Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis

Ep. 60 Your Brain: Making Sense of Your Suicide Loss

October 25, 2023 Vonne Solis/Caro Brookings Season 3 Episode 60
Ep. 60 Your Brain: Making Sense of Your Suicide Loss
Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis
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Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis
Ep. 60 Your Brain: Making Sense of Your Suicide Loss
Oct 25, 2023 Season 3 Episode 60
Vonne Solis/Caro Brookings

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If you are a suicide loss survivor or know someone who is, this episode offers a candid and informative discussion on all things suicide with my guest, Caro Brookings. After losing her mom to suicide in 2013 when Caro was just a young university student, Caro struggled with complex grief and guilt.

She quickly realized there wasn't enough support for suicide loss survivors which led Caro to discover the work she does today as a Certified NeuroCoach and Grief Coach.

In her coaching, Caro helps her clients find inner peace and joy after suicide loss, using the same brain based and science-backed methods that she used to recover from and heal after her own devastating loss.


Connect with Caro:
Facebook Group
Facebook Coaching

Connect with Vonne:

Episode 49  "Mastering Your Emotions in Grief"

Grief and healing after suicide loss with Caro Brookings. (0:00)
Grief, trauma, and healing after losing a loved one to suicide. (1:07)
Suicide signs and emotional struggles after loss. (5:16)
Suicide prevention, guilt, and stigma. (12:00)
Grief, stigma, and suicide loss. (18:17)
Coping with loss and stigma surrounding suicide. (22:43)
Grief, neuro coaching, and brain function. (26:18)
The power of thoughts and beliefs. (32:28)
Grief, trauma, and brain science. (37:17)
Emotional healing and brain function. (43:49)
Grief, brain rewiring, and healing. (50:16)
Suicide support, advocacy, and education. (55:49)

Subscribe to the podcast! Share your favourite episodes! Connect with Vonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

If you are a suicide loss survivor or know someone who is, this episode offers a candid and informative discussion on all things suicide with my guest, Caro Brookings. After losing her mom to suicide in 2013 when Caro was just a young university student, Caro struggled with complex grief and guilt.

She quickly realized there wasn't enough support for suicide loss survivors which led Caro to discover the work she does today as a Certified NeuroCoach and Grief Coach.

In her coaching, Caro helps her clients find inner peace and joy after suicide loss, using the same brain based and science-backed methods that she used to recover from and heal after her own devastating loss.


Connect with Caro:
Facebook Group
Facebook Coaching

Connect with Vonne:

Episode 49  "Mastering Your Emotions in Grief"

Grief and healing after suicide loss with Caro Brookings. (0:00)
Grief, trauma, and healing after losing a loved one to suicide. (1:07)
Suicide signs and emotional struggles after loss. (5:16)
Suicide prevention, guilt, and stigma. (12:00)
Grief, stigma, and suicide loss. (18:17)
Coping with loss and stigma surrounding suicide. (22:43)
Grief, neuro coaching, and brain function. (26:18)
The power of thoughts and beliefs. (32:28)
Grief, trauma, and brain science. (37:17)
Emotional healing and brain function. (43:49)
Grief, brain rewiring, and healing. (50:16)
Suicide support, advocacy, and education. (55:49)

Subscribe to the podcast! Share your favourite episodes! Connect with Vonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Vonne Solis  0:00  
Welcome to another episode of Grief Talk. Everything you want to know about grief and more. I'm your host, Vonne Solis. As an author, mentor and bereaved mom since 2005, through guest interviews and coaching, here's where you'll always get great content that is inspiring and practical to help you heal after loss. 

Today's guest is Caro Brookings. After her mom took her life in 2013, Caro struggled with complex grief and guilt. She quickly realized there wasn't enough support for suicide loss survivors, which led her to the work she does today. As a certified neurocoach and grief coach, Caro helps her clients find inner peace and joy after suicide loss, using brain-based and science backed methods that we're going to learn all about in today's episode. 

So welcome to my podcast, Caro. I have been so excited to not only have met you, but also welcome you to my show. And we have lots to talk about today. So I want to get started right after you pop in and say hi to my folks.

Caro Brookings  1:07  
Yeah, hello, everyone. It's so good to be here. Thank you for having me.

Vonne Solis  1:12  
So for the audience, Caro and I met, she does offer an interview series for suicide survivors twice a year. And we're going to be talking about that towards the end of the show. But that's how we met. And I can tell you, I did join your Facebook group, Caro. You have hundreds and hundreds of people on it for suicide survivors. And you're very, very active. Holy smoly. And almost almost daily. I'm thinking and you do a lot of live webinars. You pose a lot of really interesting questions. I want to clarify that most of your work, if not all of your work is directed at suicide survivors. Is that Is that right?

Caro Brookings  1:53  
Yeah. So that's what I support people who've lost their loved one to suicide exclusively, really.

Vonne Solis  1:59  
Yeah. And that's really good, because you know, when we niche down and, and clearly, there is a need for more suicide support. We're going to be talking about that in this episode. So for the audience, just to give you a heads up. We're going to be opening up with a little bit about what Caro does. So she can talk a little bit more about neurocoaching. She works in science backed brain-based neurocoaching. Which I think is really incredibly important as a support to some other types of therapies. But we'll have a little conversation about that. Then we're going to be talking, Caro lost her mum to suicide and 2013. She's going to share a little bit about her story, hopefully, about that, and how that has impacted her as an adult suicide survivor. We're going to talk about your interview series, suicide series, for suicide support, and your resources. But I'm sure we'll cover some of the things.

So let's get right to it. So Caro, if you'd like to explain whatever you're willing to share with the audience about losing your dear mom. When and how that impacted you in you know, in terms of complex grief. Maybe even some trauma. And then we're gonna move into how it led you to do the work you do today.

Caro Brookings  3:14  
Yeah, of course. So, like I said, I lost my mom to suicide nearly 10 years ago. So it was November of 2013. And it was a big shock for us. None of us expected it. I still remember receiving the phone call because I lived in a different country to my family. And I still remember looking back, I didn't really understand what it actually meant. I tried to make sense of it. And it just didn't make any sense at all. So I flew to Germany where my family lived, you know, so we can support each other and make all the arrangements and everything. But then I had to go back to the UK to finish my degree. I was in my third year of uni. 

