Get Help Now!  (312) 655-7700
  For Rent or Utility Assistance Click Here!

Visit us on Facebook Visit us on Twitter Visit us on YouTube Follow us Visit us on Twitter Visit us on Facebook Visit us on Instagram Visit us on YouTube Visit us on LinkedIn

Newsletters & Articles


LOSS Program Office
721 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Main Line: (312) 655-7283
Fax Line: (312) 948-3340

Featured this Month:

2017 Blossoms of Hope Brunch Award - Nancy Perlson
Monday, May 01, 2017 by Communications
I stand before you  to accept this honor humbly --- Mindful, as I know most of you are, that Amy Bleule, creator of Project semicolon, was to be the one receiving this award.  Her suicide in March is heartbreaking --- a shock to us all and simply rocked the foundation of the movement she created. 
  
But here’s the thing… 
Amy’s story isn’t over and neither is ours. 

That simple punctuation mark  --- gave an ordinary keystroke new meaning and started a global conversation about mental illness and suicide that been all too slow to gain traction in our society.

Amy Bleuel’s work gave a voice to many living in a world engulfed by mental illness and suicide.  Through project semicolon --- she took a world fragmented by differences and distilled it down to the universal experience of being human  --- and in being human – made it okay to share our pain and suffering. 

Some of you may be familiar with Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability --- If not, I encourage you to check out her TED talk on the topic ---  In it, she talks about the strength that comes from allowing ourselves to be seen as we are --- the strength in owning our stories --- owning our imperfections and struggles. She makes a case for vulnerability --- refuting its unfortunate association with weakness.  It bears repeating --- VULNERABILITY IS NOT WEAKNESS. THIS soft tender place we call vulnerability is where it all happens ---where connections are made --- where change and strength are fortified. 

In sharing her vulnerability, Amy showed us how to be strong --- and brave --- and honest. She gave us a template for being kinder to one another --- a framework for sharing our stories --- for sharing our humanity --- and created hope for a better tomorrow for those touched by mental illness and suicide.  THAT framework remains.

Like so many of you out there, suicide and mental illness was not a part of my world until the moment  --- that split second --- it came to define everything around me.  In the moment I learned of my dad’s ¬¬¬suicide --- the lens through which I saw the world changed and has never been the same.  Nor, dare I say would I choose it to be.  

That may sound strange to some --- but please --- hear me out.  The pain and anguish my family and I have suffered as a result of my dad’s death has been agonizing ---- and continues to unfold painfully more than 20 years later.  There have been, however, untold gifts and beauty that have come from this experience.  

Before my dad’s death, I think I saw the world in black and white --- but after his death --- after a great deal of darkness, a new light eventually found its way in ---- the world became Technicolor --- more vivid – sharper edges.  I knew sadness and pain like I had never known before --- making the moments of joy to follow that much more extraordinary.  

Years ago I discovered a sweet little poem, the Uses of Sorrow, by Mary Oliver --- those of you who know me have heard it recited many times. It goes like this ----

Someone I love once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.

There have been many gifts from that particular box of darkness --- That box of darkness has given me this day  --- and brought me to this spot --- right here  --- an opportunity to stand before you and share my story --- to honor the memory of Amy  --- to continue the work of bravely making our own meaning from these experiences.  

Just a couple months following my father’s suicide, in the Fall of 1996, I found my way into my first LOSS group.  I remember it well ----------------Or should say  --- I have snapshots of the group that remain very clear all these years later --- Perhaps one of the most profound memories of that first group was listening to the introductions – the stories of the others in the room. ---- And what stands out most about the introductions was the grace and raw honesty that ran through the facilitator’s stories.   If you have never participated in a LOSS group --- understand the groups are lead by facilitators that are, themselves, survivors of suicide --- always with the back up support of a LOSS mental health professional 

So… when the facilitators shared their personal stories, I was in awe. I couldn't imagine a day in my life I would be able to talk about my dad  --- or his death without crumbling into a pool of tears --- BUT in that moment the hope I felt for a future where there was space enough to hold the pain opened --- a spark was ignited and for the first time --- I knew I would survive.

