Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jovan Belcher's Murder/Suicide Needs to be a Wakeup Call for the NFL

KC Chief's Linebacker Jovan Belcher
Read my first article here


The Jovan Belcher murder/suicide has really struck a cord for me, and I feel strongly that it's time the NFL makes a choice to step up and better protect their players from this type of tragedy repeating it's self.

What's interesting to me is that Belcher had the presence of mind to go and tell his coach "thank you" for all he had done for him, before he killed himself.  For some reason this makes sense to me, knowing how players think and operate.  I read a blog where the writer was
criticizing this move as him going to "thank his God" meaning the coach, and wasting those last words on a coach instead of his family.  That's not it at all, in my view.  If a player has a good relationship with his coach then that is in all reality the most important relationship in his life, more than likely.  It's a nurturing, pushing, profound role coaches play in the life of a player.  For many players they become detached form the other people in their life when they are in the league, even family.  Those relationships change dramatically when they begin making money etc.  So the role of a coach is often the most important.  For him to feel the need to leave an in person suicide note with his coach, as it were, makes sense and means he had the presence of mind to understand that the biggest part of his life, wasn't reason enough to not snap.  They live in an isolated pressure-cooker of expectations, physical demands that are ridiculous, lack of sleep, loss of genuine people in their life, add money to that picture and it can be a deadly combination.

All I can think about is what must have got him to that point? What was he dealing with that perhaps he felt he had to keep inside and not get help in dealing with? Of course I don't know this guy at all or what his history is/was or if he had help, all I can go off is the conversations I've had with dozens of men in positions like his.  I know that many times, I'm one of the only people they feel they can open up and confide in.  This is why I love what I do so much, because of the trust and the opportunity I've been given to help take some of that stress away, and give them advise, help, and a listening ear, one that is always going to give them the truth. I see how much they need it, and I wish that more players would reach out and get Life Coaches, or Therapists, or go to church or whatever means they need to have someone they can talk to, and get help with some of the issues they face, in an environment that is safe and built on mutual trust.

I feel that this, and the other stories like it the past few years should be a serious wake-up call to the NFL.  The League needs to enforce mental health therapy as a preventative measure and as an ongoing part of being a player in the league.  Will players complain? You bet! Will they think it's soft and ridiculous? Probably. Get over it! If the organization as a whole, mandated that players see some type of person they can talk to (therapist, priest, life coach, minister, counselor whatever) on a weekly basis then maybe these types of erratic explosions and loss of life would be minimized. Maybe that person could have caught that he was dealing with extra stress or was "out of it" as one report suggested after his last game (and too many direct hits to the head, suggested the report).  A player can report to practice after suffering some heavy blows in a game and "appear fine", it's not the coaches responsibility to have in depth one on one conversations with these guys. However if it was mandatory that the day after a game (or any time really, but weekly) they check in with their "professional" for a weekly discussion, then maybe that person would be able to pick up on the behavior change.

But without that, what mechanisms are in place to prevent this type of thing from happening again?

NFL, Owner and Coaches... ask yourself that.

  Tragic ending for a beautiful family


UPDATE:
I had to share this comment that was left tonight on my Instagram (@sarahcentrella) about this blog post.  As you can see from the comments below, my views are not popular. I stand by my strong belief that more can be done to provide these players with tools to better deal with the pressure of their life, and just maybe it could help prevent another tragedy. By all accounts Jovan seemed to be a "good guy" which means that this can happen to anyone... he wasn't a serial killer. He didn't seem to have a dark and brooding past, he'd never been physically violent before... this means that anyone has the potential to snap under this type of pressure.

Why not provide them with better tools?
Why not enforce the use of those resources?
What's the harm in it?

Thanks for your comments and keep them coming, a good debate means that this is a sore subject which means it's time to have it addressed head on, that's all I'm hoping to do, raise awareness.


More comments from readers:







~Written by: Sarah Centrella for Thoughts.Stories.Life.
 *This is an interactive blog please leave your comments and thoughts, I will respond :)

46 comments:

  1. You are so self righteous. Not every nfl player needs to talk to a "life coach" and the nfl/teams certainly have resources available. Perhaps we should pay more attention to the poor 22 year old mother who lost her life than "poor" Javon who according to you had everyone around him fail to notice that he was disturbed. Give me a break.

