80: A son’s suicide and how a Mom being emotionally naked helped her survive with Anne Moss Rogers.

Gain specific skills for supporting those suffering and learn warning signs to help those suffering who are not asking for help with TEDx speaker,  Anne Moss Rogers. Host Mike Domitrz and Anne Moss Rogers dive deeply into this discussion – including specific routines PARENTS can create for building a safer space for their kids.

**You are invited to join our community and conversations about each episode on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/MutuallyAmazingPodcast and join us on Twitter @CenterRespect or subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here.**

Anne Moss’s BIO:

Anne Moss is her first name. It’s a southern thing. She is an author and Emotionally Naked® motivational speaker who helps people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide.  

Despite the family’s best efforts, her 20-year-old son Charles died by suicide June 5, 2015 after many years of struggle with anxiety, depression, and ultimately addiction. Anne Moss started a blog, EmotionallyNaked.com, and chronicled her family’s tragedy in a newspaper article that went viral.  

After receiving a message from a young lady who wrote that one of her blog posts saved her life, Anne Moss sold her digital marketing business and followed her purpose of preventing suicide.  

She has written a book, Diary of a Broken Mind, due out in October 2019, has been featured in the New York Times, and was the first suicide loss survivor ever invited to speak at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  

Originally from North Carolina, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, Randy. They raised two sons, the late Charles Aubrey, 20, and Richard, 26, a filmmaker living his dream in LA. Charles’ dog, Andy is 13 and barks at babies in strollers as they walk by the front of the house.    

Ways to connect with Anne Moss: Help eliminate stigma, join the emotionally naked tribe and win one of two chances to win a free shipped copy of, Diary of a Broken Mind due out in October 2019. https://annemoss.com/contact-2/subscribe-to-emotionally-naked/ (or text to join at 66866)  

Books Anne Moss Recommends:

Diary of a Broken Mind, by Anne Moss Rogers and the late Charles Aubrey Rogers, publishes October 2019 and focuses on the relatable story of what lead to Charles’ shocking suicide at age twenty and answers the “why” behind this cause of death, revealed through her family’s story and years of his published and unpublished rap song lyrics. The last several chapters focus on hope and healing and how Anne Moss found her purpose and forgave herself.  

YOUR HOST: Mike Domitrz is the founder of The Center for Respect where he helps educational institutions, the US Military and businesses of all sizes create a culture of respect throughout their organizations. From addressing consent to helping corporations build a workplace free from fear (reducing sexual harassment and helping employees thrive by treating them with respect every day), Domitrz engages audiences by sharing skill sets they can implement into their lives immediately. As an author, trainer, keynote speaker and coach, Mike Domitrz loves working with leaders at all levels. Learn more at http://www.CenterForRespect.com

Mike Domitrz:
Welcome to the Respect podcast. I’m your host Mike Domitrz from mikespeaks.com where we help organizations of all sizes, educational institutions, and the US military create a culture of respect. And respect is exactly what we discuss on this show so let’s get started.

Mike Domitrz:
Anne Moss is her first name. It’s a Southern thing, Southern thing she tells me. She is an author, a TEDx and emotionally naked motivational speaker, brain tumor survivor, digital marketing expert, the first suicide loss survivor ever invited to speak at the National Institute of Mental Health and owns the popular blog Emotionally Naked. Anne Moss, thank you so much for joining us.

Anne:
Thank you so much for having me, Mike. I really appreciate it.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. I want to dive right in because Emotionally Naked is just powerful. The statement, I love the phrase the title. What does that mean? How did you come up with it?

Anne:
I’m going to try to give you the short version of that. It was 2015 and I lost my son to suicide and I was struggling a lot obviously. And I was trying to figure out how we would cope with the grief. And I was upset because nobody was talking about suicide. I was running one day and I said, “I got to start a blog.” And then it popped into my head. I know what to call it, Emotionally Naked. It was basically a diary online because I had this fear that if I wrote in a journal, somebody would discover it and I thought, you know what? If I make it public in the first place then I can’t worry about that anymore.

