Saudade and Vilomah: May 25, 2019

Saudade*/Vilomah* May 25, 2019

*Saudade – a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent someone or something that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. It brings sad and happy feelings together: sadness for missing and happiness for experiencing the past.

*Vilomah – to paraphrase, English has no word for the overwhelming grief a parent experiences over the death of their child. Perhaps, we hope, (like not saying Vilomah), if we don’t name it, it won’t be real. The Sanskrit word ‘vilomah’ which means ‘against a natural order’ perhaps caught on because we are unwilling to name the unthinkable. Our children should not precede us in death, if they do, we are ‘vilomahed.’
Exulansis: n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.

These are new words for us to add to our vocabulary because this post is in memory of Benjamin on what would have been his thirtieth birthday. Jay and I have learned so many new words, new emotions, new struggles and new insights since Benjamin died, so read on if you wish to learn more.

Some special Mara Moments followers know this experience firsthand and live Vilomah and Saudade as we do. However most do not so I’m putting my thoughts in this post today to help me process my own experience and to try in a small way to share thoughts with others to expand our collective vocabulary, so you in turn may be able to offer support to your inner circle if needed.

As I have become stronger I have felt obligated to speak more about my suicide survivor experience. I know there is a critical social need to communicate about mental health/emotional wellness and suicide awareness. I know we must have an ongoing conversation about mental health and dissolve the stigma around this topic. Unfortunately, I am uniquely qualified to contribute to this effort.

I have learned that by sharing my own experience and extending my voice to others I can find a respite while hopefully also helping others cope with their own difficult experiences. Creating and sharing Mara Moments is as helpful to me as is my special bond with Mara B and all the trail rides we go on together. Additionally, I feel kindness and support from you who receive my posts, so I thank you for that today as well.

I decided that Benjamin’s 30th birthday would be an ideal time to share some additional thoughts and quotes that have provided comfort, clarity or focus for me while experiencing my Saudade. I am sharing them as ‘Benjamin gifts’ to us all today; may they be supportive, enlightening and/or encouraging for those who read them.

Because when someone dies by suicide, research shows that at least 6 people are intimately traumatized by the death. Those who are directly affected may be immediate family members, relatives, neighbors, friends, fellow students/and or coworkers, so it is important to know that the underlying structure of grief for survivors of suicide loss is intricately complicated. Thus, I thought, maybe there is a broader audience for these thoughts and quotes.

Don’t fake how you feel.

I’m in the tribe of after: telling the truth about grief and trauma.

“The death of a child is so painful, both emotionally and spiritually, that I truly wondered if my own heart and spirit would ever heal. I soon learned that I could help myself best by helping others.” Barbara Bush

Maybe say “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

The 3 C’s of life: choices, chances, changes. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose. Michelle Rosenthall

Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive.

Stop minimizing and discounting your feelings – Daniell Koepke

Social anxiety disorder affects 15 million American adults, yet despite its prevalence, it’s a misunderstood mental illness.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are wounds that don’t show on the body but are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. Please don’t wait until you break to seek help for what hurts.

Please be sensitive how you talk about suicide. Say that a person “died by suicide” and never “committed suicide” since this is a result of mental illness, not a criminal act.
Grief lasts longer than sympathy. Elizabeth McCracken

Depression can be hidden by a smile – think of Kate Spade.

“This is a thing many people outside your grief cannot understand: that you have not simply lost one person at one point in time. You have lost their presence in every aspect of your life. Your future has changed as well as your ‘now’.” – Megan Devine

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

Let’s always remember that a survivor’s story is a glimpse into a highly complex and extremely difficult experience. Their story is theirs and theirs alone, and it’s nobody’s right to question it. Our role is to hear it, not judge it.

Traumatic experiences are almost impossible to articulate; because of the complexity, horror, confusion, fear and other feelings such as shame, guilt or uncertainty.

It’s ok not to be ok every day.

Accept that its uncomfortable to talk about suicide but decide that it’s ok, we must talk about it.

Practice getting good at practicing

Be an upstander not a bystander

“Horses change lives. They give our young people confidence and self-esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls; they give us hope.” – Toni Robinson

Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open. – Steven Aitchison

You have to have been through it to truly understand it.

In conclusion please remember: no matter your role, whether it is starting the conversation, providing support, offering hope, or directing those in need to help, we can each play a role in supporting a person who needs emotional or mental health support.

benjamin horse country day croppedbenjamin peter horse color croppedbenjamins bench flowersjay benjamins library

Memories of Benjamin and his bench and library today.