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  2. Hey Anonymous! I understand where you're coming from. Which #1 I think an argument cannot be sound unless you understand your opposition. You are right in your acknowledgement that more attention to Kasandra sould be paid, but would you agree that is reactive? We cannot change the past and the loss of her life is tragic. What Sarah is saying is let's be proactive here because that is how we can save lives by giving attention to individuals like Javon, whom by the way has a family. How would you feel if one of your family members did something like that!? Self righteous?? I think you're blind! I would rather see things like this prevented than cry over what cannot be changed.

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    1. Exactly what I'm saying!!! We are not doing enough to give encourage or even force these guys to work though what they are going through in a healthy way... the assumptions are those listed below by the commenter below, and believe me that is NOT enough. I am well aware of all those programs and work with both NBA and NFL programs and players and it's not enough, period.

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  3. I can certainly appreciate that javon has a family and perhaps they should have been better clued into his mental state. As someone who was in an abusive relationship with an nfl player for 10 years I would argue that I am anything but blind. Call me what you will, my point is this: Let's not focus on the poor abusd athletes who have all of these resources at their finger tips and focus more on the fact that a baby is parent less, a mother has lost her life at the age of 22 and why, because the league or the teams didn't provide proper life coaching? That's ridiculous. The nfl has a rookie symposium designed to help players assimilate into the league and their new lives, there are player development reps on staff at each club (most who have played themselves), there is a league players assistance hotline, the nflpa has numerous programs designed to help players with mental health and financial issues, yet they are not doing enough to prevent this type of tragedy? Players should be forced to go to counseling? Come on, if javon worked at Walmart and did this would we blame them? The perspective here is skewed and that's ashame.

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    1. What I'm saying is that it's NOT enough. And if you read what I said they need to be encouraged to talk to ANYONE who's in a position to help them INCLUDING a life coach (since that is the experience I personally have and am speaking from) but I dont care who it is they talk to as long as they are in a position to help. And I'm sorry to hear you were in an abusive relationship for 10 years, but that is not what this article is addressing. I lost a best friend who was murdered by her boyfriend so trust me that is not lost on me, and is the tragic end to someone who was clearly going through issues that perhaps someone could have prevented. What's the harm in trying to prevent tragedy? I'm confused.

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  4. I understand and appreciate your comment and I generally find your posts to be very insirational. I just think you are off base here in calling on the nfl and teams to do more. Again, what I am saying is they have all sorts of programs already in place and it should not be their responsibility to force players to get counseling, cause not all of them need it. There has got to be a level of personal accountability. Clearly Javon was a disturbed individual that needed help but it is not on the league to force him to get help - we don't force any other company to mandate counseling for their employees so the notion that the nfl should do so is way off base.

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    1. the NFL is NOT a normal company and the life players live is NOT normal by any stretch of the imagination. It's putting young kids 19-20 years old who are "normal" from normal backgrounds and just regular people suddenly on planet mars, in a totally different life with challenges they could never have imagined facing even if they have "known what to expect" I work with dozens of players and have dozens more as close personal friends, I can speak from personal knowledge that what these kids face is NOT normal, and that the league+
      should do more to insure that this transition is made smoother. I'm sorry but I know what goes on, and what the life is about from the inside and it's in NO WAY enough to prevent these kids from letting it get to them. They simply dont have the tools to be mentally prepared, and let's face it if your a 20 year old kid are you really going to be pro-active in seeking help?? Come on it's not realistic. But if it was mandatory then they would learn the tools needed to deal with the issues they face that are not the same as "normal people" face, plain and simple.

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    2. I am not questioning the fact that you know what is going on. I am sure you have plenty of personal friends and professional clients that are in the league. You would have no way to know my background, but I have lived it up close both personally and professional for a very long time. I too know what is going on, I understand the pressures that are faced by athletes and I have been a witness first hand to how hard the transition can be. What I am saying here is that the nfl has programs in place to help the young men - and they are men not kids - transition into the league. Yes, I know that it is a different world for many and that they are under a great deal of pressure, your post said this is a wake up call for the nfl - implying that they are not doing enough. Let's be real here - why would you assume that every nfl player needs counseling....why is it not enough to have programs available and expect there to be a level of personal accountability on the player should they need help. All I am saying is - jovan's situation can not be blamed on a lack of support from the nfl - that is just irresponsible. Oh, also, there are no 19 or 20 year olds in the nfl. Perhaps you are confused with the nba.