Anne:
I went home right then after my run and I started the blog Emotionally Naked and I started talking about mental health topics, that’s addiction, mental illness, suicide. And I talked about grief and shared those posts on Facebook at the beginning and people started sharing them and that was not what I expected them to do. It’s kind of a taboo topic and they were emotionally naked. I talked about getting the news of my son’s death and how we reacted. I just was emotionally naked and I was really surprised with the reaction I got from people because I didn’t expect them to accept it like they did.

Mike Domitrz:
How long ago was this?

Anne:
My son killed himself in 2015 June, so really about four years ago.

Mike Domitrz:
This is recent. Some people would hear this and think well was this 15 years ago before there was a lot of support sites or discussion? But this is relatively recent and it’s a sign of how further we still have to go to have these conversations.

Anne:
Oh yeah. Well suicide rates for that age group have gone up 70% in the last few years. It was a kind of a still a rare event that you didn’t hear about in 2015 but since then, we’re hearing about school systems in the area. One school system had, we had six in one season and that’s unacceptable. That shows that there’s something wrong in our culture and we need to fix it.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. And so what do you think is steps we all need to be taking to create an environment that creates a safer space?

Anne:
I think connection is the first thing. I think when the digital age came roaring in, we all thought we were more connected. And what happened is we became less connected, especially with face to face time. People started to feel more lonely and kids weren’t playing outside as much, so they weren’t getting the playground time and the coping skills. Families aren’t often growing up in the same town anymore. All that led to more feeling of isolation. And then there’s a lot of content that comes at our kids. It’s not the environment I grew up in. And I think we have to understand that their culture is different and that we need to treat it differently as a result. I think we need to connect more face to face and we also need to concentrate on giving these kids those coping strategies and looking for opportunities to teach those, whether it’s in school, whether it’s parents at home so that they can build that resilience because they’re not getting that playground time that they once got.

Mike Domitrz:
And so what would be a specific action or lifestyle change parents can make to be creating that environment that helps build those coping skills and those skills of strength?

Anne:
Well, I think the first thing is, is lecture less and listen more. We as parents have a tendency to kind of take on this autocratic, I’m the boss, I know everything. And I think that we’re real busy too, and we don’t stop to listen. What I did is I told my children, I’m not going to lecture anymore and they laughed at me and they said, “Well that’ll be the day.” And I said, “No, I’m serious about this and I need some help so I’m going to ask you to tell me when I start to lecture and say, ‘Hey mom, that’s unsolicited advice.'” And they love doing that. That empowered them to tell me to stop lecturing.

Anne:
What I did instead is I started asking them questions and I would ask them, “Well, how are you thinking of handling that?” And then I would in that conversation with, “I trust that you’re just going to figure this out.” One example, my older son was moving out to LA and he wanted to take all of this furniture. Well, I’m thinking in my mama brain, oh yeah, that’ll be $5,000 to get some moving company to haul that across to California. But I didn’t say that to him.

Anne:
Instead I just said, “How much do you think that would cost you? And once you get there, where do you think you would put it all?” And he said, “I don’t know.” And we ended the call and that wasn’t resolved. But he called me a week later and he goes, “Mom, it is over $5,000 to have all that sent. And so we’re just going to sell it all.” And I said, “That’s a great decision.” But I let him come to that conclusion. And he might’ve said, “We’re going to pay for it.” And I had to kind of let him, in that case, I would have had to let him make that error and learn for himself. That’s not a huge price tag thing, if it was running out in the middle of the street, we have to intervene then. But sometimes I think we don’t give our kids credit for coming up with solutions and we need to give them opportunities to do that.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly. And I’ve made those mistakes at time in my life too. And it’s always a fine balance when they’re younger because of what you just said there. Do they have the capability right now? Are they at the stage yet? And parents can struggle with that. What about you specifically brought up social media and gaming that kids are not, while they may be engaging in a lot online with their friends because they may be gaming with 10 people they know really well. They’re not face to face. How do you create, especially if they’re older, let’s say somebody’s listening in, they have an adult, an 18 year old, a college student. How do you, do you draw them away from the gaming? What are other options potentially?