Some of the things especially at the start that I struggled with. All that sort of went through my mind and I always like to share that in case other people can connect with that. So one of the things is I always look forward to falling asleep and I was hoping and praying that I could be with my mom. Because that was the only way I could be with her now right? And I dreamed about her sometimes but not a lot. Another thing was I used to play what I call this game in my head where I said okay, if I could go back in time only one. What would I do? How would I save her? And that took up so much of my attention of my focus. It just kept running through my mind. Non Stop. Okay, I could do this. Yeah, but then that could happen again. I could be there when in the right place at the right time, but it doesn't mean that she wouldn't attempt another time. And it like I said it was difficult for me to, to be present. Yeah, there's some of the things that, that I struggled with.

I managed to finish uni and I started my graduate job. But again, the guilt that I was feeling was immense. Because I felt like, you know, my mom came to see me in the UK for two weeks, just two months before she took her life. So I'm sure people can relate to the, oh, so obvious signs afterwards, right? When when it's too late. So I was I was beating myself up a lot. I was I felt so guilty. I felt angry with my mom for leaving us behind right? When I would sit there and cry in the front of the lecture theatre, or at my parents-in-laws sofa. I always thought, you know, mom, because you did this, you took your life. That's why I'm sat here crying now. So that took me a while to work through. So like you said, it's a lot of complex emotions. And at the time, I tried to make sense of it. And, and I couldn't.

Another thing, which I always find, again not interesting, but I hear it happened to a lot of people. And it's just that strange feeling of, I remember standing in my kitchen, and it was the three month mark. And I remember thinking, okay, it feels like it's only been three months. And it feels like it's already been three months, both at the same time, which was just weird. And I definitely couldn't wrap my head around never seeing my mom again. Like never is such a long time. It just didn't make any sense in my head.

And that feeling of joy, right? Where I've had experiences. Like my graduation where I knew technically they are joyful, and I just, I just couldn't feel it. I felt I had the ceiling of happiness right above my head. So never sort of went anywhere. So they were some of the things that I struggled with.

Vonne Solis  7:07  
Yeah. Yeah, so a couple of things I just wanted to pop in here and say. So when your mom came to visit you two weeks in advance. Because for the audience, and for you and I Caro, we haven't talked about this before. But you know, there's that last time we saw our loved one alive. And that itself can be a very traumatic memory. Right? And I don't want to go into my last day with my daughter, but it was the day before she died. And there were definite, I was feeling very triggered by a lot of fear about losing her that day. That's all I'm gonna say. Keeping it high level here. And I had no idea what was going on. And in looking back, yes, you can see all the signs of actually, in my daughter's case, saying goodbye. She was tying up her loose ends. And I just thought she was maturing. You know. But anyway, that's another story. But in terms of your mom visiting you, and you said, you know, looking back, you could see signs. So what were some of those signs? And we're not talking about this audience so you can look for the same thing. But the signs are definitely there Caro and we're just not educated enough to look for them. Right?

Caro Brookings  8:30  
And I think it's also a case of, if we don't expect it for those of us who don't expect it because it's not on our minds, they're not signs at the time. What I always say is, we look back at everything in hindsight.

Vonne Solis  8:44  

Caro Brookings  8:46  
Knowing what has happened. And then we interpret everything in a different way, which is really not fair or nice. But that's sort of, you know, what's happening then. You know, as you were talking, I like to share the last time I saw my mom. So it was so she came to see me for two weeks, two months before she took her life. And I took her back to the airport for her to fly home. And I remember, we were stood there and we got to the security area where I couldn't go through. And I remember she was hugging me and she started to cry. And I thought well, it's a bit, that's a bit strange. But I thought nothing of it. I even remember talking to my partner afterwards. And I said, you know, my mom cried. But I said well, it's just a mum thing right? She probably thought she's not gonna see me for a while. And then when it all happened I thought, Oh, I wonder if she already knew she was never gonna see me again. And then I remember her going through security and then standing on the other side of the glass just waving goodbye and that was it. I was off on on the train home. 

So now of course you know that crying I would interpret very differently. But also just things she mentioned like, oh, you know sometimes I feel like why did I even bother getting up in the morning? And well, I thought it was well, yeah, sometimes I would just rather stay in bed. Right? Because again, it wasn't even on my radar. So I didn't interpret it in such a way. But those just a couple of examples.

Vonne Solis  10:16  
Yeah, yeah. And for audience listening, the idea of this talk, if you're, if you're tuning in, is I believe anybody can be at risk of suicide, or being a suicide survivor. So I am very vocal and an advocate of everybody, you know, being aware of suicide. That it happens. It's not something that we should close our eyes and just Oh, I hope it never happens to me and never think about it. Because it can. For every suicide as a survivor, every one of us is surprised and shocked. I don't think there's one person that expects a loved one to take their life. I know, we worry. But when it actually happens, they die alone. We don't know. And they may tell one person. In my daughter's case, she told her very best friend, but she did not tell her the day she was going to do it. Those girls had a pact actually, and only my daughter went through with it. 

But I saw her as an example of cleaning up. Like, as I said, making amends with relationships that, you know, like a boyfriend she had dumped, for example, she apologized. She phoned me and told me what a great mom I was, you know? And I'm like, hmm... growing up, you know? So those are some examples of things that what I want to get across here and Caro, I'd like you to speak about this just a little bit in your you know, as it relates to maybe your coaching and helping others. When we are worried about somebody. I know maybe in your case, you weren't. In my case I was but I didn't know what I was worried about. And there's a lot of parents that worry about their children. And especially in today, so a lot of mental health problems. But anybody at any age can be at risk of giving up, right? Giving into that, if it's an impulse, whatever we want to talk, whatever we want to call it. And we don't know what I don't even think psychiatrists have figured out what's going on in the brain at the actual moment of one taking one's life. 