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    3. Sounds reasonable.

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  5. In this situation you cannot hold anyone accountable because he took his own life. I think the unique thing in his situation is... He obviously knew what he did was wrong. I think that his thank you to his coach was also an appology, which doesn't undo what he did. People are not bad, they do bad things when they feel bad. We CAN help prevent things like this from happening by not making judgements of people based on our own experiences (which is hard to do). In Jovans case I think the main point to take from Sarah's blog post is perhaps he needed more positive in his life to help cope with all the pressure. Yeah I'm sure services were available but does an alcoholic always know they need help? There is only so much people can do to prevent but that doesn't mean because we can't do everything that we should do nothing. I have not been in your abuisive situation so perhaps I see it from an unemotional detached veiw so I appologize if it seems like im not sensitive to your feelings and emotions. I have worked at a DV shelter and I can tell you from my experience "crimes of passion" cannot always be prevented but they are less likely to happen when stress is low and intervention isn't hopeless... That's all that was being said. Here you have guys in professional sports put under heavy pressure for our entertainment. If we can give them care to help protect those around them... What's wrong with that?

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    1. Isn't one death a "wake up call" enough? But there have been multiple in the past few years. CLEARLY what's being done is NOT working. And by making it mandatory it takes the stigma out of it, players are not going to OPT to do it on their own. It's the same thing with an alcoholic not thinking they need to go to rehab. A 20 year old kid is not going to opt for it, not gonna happen. And I can say with definitive certainty that every human on the planet especially these players could benefit from talking to someone who could help them get though challenges. I honestly can't see what the downside of this could be, seriously. What's the harm in making mental training as important as their physical training? it should be part of their total package. The upside is that you have guys with tools to deal with the pressure of their life, the downside is you have kids suffering alone and going ham... dont get the downside, honestly.

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  6. I am sorry, when did I say we should do nothing? Yes, these guys are in a high pressure environment and it is certainly one that fosters abusive behavior. Why though would they need to mandate counseling for all players when not all plays need counseling? All I am saying here is that the league has programs, and at some point it needs to be the personal responsibility of the player to seek help. I just don't agree with the notion that this is a "wake up call" for the nfl". The notion that the league is not doing enough is off base.

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    1. I agree with you. You put some kinda program out there for players to take advantage of if they feel they need it, but you don't mandate it for everyone. What if the player is a Scientologist? You just violated their religious rights as they do not subscribed to psychologist or psychiatrist. But personally I really do not feel that this is that big of a problem. One incident like this every how many years? If you had 50 or 100 players a year doing this than I would say there is a problem.
      And for the record I don't believe in Scientology, just using it as an example.

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    2. that's why I listed like 5 different kinds of people players can talk to someone and get help working though issues. For example my Life Coaching practice focuses on transitions, so from college to pro and pro to retirement... I work with players on these exact issues, on a personal game plan approach NOT a spiritual or "mental health" way, but as someone to talk to, get life advise from and tools to deal with the pressure of their life. There are all kinds of ways for them to get this help it just needs to be as important as the rest of the training they go through. They need tools to deal with it all. It's a lot for a young player to deal with, all I'm saying.

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    3. And the tools are available - you said they should be mandatory. That's the issue.

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  7. Not buying it. Like one poster said the NFL has orientation programs for rookies when they come into the league. You offer programs for the players if they think they need some help. But you don't mandate they have to attend mental help programs, because after a while those programs will become meaningless and ineffective. People attending will just say and do the things they think the facilitator wants, but then once away from the group/facilitator-pacient setting they will live there lives how they like.

    Just because Player A has a mental health issue, does not mean Player B does. Remmeber a+b does not always equal c.

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    1. Rational thought. Thank you.

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    2. not saying any of them have "mental health issues" your missing my entire point.

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    3. Weren't you saying it should be mandatory for every player to be in some kind of program other than ones they already had? Obviously this player had mental health issues, because I don't know of any normal people that kill someone and then themselves.
      Would you agree that someone who is thinking of killing themselves has a mental health issue? I think one of the problems we have here is we are all speculating what was happening here. We don't know if he was or was not getting help at the time of this incident. We do not have the whole story yet, just bits and pieces.