Anne:
The earlier you start, the better. Create rituals that you as a family do. But you can start later. It’s just a little harder to introduce those later. What I did for my kids in middle school when my youngest one, the one who killed himself was named Charles and he needed more connection and I knew that. I thought, well how can I get people to my house and get them involved and doing things again, but use the technology we have to make that happen? I bought them an iMac and they found out about YouTube and I showed them how to set up a channel and we set rules, which they hated and they got mad at me about, but they were in middle school and they had to follow the rules, like not using first names and last names and they started their YouTube channel.

Anne:
A lot of people didn’t like that, but what they did was they got, my house was always filled with people. They were putting together scripts, they were finding costumes, they were figuring out how to play the scene. They were editing and deciding music. They were making all these decisions together. And I noticed that particularly for my youngest son, he was the happiest child when everybody would come over and they were making videos together. And both of them kind of got some YouTube notoriety where probably my house is seen by millions while they were in middle school. I had to work with the technology because, come over and play Monopoly really wasn’t going to do it when the other gaming screens were seducing our children basically.

Mike Domitrz:
No, that makes sense. And the making the videos is fun. It’s creative.

Anne:
Right. And, some of them had to come down, some of them were, “Oh, oh gosh, you can’t put that out there.” But they learned those rules too. They learned that that’s not appropriate and this is appropriate so it gave me an opportunity to teach them something although they didn’t always like that.

Mike Domitrz:
And how do you help with a child who is struggling? Your son suffered with a triple stigma. Can you share with that? What that triple stigma was?

Anne:
Well, he suffered from depression, he became addicted to heroin and he killed himself. That’s the triple stigma right there. Nobody wanted to talk about him at all after he died because all three and the awkwardness of losing a child and how painful that is. Not a lot of people reached out and I felt pretty abandoned. And in some cases I noticed I was being avoided, which of course hurt just a great deal. And what was your specific question before I got up on that tangent?

Mike Domitrz:
No, no, no, that’s for everyone to hear because I think a lot of people listening could make that mistake. I’m going to, I don’t want to make it uncomfortable so I won’t bring it up. I see it in and I don’t know in your case what happened, I see it in obituaries. There’s been a few times where you can’t tell how the person died. And people start to wonder then, oh did they take their own life? And you want to be able to console in those cases, but you don’t know what happened. You know what I mean? In those moments. And so I was curious, what was your take on that? Do you think parents should be outspoken about how the child died so people can feel safer talking about it? Or do you think, ah, no, you can’t do that. How do you view that?

Anne:
I think it varies with individuals. Some people are just way too shocked to be able to talk about the suicide right away. It’s just too raw. They’re too numb to be able to know that. But I always advocate for a friend to say, “What do you want everybody to ask? And what do you want them to say or not say?” You communicate with one person and that one person lets everybody else know what, how they want the subject addressed and that can change. You want that friend needs to check in, say the following week.

Anne:
Let’s say you’re going back to work and I know a couple in my support group who said, “I want everyone to know, want to talk about my daughter, but I don’t want anybody to ask how she killed herself. I don’t want to talk about that. And I don’t want to discuss it.” That was basically it. And so she told a friend and that friend also told her, was also a coworker and told her friends at work so they knew to come and talk to her about it and give her a hug and be open on the subject.

Anne:
Now there will be people who won’t. And I always say that death of a child rewrites your address book because there are people that step forward that you thought would never step forward and there are people that you expect to step forward that vanish from your life. And fear, they don’t want to talk about it, it’s too raw, it’s too close to home. It’s whatever thing they have going on and yeah, it hurts but the friends I’ve gained have, I treasure those relationships and I can’t take personally the people who have vanished.

Mike Domitrz:
Yes. And so in that moment, do you think it’s, is it almost healthy to ask the grieving parent, would you like to talk?