But if behavior. If we're worried and behavior, even if we're not worried, and behavior of our loved one is out of character? I think that is the moment we need to have the talk and sit down and say, Are you okay? Are you thinking about taking your life? Do you have support, you know? A list of questions that we can have prepared, but just not being afraid to have the conversation. Because I believe and Caro, I would love to get your opinion on this. One, if you have any tips about that. But two, if you are seeing in your coaching. In your Facebook group and in you know, in all of your professional area, that we just really. People don't, like they're, they they really don't want to embrace the idea of a loved one taking their life. I don't know, what are your thoughts on that?

Caro Brookings  13:07  
Yeah. I think you got right to the point that we, there's a couple of things as I talk with my clients, and also in the group, as you've mentioned. Either their loved one maybe mentions they're suicidal, and then we think, okay, no, no, no, no, that can't happen, right? And then we just, we give, try and throw all the tools at them. And then say Oh, you know, don't don't say such a thing. And it's understandable. Bbecause we're worried we don't want that to happen. But that doesn't really necessarily help them. And then like you said, the other thing is, we're scared us that question. Are you suicidal? Are you thinking of harming yourself? We apparently we should say, Are you thinking of harming yourself rather than taking your life? Because sometimes they don't even think about taking their life. It's just harming themselves. So there's a bit of a difference there. But yeah, so we're afraid to ask the question, because we think that's putting thoughts into their minds. But usually the thoughts are already there. 

Vonne Solis  14:13  
Exactly. And I'm so glad you brought that up because I did an episode very early when my podcast started on the myths of suicide taken directly from a psychiatrist. And they debunked, you know, I guess there there might have been a group of psychiatrists doing the research, but medical professionals anyway. And the article, I took it from, they debunk these myths. And that's exactly to your point. We're not putting ideas in their head. They've already got the idea. And this is one of the problems culturally in North America for sure that we need to get over. We need to be vocal. And I'm just going to throw this in here and maybe I'll have a conversation with you again someday. But in Canada, we're both Canadian and MAID, which is medically assisted death in Canada is going to be one of the most progressive countries in the world. And as you may know, probably the law will be expanded and passed, I think it's next March in 2024, to include offering assisted dying for the mentally troubled. And they're even opening it up to, at least talking about opening it up to some minors who they are believed, believe are judged to be of sound mind. 

And it's shocking, because essentially, what it is, is assisted suicide for a mental health problem. I believe that we're going to have to change the conversation around suicide for people that take their lives and not through MAID. See, because I'm thinking it's pretty much very similar. You know? And it's, it's a, it's a can of worms at the moment. But another, I just want to mention that because we're going to have to, any way you look at it, we're going to have to change the conversation about what we think about suicide, through which is essentially medically assisted death. They push, they punch their own button, you know? They click their own button and administer the lethal dose. And I know this is a really in your face conversation, folks. But that's what this podcast is all about. And these are issues that we're going to have to address. And so therefore, I don't want to have the stigma. And I'm sure you don't Caro, of having a loved one die by suicide. And it's just really, really an awful thing that we hope it doesn't touch us. 

And the other thing I just want to talk about really, really quickly with you here. It's really interesting, because as a parent of a child who died by suicide, and feeling terrible guilt. And so I was kind of interested when you said that you felt very, very, you know, I'm gonna say probably complex guilt, if there is such a word when your mom took her life. So whether you're a parent. Whether you're the child, we feel responsible for our loved one. Maybe even a spouse, you know, taking their life. And maybe all suicide survivors feel guilty. I think they do Caro. 

But it's, when, when Lisa Marie Presley lost her son, and of course, she died early this year, January, right? And one of the things I came across when they were publishing some some things in tribute to Lisa Marie, was that before her son died, she was quite, in her own words, critical and judgmental about families who had lost, well, particularly their child to suicide, and like what's wrong with that family? So in other words, having this association of dysfunction. Your family must have been so dysfunctional, that your loved one had to die. And I'm just throwing it out there for your thoughts. If you've, you know, come across any of that kind of problem in dealing with your coaching. Because in terms of the guilt, we also have to struggle with thinking. Well, I had never really thought of ourselves as dysfunctional until I read that. And then I thought, I'll bet you there's a lot of people who judge families who have lost a loved one to suicide. That there's something wrong with their family structure. They're like something. What what do you do? Can you say any speak to that at all?

Caro Brookings  18:17  
Yeah, so to answer your first question about the guilt. So not everyone feels guilty, actually. That's some suicide loss survivors stand and I always say that's perfectly fine. Don't feel like you should.

Vonne Solis  18:29  

Caro Brookings  18:29  
And I think for me, I felt guilty because I wish I had been a bit kinder to my mom. Sometimes I might get a bit stressed or wound up and I'd be a bit short with her for exams. I just thought aagh. I wish I just could have been kinder. I wish I had asked the right question or, you know, offered her some kind of support. Those kinds of things. Because as the, as the child of someone who takes their life, even though you know, I was 23 and a half when when she died. So I was still relatively young. Looking back now, I still felt because I was, I was an adult, I still thought I had some responsibility in it. I should have done something to support her. Of course, it's doesn't make logical sense, because I didn't know right? But those are the things that can go through our minds.

And in terms of like dysfunctional families. I mean, you're right. So many people judge us suicide loss survivors and their loved ones. And I think it's, it's usually largely based on ignorance because they have no idea. And I remember before my mom took her life, I didn't judge people. I remember though, when I heard about someone, you know, a friend of a friend kind of thing took their life and I thought, oh, that must be really sad. And that's sort of where it stopped, right? And I didn't understand all of the complexities around that. And that's why my upcoming interview series, which I know we'll talk about a bit later, all around having conversations around suicide and suicide loss. For suicide loss survivors to be confident to show up and share their story, whatever they want to share to reduce the stigma. To have those conversations. To educate the general public. I think it's so, so needed.

Vonne Solis  19:26  
Yeah. We're not going to have time to talk about that today. But it is a huge disservice to us for sure in our grief. And I don't, this is a question for you. So as a parent, I don't get it so much anymore. But in the first several years, and I was in any number of situations, how many kids do you have? And depending on who I was talking to, I would decide if I wanted to be truthful or not, right? Because it felt like I was doing such a disservice to my daughter, if I only said I had my one child, my son. And then if I said, Well, I have two, but my daughter died, Oh, how'd she die? And then I'd say suicide. And, and even before I got to the part about how she died, there would be an audible gasp and silence. And I always felt I needed to say, Oh, that's okay. Now, that's a whole other story. I stopped doing that a few years ago. 