So I stand here today --- still unsure if I will crumble --- though understanding if I do, I’m going to be okay.  I now know firsthand the healing that comes from sharing my experience --- in sharing my story.  

It is not just in sharing my story I have found healing --- but in the very deliberate decision to use my personal experience as a catalyst for change.  Some folks like to use the term fighter or warrior to describe an activist. As a yogi, I choose to call my self a peaceful warrior  --- using my experience --- and my story to push back at the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide --- to change the way that we, as a society, talk about these illness’s and life in the wake of suicide --- 

More than once my poor kids had to sit in the car when they were little while I knocked on a strangers door to tell them their Halloween decorations may be upsetting to those in their community struggling to make sense of a loved ones death by suicide --- 

More than once --- I confronted a very uncomfortable fitness instructor requesting they come up with a new name for the drill ---suicide sprints ---  always with kindness and gentle persistence --- sometimes it worked ---and sometimes  ---not so much --- but my hope was always that I gave people the opportunity to think  --- and perhaps see the world through my lens --- if only for a moment. 

Like Amy, I, too, have been drawn to the art of tattoo as a form of personal storytelling. These permanent reminders of love, loss and resilience are OUR stories shared in ink that help to define who we are --- the struggles we’ve endured and the hope for a life re-imagined. 

Years ago, I got my first tattoo for my father.  I chose a simple lotus flower --- and this is why --- This flower delicate…seemingly fragile on the surface --- is willfully strong at its heart.  The lotus flower begins its life in dark, swampy water tethered below the surface by its roots embed in cold, murky isolation. Despite its roots heavily moored below the surface, that little lotus chooses daily to open towards the sun. 

Like the lotus, I believe we all feel at times the pull of darkness beneath us, but the choice remains ours—to allow the pull downward --- or to reach daily for the light.  My lotus is my reminder that though we may feel tethered to darkness, we are not restricted by it.  

Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese born Buddhist Monk, wrote a book entitled, No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering.  I love that title – and the wisdom it offers. There will be pain and suffering along the way --- how we hold these experiences ---how we transform them and put them back out into the world --- is completely within our own power.  Through our words and conversation, through tattoos and art, through thought, action and activism…there are limitless ways to honor our past as we move forward with stubborn determination.   

As agents of change --- we are all we need.  And I do believe our stories have just begun. Thank you!


Archives:

2017 Blossoms of Hope Brunch Award - Nancy Perlson
Monday, May 01, 2017 by Communications
I stand before you  to accept this honor humbly --- Mindful, as I know most of you are, that Amy Bleule, creator of Project semicolon, was to be the one receiving this award.  Her suicide in March is heartbreaking --- a shock to us all and simply rocked the foundation of the movement she created. 
  
But here’s the thing… 
Amy’s story isn’t over and neither is ours. 

That simple punctuation mark  --- gave an ordinary keystroke new meaning and started a global conversation about mental illness and suicide that been all too slow to gain traction in our society.

Amy Bleuel’s work gave a voice to many living in a world engulfed by mental illness and suicide.  Through project semicolon --- she took a world fragmented by differences and distilled it down to the universal experience of being human  --- and in being human – made it okay to share our pain and suffering. 

Some of you may be familiar with Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability --- If not, I encourage you to check out her TED talk on the topic ---  In it, she talks about the strength that comes from allowing ourselves to be seen as we are --- the strength in owning our stories --- owning our imperfections and struggles. She makes a case for vulnerability --- refuting its unfortunate association with weakness.  It bears repeating --- VULNERABILITY IS NOT WEAKNESS. THIS soft tender place we call vulnerability is where it all happens ---where connections are made --- where change and strength are fortified. 

In sharing her vulnerability, Amy showed us how to be strong --- and brave --- and honest. She gave us a template for being kinder to one another --- a framework for sharing our stories --- for sharing our humanity --- and created hope for a better tomorrow for those touched by mental illness and suicide.  THAT framework remains.

Like so many of you out there, suicide and mental illness was not a part of my world until the moment  --- that split second --- it came to define everything around me.  In the moment I learned of my dad’s ¬¬¬suicide --- the lens through which I saw the world changed and has never been the same.  Nor, dare I say would I choose it to be.  

