Survivor Q & A: Kelli Karlton

kelli-and-dad-buttonWelcome to Part 3 of my Q & A series with people who lost loved ones to suicide.

Aside from providing survivors of suicide a place to share their feelings freely, I also hope to provide tips and insight for other survivors about moving through the grieving process and hopefully, back into the Giggle.

My friend Kelli stepped back into the Giggle after her father’s suicide with the help of Larry the Cable Guy and the Tampon 500! I kid you not!

Meeting Kelli Karlton was was no accident

While searching the internet for suicide awareness charity walks in my area, I came across a name and a phone number for a woman organizing the 1st AFSP, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk in the state of Delaware.

Kelli was the woman organizing the walk. When she started to tell me the details surrounding her father’s death, I knew I heard the exact story before. I learned of Kelli’s dad’s suicide through another friend the day after it happened. Seems Kelli and I were destined to meet.

Since last fall, Kelli and I have become close friends. I love her to pieces.

Kelli Karlton and Christa Scalies at the AFSP Walk

Kelli and I co-facilitate a Support Group for Survivors of Suicide Loss at  Supporting Kidds in Hockessin DE every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month from 7:00 pm — 8:30 pm. For more information about the group and our mission statement, click here. [Update: this group no longer is in operation. To locate a support group in Delaware, anywhere else in the country or view additional resources for survivors of suicide, please visit our Resources page.]

Kelli and I don’t particularly like the word “survivor” although we are surviving after the loss of our loved one’s suicides. Kelli and I prefer the term “thrivers” because we believe it is possible to go past just “surviving” the loss and move into a state of THRIVING!

Q & A with Kelli Karlton, Survivor of her father’s suicide

1.     How was grieving the loss of your loved one by suicide different (if at all) from the loss of another loved one who did not die by suicide?

The suddenness of it, the shock, the overall fact that my dad took his life with his own hand, sadness, guilt, a heavy feeling of pressure – like carrying around a ton of bricks on my chest, anger, utter despair…feeling like the ground I was walking on was going to cave in on me. You feel like you are under water and can’t come up for air.

The unanswered questions and the “why’s” are all very hard. They can and will consume you if you let them. I felt like everything around me was moving in slow motion, very surreal. The only other person this close to me in my life was my grand mom and she was 87. My dad was only 62 years young. You aren’t supposed to die that young.

2.       In the aftermath of your loved one’s death, what 3 Things helped you learn to enjoy life and laugh again? (could be a person, movie, habit, book, yoga, blog, pastor, support group – anything).

My husband and our 3 kids. The kids are very little so they needed me to get up, change them, feed them etc. My husband is my rock and our three kids my pebbles. My life had to go on. I am still alive. They are still alive. Life goes on. My life HAS to go on. My kids make me smile everyday.

3.       Did you feel guilt for laughing again and enjoying life after your loved one’s death? Meaning, did you feel you were not honoring their memory because you moved past intense grief?

Oh Yes! Is something funny was on tv, or a movie, I pretty much forbid myself from laughing and enjoying things in life in general. It took me several months to laugh again and the first time I did, I dawned on me that it was the first time since my dad’s death. But again, it was months before I gave myself “permission” to laugh. This laughter episode was unplanned and uncontrollable once it started. I remember it well. Larry the Cable Guy made me laugh.

Larry was talking about Nascar, which I love. He was talking about why there isn’t a race called the “Tampon 500” and how he could have his dad “pull some strings” to get him tickets. I laughed out loud when I heard this. At this time it had been 4 months since my dad’s death.

My husband noticed my laughter too and he said “It is good to hear my wife laugh again”. My dad would have laughed at Larry’s joke too and from that point on, I allowed myself to laugh again.


4.      For those of you past the 12 month mark of a loved one’s suicide, what advice would you give to someone who has recently lost someone to suicide?

You shouldn’t give another survivor “advice”. You can only offer them your experience. Everyone is different. Adults don’t like being told what to feel or do. I would simply tell people the emotions they are feeling are real. Cry when you need to cry. Punch a pillow, scream in the car when you are alone. Fill your life with people around you that are truly there for you, not just the ones who were at the funeral.

You will learn who your real friends are and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It take s great deal of time. I am 17 months into it. It still hurts. It makes my stomach turn. I still get mad. I still get sad. I miss my dad terribly. It’s on my mind – right there all the time.

Finding a suicide survivors support group with a loving vibe can help. I created a support group with a fellow survivor, Christa, and at the end of the last meeting we all left with smiles on our faces. Have hope. Find support. You will get through this.

5.     What type of resources do you feel survivors of suicide need the most?


I strive to give hope to others, other survivors.  You will make it. Yes, you will!

Find someone that has been there and someone who is a good listener. You need someone you can trust. I actually had a friend tell me I “talk about it too much”. We are no longer friends now.

I would like to add, in closing…YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS. You will smile again. You will laugh again. You will still cry, get mad – all of it is normal and allowed.  Allow yourself the time to move on. Fill your life with peace and calmness and love. Choose to spend time with people who love you.

If you are a survivor of suicide and would like to participate in the Survivor Series, please email me at christa at giggle on dot com.

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Related posts:

Survivor Q & A: Jayla Boire

Survivor Q & A: Annie DiMattia

Survivor Q & A: Erica Volkman

Remembering Them

25 Tips for Survivors of Suicide

Suicide Survivors Guilt


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