But when you talk about opening up the, the dialogue. The discourse for us to have freely, to freely speak about our suicide losses, we also have to have not only the platforms, but we also have to have the spaces culturally, to feel that we can do that. And the more we talk about it on any platform. In any type of, you know, support area that people are working in, and a lot of people are working in this by the way. That's, it's all a really good step. But we have a really long way to go. 

You're coming up ten years in your bereavement. How did you, how do you now, if it applies when people ask you something about oh, is your mom this? Or what are you doing for Mother's Day? And then, do you tell them? Well, I lost my mom. And then if they say, Well, how did she die? Like how do you handle that?

Caro Brookings  22:12  
Yeah, good question. And then yeah, you know, I, I still know before when, you know, even when people say, Oh, are your family all in Germany? And I say well, yeah, my, my dad and my brother are kind of thing. Or if they say oh, you know has your mom ever come to visit you here? And I'll say no. You know, she's passed away. And if they ask, I'll say that, that she died by suicide. And thankfully, I've never, I mean, we can't account for other people but I've never had a really horrible reaction. I've had some, especially right at the beginning, I've had some insensitive comments where people probably didn't even know what to say. And they just wanted to say something. And you think, okay. But yeah, I'm, I'm just open and honest.

But, you know, to make it clear, I wasn't always open and honest about it. So when I started my graduate job, people there knew that my mom died. But I didn't share with anyone apart from a couple of people that she took her life. I just didn't just didn't say it. And then people didn't, didn't ask, so to be fair. But then even moving on a bit later. So we, when we had re -well, at the time, we had recently moved house. So you know, you introduce yourself to your neighbours. And when one of our neighbours came around and they'd say, Oh, what do you do? And at the time, I was sort of moving from what I had done before, which was help kids with their math, to supporting suicide loss survivors. It was like a whole new thing for me. And then when they said, Oh, what do you do? And I just said, I'm a math tutor. And I know, just mmm. It came out so quickly, I know it was driven by my subconscious. I didn't make a conscious decision to say that, but my brain, you know, the brain always wants to protect us. 

Vonne Solis  24:08  

Caro Brookings  24:09  
So I'd just say, okay, just say math, you know. No one's gonna question that, no one's gonna ask that. And then I told with my coach what I did, because I obviously recognize what was going on. And then we did the thing, which I recommend anyone to do if you know a situation is gonna come up, which you're not quite sure how to handle. Make a plan in advance. So when it does come up, you already know what you want to say. 

So I knew we were going to go around to one more neighbor to introduce ourselves. So we made a plan and I knew what I was going to say. And the question came up, okay, what do you do? So my heart rate increased. My hands got sweaty, but I already knew what I wanted to say. So

Vonne Solis  24:51  

Caro Brookings  24:51  
I said it and as soon as I finished saying it, my heart rate slowed down again. And all she said was, oh, I work from home sometimes as well. And that was it. So our mind tells us all of these stories of, oh how this is going to happen. They're gonna say this and they're gonna want to talk to you or, you know, they're gonna do that. What you way is not necessarily true.

Vonne Solis  25:12  
Was this when you were being honest about working in suicide support? 

Caro Brookings  25:17  
Yeah. Yeah. 

Vonne Solis  25:19  
Good for you Good for you. I think people get a vibe from us how much we're going to say and at any one time. And I learned over the years just to just to really read the person. And while I couldn't gauge their response, nobody was like, oh, like awful. But they were always stunned and shocked. But I just want to tell you Caro really quickly. Even just hearing you say, you know, like, my mom took her life. My mom died by suicide, you know, however, you're saying that. Even I'm still sitting here going yeah. We're not really used to hearing that, from people. Not in, maybe in your world, but not in my world. Just like, we're not really used to hearing people talk freely about their child dying in any circumstance, and especially not the more difficult ones, such as suicide. 

I mean, you don't really you don't really. What parent have you ever met that's gone around, Oh, yeah. My child was murdered. Yeah. So, you know? It's like, we have a ways to go, I think, basically, globally, when it comes to the type of support and encouragement and survivors of tough deaths, and we're talking suicide today, being able to be, to feel free enough to be authentic about who we are. Because the last, the other thing I want to say about this, and Caro, and I know you agree, and then we're going to go into your coaching stuff, is that the more we have to hide who we are, and huge life experiences that have literally changed us, it is the most inauthentic way to live. And it takes a heck of a lot of energy. And it makes us sick. And it makes us all sorts of things. And I have met people I've been at this 18 years now. And I met people over the years. Parents who were devastated and destroyed by losing their child to whatever means and hid it. And some of these people are not a generation, but you know, a few years older than me and it has destroyed their lives. Like destroyed them. 

And I've also met older adult siblings say in their 50s 60s, who lived as a sibling survivor of any kind of death. Drowning, like accidental, whatever. And because it ruined their parents, it ruined the entire family relationship. And while we're not again going to have time to dive deep into the destruction of family relationships, in grief, it is real. It happens. And without a doubt every relationship changes because the dynamic has changed. But it's something else that we kind of keep hidden and away. And I want to do some work on that so we can bring a voice to the things that are not being addressed in terms of rocking families. Because it's not as simple as saying, well no. Just go to therapy together. No, this stuff can destroy families, and you've got to keep a really, really careful eye on surviving children if they have suffered sibling loss for sure. And in your case, and I don't want to pry too much, but I heard you say you had a brother. Did you react similarly to your mom's death? Like did it change the dynamic between you and your brother? Only only share what you feel comfortable sharing.

