Celeste Manno’s family grieve lost 24th birthday


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Ms Manno would have turned 24 on Sunday.

“I’ve been trying to find the words to write this for what feels like forever now, and I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want it to be real,” her brother, Jayden, wrote on Sunday.

“I’ve always said of all the Mannos, you are the brightest, wisest, and most certainly the toughest. And you were.

“You were your family’s rock, pillar of strength and protector. You were a devoted daughter, niece, sister and aunt.”

Mr Manno, 33, said that despite being the older brother, he felt he always had more to learn from his sister.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend as much time together as we would have liked, but I will forever cherish the time we had together,” he said.

“My daughter, who you were so proud and excited to call your niece, will always grow to hear stories of how amazing her Zia Celeste was and I promise you I will do my absolute best to raise her and to empower her to be as strong and as wise as you.

People have been laying flowers for Celeste Manno, who was found dead at her home in Mernda.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“Happy birthday my little sister and rest in peace. I love you.”

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In the days after her death, Jayden said his sister had been extremely excited about seeing her baby niece Daisy this week as coronavirus restrictions lifted.

Mr Sako and Ms Manno were former colleagues at a call centre in Mill Park.

Ms Manno’s family say Mr Sako became “obsessed” with her after she was kind to him on the day he was fired more than a year ago.

The family says Ms Manno went to police with concerns she was being stalked and an intervention order was in place at the time of her death.

An online petition to tighten laws around stalking has garnered almost 5000 signatures.

On Friday, police seized a mobile phone during a search for evidence in the area between Ms Manno’s home and Mernda police station.

A makeshift shrine outside Ms Manno’s home also continues to grow, with dozens of people leaving floral tributes. Friends and family members have also left cards, candles, picture frames and a Care Bear.

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How to Grieve the Death of Someone You Don’t Know


Grief is healthy.

The death of a loved one is an inevitable, certain, unavoidable, and inexorable part of life. Surviving family and friends experience an emotional cascade of grief, regardless of how their loved one passed.

Bereavement has no formula, no time limit, or right or wrong. Grieving is an important part of the process of healing.

Each of us grieves in our own time and way. Neither wisdom nor understanding makes it easier, because those are rational thoughts.

Grief is not rational or linear.

In grief, the rationale is useless. Emotions are dictated by the limbic system in your brain, which is the seat of your emotions.

Many times, the world will grieve and mourn the deaths of celebrities and important figures as if they’d lost a loved one because, in fact, they have.

The intensity and time of grief differs when it’s someone immediately important to you, but those unknown in your personal lives can have the same grief patterns and stages as the loss of your loved ones.

Why is this?

We establish strong emotional ties to celebrities in the public eye.

Many of our dearly departed who aren’t family members or close friends have been in your life as if they were family members or dear friends for most of your life.

Feeling Stuck in the Stages Of Grief? Here Are 10 Coping Mechanisms to Help You Move On

You’ve established strong ties and relationships through television, the medium of technology, movies, concerts, and events throughout your lifetime. People tend to deify, idealize, and mythologize these legends and connect deeply.

This is part of the human experience. Your bereavement is part of the collective unconscious.

We share grief and loss collectively, just as we share joy and excitement.

Likewise, when one finds solace, acceptance, and relief, the chances increase that others will also find comfort. This, too, is a function of the collective unconscious.

In Jungian psychology, the collective unconscious is a concept originally defined by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It refers to the idea that a segment of the deepest unconscious mind is genetically inherited and is not shaped by personal experience. It’s a part of the human condition.

Grieving and “The Hundredth Monkey Effect”

An example is “The Hundredth Monkey Effect,” which hypothesizes that “…a new behavior or idea is said to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea.”

So, how does this theory relate to grief and loss?

If others feel the pain and loss of a hero, heroine, icon, or celebrated personality, it’s a human experience shared by many. Human beings connect with the pain and sorrow of others, as well as the joy.