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  8. What's your point then? You said this was a wake up call to the nfl to do more. The fact of the matter is they already have programs available and you suggest that they mandate counseling which assumes that everyone needs it. This implies that there are no players that are able to make the transition and sends the message that because one player was disturbed enough to do something horrible we assume that all of you need counseling. That is just offensive and off base. You also mention that alcoholics don't often go into treatment on their own but just because my colleague is an alcoholic I should have to seek treatment? Come on - this is ridiculous. Please tell us your point because I am sure the folks you work with at the nfl would be thrilled to know you think they are not doing enough to stop their players from murdering their girlfriends.

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    1. Because you seem unclear..... THE NFL IS NOT DOING ENOUGH TO INSURE THEIR PLAYERS MAKE THE ADJUSTMENT TO THE PRESSURES OF PRO LIFE. PS. I've posted this on all NFL pages, so I'm hoping everyone I work with there will get this message.... Hope that's clear. It's my stand based on my background, your entitled to your opinion, it wont change mine.

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    2. You are entitled to your opinion as well and I hope that your clients are not offended by the notion that you think they are capable of murder and therefore need mandatory counseling. No one here is saying that the pressures of nfl life are not great - whole point is that you can not blame jovans actions on a lack of action by the league and/ Or assume all nfl players are not capable of making the adjustment. I am sure guys in the league will not blame the league office or the chiefs for the tragic events that took place yesterday. Healthy debate and respect for different perspectives is a gift.

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  9. The whole situation was a wake up call... If it were not it would not be all over the news. I really don't see that there is much disagreement here, just misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what is being said. I didn't see the article drawing any other conclusions than this happened and moving forward what steps can be taken to make sure it doesn't happen again. If services were manditory it would take the stigma out and make the services more helpful to those who don't even know they need them, which I think are the most harmful to themselves and to others. The same should be done for military and any other profession that causes high levels of stress. If I recall correctly, the first negative blow here was that the article was self-righteous. That Javon didn't deserve attention. Is that not negative and punitive? A blog post giving attention to the mother who lost her life and the little one left behind is deserving and would raise awareness but do you think that will stop this from happening again? Maybe nothing can... But I'm going to go with the attitude that I would like to see the NFL use their influence, their platform, to help start something that has been neglected in many high stress jobs for to long! #positivity #empowerment #peace

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    1. That's exactly what I'm saying, we should take this as a way to look at the system and what's being done currently is clearly not enough. We can't change this tragedy but if we could prevent another from happening, how is that not worth it? These guys need people to talk to to help them, I know this for a FACT. Why not take away the stigma and enforce mental coaching in the way they are trying to make well rounded players on the field, this is just part of that effort. And let's not forget these kids are so young, and wouldn't even think to get help if it wasn't part of their program...

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    2. Earlier you said you weren't saying they had mental health issues, but now they need mental coaching? So now it is mental health problems. Maybe it should have started way before they got to the NFL, started with the family. And you can't honestly say that today more value is placed on the family more than say 20 or 30 years ago. There are things kids get away with these days that would never happened 30 years ago when I was young. I dont think most people are taught any values or morals these days.

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    3. why are you continuing to read my posts and comments if you disagree with everything I'm saying? Confused. I'm not going to engage any longer because it's not where I want to put my energy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it... not going back and forth with you on it any more however.

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    4. I would like to apologize if I have angered you, not my intention.
      You have a good evening.

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    5. Not at all, I believe in healthy debate but this was getting way off topic and ur picking apart every word I say and missing the point of my post and I'm jut not interested in going on about it round in circles all day... The point I'm making is more can be done and I hope it will be. That's it. Not interested in making a day long argument about it... Those are my personal thoughts and nothing more.

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    6. You are wrong to point the finger at the league and it's owners and coaches. End of story. They make programs available for athletes and it is irresponsible to pin this tragedy on what you think is their lack of attention to mental health. This is a tragedy all the way across the board and pointing fingers at anyone other than the reason who committed the act is wrong. Yes, the nfl should use their platform to promote domestic abuse and mental health issue - however they should not force all of their players to get counseling. No one here is looking to upset you - but clearly we have. We just disagree with your thoughts. If you don't like it you should not make it public and put it all over social media.

