No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~ C.S. Lewis
Today I welcome Nina Bingham, author of Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After the Suicide of My Daughter. In addition to writing, Nina is a life coach and clinical hypnotherapist. Educating not only from academic knowledge, she shares from her own hard-won life experience in a new and profound way. In private practice since 2003, she has treated individuals and couples with a wide variety of mental health issues.
Nina graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her professional life and her book, which will be out in February 2015. Additionally, I review her memoir on this blog on January 22nd.
Join me in welcoming Nina to my blog and gathering for discussion and questions in the comment section below.
First, Nina, thank you for your willingness to share such a personal story with your readers and my followers. I appreciate it is not an easy topic to discuss yet you have written an amazing book and have answered my interview questions graciously.
Nina, would you share with my readers a bit about your professional background aside from your success as a writer?
There's a long history of mental illness in my family. My paternal grandmother was institutionalized with Clinical Depression, and my father was an unmedicated Manic Depressive (what is now called Bipolar Disorder). He self-medicated with alcohol, and was abusive as a result. Because of my family's history, I earned an AA in Psychology. It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I developed Clinical Depression, and became suicidal myself. When I couldn't function anymore, I began taking an anti-depressant and rebounded. I wanted to use my experience to help others, so I returned to college and earned a BA in Applied Psychology, and had completed my academic program for my MS Mental Health Counseling Degree when my 15-year-old daughter began a downhill slide into severe depression after the death of her father. The family curse went from me to her.
As a mental healthcare professional assisting clients experiencing grief, how do you help them find their way through the devastation of something like suicide where guilt is also an emotional response?
I normalize the experience of guilt and self-blame for them, so they understand it is the most common emotion shared among suicide survivors. We all look back and see where we could have done better or intervened sooner, or said something we wished we had said, or regretted having said things. Only people who loved greatly feel remorse greatly. And while I will forever wish I had done things differently, as time passes I can see that I did love her and I did get her help, that I did the best I could and knew to do at the time. I assure clients who are grieving a suicide, and even those who have lost a loved one by any means, that survivor's guilt is common, and can be a heavy weight. My advice is to not grieve silently. Get support by sharing your feelings, and finding supportive people. They may not fall in your lap--you may need to go out and look for a support group or a counselor to talk to. But nobody should shoulder the burden of grief alone.
You yourself have experienced the loss of a daughter through suicide. What confounded you the most about not being able to cope with the depth of that grief on your own?
Because I'd been trained to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and had intervened to prevent client suicides in the past, it was doubly hard for me to accept that I had been unable to save my own daughter. Because of this I felt incredible, overwhelming shame. Because of the guilt and self-condemnation, it made it that much harder for me to seek support. Eventually I did find my way to a Psychologist who was very helpful in encouraging self-forgiveness. But what I feel helped me the most was to journal about my feelings, and to talk it out with a friend. I came to realize that suicide happens to every kind of person, in every culture, and mental health professionals are not immune. Today I am not hiding behind the stigma of mental illness anymore, and encourage everyone who has a mental illness to get comfortable talking about it. The more we share our own stories of our challenges and how we are coping and living successfully with these issues, the less societal stigma there will be.
Your memoir, Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing after the Suicide of My Daughter, chronicles the lessons you learned during your grief and healing. Could you share briefly about your own healing and how it came about over time?
Key to emotional healing are the words "over time." You've heard the saying, time heals all wounds. That's true, but only if you express your pain and grief. Keeping the pain of trauma and loss too close to our chest can kill our spirits and hope for the future. Only when we give ourselves permission to be human--to make mistakes, and to see failure as part of the human growth cycle will we accept that we are not perfect, and in fact we are coded for error; making mistakes is part of how we learn and grow. Healing happens when we are willing to externalize the grief by expressing it. Not pushing it away from us and denying it or avoiding it, but looking at it squarely, facing it and saying: I am not perfect, but I did the best I knew to do at the time, and because of that, I deserve a little grace. Healing comes when we allow ourselves to stop running from the pain and to feel our real feelings.
Lastly, talk to us about writing your book and if you can, share with us any launch details.
This book was unintentional, meaning I didn't write with the intention of sharing my story. It was my Psychologist who suggested I journal about my feelings, and get the grief on paper. To my surprise, I found that although it was difficult seeing my life and problems on paper, it was also miraculously transformative. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write, because it was like a salve that I could apply to the wound any time I wanted. Writing about my feelings was the biggest healing factor for me, because it's difficult to deny what you're feeling and thinking when it's coming straight out of your pen! Journaling was like holding up a mirror in which I could see myself clearly, and that clarity really helped put things into perspective. My journal became this book where readers will be taking this journey through grief with me.
Again, Nina, thank you for sharing your words and thoughts with us today.
Learn More About Nina:
Nina Bingham, Cht, AA, BA
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, American Pacific University, HI
Associates of Arts in Psychology, Santa Rosa Junior College, CA
Bachelors of Arts in Applied Psychology, City University of Seattle, WA
Masters of Science of Mental Health Counseling Academic Program Completed-Capella University, MN
Nina Bingham is an Author, Life Coach, and Clinical Hypnotherapist. Inspiring, sincere and whole-hearted, she educates not only from her academic knowledge, but shares from her own hard-won life experience in a new and profound way. In private practice since 2003, she has treated individuals and couples with a wide variety of mental health issues. She is the author of 3 books of poetry and one recovery workbook, Never Enough. Her fifth book, "Once The Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After The Suicide of My Daughter," is due out in February 2015. It's the autobiographical confession of a counselor who lost her teen daughter to suicide. What she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.
Connect with Nina here: