Trees of Transition

Comfort for people going through life transitions by sharing thoughts, photos, cards, and recipes.


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Tips on Ways to Support Suicidal Loved Ones

Three years ago I knew my Mom was depressed, but I didn’t realize how
close to suicide she was, so I left her alone one day when she was
deeply troubled. A few minutes later after calling a few family
members who didn’t answer, she overdosed on sleeping pills. My Dad
found her and called for help, and she survived. What would I have
done differently?

1. Put a suicide hot-line in your loved-one’s cell phone and tell them
“CALL THIS NUMBER if you think you are going to hurt yourself.” One
number is: 1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish
Website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

2. Take suicide threats seriously. If they can say it out loud to you,
it means they have thought about it. Take them to a ER or
mental-health hospital.

3. Realize you can’t save your loved one. Get them to help, but then
entrust them to God.
I’m so thankful my Mom made it through this troubled time, and that
she is sharing her story with others. (See other articles under the
suicide tab.) There is healing from mental illness!

By M. H. Campbell Copyright 2014

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Smoking: I Hate What It Does to People

You’ve seen it: A cigarette dangling from a lady’s slender fingers, as the smoke spirals up above her head; these images have a seductive pull to them, but they are deadly. I love a lot of people who smoke, but I hate what that nicotine-filled smoke does to them. Smoking killed my brother-in-law.

My brother-in-law, Don, created intricate, graceful pieces of furniture for people who desired custom-built furniture. His creativity came out through creating his fine furniture, drawing, and what he talked about. 

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Forgiving Yourself After Sudden Job Loss

The morning after I got fired, I wrote my former bosses a resignation letter because the word “fired” just seemed too painful; I wanted to control the situation and just resign. My sister-in-law, Erin, was the one who gently reminded me: “They fired you yesterday, so sending them this letter would just confuse them.” Right, that made sense.

Just writing the letter was enough (I didn’t need to send it); it helped me grapple with what I was feeling. Writing has helped me bring resolution to this situation; even just typing out a password for a job search website has helped my brain through the forgiving process.

At first I believed I could have done better and kept my job; however, looking back I see that I did the best I could. I fully jumped in and engaged the students, yes, I wasn’t perfect, but I connected and helped those high school Seniors become better writers for a month.

Over the last couple months, I have felt multiple emotions other than peace. First, when I was told I had two weeks to do even more with the students, teach better, I felt tension, but also a challenge. After working 12 hour days and doing the best I could, I felt confusion, when after those two weeks I was fired because I had not met their expectations. Crying and anger mixed with relief followed. Elation and tons of job ideas trailed by sadness and just needing to lay there and watch movies for hours have been part of my healing journey. Talking with people and finding out how many people have been fired at different parts of their lives has helped me connect deeper with humanity in general.

Each workday I would log into a job searching website and type in my password: 77forgive, and then continue on with my search. Each time I entered those job hunting passwords the forgiveness would grow toward the bosses that fired me and the pain would lessen. I just realized I also was forgiving myself for what had happened. Just seeing the word “forgive” and having to think it several times a day has really paid off by having that job episode fade peacefully into the past.

I’ve had to go through the cycle of grief in regards to losing this job. Numbness, followed by sadness and anger, mixed with a desire for revenge. As I received love and support from family and friends, I could let down and just be sad about it all and then acceptance. As this happened, I had the strength and courage to get back out there, apply for jobs, interview and land another job.

I chose to forgive from the start because I knew it was what I was supposed to do, but as I’ve daily typed in “77forgive,” my heart healed enough to forgive my old bosses and to forgive myself. I drove by my old school yesterday and felt peaceful; I give the credit for healing my heart to God (and the passwords you type every day influence you more than you think!)

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By M. H. Campbell


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Push Into The Throb

I know the pain slices through your hope, it casts your eyes toward the darkness, thinking it is bigger than the light,
But it’s NOT!
Feel the pain,
Push into the throb,
Hold onto it until you navigate its rapids because if you numb out, medicate, and avoid it, it will stay there, buried, still aching.
Numbing seems safe, but it just delays healing.
Healing comes through feeling, weeping, cleansing, and releasing.
Be free
to heal,
to live.

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Copyright 2014 by M. H. Campbell


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I Wish I Hadn’t Said That….Grrrrr

Processing Regret from Saying Stupid Things To a Cute Guy

The first statement that I said that has haunted me a bit is “You remind me of a combination of both of my brothers.” I meant he looked cute like both of my handsome brothers and had some of their other positive qualities such as kindness, brains, and love for God.

