't even have to believe that it works to show up, do the work and you'll see that it works. You don't even have to trust the process. Don't even have to invest in yourself. That's it. Right . Show up and send yourself a green . Was there anything else that you think is pertinent that we didn't cover? Well, I don't know much about the stock market and, or the state of, you know, climate change. So I think we covered the rest really well. We did. Yeah. And I appreciate you being here. I have any stock tips or anything like that, I'll be sure to pass those along. All right , well let's tell people where they can connect with you. What are some of the best places for them to get in touch? I have an Instagram page, which is grieve with Jill. I also have a website, Jill McMahon , counseling.com. That's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me. I'm not a giant phone person. I'm going to own that from the get go. Um, but my, my website has connection to me via email. I will always return emails. Um, that's probably the best way to, to get to me. And if people want, they also, you also co coauthored a book frantic, unleashed navigating life after suicide survivors journal and that's on Amazon also. That's an Amazon as well. So it's a three part series. Part one and two have been released. It's a survivors journals from the first year after the loss of her husband. And so book one and two have been released. Book three is at the editor should be coming out anytime. Awesome. Yeah . Amazing. Well, keep up the great work jail . Anybody if you're interested, contact Jill Jill McMahon , counseling.com Instagram at grieve with Jill Amazon frantic unleashed navigating life after suicide survivor survivors journal. Jill, thanks for coming on the show. It is my pleasure. It's an honor to see you in this realm. It's full circle for me. Buddy. Wouldn't have been , wouldn't have been here without your help. Appreciate it. Love ya .Speaker 3:
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