Caro Brookings  27:25  
Yeah, I wouldn't say so. We because I lived in a different country we weren't particularly close. Like talking all the time anyway, you know? When we needed to talk about something we did and that was fine, but I wouldn't say that that has changed. Nothing has changed. I would say with my dad though, we actually got closer with my mom's suicide. We were supporting each other. So

Vonne Solis  29:16  

Caro Brookings  29:17  
it's it's certainly interesting. And to your point about you know, not not telling the truth. Hiding the fact. There's this thing where you say  secrecy breeds shame, right? So, but intentional or not, if we keep things hidden away, it brings up shame and then the more shame we feel, the more things we hide away. And the other thing again, from a brain perspective is, this gets very confusing for your brain because it obviously knows what's happened. And then it keeps thinking, Well, you know, you're telling a completely different story. Which again, is really unhelpful for your healing journey.

Vonne Solis  29:54  
Oh, for sure. Caro, let's move into neurocoaching. I want to hear obviously, you've already covered that, you know, the loss of your mom helped you find neurocoaching. I know that you used it for yourself. And it was that light bulb moment this is working. I've had them myself for trauma and stuff. So one thing I want to acknowledge right up front before we talk about neurocoaching is that you state that time does not heal wounds. You'll see many people or hear many people read about it, hear about it, that Oh, time will heal everything. That was one of the things that made me so angry when I first became bereaved in 2005. And by the way, when I became bereaved, I had no experience with grief, other than losing grandparents, which as a child, which basically, I guess, did not affect me. So I was throwing full whammy into the deep end of the pool, with the suicide of Janaya, at age 22. And there was very little and today, there still is not as much support and books and help for this support. Like child loss and suicide loss for children and, you know, specific areas. 

So unfortunately, not much has changed. And I want to acknowledge what I see on the comments on even your Facebook group, which is an amazing group. You know, and a lot of those people, your your followers and community, they seem to be newer to grief, a lot of them. And they're still struggling with stuff I struggled with 18 years ago. And that really kind of frustrates me, but I also understand it. And this is why we do the work we're doing. You and I Caro, and others, okay? Because we need to change that conversation. We need to change the awareness. So in terms of, so people. Time does not heal all wounds, it's what you do with the time that heals your wounds.

So in the neurocoaching, the brain is so important, but I want you to talk Caro, why is the, is understanding the brain and even doing some therapies and methods that you used. I want, I want you to sort of explain, you know, generally, the neurocoaching. What is it sort of the methods based on? And why is it so important as you see it for grief?

Caro Brookings  32:15  
Yeah, love to share. So, basically, the first things we get to realize, before we get into this is about 90 to 95% of what we say and do is driven by our subconscious. So we think we walk around making all of these conscious decisions when it's really not the case. And they gave the example earlier when I said oh, I'm a math tutor. And I know I didn't consciously decide that it just came out. And another thing is that when we create our thoughts, so we can choose which thought we want to think. And it's not like, we're gonna send you away saying, okay, just think a different thought, right? That's not how it works. But again, an important realization. And also, to know that not everything we're thinking is true and or helpful just as much as someone else, you know, they might say something doesn't mean it's true. It's something that I feel everyone should know about. But again, it's not something we learn in school though or growing up, right? So and it's important in grief because in grief, you know, if we've got the guilt, and we've got the anger, and we're blaming ourselves they're all thoughts that go through my through our mind. So we might say you've lost your child. I'm a terrible parent. That would be a thought.

Vonne Solis  33:35  
It was. It was.

Caro Brookings  33:38  
But if you have these kinds of thoughts, of course, it'll affect your whole life. So when we look at situations, in general, we can say they're neutral, right? They just are. They're not necessarily good or bad. They are what they are. But then not until you attach a thought to that situation is when it can go either way. So for example, if someone says to you, oh, you should have you should have moved on by now. Right? One of those helpful comments. And that's everyone in the room could say, yes, that person said that to you. That's the situation. I had to act. It's not it's not good or bad. 

Vonne Solis  34:20  

Caro Brookings  34:20  
But then we can attach this thought of, Oh, my goodness, you know. They say I should have moved on by now. And I haven't. And that means I'm, I'm a terrible person, for example, right? And then I just follow that through and I know we're looking at it from another angle. So then when you think that, Oh I'm, I'm useless, right? I'm not moving on. I'm stuck. And you're going to have emotions, like maybe you've got anxiety or disappointment, sadness, those kinds of things. And if you repeat that time and time again our thoughts and emotions they create this deep seated belief so you really identify as a person who, you know who's useless because, you know, again, not doing what people expect of you. 

And then, based on our beliefs come all of our decisions, actions and results. So if we believe we're a rubbish person, just as a general example, then our results will, will mirror that because our brain always wants to prove us right? That inside, everything's fine. Now, look at the other side of things. Say that the person said to you, okay, you really should have moved on by now. And you could attach this thought of, okay, they obviously don't know what they're talking about. Maybe they've never lost someone, especially to suicide. So I'm not I'm choosing not to even take that on. And then you might feel at least neutral. Maybe you feel peaceful, because you're not letting it disturb you, right. And then your belief about yourself doesn't change. Maybe it even strengthens. You know you're you're fine as you are, for example, and then your decisions, actions and results are based on that. 

And there's a great analogy, you know when about positive focus. Which is different to positive thinking. Positive thinking is just Oh, yeah, everything's great. Positive focus says there's the good stuff and the bad stuff. And you can only focus on one thing at a time. So I choose to focus on the good stuff. So if you imagine a miner going down the mine, and they've got their headlight. And the headlight only shines where they turn their head. So on one side, there's all the dirt and on the other side, there's all the gold, for example. So the miner might look to one side and just see the dirt and focus on the bad stuff. Doesn't mean the gold isn't there when he doesn't focus on it. Or could look the other way, and see all the gold and focus on that. And we're not saying the difficult stuff isn't there. We just don't put our focus on it, right? Because what we focus on grows. Again, our brain's trying to prove us right all the time. So it will always bring up more, more of what we focus on.

Vonne Solis  37:17  
So positive focus. Audience, that's fantastic, and especially for brains who have been traumatized. I have PTSD. So I zero in on things that go, Oh, I like that. I can manage that. When we're, the difference between when we're contemplating positive thinking. Which, because we don't always control our thoughts, and most often don't control our thoughts, unless you are very, very disciplined and trained to do it. Versus positive focus. Now I right away, go, Ah! I can do, I can do the Positive Focus thing. So I'm going to offer, Caro love to hear your thoughts, but especially for people struggling in newer grief. Or maybe you've been in grief for a really long time and are still struggling, right? I kind of have those people in sort of the same group. I think that working with this idea of just focus. I only have to focus. I don't have to think it. I just have to focus. I'd even offer that there's a little difference in the way we interpret thinking and focus. It's kind of the same thing, but it's all semantics right? I'd let you speak to that. 

But if you say well, I okay. I'm going to focus on the gold today. So all the things good happening. You can get out of bed. Whatever, whatever that gold means for you. Right? Do you agree that it's a more manageable process to take on or method to take on when you're really really dealing with complex like grief and even maybe trauma? Like when you came across this neurocoaching, did focus, Positive Focus change the way you viewed your grief and like help in your healing?

Caro Brookings  39:08  
Yeah, so I'll answer your your other question first in terms of you know, people new in their grief or maybe people who haven't done anything to process their grief. Yeah, you know

Vonne Solis  39:20  

Caro Brookings  39:21  
Sort of pursuing and honouring our gratitude, right? We talk about gratitude journals can be really helpful. We know from brain scans that we can't be angry or anxious and grateful at the same time in that moment. That's why it's such a great exercise.

Vonne Solis  39:37  
Say that again. Just a sec, say that again, Caro.

Caro Brookings  39:40  
 We can't be either angry or anxious and grateful at the same time. So you can't be angry and grateful at the same time and you can't be anxious and grateful at the same time. Because that's how the areas of the brain work.

Vonne Solis  39:55  
The thoughts are that are coming or the emotion is coming from different parts of the brain? 

Caro Brookings  40:02  
Hm mmm. 

Vonne Solis  40:03  
So do positive emotions come from a different part of the brain than negative emotions?

Caro Brookings  40:08  
So it's just how the brain is all interconnected. Like you can't have the one area and the other area both active at the same time. And it makes sense when you think about it, right? If you're really in a place of gratitude, and you feel so grateful for whatever, you're not going to be angry. You're going to be anxious, because you're sitting in that gratitude. And if you're angry, you're not going to be grateful for anything. If you're anxious and worrying about things, you're also not going to be grateful. Right? So when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Vonne Solis  40:39  
That is a key point to understand. That, and this is why I love brain work so much, is because things happen that we don't necessarily have control over. Because you see when you're working with positive thinking, and you know, and with all respect to life coaches, okay? All respect. But when you're thinking about it in terms of just going after the manifesting the positive. Feeling grateful. And you can create whatever, oh, there goes my headphones. You can create whatever you want just by the way you think. But that's not true. And in grief, this is where, and I lived like that for 23 years when my daughter died. So I know what I'm talking about. I did all the stuff from the 80s with the you know, big manifesting gurus out there that became really big in the early 2000s. And so when I became bereaved, and unbeknownst to me, got PTSD. So right away, my brain is now functioning completely differently. And I don't really want to say misfiring. But for lack of a better word, kind of like that. And I didn't have control over a lot of what I was reacting to, because my brain had completely taken over to keep me in survival mode. 

So I did go through years of doing stuff, that was the most bizarre, bizarre behavior that I thought was, like, all I could do. And like, I don't want to go into detail, but just I didn't, I worked at jobs that I had never done in my life before and thought, like I could know, kinda like manual labor type jobs. That I thought I couldn't do what I used to do. So whether my brain was tricking me, for sure, it was just telling me over and over and over again, you need to do what you are capable of doing in this moment to survive. And that was pumping gas and things like that. All due respect to people who work at gas stations. And support work. All due respect to people who work in support roles. But that wasn't my background. 

And what I had done, you know, with my degree and everything, right, basically, in the business world. No, that world was no, no, no, no. You can't do that anymore. And it was years that I struggled. It took me years to be able to get back into that. And so all of this stuff about just think good thoughts, right? No, and this is why the brain science part of it is so important to understand, is because I think we really have to understand, first of all know whether you've been traumatized, and your brain impacted and how that's been impacted if you have a disorder. And second of all, even if you've just been traumatized but don't have a disorder, and I think we're all traumatized when we lose a loved one to suicide Caro, right? It takes the pressure off us. The minute I understood I had PTSD and my brain was doing things on its own, it took all the pressure off me to try and be that person I was as a manifester, before Janaya died. Right? And so it brings you sort of a sense of relief would you say?

Caro Brookings  43:49  
Yeah, for sure. Because often we can think you know, oh, what's wrong with me? And people will say oh they want you to be the person they were before. And then you think, you know, you're trying but it's futile because of course, you know, we've lost our loved one to suicide. We're never going to be the same person. And we're not saying that we'll be suffering forever. It's just things have changed. Things have shifted. What's important to us has shifted. What our life will look like for the rest of the life that we get to live, it's, it's all changed. And yeah, that's another conversation around finding what's meaningful to us and how we want that to look. But we're never going to be that same person again.

Vonne Solis  44:33  
Yeah. So I do a lot of emotional based work and and I've kind of turned a corner. And I'm working with an emotion wheel now. Which is because we're emotionally illiterate. We're brain illiterate and emotion illiterate. And so putting the two together for me, is so fantastic. I've worked with a couple. Not worked with but had a couple of practitioners on who are therapists who work in you know very much with the brain and understand the psychology of the brain and so on. And it's just so interesting because as you said, and I know but a lot of people watching to this or listening to this, and even your audience may not understand the impact of the brain and how powerful it is keeping us surviving. Which is completely different than choosing to live intentionally. And we can only live intentionally through choice when we understand what's happening to us with our brain and emotionally. And I'm just actually releasing an episode on Mastering your emotions in grief next week, and by the time this airs, I'll put a link to it because I combine the two. I think, and I'd love to know your thoughts on that. So I know that in neurocoaching, the the basis of it is understanding working with the brain and rewiring it right? Refuting thoughts and so on. But is there also in your own practice and your own personal practice in healing. Your own healing practice? Do you pay a lot of attention to emotion as well?