Anne:
Yeah, I think that, and you know what else, if it’s appropriate and the appropriate environment, usually anybody’s open to a hug. Most of us are, but I think that’s a really good question. Is it okay if we talk about it? Or is today not a good day? But to respect the other person. And then I had other people who came up to me and said, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I just feel for you. And that just sounds so weak.” And I’m like, “No, it doesn’t. I’m so glad you said anything at all.” Because the worst thing to me was people who said nothing at all.

Mike Domitrz:
Yeah. I think that’s so important for everyone to hear that to at least ask shows you’re thinking of them.

Anne:
Well, I didn’t want my son erased from our family tree. I didn’t want his memory erased. And if nobody is talking about him, then it’s like he was forgotten. And let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than that. That feeling that my child will be forgotten and nobody cares because you just get in this mindset when you’re grieving. Lots of times it’s kind of irrational, but it is what it is. And if people want to be there for each other, they need to come out of their own comfort zone a little bit and say, “How do I address this?” And sometimes somewhere somebody might get mad and strike you down. But that’s actually pretty rare and most of us want to talk about it and need to talk about it.

Mike Domitrz:
And so, and I’m going to back us up a little bit. Did you know when your son was suffering, did you know all the areas he was suffering in? Or did some of that come up very late in the process before the suicide? Or even after the suicide? Or did you know all along he is suffering with depression he is suffering with…

Anne:
I didn’t find out he was suffering from depression and until two years before he took his life and he always told me, “Mom, I’m not depressed. That diagnosis is so bogus.” He would make me doubt it when I thought maybe I was seeing some depression. He wouldn’t admit it to me. He wrote a diary that I call his rap diary and I’ve included those lyrics in the book I wrote because it helped me understand my son and those feelings, those suicidal feelings that he wrote about in almost every song, either the addiction, suicide. And it helped me understand because I didn’t know, I didn’t know he had thoughts of suicide. I didn’t know until the last month of his life that he was addicted to an opiate. And it wasn’t until the last two weeks of his life that I knew it was heroin. I didn’t really have time to become educated on all those topics at one time.

Anne:
When he called me in that last phone call, there were obvious signs of suicide and they could have been the bullet points under what do people thinking of suicide say? But I didn’t know them because nobody had ever taken the time to say, “This child is high risk,” which he was rated high risk and define that for me. What does high risk mean? Does that mean he could get in a car and hurt somebody? That’s kind of where my head went. I didn’t think he would kill himself, that just wasn’t on my radar.

Mike Domitrz:
And you’ve heard so many stories now because of your coming forward, being emotionally naked that people have come forward with their stories and you’ve heard from people who tried to kill themselves.

Anne:
I do. Yeah.

Mike Domitrz:
How does someone respond to that? How do you treat someone with the most respect in that moment?

Anne:
Well, I think the first thing I usually do is I tell people that I’m honored that they trust me enough to tell what is the most difficult, deep, dark, ugly secret in their soul. And they’ve decided to tell me. And I’m just so honored by that. And then I’m honored by the fact that they’ve had this struggle and they’ve managed to keep themselves alive up until now. We have to let people know not to be ashamed and to offer our ears. People always think I’m not qualified. Well, if you can sit down and listen to somebody, you’re qualified. You’re not qualified to fix it, I’m not going to fix it but that’s not what the person always wants. Sometimes they just want somebody to listen. And I think that’s something really all of us can do.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. So, so important. And that’s why I think this topic needs to be discussed more. We need to give it more respect and having the conversation. We’ve discussed what you can say and really what you’re referring to is empathy, right?

Anne:
Right, exactly.

Mike Domitrz:
There’s a big difference in sympathy and empathy or pity and empathy. What is something you have experienced to tell people the difference between here’s what it feels like when I’m being given empathy versus sympathy or pity?

Anne:
Well, sympathy or pity is just kind of belittling somebody. Empathy is, tell me more. I’m listening. And really just being quiet and active listening so that they know that you’re not ready to spring in with advice that maybe you hold their hand if it’s appropriate. You make good eye contact and you let them know that they shouldn’t be ashamed not by saying it, but with your body language. That I’m listening to you and sympathy is just more surface oriented and I think it comes across as less genuine. Empathy is that genuine, I really want you to share your pain with me and I’m here to listen and be a sounding board for you.