To Benjamin from Mom and Dad – 5/25/2019
Jewish Prayer of Remembrance
by Jack Riemer and Sylvan Kamens
In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We remember him.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember him.
In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember him.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we remember him.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember him.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember him.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember him.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember him.
When we have joys, we yearn to share,
we remember him.
So long as we live, they too shall live,
For they are now a part of us,
as we remember them.

Jay, Peter and I are donating to Sip of Hope – Hope for the Day where I have an Agent of Impact page and Regions Hospital-Make it Ok program in Memory of Benjamin for his 30th Birthday.
Moving on/forward is a monumental task, yet we continue on….. I sincerely thank you for your part in my journey. Helen

If you are new to Mara Moments, I invite you to ride along with us at:



Helen, Jay and Mara B are on thoughtful downtime today.
Peace to all who read this.

Mara B resting

Semicolon Day

Mara B and I rode in support of World Semicolon Day 2019 this afternoon. If you’re not familiar with Project Semicolon it is an international movement to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. We hope you will learn more and share what you learn about Project Semicolon with those you are close to. It’s about no more self harm….

Our ride was the peaceful quiet lane we love. Today we spotted the return of the neighborhood goats we enjoy saying hello to.

Mara B and I reflected on Benjamin and the healing comfort offered us through the beauty of animals and nature.

Nurturing our mental and emotional health is critical for us all.

Meeting Mark Kelly

Mara B is home with her paddock pals Holly, Spice and Puma.

Not only am I a proponent of equine therapy, I also support efforts to reduce gun violence. Today I had the unplanned opportunity to meet Mark Kelly, husband of Gabby Giffords, who with Gabby formed the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. This organization also educates the public about suicide deaths with guns.

It was very emotional to personally thank Mark Kelly for this critical work, and present him with a Benjamin coin. You can learn more about the important work they are doing at

Please ride along.

Hope For The

Welcome to 2019, we would like to start the year by introducing you to Hope For The Day is an organization shattering the silence of stigma around mental health and suicide.

Mara Moments is a therapy for my own mental health/emotional wellness, as much as it is for sharing Mara B as a therapy horse with others. Thus I feel it’s important to start this new year with highlighting the difficult topic of suicide and the importance of talking about mental health issues.

Jay and I have become “Agents of Impact” and want to make our readers aware of this organization. We hope you investigate it further or share information about it with others who may benefit at the start of this new year.

Wishing you and yours peace when things are uneasy, growth in the unfinished and wellness in the becoming, ahead of us in 2019.

Happy New Year

Sincerely, Helen


Today’s post is in support of World Suicide Prevention Day 2018. WSPD began in 2003, in 2010 I knew nothing about it.

The theme of WSPD 2018 is “working together to prevent suicide.” Please connect, care and communicate about suicide with your personal inner circle if need me.

Mara B and I dedicated our ride this morning in memory of Benjamin Curry Stassen.


I had an early morning connection time with Mara B today, she was covered in sand and dirt after a heavy rain last night. I enjoyed cleaning her up and dusting her off.

We were low key because today would have been Benjamin’s 29th Birthday and we wanted to simply remember Benjamin reflect and rest today. (Here’s a photo of Benjamin with a horse I leased.)

So rest and reminisce is what we did today.


Boot Change

Time to change my boots! So today I switched from wearing winter boots to muck boots. Mara B and two of her pals were relaxing together when I arrived early this morning to beat a predicted late spring snow storm. Mara and I just had grooming and ground games in the indoor arena together and took the day “off” as a snow day! On our way back to her paddock we saw the pasture horses in their upper pasture hunkered down for the weather that’s supposedly on it’s way. Hopefully Mara B can hang on to her place in the shelter tonight.

Up Around & Down

Mara and I had good ride time together today! First, to the top of the cow pasture, two deer joined us coming from the corn field, we watched them jump into the lower cow pasture and dart up to the top ahead of us. We then circled around the upper pasture and appreciated the views, and were impressed to see the beautiful oak leaves that had hung on all through the winter. Our ride continued down the road to Sam’s and on the way home we met another walker who we said hello to and chatted with. It felt like Spring!

New Spring Views

Mara and I had an energizing morning ride with Alanna and Allegro today. We rode through the Meyer Farm and went off the field road to walk the fence line between their pasture and corn field. Providing us some new views because we had not been over here since late last fall. We observed turkeys along the way, greeted the cows in the feedlot and enjoyed the long views of the power lines.

Wet Mara B

April snow showers left Ms Mara pretty wet for me today. Maura had her last Stable visit, but luckily was able to saddle up and ride because Holly had had her blanket on and came in dry. I spent my time with Mara B trying to dry her off and I even used a hairdryer on her and she was great about that new experience. It was snowy, wet and chilly, but one more special horse day for Maura, Mara, Holly and me!