That may sound strange to some --- but please --- hear me out.  The pain and anguish my family and I have suffered as a result of my dad’s death has been agonizing ---- and continues to unfold painfully more than 20 years later.  There have been, however, untold gifts and beauty that have come from this experience.  

Before my dad’s death, I think I saw the world in black and white --- but after his death --- after a great deal of darkness, a new light eventually found its way in ---- the world became Technicolor --- more vivid – sharper edges.  I knew sadness and pain like I had never known before --- making the moments of joy to follow that much more extraordinary.  

Years ago I discovered a sweet little poem, the Uses of Sorrow, by Mary Oliver --- those of you who know me have heard it recited many times. It goes like this ----

Someone I love once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.

There have been many gifts from that particular box of darkness --- That box of darkness has given me this day  --- and brought me to this spot --- right here  --- an opportunity to stand before you and share my story --- to honor the memory of Amy  --- to continue the work of bravely making our own meaning from these experiences.  

Just a couple months following my father’s suicide, in the Fall of 1996, I found my way into my first LOSS group.  I remember it well ----------------Or should say  --- I have snapshots of the group that remain very clear all these years later --- Perhaps one of the most profound memories of that first group was listening to the introductions – the stories of the others in the room. ---- And what stands out most about the introductions was the grace and raw honesty that ran through the facilitator’s stories.   If you have never participated in a LOSS group --- understand the groups are lead by facilitators that are, themselves, survivors of suicide --- always with the back up support of a LOSS mental health professional 

So… when the facilitators shared their personal stories, I was in awe. I couldn't imagine a day in my life I would be able to talk about my dad  --- or his death without crumbling into a pool of tears --- BUT in that moment the hope I felt for a future where there was space enough to hold the pain opened --- a spark was ignited and for the first time --- I knew I would survive.

So I stand here today --- still unsure if I will crumble --- though understanding if I do, I’m going to be okay.  I now know firsthand the healing that comes from sharing my experience --- in sharing my story.  

It is not just in sharing my story I have found healing --- but in the very deliberate decision to use my personal experience as a catalyst for change.  Some folks like to use the term fighter or warrior to describe an activist. As a yogi, I choose to call my self a peaceful warrior  --- using my experience --- and my story to push back at the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide --- to change the way that we, as a society, talk about these illness’s and life in the wake of suicide --- 

More than once my poor kids had to sit in the car when they were little while I knocked on a strangers door to tell them their Halloween decorations may be upsetting to those in their community struggling to make sense of a loved ones death by suicide --- 

More than once --- I confronted a very uncomfortable fitness instructor requesting they come up with a new name for the drill ---suicide sprints ---  always with kindness and gentle persistence --- sometimes it worked ---and sometimes  ---not so much --- but my hope was always that I gave people the opportunity to think  --- and perhaps see the world through my lens --- if only for a moment. 

Like Amy, I, too, have been drawn to the art of tattoo as a form of personal storytelling. These permanent reminders of love, loss and resilience are OUR stories shared in ink that help to define who we are --- the struggles we’ve endured and the hope for a life re-imagined. 

Years ago, I got my first tattoo for my father.  I chose a simple lotus flower --- and this is why --- This flower delicate…seemingly fragile on the surface --- is willfully strong at its heart.  The lotus flower begins its life in dark, swampy water tethered below the surface by its roots embed in cold, murky isolation. Despite its roots heavily moored below the surface, that little lotus chooses daily to open towards the sun. 

Like the lotus, I believe we all feel at times the pull of darkness beneath us, but the choice remains ours—to allow the pull downward --- or to reach daily for the light.  My lotus is my reminder that though we may feel tethered to darkness, we are not restricted by it.  

Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese born Buddhist Monk, wrote a book entitled, No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering.  I love that title – and the wisdom it offers. There will be pain and suffering along the way --- how we hold these experiences ---how we transform them and put them back out into the world --- is completely within our own power.  Through our words and conversation, through tattoos and art, through thought, action and activism…there are limitless ways to honor our past as we move forward with stubborn determination.   

As agents of change --- we are all we need.  And I do believe our stories have just begun. Thank you!