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  10. Maybe what we really need are to make sure that women are mentally capable before being allowed to have children. Maybe every woman who gives birth to a child needs to have a mental health checkup and a life coach before being able to bring that child home. I think that would go a long way towards preventing things like this.

    The bottom line is that you can't change the rotation of the earth on one event. It's this kind of mindset that gets our freedoms taken away. It's this kind of mindset that allows the TSA to stick their fingers up our cornholes before we get onto airplanes.

    I'm hoping that people have more common sense.

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  11. Here is what you are not understanding. No one here is saying this young man is a monster or bashing him. I have no idea if he was already getting counseling - nor do you. You posted a wildly irresponsible blog saying the nfl is not doing enough and if they mandated mental health counseling - your words not mine - that they could stop this type of thing. That's not right. Jovan was clearly a sick young man and I feel for his family and friends - especially his mother who watched him shoot his girlfriend 9 times and now has to take care of a parent-less baby. Lets talk about kasandra and the services that were or we're not available to her - who knows what may have been happening in their relationship - did she have the tools to cope? My point here is that you are pinning this on the nfl and your perception of their lack of action - they ave programs, they mandate that guys go to the symposium and there are resources available to them year round. Just because javon did not seek help does not mean you impose counseling on the entire eagle and assume that no one can cope. A man who worked as grounds crew for the browns killed himself at their facility this weekend - clearly he was disturbed and dealing with pressures - shukd they be forced to send all employees to counseling once a week? A man who worked at the fdny beat his wife to death and tried to hang himself this weekend - hgh stress job - should everyone at the fdny have to go to counseling once a week? This blog is just off base and you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction here. Again, let me make the clear, NO ONE is bashing Jovan - we are talking about you blaming the nfl for his murdering his girlfriend and himself. That's all.

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    1. At what point have I EVER said anything REMOTELY close to "the NFL is responsible for him murdeeing his Gf"? This is the reson I stopped the convo with you yesterday 1. Your constantly putting words in my mouth. Not continuing to buy into your bating sorry.

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  12. Mental training helps one develop mental toughness, preventing mental problems (which anyone can develop under pressure). Physical training is to build strength and plays a role in preventing injury. I don't have mental problems and I have had mental coaching, more so coaching myself to be more positive and confident. You should watch what you say A because if I were not understanding and realizing your ignorence I would be a little offended that you were drawing the conclusion that ppl who do seek out services have mental issues.

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  13. By no means did I mean to offend at all. I have no issue with mental training and have been taking advantage of a therapist for many years. I am sorry if my point of view offended you in any way - that was not my intention. My issue here - as I have said a number of times - is pointing the finger at the NFL/coaches/owners and saying they are not doing enough to help athletes with the stress of their jobs. That, in my opinion, is irresponsible and misdirected. The NFL has programs available to athletes and has people looking for signs of trouble - trust that. They do not however need to be mandating mental training for all athletes when some may have no adjustment issues at all. All I am saying here is don't point the finger at the league - especially when we have no idea what help this young man was or was not getting.

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  14. You still calling for the NFL to do more now that we know that the Chiefs provided them with counseling?

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    1. Doesn't change my position at all. I'm
      Talking about manditory counseling esp as rookies as PERVENTION it's great what they did but it was already too late. If it was standard practice n required at least the first full year then he would know how to work through those feelings to not get to that point if desperation. More can be done is all I'm saying. Not their fault at all but why not do more?

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  15. Gotta love the post "maybe his girlfriend wasn't as innocent as the media made her out to be". You should be ashamed of yourself for posting that and having any part in laying any of level of blame on a woman who had her life taken from her. Shame on you.

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    1. In case you haven't noticed iv let all types of comment stand that I don't agree with giving voices to everyone, that comment is from a personal friend of his who is greaving, and who are you to say how people should or shouldn't grieve??? Give me a break! At the end of the day all their friends and family are bring denied the right to grieve someone they loved and probably never thought was capable of something like this. Who are you to judge? Shame on you. If you read the first chapter of my memoir posted on this blog you'll see iv been on the other side of this too. NO ONE IS CONDONING WHAT HE DID, don't be rediclious.

