Monthly Archives: December 2016

MY BEST FRIEND DIED–Poems by Alice Vo Edwards

* Poet provided a copy in return for a fair and honest review.

** There’s currently a Goodreads Giveaway for this book. The deadline is 11:59 on Dec 19, 2016. Check it out HERE

Grief is an exacting teacher.

My Best Friend Died

My Best Friend Died
Alice Vo Edwards learned this early. She was only 16 when her best friend died. No warning. No chance to say goodbye. One day Myriah was there, a comfy fixture of Edwards’ world. The next day she wasn’t. How does a young mind–one just learning what life is–process such loss? At least one adult, a teacher, had an idea–pick up a pen. Edwards took the advice.

I consider grief the most protean of human emotions. Just when you think you’ve pinned it down, isolated it, overcome it…wham!…it pops up in an unexpected form and the most unlikely circumstances. Edwards’ poems capture the ineffable nature of sorrow. They vary in form, length and voice. Some ring out with the wail of a child, uncertain, grappling with unfamiliar emotions and a new craft. Others are more circumspect, studied, philosophical.The emotions range from raw sorrow to confusion, rage, nostalgia and, breaking through the dark, hope.

My favorite is probably the “Unutterable” — a few brief lines crafted with cut-glass control that attempt to give shape to the incomprehensible. Though the poem comes early in the collection, its final lines sum up so much of what follows and drills to the core of what it’s like to lose someone you love:

What is least distinct / cannot be named/ What is clearest is unutterable.

PUT AWAY THE RAZOR by Carolee Kassman

*Author provided a copy in return for a fair and honest review

If you find yourself facing a hard, dangerous journey, it pays to get the advice from someone who’s traveled the same road and lived to tell the tale.

Put Away the Razor. Surviving Suicidal Thoughts and Beating Back Depression One Day at a Time

Put Away the Razor. Surviving Suicidal Thoughts and Beating Back Depression One Day at a Time

Suicidal Depression is about as hard as it comes life-wise. PUT AWAY THE RAZOR begins with some scary statistics–there are over 1 million suicide attempts in the U.S. each year, and more than 105 people commit suicide each day. When all you can see ahead of you is a dark, yawning abyss and instead of stepping away from the edge, you are drawn to those depths, you need guidance from a soul who knows exactly what you’re going through. Carolee Kassman struggled with her first suicidal thoughts in the 6th grade and knows from experience how–day by terrifying day–it IS possible to turn from death and toward life.

PUT AWAY THE RAZOR is a short, practical, purpose-driven book. That purpose is to help dangerously suicidal people stay alive–even for just another twenty-four hours. It offers a four-step plan to strengthen and support the suicidal/depressed person and provide a way back from the edge if things do go wrong. Central to Kassman’s plan is a transformation in thinking–the ability to counter destructive thoughts with positive ones. What do you live for? Who do you impact in your life? What’s the silver lining in the current troubling situation?

Using unvarnished examples from her own experience, Kassman encourages depressed people to acknowledge how they’re feeling rather than trying to deny or minimize sadness. This kind of honesty can help a person identify the particular triggers that send them into a downward spiral. If you know your triggers you can handle situations that arise before they get out of control. For example, if exhaustion is a trigger, find a way to rest, even if it means admitting to others that you’re not coping as well as everyone thinks. This leads to another tool in Kassman’s survival kit: gathering a support team, lifeguards who can come to your rescue at those times you are going under.

Even with its call to ask for needed help and build support, PUT AWAY THE RAZOR isn’t about considering yourself a victim or waiting around to be rescued. It’s about taking control. Pointing out the strong link between mental illness diagnoses and suicidal behavior, Kassman urges those who live with these illnesses to take a proactive stance toward their own health. They need to learn what works for them and what doesn’t, so that they can ask for and receive treatment that drills deeper than mere symptom control and truly addresses the root causes of their illness.

Personally, I consider Kassman’s most valuable insight to be the simplest: that a person doesn’t have to solve “depression” or “anxiety” or any other huge issue to stay alive. All you have to do is live TODAY. If you have TODAY, you can begin to deal with the other stuff a bit at a time, by making use of Counter Thoughts, emotional honesty, your personal lifeguards, and taking control of your larger health/emotional issues.

With its combination of straight talk and believe-me-I’ve-been-there compassion Carolee Kassman’s PUT AWAY THE RAZOR is a powerful resource for those who feel they have no one to turn to and nothing to live for.