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My Life Began When My Brother Took His

My brother took his life five years ago. I’d been ignorant to the pain of losing someone I deeply love until this happened. His death ransacked my soul and left me feeling defeated.

Death has been around me — a grandparent or childhood friend, a co-worker’s family member. But it was always at a safe distance. I knew death existed, but was immune until it hit home.

How had I not realized death is absolute?

I scoured the Internet for answers to my grief. I explored all the ways I could sneak into the cemetery, exhume my brother from his grave and bring him home. I was desperate for him to come back. I was angry I couldn’t change the devastating reality that my brother was in so much agony and pain that his only answer was to end his life. At the time, I understood the science behind chemical imbalances in the brain, lack of serotonin, how sleep deprivation can alter one’s thoughts and body deprivations, but I was furious that the mind could literally take over and my brother had no sense of control.

Credit: Yolanda Lopez-Vega

At his funeral, a voice spoke to me which had no face and no direction and only said, “You’re going to be angry, and that’s okay.”

In an effort to organize my thoughts vomit feelings, I turned to writing a blog. The task was simple: be raw, be honest, be compassionate and share my grief. I hoped that I could turn back the page someday and understand myself and the person I was during the darkest days if my life. In fact, the darkest days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into well over a year. I recorded every thought I had and every whim I felt. I cared only to free my heart of excruciating grief while freeing the beautiful soul that is my brother.

Credit: Yolanda Lopez-Vega

What I never expected was that my pain would carry the pain of others and cradle their hearts in my own hands. I never knew that my blog would be read by thousands of folks who looked to me for solace and comfort. I had no idea I would capture their emotions and thoughts in my words. And I certainly wouldn’t imagine that losing my brother — and losing him to suicide — would inspire others to share their own stories of loss and love with me since I could “understand” them.

READ: I Didn’t Care About the Pope Until I Got to See Him

I don’t know whether it’s because I write what I feel or because loss and grief are universal experiences, but I had a reader message me: “When I read your blog, I feel like I’m reading my own feelings.” Another thanked me for helping “understand why I feel the way I do” and another wrote to me saying: “I’m so happy I can turn to your blog and find someone who feels the way I do”.

Credit: Yolanda Lopez-Vega

When my brother died five years ago, I died with him. My soul joined his and I lost who I was. My soul was crushed for both losing my best friend to a pain I couldn’t take away for him and for gaining a new life without him. I hate living without my brother, but I simultaneously love living the life he always wanted for me. And for living the life he would live himself.


Check out Yolanda’s blog at lossandspirituallove.blogspot.com and don’t forget to click the share button below. 

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Gloria Estefan Reveals She Contemplated Suicide In Her Teens In Episode of ‘Red Table Talk: The Estefans’

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Gloria Estefan Reveals She Contemplated Suicide In Her Teens In Episode of ‘Red Table Talk: The Estefans’

Photo: Lars Niki/Getty Images

In an emotional “Red Table Talk: The Estefans” episode, Gloria Estefan opened up about a particularly dark time in her life.

In the special episode dedicated to mental health, Estefan revealed to her daughter, Emily and her niece, Lili, that she once contemplated suicide as a teenager.

“I’ve always felt very good in my own skin, except when I was fifteen, and my dad had already spent a year at home and I was taking care of him. And he was heading downhill fast,” she explained on RTT.

Photo: Red Table Talk: The Estefans/ Facebook Watch

Estefan went on to describe how her mental health crisis was largely due to her father’s declining emotional state and physical health after he returned from fighting in the Vietnam War.

“Even though my father survived the Vietnam War, he still became a casualty of combat,” she said. “His exposure to ‘Agent Orange’–a poison used for warfare–resulted in his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.”

According to Estefan, being a teenaged girl having to take care of her sick father took a deep emotional toll on her.

“He lost his ability to speak, he couldn’t walk, he would stand up to try to go to the bathroom and he would fall and he would soil himself,” she said. “I would have to bathe him. He would be crying, embarrassed. And trying to make me feel better. That’s what would kill me.”

She also explained that she didn’t want to burden her loved ones with her painful feelings. “I didn’t want to tell my mother that I was starting to feel cracks in my armor. I didn’t want to tell my grandmother because I didn’t want to worry her,” she said.

Estefan was visibly emotional as she told her daughter and niece that she even had specific fantasies about taking her own life–which is one of the major warning signs of a suicidal person.

“I knew where [my father’s] gun was and I started having desperation thoughts,” she said. “I remember going to the place thinking, okay the gun is there, but what if instead I hang myself because that might be bloody? I had even picked out the tree that I might do it on.” Her daughter Lili looked distressed as Estefan recounted this painful time in her life.