Mike Domitrz:
I think that’s such an important distinction. I love the language you said that I thought was so wonderful just now, which was tell me more.

Anne:
Tell me more.

Mike Domitrz:
That shows I really want to learn. I’m not just playing the part. People can feel that people are playing the part. Or they’re trying to be here for me versus being actually present and here for me.

Anne:
Exactly.

Mike Domitrz:
And I never think it’s out of cruelty. I think it’s out of just loss and confusion. They’re lost. We aren’t trained on how to have those difficult conversations.

Anne:
No, no, we’re not. And people when they’re nervous, they’ll see something on Facebook and I’m getting hundreds of messages. Lots of times I’m like, you just have to reach out and I’ll send them an article or a link that I’ve written or one from somewhere else. It can’t, it’s that immediate feeling of I don’t want to do this because I don’t want to feel responsible. I don’t know what to do. And again, within most cases, just listening does the trick there. Even people who come online and they’ll make a comment, they want somebody to respond, to show that they care even if they don’t say, “I care.” But responding shows that you care, that you value that person’s life.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. And you mentioned that you found out late, very late in the process about even the potential of suicidal thoughts. If someone were to come forward to someone now or they know of somebody who’s potentially in an active suicidal ideation, how do you show respect to someone in that moment?

Anne:
You say “Let’s go in private and I’d love for you to talk to me and tell me what’s going on.” And then basically just listen and it’s hard. But that period typically lasts about 20 minutes.

Mike Domitrz:
Well this is so, I never have heard that part before. And I work with a lot of people in mental health. It’s hang in with them for 20 minutes. The right way obviously, but 20 minutes is so doable.

Anne:
Right. But we’re not telling them at that point that it’s just 20 minutes.

Mike Domitrz:
Right, right, right, right.

Anne:
It’s you know it.

Mike Domitrz:
Hey, just come with me for only 20 minutes. Because then they can figure, all right, in 20 minutes I’ll do what I was going to do. Right.

Anne:
Right. It’s more like just for your sake, because what they say is disturbing. They’ll say, “I just don’t matter to anybody.” And you can ask questions, and you can tell if your line of questions are going to be good or bad and you just kind of stop it if they’re not looking good. What would your mom and dad think? Or what would your sister think? You can kind of go through the inventory to see, because everybody that is thinking of suicide has some ambivalence. It may be because they have a YouTube channel and they don’t want to disappoint their fans. You can kind of, I want everybody to still remember just to sit down and listen. If you remember nothing else, do that. But if you want to take it that step further, you can start asking, “What do you think your little sister would think?”

Anne:
And sometimes we’ll think, oh, they wouldn’t care that. I just don’t matter. Then you just go on to the next thing. You don’t try to convince them, well they would care and here’s why. Because in their irrational state of mind, that’s where they are right then. You got to meet them where they are and then always you can use, I’m listening, tell me more about your pain. You’re trying to connect with that pain.

Anne:
Suicidal ideation has been described to me, and this is a few people, I don’t know how many people suffer with it this way, but it’s like two peaks. If you visualize that you have a graph that starts low and it goes up in this high peak and then it goes back down and dips down and then goes back up to the top and dips down again. It’s got these two intense peaks and then the valleys are kind of where people are ambivalent about following through with killing themselves. And of course if you’re sitting there, they are less likely to follow through. Now that’s not always the case, but it is typically the case. If somebody is holding a firearm and they’re standing in the, and they look desperate, it’s a 911 call?

Mike Domitrz:
Right. You know what? Right, exactly. That’s a different ballgame completely there. And I want to make sure Anne Moss that we really honor your son because we talked about that earlier and you talked about him being able to connect with people. Would you like to share a story about his gift, about his skills to help his soul and spirit live on?

