Hope illuminates

September is National Suicide Awareness Month in the U.S. and World Suicide Day is recognized on September 10th to raise awareness about the one million people lost to this tragedy each year.  We asked Six Seconds Certified Associate, Analia Penney to share her thoughts on how emotional intelligence can help families struggling to heal from the loss of a loved one.

How Are You?   by Analia Penney

When a family loses a loved one to illness or accident, the community gathers around to help and support. We cook food, send flowers, offer to baby sit. We give hugs and condolences freely.

Except when the death is from suicide. Something in the room changes. The atmosphere becomes tense and you can almost see everyone’s thoughts swirling over their heads.

“He never seemed like that that type of person!”

“She was always so happy.”

“He always seemed a little off to me. “

Asian woman walking depressed sad


The pain of loss is magnified by discomfort and confusion. How can we do a better job reaching out to families in their time of loss? Can emotional intelligence help heal broken hearts?



According to the World Health Organization, every 40 seconds a life is lost to suicide, which means we are losing nearly 1 million fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children to suicide every year.

When I saw the numbers for the first time, I felt a mixed sense of urgency and sadness wash over me. As a parent I was angry because I didn’t understand why depression and suicide wasn’t being addressed more openly – but I quickly caught myself.

How could I be mad at everyone else if I personally know two victims of suicide, and know about depression, and yet I’ve kept my mouth shut or not known how to speak up?

Single woman alone swinging on the beach

I decided to have meaningful conversations with some families that have been impacted by suicide. I found that we all had one thing in common: At one point we all felt isolated as if we had done something wrong and were also experiencing feelings of rejection from people that we considered family or close friends.

Breaking the Isolation

A mother told me how her son’s memorial was almost bare, “If my Keith had died in an accident, our friends and family would have come to the funeral. My friend of 20 years said she couldn’t make it because her son had a soccer tournament. I later found out that she lied.”

A 68 year-old father told me, “Joyce always helped everyone. Now my brother says I should have raised her better.”

Father with toddler son talking on a green summer meadow.

At the tender age of 9 a little boy told me “Why does daddy want me to lie and say that mommy died in a car accident? I know how she really died. ” 

It’s confusing when someone takes their own life. We try to make sense of what happened, but in that confusion we might not know what to say, so we often turn away. Bereaved families can be left feeling judged or isolated in their grief. How can we use EQ to help them heal and connect with our own humanity and compassion?

We can use the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence as a guide. There are three steps in the model: Be more aware (know yourself), be more intentional (choose yourself), and connect purposefully with others (give yourself).

Know Yourself

How are you feeling? Name your feelings. Don’t judge your feelings, just notice them. It’s not right or wrong to feel sad, scared, confused, angry, hurt – it’s just part of what makes us human. This will help you handle your feelings – and will help you connect with those who are bereaved. The first step in not judging others is not judging yourself.

How are you reacting? Notice your own behavior. Are you being quite or stepping away because of your confusion? It’s perfectly understandable. Just notice.

Choose Yourself

You can’t change what happened, but you can change what happens next. Take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, and consider: Ideally, what would I like to do now to help?

Give Yourself

What if we freely gave others the gift of compassion? We could ask each other “How Are You?” and accept that all the feelings that come up are complex and overwhelming – and ok. You would be surprised at the impact you can make with three simple words. If that is too much, be kind. Being kind to yourself and those around you is one of the most powerful steps you can do to make an impact and change a life – including your own.

Suicide and depression are scary topics and make us vulnerable, but I truly believe that the answer to this epidemic is human connectivity.

For more information on National Suicide Prevention month: http://www.everydaymatters.com/suicideprevention/




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