‘Our brother is gone’


It’s 3am and you are sitting in the waiting room deciding who to call and with whom to share the worst news of your life. You finally take out your cellphone and scroll down your contacts and shakily press the call button. You listen and one long ring goes by. …The memories you’ve shared flood your thoughts. …Another ring goes by. …His famous smile flashes in your mind. …A third ring happens. …You recall a funny joke he said.

And after what seems like forever, you hear someone groggily answer and say, “Hello?” You take a deep breath. “Jim…our brother is gone.”

Hearing those words come out of your mouth makes you realize that it happened. It’s real. It slowly sinks in and feel your throat get tight with emotion and your eyes blister with tears. He’s gone. Death has taken yet another amazing soul too soon.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 related deaths have surged to 1 million in the United States in the past two years. Concurrently, CDC also reports in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that mental health issues have increased by 41%. These statistics show that the increase in the death rate also comes with an increase in reported mental health-related issues. We can infer that with death often comes the feeling of grief. Grief is a mixed feeling of the hopelessness, sorrow, and despair one feels when they lose a loved one. Chronic grieving affects our mental health and may lead to other illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension if not properly managed.

In losing a loved one, psychiatrist and author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross concludes that the bereaved reacts differently and the reaction may happen at different times. This is famously known as the “Five Stages of Grief.” There are stages believed to happen once a person receives the news of the loss of a loved one. These stages are not the same in everyone and may not occur in any given order. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Dealing with mental health issues while grieving can be overwhelming—especially the intense added emotional pain—and can lead to worsening symptoms. Mental Health America has posted that this year’s theme is “Back to Basics,” meaning that the goal of this theme is to provide foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions and information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern. One of the “Back to Basics” methods we can start with is finding someone to talk to: a friend, family member, a person from your faith and, most recommended, a mental health professional like a therapist or counselor. A mantra to think about for those who are both struggling with mental health and are grieving: perhaps we can consider healthier ways to honor and love those in our lives who have passed on. We can focus on the good, the happy, and the memories you have with them.

For more information about protection and advocacy for individuals with mental illness and other mental health-related services, you can contact the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc. at our office numbers (670) 235-7273/4, text message (670) 287-0652, or visit our website at www.nmpasi.org.

Cleo Nening (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Cleo Nening is a programs coordinator at the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc.

Cleo Nening (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
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