I did not convey all of that background knowledge when I said, “You remind me of a combination of both of my brothers,” and if there had been any spark, it was gone after that, and he soon started dating his eventual wife. This reminded me that guys can’t read my mind and to communicate clearly!

 Another statement I said to a guy that I regret is: “Don’t do that! [Act very different when following God’s leading to do something.] Stay the same. Learn to integrate them so that it doesn’t feel like you’re two different people.” Reflecting back on this situation, I didn’t like feeling uncomfortable, so I tried to control the situation. The guy never did it again with me, but I see now how I wasn’t able just to let him be who he was. There probably was some truth in my observations, but I could have just trusted the guy and not cared about the awkwardness his actions were causing.

 Via text: “No, I’ll be awake for a while.” Letting the conversation stop there would have been best! Late night texting with a guy you are not married to is not wise. Thoughts turn to areas that you don’t need to talk about with someone you don’t know well.

When I think about these three situations, I wince a bit, have a twinge of regret, but then just decide to learn from the situations. I’ve said these things once and seen the results, so now I know not to do these things again. Three important lessons I learned from these experiences include:

  1. Guys can’t read my mind!
  2. Late night texting is not a great idea…
  3. Let the guy be who he is, and don’t try to change him.

Copyrighted 2014 by M. H. Campbell


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Throwing Teddy Overboard: The Human Tendency to Hit Back

Humans just want to hit back; even babies show this trait. For example, my 14-month old nephew, Jack, is getting sleep trained right now, and he desires to be held until he is in a deep sleep. He thinks that is what is best. His parents know that he needs to learn to comfort and sooth himself, and if he learns that, he will be a more emotionally capable person. So when he gets put down to sleep, he has been held for a while, just not until he’s fully asleep; he riles himself up and howls for a while. He throws his blanket out of the crib. He lays back down (his parents and I can watch him via baby video camera), rests a bit, then stands up again wailing. He grabs teddy by the leg and tries to stuff him through the crib’s bars. Eventually teddy is thrown out of the crib, followed by Wolfgang, the bear. He takes out his anger on his comfort items by throwing them out! Eventually he curls up and falls asleep. Seeing Jack act like this made me reflect on my own actions recently and think about anger, grace, and forgiveness.

Grace…forgiveness…are words thrown around especially in the religious culture; however, when confronted with really having to walk in these attitudes, it is impossible to do by yourself.

God is even more compassionate than my brother and his wife (who are amazing and this sleep training really is stretching them). He comforts us for a while, but then puts us in situations where He wants us to learn to comfort ourselves and rest in Him even when we don’t like what is happening. I, for one, have cried and wanted to “throw my blanky out of the crib”—frustrated for what is happening in my life. I do not have grace and forgiveness on my own. I howl inside and want to hit back.

Seeing my nephew has helped me see how ridiculous I have been recently. God is not watching me via video camera—He is right next to me, walking with me through pain and betrayal. He understands and has given me the ability to extend grace and forgiveness. It’s Him! I still have some anger to work through, but when I stop “wailing” and just curl up and rest, God gives me the grace needed for right now. AND He is a good father, so if He let something good leave my life, He must have something better up ahead.

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Girl, Say “No!” To That Man

The man was saying to the gal, “You are so young and fresh, you shouldn’t be out here!” A ruffled, African American man was standing over a homeless young lady sitting on the street corner next to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature racks. She just smiled, so he kept talking, almost shouting. “You shouldn’t be out here, or you should become a whore like all of the other girls. Why don’t you just become a whore?”
The girl just kept smiling up at him, and I couldn’t hear her response as I walked past.

Yes, I’m not proud that I walked past. I wanted to jump in and tell that man off why no woman wants to become a whore! He seemed sort of riled up, so I didn’t try to talk to him or the gal, but that scenario made me sad and caused me to pray. If I had been walking with a guy, then maybe the two of us could have stepped in. I wanted to tell that lady, “Don’t give in!!”

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Then last weekend at the Original women’s conference in Rockford, IL (see http://originalconference.com), we were challenged to help stop human trafficking around the world. We can do that by donating at http://www.initforgood.com to help with three different ministries that are helping women in Cambodia, Thailand, and right here in the United States come out of destructive lifestyles.

At first I thought, “I can’t give right now…” but what helped me respond and give was thinking of that girl on the street corner of Chicago; I hope she doesn’t give into what that man was trying to get her to do. Desperate girls are being pushed to do what they don’t want to do in order to survive.

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So what can I do about human trafficking?

I can pray. God’s heart aches for all of his beloved children stuck in this destructive system, but he gave humans free choice. We can choose to help.