Caro Brookings  46:15  
Yeah, I think emotion tells us where we're at right? Oh, and one thing that I find is that when we've got what we label a negative emotion, right? We don't want to feel it. We want to push it away. No, no no. But really, what if we sat down and said, Okay, I'm feeling this, what they label as a negative emotion? What is that telling me? Why am I feeling this way? Because that tells us a lot about where we might need to do some work or something that's activating for us, right? And then the other thing, even though based on the brain and based on neurocoaching, the thought always comes first. And brain scans have shown us that the thoughts (indecipherable) microseconds before the emotional center of the brain. It can be so difficult sometimes to catch our thought if it was subconscious, or, if you know it was to scare us for a second, but we usually were able to realize what kind of emotions we have. 

So if we've got resistance to something, or we've just had a shift in emotions, if we can tune into our brain and think, Okay, what have I been thinking about? What just went through my mind? It's such a great tool to work with, because it takes some practice to be able to catch our thoughts. Because again, most of us, we think we will pay attention to our thoughts, and we really don't. So paying attention to our emotions is a great tool. And then once you've got the thoughts, we can go through the rewiring process and rewire in that way.

Vonne Solis  47:46  
I would 100% agree with you, that the why tells us where we are. And it's so important because as a person chooses, and I am a big believer, based on lived experience, and people I've met and so on that we we really have to choose healing. Healing isn't just gonna wash over us, you know. And some people love to be miserable. Okay? It's a fact. So those of us that are in work to help others, you know, we want to be working with people that want to improve their lives, heal. Recover, heal. There's a difference in my opinion between recovery and healing. But you know, ultimately, if you're going after the I really want to be the best functioning person I can be to be present for my loved ones. In your case for your children. In my case for my children. And for ourselves. 

It's easy to want to be better for someone else, especially like our children. Maybe some people want to be it for their spouse or whatever. But I think we leave ourselves last. Choose to be best for ourselves last. And so I'm just putting a plug in for that. Do this for yourself, folks. Understand the brain. Understand the emotion. Understand your why. And it can reduce conflict, right? In any given moment. When we're in dysfunction. We're in distress. We're in conflict. Understanding what's going on with you emotionally and how the brain, what the brain is doing based on the thoughts. So what you're saying is brain-based. The thought comes first. Thank you. I was asking that in my coaching episode today. I'm not sure which comes first. The thought or the emotion. Kind of like the chicken in the egg. And I'm going to now say Caro said it's the brain. I mean the thoughts. But at any rate that makes sort of sense. So understanding that and then use it. Use it daily if you have to, as a as a gauge. Okay. 

But here's what I do. And Caro, I'll ask you this too. You've been at this ten years. So longer than some. You know, both of us less years than others. But I respect and honour the bad I'm feeling. Which is hardly ever any more. But when it happens, I honour and I respect that equal to, you're doing all right. You know? How are you feeling about that? Do you honour like the bad as well and just embrace it? And go like this is what I gotta feel right now.

Caro Brookings  50:16  
Yeah, it took me some time to get there and rewiring my brain around that for sure. Like at the beginning, I didn't want to feel sad for days on end and cry and not being able to focus, right? And like you said, over time, as we process our grief, it gets less. Like the waves in the ocean, they get less frequent. Less, not not as high right? But yeah, for sure now, I know if I've got a moment and I need to cry. I want to cry, I let myself cry. And I know that either, you know, in a few minutes or a few hours or the next day, I'm, I'm okay again, right? I think sometimes people get worried that if they start crying, they can't stop. But really, we all eventually stop. And it gives, it gives our body that that release. It's really needed, right? We've got tear ducts for a reason. So we've been designed to cry when there's stuff going on that we need to release. So yeah, absolutely. It's a great place to get to to just honour both of them and see that they're two sides of the coin.

Vonne Solis  51:23  
Yeah, and when I made that realization, several years ago, now, it was around 2015, 2016. So you know, 10, 11 years in, there was a turning point for me at ten years. And I'd read about this a lot. That ten years, something really kind of strange happened. So I was like, okay, that's weird. So not saying it's gonna happen for you. I'm not saying it's gonna happen for everybody. But for me, it was kind of like, okay! She's, she's really not coming back. Really not coming back. And it's not that I had hope before that. But it was at a different processing. We'll see what I feel at twenty. I love learning from people who have been in grief longer than me, but I can't always find very much information on that. Especially for bereaved parents. But I'll talk to anybody who's in at 25, 30 years, and Okay, how's the journey been? I love learning from others. And I'm sure you feel that way, too, Caro.

So this has been amazing. We can't go down any one of these topics, too deep today at all. But it's just to twig the audience to the idea of this, and understand that this is a long journey and process. And if your goal is to completely recover from grief in like a year, and heal, 100% heal, more power to you. I have not been able to do that. And when I stopped forcing myself to make that the goal, then I became like able to just really embrace all of my journey. The good with the bad. The disorders. The whatever. And prolonged grief disorder is a real thing. It just became a disorder last year. And prolonged grief disorder was described, if you go and look at it as complicated grief that lasts for longer than 12 months and has impacted your life. So there will be millions of us living with this disorder. I'm not alone. And I periodically talk about it and bring it up because it's very, very interesting to understand that all of us have a lot of disorders that have done stuff to our brain. And we need to just be aware of that and be gentle with ourselves as we do choose to embrace a healing process. And I believe it takes several methods. It's not any one thing in my view, respectfully. Well that's the trick! It's a combination of a bunch of things, not even least stories and learning from each other.

So Caro, did I miss anything? Did you say everything you wanted to say about neurocoaching? I know we have to keep it a little bit high level today. But is there anything else that we I may have missed asking you about that?

