Challenging the Stigma Around Suicide with Felicia Frabis

Felicia Frabis shares the story of losing her brother and cousin to suicide. She discusses the things her family learned from the experience and what she did to honor her lost loved ones’ memories.

The Science of Grief, produced by WDET and Science Gallery Detroit, explores the stories, science and solutions around grief and mental health, making space for young adults to share their stories, but also lead the conversation.

Content Warning: This episode talks about suicide.

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Felicia Frabis lost her brother David and cousin Evan Vargas to suicide.

David was a recently retired Navy veteran working a civilian job in Virginia, while Felicia and her family were living in Michigan.

He wasn’t particularly happy in Virginia, and David went through a breakup recently, but Felicia and her family never saw any signs to suggest David was considering suicide.

Felicia and her family went through shock, sadness and anger, seeking answers to explain why David completed suicide. But as is often the case, there was no answer.

“You really will never learn why. You have to get to a point where you stop searching,” says Felicia.

After her brother’s death, Felicia focused on schoolwork, and began shouldering the burden of being strong for her family, which left her little time to grieve.

When Felicia’s cousin Evan Vargas died by suicide, she initially went right back the feelings she had first experienced with her brother’s loss.

The next winter, Felicia had an internship with an organization that happened to be organizing a suicide prevention walk. She played a lead role in planning that walk.

“This was one of those destiny moments, to focus on something like that, a year later. And the walk was actually the day before his one-year anniversary.”

Going through the process of planning the prevention walk helped Felicia understand suicide more, and that led to her being able to open up healthy discussions about mental health with her family.

“It allowed me to process my own grief in a healthy way, besides avoiding it and just focusing on school.”

“Having my whole family behind me, and my friends, really meant a lot. I remember thinking, oh, my God, he would be so proud of me right now. They both would be.”

Tips and Takeaways from Abigail Waller

  • If you are grieving, talk with people who will understand your experience
  • Why we are changing the language we use when talking about suicide: “Died by suicide” or “completed suicide.”
  • Identifying signs of suicidal ideation
  • Learning to live with traumatic loss

Previous Episodes of Science of Grief

Seeking Help

While this podcast is meant to make space for sharing stories and solutions, it is not a substitute for professional help. If you have a mental health concern and need someone to talk to, please contact a mental health professional or your doctor.

If you are in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

The Science of Grief podcast is a collaboration between WDET and Science Gallery Detroit, and is supported by the Children’s Foundation of Michigan, MSUFCU and Science Sandbox.

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.