I can give money and time. The Original conference had partnered with Zoe International, Mercy Ministries, and  SHE Rescue Homes.
And to help support these ministries go to http://www.initforgood.com. I’m committed to giving to these ministries!

I can teach the young ladies I work with at school and church to respect themselves, so that getting pulled into a destructive lifestyle isn’t an option in their minds.

Next time, if I see a guy talking to a girl like that, I have more ideas of what to do…but for now, prayer can reach that gal wherever she is: God, please give her strength and provide for her a loving, safe home. Please bless her with resources, loving people to support her, and your peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Resigning From Trying to be the Savior: Reflections from a Suicide-Survivor’s Daughter

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I didn’t think I had a “hero-complex,” but now I know that I did. I wanted to be in charge. If change was happening that I didn’t like, I wanted to be in control and stop it or do it my way.

Three years ago when my principal was getting let go and a new one coming in at the school where I was teaching, after I had vented to a counselor about it all and how hard it was, she just looked at me and said, “You want to be the one making the decisions.” I didn’t want to admit it, but reality was, yes, I was uncomfortable with the changes, and didn’t want things to change.

Two years ago, from Halloween morning on when my Mom first told me, “I want to kill myself,” I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT to do, but I started trying to do something. I called and listened to her. I encouraged her. I told her I would help her get more help if that is what she thought she needed.

So a few weeks later, I helped my Mom sign herself into a psychiatric hospital. She got help for a few days, but then our family banded together to get her out before Thanksgiving. My sister and I took her into our house, and Mom stayed in my room for three weeks. She started taking medicine to help her thyroid, sleep medicine, and anti-depressants.
She got a little help from therapy, but we still didn’t know exactly what to do or how to help her.

Mom started feeling a little better, Thanksgiving was okay. We ate turkey together and Mom started being more honest about what she was feeling.

Then my Dad got in a car-accident, and she started nose-diving again. We couldn’t say, 
“There IS hope” enough to her, and it didn’t stick.

One Sunday morning, mid-December, my Dad was on his way to take my Mom to church, and my housemate and I were leaving a bit earlier. Mom was deeply depressed, and she tried to block my way as I left the house. I needed to get out of that house, and I knew Dad was coming soon, so I reassured her, “Dad’s coming soon,” and just left.

An hour later, after Sunday School, my sister called me and let me know my Mom had over-dosed on her medicine and was rushed to the hospital.

After I had left, Mom had tried to call a few people for help, but no one answered. Then she gave into the messages of death in her head, and took lots of pills. Dad got there in time to call 911 and get help, so Mom’s stomach could be pumped. They sedated her for a day, and she was in ICU for a bit. Then they moved her back to the psychiatric hospital. This time she did not want to be there. She did not cooperate. She was there for over a week.

When we had the family meeting about where she should go next, I was protesting having her go back to my parents’ farm out in the lonely country where this depression had started. I was saying, “She can’t go back there!”

The case worker looked at me and said, “You can’t save her. If she wants to kill herself, you won’t be able to stop her.” It felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. I stopped talking, and let my family do what they thought was best. Hearing that truth was hard, but it was what I needed right then. It helped me step back and stop trying as hard to save the situation.

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A few days later my siblings moved Mom back to the farm. Several of them stayed with her and Dad for a few days right before Christmas. On Christmas morning we ate together, had a few presents, and then everyone left except me. We went to church, but it was a sad Christmas. I knew I couldn’t save my Mom or pull her out of this depression. I couldn’t fix my parents’ marriage and communication issues.

As the sun set, I waved good-bye to my parents on Christmas night and resigned my job as Savior to my Mom. I let her make her choices: a few days later, she made another suicide threat, but a friend was with-it enough to call 911 to get help. Mom was taken to the country psychiatric hospital, where there, she received excellent attention from a psychiatrist and started to forgive herself and the eventually the depression lifted. The psychiatrist let my Dad know he could either have his farm or his wife. My Dad chose his wife, and they moved into town.

It took me several months to get out of survival “don’t feel” mode, and then feel the sadness of the situation. I had to forgive myself for leaving that Sunday morning; but God protected my Mom without me. Jesus is the Savior, not me.

To hear more of what helped during this time–please read the piece I wrote called, “There IS Hope….”
https://treesoftransition.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/there-is-hope-walking-alongside-someone-suffering-depression-during-the-holidays/

To hear my Mom’s story through this time, please see her message that I shared on my blog:
https://treesoftransition.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/he-brought-me-through-a-message-my-mom-gave-to-share-her-journey-through-mental-illness/

Now, two Christmases past this hard time, I am so thankful my Mom is doing well. Medicine helps, facing issues and getting counsel helps, moving to a new home helps…
These experiences helped me know that people will make their choices, and we can’t fix them. There’s a healthy balance I’m learning to walk about when to help and when not to. People in depression do need support, but just know that you can’t save them.