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    2. Anyone who cared for him is more then welcome to grieve and my heart goes out to them - they are victims of this as well. I never said anything about not allowing friends/family of Jovan to grieve - the fact that you can not read the comment for what it is without trying to twist it is facinating. There has been no bashing of Jovan who was clearly a very sick young man. The notion of the victim having done something wrong or deserved what happened to them is pervasive in cases of domestic abuse and is part of the reason we have such a huge problem with it in this country. There are many ways to grieve without pointing fingers at the victim and you should know that if you have been on the other side of it. I also never said that I felt that anyone was condoning what he did. You posted a quote from one of his friends who, grieving or not, said we did not know all the facts and that perhaps his girlfriend wasn't as innocent as the media has made her out to be. I am not judging that persons grieving process - I am simply drawing attention to the fact that this tragedy is in NO WAY the victims fault which is what that statement clearly infers. I am sure that his friend is working through have to rectify the person they knew with the person who took two lives - that must be horrific. That in no way excuses you from posting something that suggests that his girlfriend somehow did something wrong in this situation.

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  16. dissapointed readerDecember 4, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    Hi, I saw one of your pictures on instagram and saw you had a blog, thought if I would read I would be enlightened on this situation. but after reading this article and debate with anonymous ( not saying i agree with her) but by your title you are incinuating that it is the nfl's fault that this happened. when the chiefs provided counseling for the couple not just him but his girlfriend aswell, and "were bending over backwards" to help. As a reader that has never read your blog until today, I feel you are close-minded and is blaming on the transition as a nlf player your not mentioning anything about his relationship or finances or any troubles he could have been having at home according to you it just has to do with this transitioning into being in the nfl life... I only say this because I am a normal person working a 9-5 and i have thought of taking my own life for a relationship, and you are giving no respect for people that go thru hard times at home and surpass it.

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    1. Its sad yo me that people seem to be missing the point and message of my post. I am not blaming the nfl or the team, I am only saying that they could do more by making adjustment training/coaching/therapy manditory... I am suggesting a solution that could very well help these guys have tools from the very beginning of their career to deal with stress and relationship or any other issues they face. Not one single person commenting on my suggestion has offered a solution or any other options we can take to help percent this kinda thing. My blog is NOT about domestic viloace it's not about other jobs, or about death... It's about the one thing I personally have experience with which is working with athletes and proposing something that could help, yet everyone is tearing me apart without offering any other ideas..... Shm

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  17. You fail to see what your readers are saying, you mention in this post that you know nothing about this young mans past you don't know if he got help or not, but you write about something that you feel strongly about with what your hear from other young men that are probably not in the Same situation as him or they probably are. I agree with disappointed reader you are suggesting a lot with the title. Your solution isn't a solution if it is already in place. This post is in your view in you have every right to it, but not everyone will agree. I think you are sending the wrong message and maybe no one will be able to help you be open to that maybe you are wrong. I think this is a wake up call for the second amendment, if he wouldn't have had that gun in his possession we would still have two young lives with us.

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    1. What I am suggesting is NOT in place. I work with over a dozen NFL players and it is not manditory that they go through any type of transitional training. In suggestions something new and clearly people
      Seem to be aposed to giving people
      Tools with how to better manage stress...?? Very confusing to me. To your segregation that "guns killed them" I offer: my best friend was murdered by her bf when she was 16... So your saying if guns where outlawed my friend would still be alive? I wish people
      Could actually comment on my actual suggestion for the nfl
      As a whole which is the topic being discussed.... And I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong read my other posts I have no problem eating crow... However offering tools for anyone on the planner tools to deal
      With stress in a healthy way.... How is that even a question??? Smh

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    2. *my bf was killed with a kitchen knife... Throat slashed... Guns didn't kill her. I'm
      Not a gun supporter, never even held a gun..(oddly enough tomorrow I have to go to the shooting range for my work, but it will be the first time, iv always been aposed) however that is not the question posed in my blog.

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  18. Sorry, I couldn't continue reading after I saw "tragity" in your first paragraph. Improper grammar and spelling can decreases the effectiveness of your message.

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    1. lol well then this blog is definitely NOT for you! You'll notice my disclaimer under my profile. It is what it is...

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