This is empathy, something common to most of us. I say most, because there are certain personality disorders where empathy does not exist.

There is a symbiotic relationship with all of us worldwide when we feel loss, pride, and joy. We feel as one. When President Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall, the free world celebrated as if it was on their own turf.

Human beings are wired for connection, especially in grieving.

According to the philosopher Martin Buber, human beings are wired for connection. When we go into a disconnect through unexpected or sudden loss, we go into crisis.

It’s difficult enough even when there’s an expectation of loss, like an elderly person or someone who’s sick, but when it’s sudden, like a car crash or suicide, humans go first into shock and denial.

It forces you to experience the loss of a secure attachment; someone you’d grown attached to and loved deeply, even those not known to you on a personal basis, like a celebrity.

Mourning a celebrity is natural.

Losing an icon, even if you’ve never been in their company, feels the same as losing a best friend or even a hero. So, mourning is a natural event.

People like Princess Diana, President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Elvis Presley were all a manifestation of people’s own wishes, hopes, and dreams.

They inspired us with passion and purpose in our own lives by exemplifying what really matters. To be the best that we can be and become what we are intended to be.

Experiencing the Five Stages of Grief

The five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are a part of everyone’s mourning. Each person experiences these stages personally in their own way and time.

For instance, there are folks who still deny the death of Elvis Presley, longing to keep him alive in their hearts and minds. Coming to terms with losing a loved one, either in family, friends, or whom you have grown to love and respect is the stage of grief called acceptance.

Dealing With Grief After the Loss of a Pet

Everyone shares in the sorrow and loss. The common denominator is our human essence, our authenticity.

When a noted figure in your life dies, it forces you to come to terms with how fragile life is.

To be alive and well in one moment and to be gone in another is a fear and reality we all share. Mourning the loss of people you celebrated for different reasons is part of the human condition.

To be loved and to love is what it is to be a human being.

Grieving is healing.

The most important part of grieving is feeling your feelings. Grieving is a healing feeling.

Talk with others who celebrated the life of the deceased. Share your heartfelt feelings with those you trust and understand your grief.

Know that what you are experiencing is common and needs to be felt. Most of all, remember to celebrate their lives, as well as mourn their deaths.

This guest article was first published on YourTango.com: How To Mourn The Loss Of Someone You Don’t Know.

Photo by Moritz Schumacher on Unsplash.

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Dan Cross on creating a safe space for men to grieve


From truly traumatic circumstances, Dan Cross found a way to create a supportive, safe space for men to come together and grieve

The 20-strong group of men had hiked for eight hours to reach Snowdon’s summit, moving every step of the nine miles as one, travelling only as fast as the slowest. Teamwork at its finest. Finally, at the top, the walkers took a moment to take in the awe-inspiring view, and celebrate their achievement: fulfilling the physical feat of the 3,560ft climb and – many for the first time – overcoming emotional barriers guarding their innermost feelings of grief.

Every two-day expedition hosted by StrongMen, a UK charity dedicated to supporting bereaved men, sees participants start out as strangers, and finish as firm friends, bonded by a mutual understanding of loss.

Studies show that men find it harder to talk about grief than women, with many resorting to ‘grief aversion’ to circumvent pain and live up to masculine ideals. Research suggests men often build a fake emotional image that conveys ‘strength’, but such avoidance behaviour only makes depression more likely. It can also lead to physical health complications, a reality understood by StrongMen co-founder Dan Cross, whose wife Nikki was murdered in May 2015.

“Physical pain is not something you think of as bereavement, but I was in pain physically all the time, with crippling stomach aches and headaches,” explains the IT specialist, who appeared on the 2018 series of Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins. Last September, he launched StrongMen with fellow contestant Efrem Brynin, a sales director from West Sussex, whose son James was killed in Afghanistan in October 2013.

StrongMen groups support people through grief

“With StrongMen, our motto is ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ because the two are linked and if you don’t look after one, the other one will suffer,” explains Dan.