Caro Brookings  54:03  
Well, yeah, just to keep it at a very high level. Just if people wondering how the rewiring process works. So once you recognize an untrue and unhelpful thought and negative self-talk, you want to write it down with pen and paper. And you have to do with pen and paper because it activates different areas of your brain than just typing or talking. So you're more easily able to bring stuff up from your subconscious. And the next step is the refuting. So there's a logical refute and the mirror refute. And if people are interested, they can, you know, join the group or sign up to some of my series. I go into a lot deeper. And then the rewiring actually happens by when we refute, we come up with those statements. And then we record them on a voice recorder on our phone, and we listene to it morning and night. And that's how the brain rewiring happens. So I want people to realize that you know, it might not be nice to go through and to recognize those could of's and should of's and those untrue thoughts. But if we're willing to put in the work and trust the process. Come up with those statements. The listening to it is not a big deal. Either it's a few minutes in the morning, few minutes at night, and that's when the rewiring happens. And I, I know it, it helped me. I know it's helping my clients. And in the end, if you're in a certain situation, you would normally have a negative thought. Whatever, it doesn't matter where it is in your recording, the right thought will actually pop into your mind. It's really amazing. And so just a high level overview of that.

Vonne Solis  55:47  
Yeah, it's really cool. We're at the top of the hour, Caro, and I want to talk next about your suicide interview series. If you want to share a little bit about that. Those of you that are watching, listening to this, there will be an opportunity for you to register, along with the episode we're releasing at pretty much the same time. But Caro, can you tell me the, how it works? The intent of it for for you to help people? I know you offer it twice a year. Do want to speak a little bit about that?

Caro Brookings  56:16  
Yeah, sure. Thank you. So this is my fifth interview series that I'm going to be doing. And at the time of recording, we just voted in the group. I always like to get you know, my followers involved on what topics should be next. And we, people voted and it's basically what we touched on earlier, right? Around being confident to talk about our loss. To talk about suicide. To talk about suicide loss. To educate the general public. To reduce the stigma. What can we do, right? So when next time you're, you're asked about your loved one's death, or just about your loved one, you know what to say. You're confident. You don't you know, start fumbling for words. I'm of course, I always say, it's your right to decide how much you want to share. So I'm not saying go out and tell the world right? I think it's just making sure it's aligned with your values and what you want to say rather than what comes up in the moment. 

So the the interview series is a five day series that runs Monday to Friday, and there'll be different suicide, grief and loss experts on there each day. And people can register. When when you release this, this episode, we can put the link to register in the show notes. And the way that it works. Once you've registered, is that and it's completely free, you can choose to buy the VIP pass, which gives you lifetime access to the interviews but you do certainly don't have to. And then when you've registered, every day you you receive an email with the links to information about the speakers and links to the interview so you can watch them. And then the next day, you can watch the next one. So you've always got 24 hours to watch each day's interview. And please join the Facebook group because I'll be going live each day to answer questions. Talk about my takeaways. I really love during the interviews. It's one of my favourite things to bring all the experts to suicide loss survivors. Bring every everyone together and have that engagement. So yep.

Vonne Solis  58:26  
It's amazing and I was able to be part of Caro's speakers in May. It was the May. And I just loved it. And I watched all of your interviews, and it was, they're amazing. So they're even great, I'm going to offer, if you're even trying to support somebody in suicide. You know, they're, they're great. So thank you for that work. In terms of coaching, you do offer coaching. You have a wonderful website. So it's at I'm going to have the links to that in the show notes. But you are doing coaching. So people can find everything and how to connect with you on Instagram, Facebook. Iinquire about coaching. It's all there at correct?

Caro Brookings  59:12  
Yeah, so they can find the Facebook page, Instagram, the Facebook group links there and the way to get in touch via my email address. And yeah, I offer one on one coaching right now. And I've recently started inner peace group coaching experience as well. So we can you know, we can have a chat. See what works for you. See what, what you want to achieve. And we can see what, which fit is best for you.

Vonne Solis  59:38  
Yeah. So you know, Caro, I just really want to thank you. I feel like we sort of almost just touched the surface today and it's been an hour. And that just tells you audience how massive not only the topic of suicide support, advocacy, education, all of that is. Mental health. It's something that we can never have too many voices. So I thank you for what you're contributing. This did not exist when I was in early grief in 2005. Do you have any last key messages that you want to share?

Caro Brookings  1:00:18  
Yeah. I just want to say, you know, if the whole process of rewiring the brain, it's the first time you've heard about it, and you know, it's a bit much for you? Just, even if you just start by paying attention to your thoughts, and not believing everything that you think and everything that you say to yourself, that's a great first step. Because like I said, most people walk around and they're just identifying with their thoughts, and they think their thoughts are them, but it's really separate. We observe our thoughts. We aren't our thoughts. So if people even can take that first step, like I said, really paying attention to their thoughts and questioning them, they'll be well on their way.

Vonne Solis  1:01:00  
I want to just say as someone who is a bereaved mother, and struggled with many bad thoughts. And and, you know, like, to your point of, of, you know, acknowledging that thought, but questioning that thought. And kind of like going, is that true? That would have been valuable advice for me in my very early grief because my brain was telling me all sorts of things that were not true. Was I a bad mom, you know? And I struggled with that for years. This isn't like this went away in like, a few months. This is years and years and years of doing all kinds of work on myself. So it's not easy audience to face these demons. But I love what you're saying Caro, and tiny, tiny steps. And no doubt you offer all this kind of advice and guidance on Facebook as well. Join Caro's Facebook group. It's amazing. We'll have a link to that also. But what's the name of your Facebook group?

Caro Brookings  1:02:00  
Um, it's healing after suicide loss.

Vonne Solis  1:02:03  
Caro, thank you so much for coming on my podcast. It's been just a pleasure to have you and I'm very grateful for the the wisdom that you've shared today. So thank you.

Caro Brookings  1:02:14  
Yeah. Thank you for having me. And it sounds like we've got more to talk about. So maybe I'll be back sometime.

Vonne Solis  1:02:20  
Oh, we certainly do. All right. Thanks again.

Caro Brookings  1:02:24  
Yeah, thanks. Bye bye.

Grief and healing after suicide loss with Caro Brookings.
Grief, trauma, and healing after losing a loved one to suicide.
Suicide signs and emotional struggles after loss.
Suicide prevention, guilt, and stigma.
Grief, stigma, and suicide loss.
Coping with loss and stigma surrounding suicide.
Grief, neuro coaching, and brain function.
The power of thoughts and beliefs.
Grief, trauma, and brain science.
Emotional healing and brain function.
Grief, brain rewiring, and healing.
Suicide support, advocacy, and education.