Stepping back, letting go of control was what I needed to do then, to let the consequences happen to the people’s choices, and resigning from being the Savior was my role in the story right then.

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He Brought Me Through– A Message My Mom Gave to Share Her Journey Through Depression

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by Anne Campbell   December 5th, 2013
Do you know that if you’re an inpatient in a psych ward, you can’t have shoelaces in your shoes???   
Do you want to hear how I know that?
Because two years ago – in November and December of 2011 – I was three times in the psych wards:  twice in Linden Oaks in Naperville, Illinois, and once, the last time, in the third floor psych ward of Ottawa Regional Hospital in Ottawa, Illinois.  And because shoe laces might be used as a means of killing yourself or someone else, they are not allowed.  So you walk around with loose shoes.
It was an interesting, wrenching, terrible time.  But God is faithful, and He brought me through mental illness and out the other end into mental health.  And He can do the same for you.
Are you curious why I was so suicidal?  Why did I wrestle day after day with the temptation to put my head on the tracks in front of an oncoming train?  Why did I overdose on December 11th, 2011 and spend 36 hours in the Intensive Care Unit of Edward Hospital?
For me, there were several ingredients of severe depression:
–several relatives [mother, sister, grandpa] who had talked about suicide, attempted suicide, and  a godmother who did take her life
–months of insomnia
–a malfunctioning thyroid
–a marriage that was not yet healthy
–and a deep, deep layer of lies in my gut that had been laid down when I was an infant and child.

How could lies get into my gut?  In my case, they came from years of trauma – physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  I had internalized my sister’s hatred for me.

While I was going in and out of the psych wards, my friends were praying, my family was praying, and God was unfolding His wondrous redemption plan.  But I was miserable.  And I am guessing that some of you who are listening are miserable – even now.  Almost without hope,  desolate… about at the end of your rope.
But on this day I am putting a candlestick on the table.  And I’m fitting a tall, white candle into it.  And I’m striking a match and lighting the candle.  I’m lighting a candle of hope for you.  And I’m putting this candle on your dresser where you can see its steady, glowing light.  Because God did this for me,  He can do it for you — if you give Him permission …. If you cooperate with God’s plan for your healing journey.

M.G.vine

Back to the bitter end of the year 2011:  it was a living nightmare.  Days and nights of mental agony, shame, torment, desolation, being hammered relentlessly by Satan’s lies, hopelessness .  0, there are no words that can catch the depth of my despair.  It was the worst Christmas of my life.
But at the end of December 2011, the days started getting longer, and something new was happening in me.  Praise be to God on high.  God hadn’t forgotten me.  He was moving.  God is faithful.
I was in the psych ward at Ottawa hospital and the thyroid med I’d been put on at Linden Oaks in mid-November was starting to work.  A new psychiatrist, Dr. Dyers, listened to me carefully and he prescribed meds that helped my sleep.  I hadn’t had three good days in a row for months,  but in the Ottawa hospital  that changed.  There began to be days when I could read the Bible and believe it.  Days when I used crayons to color the edges of the papers they gave us in our sessions on anger management  and how to avoid distorted and dangerous thinking.  Days when I smiled and gazed with appreciation at the flowers my friend Monica had sent me.  My husband, bless him, was willing to consider making changes in our living arrangements, and my heart lightened when I realized that I would not have to move back to the isolation of the farm where we had lived for 22 years.
O God was moving!!!!    I got discharged, put the laces back in my shoes, and my husband and I rented an apartment in town.  I started regular visits with a therapist.  That was January of  2012, and hope was getting stronger….
It was not hope in myself.  It was hope in Jesus Christ, the One who had died for me.  I had hope that His love and shed blood would and could make the difference for me.  He was lighting the way.  He was  putting a new song in my heart.
But remember I spoke of lies in my gut?  They were still there – undetected and lethal, like snakes.  In therapy I told my counselor that every time I thought of my older sister I would cry….   In many ways I was getting stronger – taking care of my hair again, swimming at the Y, enjoying the sunshine and patterns of shadows and blue sky.  But the lies were still there, the snakes coiled within.  And God knew it.  He had a plan.