Last year, across two StrongMen retreats, a total of 40 men who had experienced the loss of a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, reaped the psychological and physiological benefits of climbing a mountain together.

“It’s a metaphor for what we’re facing; it’s a physical challenge but relates to the emotional challenges, too,” says Dan. “We talk all the way up the mountain, and that’s where the barriers start to come down. Everyone’s sharing their experiences, because they feel the person they’re opening up to really understands them.

“StrongMen is an abbreviation of StrongMentality. Strength is knowing yourself, and knowing when you need to ask for support, and getting it.”

The idea for the charity was born during Dan’s months of recovery after Nikki was stabbed by an intruder to the family home, while Dan was working away. Heartbreakingly, Dan was on the phone to his wife as she died trying to protect her children, Stanley and Isabella, then six and three. He listened down the line as Nikki fell silent before Stanley began pleading for his mummy to wake. Dan has since battled anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

“I was getting flashbacks every 10, 15 or 20 minutes, hearing Nikki’s screams. It felt like she was in the room with me,” explains Dan. “I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t go outside, because I was worried somebody was going to attack us. I feared the kids were going to be damaged for life. My mind was going 10 years in the future, 10 years in the past – I couldn’t control any of my thoughts. It was a living hell.”

I feel when I’m getting tense, when something’s bothering me, and I know the right time to offload that

Six months after Nikki died, Dan’s GP recommended he return to the gym – a pastime he lost passion for following the tragedy – to help release a build-up of stress hormones, which was causing him physical pain. Dan also had trauma counselling, which taught him mindfulness techniques to cope with panic attacks, such as focusing on and describing objects, as well as repeatedly narrating the event in detail.

“I had to write it down, read it out, say it over and over, because eventually you become desensitised to it,” he says. “It’s just something you’re able to talk about, and I do talk about it now.”

Another positive came in the form of road-running with friends, when Dan would inadvertently offload his feelings. Then one year after the tragedy, Dan began volunteering for Victim Support, and during his training met family members of other murder victims, who he instantly “connected with”.

By the time Dan travelled to Morocco two years ago, to film SAS: Who Dares Wins, his idea for StrongMen was well-formulated, and he shared his thoughts with ex-Special Forces soldier and show co-host Matthew ‘Ollie’ Ollerton, who said the plan “had legs”.

Now Ollie, and presenter-turned qualified life coach Jeff Brazier, are ambassadors for the charity, which launched thanks to £10,000 of Lottery funding. This year, using £50,000 donated by well-wishers, four retreats are on the cards, and the aim is to roll out eight more in 2021, building up to 20 annually. More than 750 men are currently on the waiting list.

Crucially, participants don’t stop benefiting from StrongMen once their walking boots are unlaced. “We have a post-weekend care plan,” says Dan. “We set up a WhatsApp group so everyone can chat and share photographs. If somebody’s having a bad day, all the lads rally around them. If there’s an anniversary, it’s an opportunity to help each other from afar. It creates a support network that carries on.”

Dan and his wife Alex on their wedding day

Dan and his wife Alex on their wedding day

Before Nikki died, Dan admits he was a “closed book”, especially around the children. Today, thanks to counselling and since meeting his new partner, Alex Wells, a children’s mental health physician who he married last September, he speaks proudly of how far he has come emotionally.

“I’m a more rounded person. I know myself better, and I’m stronger for knowing my limits, mentally and emotionally. I feel when I’m getting tense, when something’s bothering me, and I know the right time to offload that.”

As for how he’s supported Stanley and Isabella, now 10 and eight, Dan admits he has largely been led by his “gut”, but says Alex’s input as both a healthcare professional and a woman who cares deeply for his children, has been invaluable.

