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A Tragic Loss Can Result in Unexpected Gifts by Madeline Sharples

This is the season of gift giving and receiving. And right about now I’m usually thinking about what to get, how much to spend, and how will I ever get it there on time. For a procrastinator who doesn’t like to shop, my season of gifts can be daunting. However, it is also a time to think about the gifts I’ve received as a result of the greatest tragedy of my life, the suicide death of my son Paul. Though Paul’s death has been a horrendous loss,...

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Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples, Leaving the Hall Light On

Madeline Sharples has worked most of her life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer, and proposal manager. She fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school and decided to fulfill her dreams of being a professional writer later in her life. Madeline is the author of Leaving the Hall Light On, a memoir about how she and her family survived her older son’s suicide, which resulted from his long struggle with bipolar...

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Does the Stigma of Mental Illness Still Exist? By Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples, Leaving the Hall Light On

A few months ago my cousin came to our house to review and discuss the family history my husband had been writing. After reviewing the material, he made one request – leave out the part about his father’s bipolar disorder. In fact he didn’t want any discussion in the history of the mental illness that permeates my side of our family. That was proof enough for me that the stigma of mental illness still exists. My husband complied with his...

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Comforting Those Who Grieve

So many people get stuck when it comes to comforting someone who is grieving. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. So they send flowers, they bring over a casserole for the already filled-to-the-brim freezer, they send a sweet card, or they sometimes just avoid the issue entirely, thinking maybe it will just go away. Some people even go away. Almost immediately after my son Paul’s funeral, people began to disappear. Perhaps...

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I Never Gave Up on My Dream

I never gave up on my dream. That is the key. All it took was the persistence to never give up. Early on in my life I thought of myself as a journalist and creative writer, but after college I settled for something more practical – technical writing and editing in the aerospace industry. And while I was even able to convince myself that I would never be able to achieve my dream, it kept gnawing on me. While I worked my day job as a technical...

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No, I Didn’t Fall Apart When I Quit My Day Job

All of us suffer some kind of tragedy in our lives. When my tragedy hit, my son’s death, I tried all kinds of things to take my mind off of it. I worked out, I wrote, I sought out diversion after diversion – like movies, theater, opera, travel—and I took care of myself the best I could. I ate healthy, I got massages and facials, and I took long walks along the beach near where I live. They all helped to a point. In fact, I’ve written about how...

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Paying Attention and Living Without Regret

The news of Nora Ephron’s death as a result of leukemia was such a shock. I keep thinking what a terrible loss. She was such a brilliant writer and director. She was also close to my age – just one day short of a year my junior. We grew up at the same time and faced the same obstacles women of our generation faced. She overcame those obstacles so well, and the rest of us greatly admired her for that. Her death made me focus more on my current...

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The Link Between LGBT Youth, Bullying, and Suicide

LGBT Youth, School Bullies, Youth Violence, homosexuality

In 1989, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a public report stating that up to a third of all teen suicides were committed by gay youth, there was a flurry of media attention and speculation surrounding the rising rates of teen suicide committed by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered youth. It was suggested that the data indicated that these young people were suicidal because of their sexual orientation. Where...

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