Anne:
I would. I remember that after he died, a young lady told me a story and she said that she suffered from depression and one day she was in bed and didn’t want to go to school and get out of bed, but she made herself get out of bed. She’s at school, standing in the hallway with a bunch of friends. They’re all chatting and talking and they don’t even recognize that she’s just not that engaged. And she looks up and she says, “I see Charles staring at me.” And she goes, “Mrs. Rogers, everybody knew Charles, he was the most popular kid in school.” But she said, “I didn’t know he knew me.” And then he kind of makes this beeline towards her and stops about a foot in front of her. And he just breaks out into a rap song that he created on the spot for her right then. And they call that freestyling.

Anne:
Her friends are shocked. She shocked. Then they start to die laughing because who does this? And then she said, “He bent down and he hugged me and he made his way down the hall, but before he did he said, ‘Pretty girls shouldn’t look so sad.'” And she said, “I just what always remember that moment. It’s being so special.” And I think as funny and as gifted as Charles was, his greatest gift was letting other people know that they matter. And that’s why I’m carrying forward the legacy of creating a culture of connection because that’s what my son was about.

Mike Domitrz:
Well, thank you so much for sharing and such a powerful way to end for all of our listeners. I want them to be able to find you because you’re such a wonderful resource. It’s easy to find you because we’ve said emotionally naked many times today, so emotionallynaked.com. It’s super easy. And then there’s also Anne Moss Rogers. Anne has an E on it. annemossrogers.com and emotionallynaked.com and we have all of your links in our show notes. We have the title of your upcoming book. It’s coming out October of 19 so depending on when this is airing, it might already be out so people can find that. That’s Diary of a Broken Mind. What a powerful title by the way. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

Anne:
Thank you so much for having me and having the guts to air a topic like this that a lot of people won’t like, but I really appreciate that you have.

Mike Domitrz:
Well it’s too important not to. Thank you. And our listeners, you know what’s next? It is question of the week.

Mike Domitrz:
Before I answer this week’s question of the week, I’d love to ask you a question. Would you please subscribe to this podcast, the Respect podcast with Mike Domitrz? By subscribing, you can make a huge impact. Now you might be wondering, Mike, how does my subscribing to your podcast make a huge impact? Well, here’s how. For every person that subscribes, it raises the rankings of the show in the search engines. For people who care about respect like yourself, when they’re doing a search for podcast, they’re more likely to find the show, thus providing an awesome opportunity for us to spread more respect around this world. And all you do is hit subscribe under your podcast. Plus, the second benefit is by subscribing, you automatically get every episode right into your phone or whatever device you’re listening to the podcast on. It happens automatically, so subscribing also makes your life easier.

Mike Domitrz:
Now, let’s get into this week’s question of the week. Oh, and by the way, you can always ask your questions of the week by joining us on Facebook in our discussion group. It’s called the Respect Podcast Discussion Group. Go there on Facebook and ask whatever questions you would like me to answer and or address in this segment of the show, and then listen to each episode to find out when your question is included.

Mike Domitrz:
This week’s question is, Mike, do you love inspiring teens and young individuals? The answer is absolutely because the younger we can get these messages and these lessons and these abilities to make great, safer choices out to the world, more respectful choices, the sooner we can reduce the harm that’s being done out there and the more people we have making a positive difference throughout their lives. Not having to play catch up. Being able to do it early on when they see things happening and that is so important.

Mike Domitrz:
Do you know what I would love? I would love to hear your answer to this week’s question of the week. Would you please answer what your answer would have been if you were asked that question today on the show. All you do is go to our Facebook page. We have a special group where we have these discussions called the Respect Podcast Discussion Group. The Respect Podcast Discussion Group and share with us what would your answer have been to this week’s question of the week and if take a moment, post us a new question for future episodes. What question would you like to hear me answer on an upcoming episode? That’s all done on Facebook in our special group, which is the Respect Podcast Discussion Group. Can’t wait to see you there.

Mike Domitrz:
Thank you for joining us in this episode of the Respect podcast, exploring work love and life, and this episode, like every episode is brought to you by our organization, The Center for Respect, which you can find at centerforrespect.com. And of course you can find me your host, Mike Domitrz at mikespeaks.com. Thank you so much for joining us.

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