Foreword by CAROL GREER-SIEMASZKO, B.A.Ed.,M.A.Psych.,N.C.P.
Losing Rebecca is a book I wish could be read by each individual who has ever had to endure the extremely sad experience of a loved one committing suicide. Vanessa Shaw-Finelli's sincere concern for her late sister Rebecca, as well as her love of her life and those family and friends who are dear to her, is indeed very touching. Her compassionate story about what happened before, during and after this heartbreaking tragedy just seems to flow from her soul on to paper, in order to provide us with a very personal perception of what it is like to go through such a horrific experience.
Vanessa enables anyone reading the book to relate to the feelings Rebecca must have had - the frustration of never being treated properly for bipolar or manic depression and the difficulty of staying clean and sober during times of stress. Even though she personally has not felt it, she empathizes with Rebecca's situation and points out that this can happen to anyone. Depression, anxiety and suicide can cross all barriers of gender, marital status, religion, ethnicity, education, or economic status. She helps us to understand what it is like to learn to accept that this has happened to her sister, and shows us how deeply it affects the entire family afterwards. In order to enlighten and educate those who may recognize these symptoms in their friends or loved ones, she makes specific recommendations for possible prevention and treatment.
Severe psychic pain, if not treated in order to bring some relief, can cause one to contemplate or carry out the act of suicide. I am a mental health counselor and have struggled with my own depression, anxiety and addiction for the past twenty years. When I met Vanessa and she shared her pain about Rebecca, I in turn shared a little of my personal story with her. At that time we were able to comfort and console each other in a way that only those who have 'been there' could have done. The fact that Vanessa is from England, that I spent most of my life living in Europe, that we could end up living across the street from each other at this particular time in our lives, had to be orchestrated by some higher power.
As Vanessa often reminds us in the book, it is important for friends and family members to pay attention and to be concerned if they notice any of the telltale symptoms. Most people are so reluctant to see a doctor at times like this. I surely agree with Vanessa; it is my personal and professional opinion that an experienced psychiatrist needs to be found for any type of depression anxiety. Only such a professional can properly assess and diagnose, select and monitor appropriate medication, make referrals to psychologists or counselors, and do the follow-up work to assess progress. I cannot stress enough how important this is to recovery. Those who are suffering from these mood disorders or chemical imbalances have difficulty admitting their problems at the time and may not feel they need help. Addictions need to be treated by reputable treatment or rehabilitation centers and later by attending support groups that suit each individual. (Alcoholics Anonymous, Women for Sobriety, Rational Recovery and the Sinclair Method are some examples.)
I view this book as a gift from Vanessa, wrapped in love for many of us to receive. It is to comfort those family members and friends who have already lost someone to suicide. It is for those concerned friends or family members who are recognizing these symptoms and want to intervene before something drastic happens. It is for those individuals who are relating to these symptoms themselves and are in need of help. It is for those friends and family members who don't know how to react to someone after such a tragedy has taken place. And finally, it is for those professionals in the mental health field who deal with these situations in their practice and can deepen their understanding through Vanessa's personal account of what this horrendously painful experience can be like.
I want to thank Vanessa for her friendship and love. I commend her for this honest, compassionate, touching story as a tribute to her dear sister, Rebecca. Her intent is to help others, and I truly believe she has helped herself, her family and her friends by sharing it with us in this unique format. For those of you who read this book and have gone through a similar experience with a friend or relative, I offer my condolences and wish you love and strength. For those of you recognizing some of the symptoms in yourself, a friend or a loved one, I wish you the courage to seek proper help. It will make a difference.
We all deserve to love and be loved, and to live life to the fullest. I believe that is Vanessa's deepest message to you, the reader of Losing Rebecca.