“She can recognise quickly when the children are slipping into a down period. It helps a great deal. We’ve got pictures and memory books – things to keep memories of Nikki alive. One of the key things was me showing emotion in front of the kids, so when I was sad, I’d cry in front of them. It’s about giving them the confidence to know their emotions are OK, and to let out how they feel.”

For Dan, who also founded Nikki’s Wishes, a charity providing days out for bereaved families in Hertfordshire, his “never-ending” journey of grief is undoubtedly helped by StrongMen.

“To see the idea grow into an actual charity that’s leading to an improvement in people is a great feeling,” he says. “Grief is hard to control and understand, so having people around you that have your back when you reach those moments, that’s vital.”

Find out more at strongmen.org.uk






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BBC – Culture – How the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped me grieve



I’m going to explain to you why the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is my happy place in a moment but first I need to tell you about something sad. My grandmother died from Covid-19 complications on Good Friday and it’s the first time I have really experienced the true pain of losing a loved one. Monica had been my only grandparent since I was five years old; she was a Grade A, god-tier grandma and here I was, in my flat in London, having to come to terms with her death alone, with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to leave lockdown to say goodbye at the funeral in two weeks’ time.

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After my parents called me that Friday night to tell me the news, I cried myself to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up with the strongest urge to escape into the fantastical world of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Thor and the rest of these Marvel heroes – so I camped out on my sofa and binge-watched MCU movies for the remainder of the Easter Weekend.

I’ve spent more than a decade being invested in this film franchise, so it’s no wonder that it’s become the cinematic equivalent of an emotional support dog for me in my time of need. There’s a familiarity that I have with these heroic characters and their fist-pumping adventures that must cause a release of serotonin in my brain, because with each film I watched anew, I felt the thrum of grief lessen, allowing in moments of joy that lifted my spirit.

Their light and shade

The Marvel Cinematic Universe really is a joyous one. Ever since it began in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, it has served up superhero stories with as much willingness to make you laugh as they do to make your eyes widen in action-packed awe. Sure, it deals with serious subjects, like the war on terror, government overreach and, you know, the genocide of half the universe. But it’s a franchise that is not afraid to laugh at itself either, and launching it with Robert Downey Jr as the witty, and oft-times crude, Tony Stark was a statement of comedic intent.

The series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities.

That humorous side was then amplified with the 2012 release of The Avengers, written and directed by quip-master Joss Whedon, who used jokes and even more pop-culture references to bridge the gap not only between his newly-assembled superhero gang and their super-powered egos, but also between these seemingly fantastical characters and the audience. Tony calling Thor “Point Break” – a reference to the latter’s resemblance to Patrick Swayze’s blond surfer dude in the 1991 action-thriller – never fails to raise a smile, and thanks to the MCU’s cross-narrative approach to cinematic storytelling, that’s a joke that gets hilariously revisited five years later in Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.

Alongside the gags, the series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities. No longer is the focus only on white male heroes and villains – instead there is a diverse range of characters for a wider audience to connect with. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are all brilliant examples of Marvel Studios allowing the filmmakers’ voices to shine, while still staying true to the unifying structure and webbed narrative of the franchise. Ragnarok is probably the most distinctive individual Marvel offering so far – Waititi’s deadpan, self-referential humour keeps things especially grounded and accessible, despite the out-of-this-world setting. The Kiwi filmmaker flips your expectations of certain characters – as when Korg, a member of the rock alien Kronan race, turns out to be far more mild-mannered and intellectual than his previously-seen peers – but also uses comedy to make space for a deeper cultural commentary on issues like refugees, slavery and the white-washing of history.

Then, employing a more serious tone, Ryan Coogler continued the exploration of such themes in 2018’s Black Panther. Set in the fictional country of Wakanda, the film at once celebrated the awe-inspiring skill of the titular hero and his all-female security team the Dora Milaje, paid tribute to African and African-American culture, and acknowledged the negative legacy of white colonial powers. I went to the UK premiere of this movie and it is still one of my favourite communal cinema experiences.

