Medical Examiners have it rough? It’s the families who do!

May 18, 2014

In today’s Raleigh newspaper, they have started a five-part series  entitled “Fatally Flawed” based on the Charlotte Observer’s investigation into North Carolina’s medical examiners. This is a topic of discussion in our survivors of suicide loss groups as well as law enforcement keeping items of the deceased for months, or years, on end.

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Example of Death Certificate

I’ve often wondered what would I go to bat for to make changes in our society. That’s it – how our bereaved are treated when a loved one dies by means other than a natural death. I read that the governor has proposed some changes as well as the DHHS secretary. I sure hope some changes are made.

Families who have lost someone via suicide, murder, and unexplained methods are already befuddled. Adding to their misery by taking months to complete an autopsy so a death certificate can be issued is ridiculous.

Fortunately we didn’t wait too long for my son’s autopsy report to arrive, or his death certificate. It was obvious how he died, but really only to me, as I was the one who found him.

Suicides are considered an active crime scene until all the pieces are glued together. I had to explain what I did when I found my son, where the rope was, etc. I don’t remember much of what was said but I do know the Flower Mound (TX) investigator who handled Cameron’s death was excellent in his demeanor. He did most of his investigating after EMS left and me with a police officer heading to the hospital.

Death certificates are so vital for the bereaved. Insurance policies are not paid until it is in hand. Once again I didn’t have much to deal with Cameron’s death due to his age (18).  There was no life insurance policy since your children are not supposed to die. I do remember needing his death certificate to transfer mileage from his American Airlines account to mine.  And to cancel his cell phone service without being changed a disconnect fee.

I can only imagine all the reasons why adults need death certificates when another adult dies.

I’ll be reading the weeklong series and see if any good directives come out of it. If they need someone to go talk to political officials, I know where I can find many as well as myself.

The grieving do not need extra grief!

 

Link to article about medical examiners and death certificates.

Do you have a story to share about the length of time it took you to receive a death certificate? Or items back from the police or sheriffs department? Share them here or via email Carolyn@theshoregriefcenter.org.

 

 

 

Suicide, Empathy and Prevention

May 3, 2014
(Written for Open to Hope)

sunset Tempe Beach AZMy story seems to be like too many others – son (or daughter) died by suicide. But then I forget that as a facilitator of a survivors of suicide loss support group, that I hear stories similar to mine while most of the public do not hear these stories. Or once people know my story and my willingness to help others, they share their stories with me.

Each and every story I hear is sad. But then so are the stories of the parents or children who die too young from cancer or heart disease. Yet suicide is more of a mystery to everyone. Over the years I have learned to normalize it, somewhat, for my support group attendees and others.

I remind them that happy people do not kill themselves. Our loved ones who made that final decision to end their lives, suffered from a depression we have a hard time fathoming. The dark tunnel they were consumed in made it too hard to live. So hard that death seemed a better choice.

Empathy can make more sense out of their choice. Try, if you’re brave enough, to imagine how they felt just before they pulled the trigger, stepped off the ledge with a rope around their neck, took too many pills washed down with alcohol, plunged a syringe full of heroin into their arm.

It’s terrifying I know. I did that. I mentally placed myself where my son stood before he stepped of the edge of the attic into the pull down stairs opening with a sisal rope tied around his neck. He must have been terrified yet he felt it was the correct choice.

I’m sorry to be graphic but sometimes it helps to understand the misery and the darkness of the depression. Yet we scream “why didn’t you ask for help?” I remember clearly after Cameron’s death, similar depression that he must have experienced.

I was so depressed from his death, I didn’t think about calling my therapist to help me out of my funk. I just muddled through for a day or two and it cleared up. What if I felt that way for weeks on end? I might start devising ways to end my misery.

Or what if your body was in so much pain, that you felt like a burden to others – years on end? Even though your loved one rarely complained about assisting you daily, you felt like you were sucking the life out of them. Suicide was a viable option, in your mind.

I’ve heard stories like these as well. So if you’re confused if you lost someone to suicide, try to imagine their pain and perhaps you will free yourself of any guilt you may be harboring because you didn’t “do enough.”

Even if you did know they suffered from depression, as I did with my son, you still can’t always stop someone from ending their life. The key, I believe, is to catch the depression before it takes over the mind. And before the person tries to dull their pain with drugs and alcohol.

Mixing a mental illness with alcohol and other substances is a disaster waiting to happen. It could be a car accident, violence against someone else, or even suicide.

If you’ve experienced the pain of losing someone to suicide, I know your pain. If you fear someone you love may want to make that decision, do everything in your power to help by getting them to a mental health professional on a regular basis. It has been proven that meds and talk therapy are the best course of action for depression and other mental health illnesses.

Two weeks are the key thing to remember when depression is suspected. If depression lasts longer than two weeks, seek help immediately. This could be true for you, your child, your parent, or your friend. Anyone.

To learn more about teen depression and my story, you can find my book “Save the Teens: Preventing Suicide, Depression and Addiction” on my website savetheteens.com or  Amazon.com.