Estefan says what “got her through” her suicidal episode was “thinking of other people that she loved” and how they would react to living without her. “I took myself through the whole process [of what would happen afterward],” she said. “I think it helped, for me, to imagine what life was going to be like forever for the people that I loved.”

After she got through this dark emotional period, Estefan said she got her life back by “focusing on school” and eventually meeting her husband, Emilio, which also helped bring her out of her depression.

The powerful episode aired on Wednesday and includes special guests Karla Souza and Lele Pons who also talk about their mental health battles. You can watch it on Facebook Watch here.

If you or someone you love is depressed or contemplating suicide, please don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time for support.

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Four Guards At Rikers Island Have Been Suspended Because They Are Believed To Have Let An Teenager Commit Suicide

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Four Guards At Rikers Island Have Been Suspended Because They Are Believed To Have Let An Teenager Commit Suicide

Four New York City Rikers Island correction officers, including a captain, have been suspended for knowingly failing to intervene in a teen detainee’s suicide attempt for seven minutes. The night before Thanksgiving, Nicholas Feliciano, 18, was jumped by seven other inmates and left with a gash on his face. Instead of taking him to the infirmary, guards placed him in a holding cell where he hung himself from a pipe with his shirt. Whistleblowers from the prison have told The New York Times that one guard actually opened Feliciano’s cell door to find him hanging from the pipe, closed the door, and walked away. A witness told The New York Times that, after Feliciano stepped off the toilet partition, he changed his mind and tried to find the partition to free himself from the makeshift noose. Feliciano hung for seven minutes without any intervention, and it was more than a half-hour before paramedics were able to whisk him away from the prison complex. 

Feliciano was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was put into an induced coma on Tuesday. He has yet to show signs of brain activity.

At first, the Department of Corrections wouldn’t allow Feliciano’s family to visit him in the hospital.

CREDIT: LEGAL AID SOCIETY

The Legal Aid Society, which has taken up Feliciano’s case, penned a letter to the DOC to request charges against the teen be dropped. “This is unacceptable. He poses no security risk and needs his family at his bedside at this critical time,” the letter reads. According to Legal Aid Society, the family had to wait to be cleared by DOC to visit him, were not allowed to bring anything inside his hospital room, or even photograph him. 

In response, the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled Feliciano’s parole warrant.

CREDIT: @LEGALAIDNYC / TWITTER

That meant that Feliciano was no longer in the custody of the state, and his family was free to visit him at their leisure. “We are relieved that the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled the parole warrant pending against Nicholas Feliciano, our client who is still battling for his life at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens,” reads a statement from The Legal Aid Society. The organization maintains that the act is too little too late for the much more serious “concerns over the New York City Department of Correction’s failure to properly screen and address Mr. Feliciano’s mental health issues, which were known to the City at the time of his remand,” the statement continues. 

Feliciano was charged with robbery, but because of his age, the court gave him a short sentence and kept his criminal record sealed. Within weeks of his release, Feliciano had violated his parole by testing positive for drugs, skipping mandated programs, attempting to purchase a gun, and traveling past state lines to visit a girlfriend. When Feliciano arrived at his parole meeting, he was taken into custody and scheduled to be arraigned more than a month later. The Legal Aid Society of New York is using Feliciano as a tragic example for “the need for Albany to enact comprehensive parole reform legislation immediately next session to address cases like Nicholas’, where the alleged violation of parole does not rise to the level of a new criminal charge.”

Feliciano has a history of mental illness, including suicide attempts, says the Legal Aid Society. 

CREDIT: @RENTALSINMIAMI / TWITTER

According to The New York Times’s report, Feliciano was taken out of the general population holding area after getting into a fight in order to get him medical attention. He waited for six hours in a holding cell without medical attention. An hour before he attempted suicide, he was taken out of a two-person cell and placed in a cell by himself. An hour and a half later, he was hanging off a pipe while correction officers stood by. An off-duty captain saw closed-circuit surveillance footage of Feliciano hanging and rushed to take him down. According to The New York Times, an official said Feliciano didn’t have a pulse for two minutes. 

In response, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “The people in our jails are human beings. Their well-being is our responsibility. These allegations are deeply troubling. The 3 officers and their supervisor have been suspended and an investigation is underway. We’re taking immediate action.” The New York City Council voted October 17 to close Rikers prison complex and the chapter on its disturbing human rights violations.

READ: NYC Determines Layleen Polanco’s Death Might Have Had To Do With Her State In Solitary Confinement

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