How Marvel addresses mental health

But while the MCU has become ever more culturally enlightened, what it has always been great at is addressing issues around mental health – ones that people from every background can relate to.

There’s the obvious metaphorical battle with personal demons that takes place in every film. From Captain America taking on the Red Skull to Captain Marvel battling her former Kree allies, viewers can put themselves in the position of these heroes as they overcome their perceived pitfalls, and find the courage and strength to defeat the physical manifestation of their doubts and fears. However, the MCU deals with mental health not just through subtext but explicitly in the narrative arcs of several characters.

There’s a wonderful line in Doctor Strange: ‘death is what gives life meaning’. It made me smile thinking about the wonderful life my grandma led for 86 years

We see Tony Stark struggling with post-traumatic stress, for example, stemming from his experience being held hostage by the 10 Rings in his first film; it comes to a head in Iron Man 3, where he begins to suffer panic attacks. With each new cinematic outing, Tony faces new threats against his life, those he loves, and the entire planet, but is also still struggling to come to terms with the death of his parents and regrets over his relationship with his father. Then there’s Bruce Banner and his identity crisis regarding his shared existence with the manifestation of his anger, the Hulk, which many people who have experienced the flaring up of repressed emotions may relate to. Meanwhile the trauma of child abuse is explored through survivor Nebula. Every time her father Thanos, the biggest of Bads in the MCU, punished her perceived failures by replacing her body parts with machinery, he chipped away at her humanity – but we see her and sister Gamora come together to claim it back.

Right now, though, it’s Thor’s battle with depression and grief that I feel most connected to.

Death is always waiting in the wings of the superhero stage and in the MCU it has claimed the lives of good guys and bad guys alike. In fact, there’s a wonderful line from The Ancient One in Doctor Strange on the subject, where she says to her protegée, “death is what gives life meaning”; it made me smile thinking about the wonderful life my grandma led for 86 years.

 

But the God of Thunder, well, he’s been dealt more than his fair share of loss in this franchise. After losing his entire family, and being forced to destroy his homeworld of Asgard, Thor shoulders the guilt of not “aiming for the head” and killing Thanos before the Mad Titan eradicated half the universe with a snap of his fingers. In Avengers: Endgame we see the consequences of that self-reproach, with Thor no longer looking like the Asgardian god of legend, but rather an average looking man who has resorted to the very human practice of eating and drinking his feelings away. However, what’s encouraging is that this film allows him to process his grief and show his vulnerability, without the need for him to revert back to his godlike body to become the hero the Avengers need again. Because his heroism doesn’t come from his powers, but his heart, and that’s the most human thing in the world.

The camaraderie of people uniting in deep, dark times of need always gives me permission to cry uncontrollably

We can take comfort in that fact. That these characters might be the smartest, strongest and most courageous heroes in the universe, but they still have flaws and struggle just like us, regular humans. And in this way, the MCU films give some people the freedom to express their emotions without judgement. My best friend Corin has been dealing with long-running mental health issues and he told me recently that the MCU has offered him solace too. “The camaraderie of people uniting in deep, dark times of need always gives me permission to cry uncontrollably,” he said. “There’s something magical and distant enough about these stories that it allows me to feel the grief or depression I find it hard to compute. I basically don’t feel alone.”

Right now, I think, we’re all looking for heroes – and while there are plenty to clap for in our health services and key workforces, there’s also something reassuring about escaping into this world of fictional great men and women that gives you the chance to laugh, cry and cheer – and ultimately witness the win of all wins.

It might not be the most cerebral choice of joy-giving culture, but there’s a reason why millions flocked to see these movies over the past 10 years, and whether you believe the MCU is ‘cinema’ or not, there’s no denying it is one of the most entertaining and game-changing film franchises of all time. It’s certainly provided me ample entertainment over the years, and right now, as I process my grief in isolation, it’s given me the cinematic comfort blanket I’ve so desperately needed.

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