Inside.M.G

God put it on my heart to write a letter to my sister, the one who had abused me.  It was a letter that I never sent but a letter that changed my life forever.   I did it on Monday April 23rd, 2012, in the afternoon, in our church sanctuary on a pew near an eastern window.  It was the safest place I could think of.  And it was right before a therapy session so I could get help quickly if I needed it.
And the words poured out – I scribbled them down in my notebook.  And I relived the trauma and felt the terror and pain , but also – coming into focus for the very first time – were the lies that my sister and Satan had etched on my soul:  Anne should die.  Anne is not valuable.  Anne is not protected.  Anne is not wanted.
In that letter I did spiritual warfare,  and I broke the covenant with death that had been placed on me by Satan.  I repented of my own pride and my judgments of my sister, and I asked God to wash me clean.  And I forgave my sister – deeper than ever before.  And I exposed the lie “Anne should die”  and the light poured in and the lie got revealed and expelled and rendered powerless.  Then I was no longer entangled in the death message.  On April 23rd, 2012 the trauma inside me died!!
And into that deep and hidden place inside me, now freed from darkness, God’s love – bright and radiant and energizing – came flowing, dancing, pouring in.  And it’s still pouring in!!!  I’ve been more able to receive and share God’s love than ever before.  I am no longer a victim.  I am a daughter of the King!  I know for sure that Anne should live.  Anne is valuable.  Anne is protected.  Anne is wanted.

So I rejoice that on this day I can set a tall white candle on your dresser, and it’s lit with a steady flame.  I share my hope with you –hope in Jesus Christ, who came to set the captive free  [Luke 4:18} and destroy the works of the enemy [1 John 3:8].  He came to give us life and life abundantly [John 10:10].

In closing I share a verse with  you from Psalm 118:17.  It really fits.  “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”
O, dear friends, He has done great things for me and He can do the same for you.  To our mighty God  be glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen.

Morning Glory.1


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Josh Marks’ Funeral: How One Family Celebrated a Life that Ended Too Soon and Thoughts on Transitioning Through a Season of Mourning

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On Monday, October 21st, 2013, several hundred people gathered to celebrate the life of Josh Marks, second place winner of Season 3 MasterChef reality TV show, basketball player, loving son and brother. How do you have a funeral for someone whose life tragically ended by his own hand during a time of mental confusion? I found out that how you do it is to just do it: celebrate all the wonderful life that person DID live. Focus on the life, not the death.

The only time I had interacted with Josh was a few weeks earlier. One student I was with recognized him and wanted to high five him, so I helped them connect. I got Josh’s attention and he smiled, reached out to the student to touch his hand, then the student was shyly grinning back as they high fived. The funeral reflected this part of Josh: how he loved and reached out to so many people.

The funeral service was crafted beautifully. Several of his closest friends from college shared how Josh encouraged them and would stay up until 3 or 4am to study with them. Josh’s family chose to show a video he had made of himself; he had recorded himself singing in order to practice speaking more clearly and smoothly (he explained that to us).  Before he started singing, he just talked a while (and drank from his glass of water!) From what he said, we all learned that he could make fun of himself, he wanted to grow and get better in life, and the most powerful thing he said was, “I want to be like Jesus and feed the masses.”

He didn’t cook to get famous, he cooked because he loved people and knew that food is a wonderful way to show love. One friend shared how even though one time Josh didn’t have much money, he chose to buy a homeless lady a pizza while he was hanging out with his friends. One way his family honored Josh was to provide wonderful food before and after the funeral service. Most of us were crying during parts of the service and then laughing during parts; Josh’s family composed a beautiful gathering to honor Josh’s life and celebrate his faith.

How do we transition through the time after someone we care for commits suicide?
From this experience I learned a few ways:

Let people know what is going on and let them come around and love you. Josh’s family was honest about what happened, and they let people come around and love them.

Celebrate all the wonderful things about the person that has passed; focus on the positive (feel the negative, process it, but choose to dwell on the good things about that person).

Having a funeral really helps. Just watching the family and friends that were close to Josh say good-bye to his body at the front of the church had me crying. Cry. Say “Good-bye.” Being able to see the body helps you realize the person is gone. Express your sadness.

Faith in God brings support and comfort. God can handle anger, so if you’re mad at Him for letting this person die, scream at Him if you need to: He can handle it, and He will always love you.

At the end of Josh’s funeral, a cousin sang “Amazing Grace.” I believe there’s enough amazing grace and love to support Josh’s family and friends and supporters through this loss. The funeral service, as it said on the program, truly celebrated God’s humble servant, Josh Marks.

 

P.S. A book that has helped me process grief is:

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis. Check it out. It is also an audio book: A Grief Observed Audio Book

Copyright 2017

Josh’s Mom encouraged me to link Josh’s words that they shared at his funeral, so here they are: