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A Woman Alive

September 11th, 2013

My Greatest Loss

By Diane

Judy Giovangelo is the Founder of Ben Speaks, a not for profit whose mission is to STOMP OUT teen suicide and address the myriad of issues leading up to this final act.  On April 16th, 2009 Judy’s son Ben chose to take his life by hanging himself. In the face of this tragedy Judy made the courageous decision not to sink into the despair that gripped her, but to stand up and speak out for teens through out the world who feel such deep hopelessness that they decide to end their lives.  Her story and her strength are a testament to the power can be unleashed when tap into and acknowledge our most vulnerable and authentic selves.  Thank you Judy.


Ben’s decision to end his life created a shock wave from the core of my being to the ends of the universe.

He was a Buddha in our midst for which I have always sensed and known. The honoring of his life and presence was tremendous. More than I could have ever imagined in my mind. Not only was this honoring a testament to the energy of this amazing young man, but also a testament to each of us, as individuals, within this family. The outpouring of love for all of us, the deep sadness felt by all who joined in his passing was and will always be a true blessing for which I am eternally grateful.

Ben had an extraordinary life. He was the most compassionate, loving, sensitive, and empathic being I have ever known. His smile and bright eyes would light up an entire room with his presence. He felt other people’s pain and had little-to-no tolerance for behaviors that were out of integrity. His method at times to bring others into accountability was fierce and difficult to receive. I, myself, have on many occasions, met his fierceness head on and hit an enormous wall of energy that was immovable.

I learned, as his mother, to let go of my need to be right. To just love him and let him be. Later, we would talk things through once the energy would soften and he would let go completely and come back to the present moment. Benjamin lived his life in the moment. During the process of the days following Ben’s death, a statement exclaimed by a member of our family continued to ring in my ears. She said, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

Yesterday it hit me: those suffering with mental illness are dealing everyday with challenges that most of us cannot understand. The problems are not temporary ones. They are constant, and he dealt with them every day like a champion. I am not advocating for anyone who reads this to go out and take their life, I am only putting into perspective the astronomical challenge this young man, and many others like him, face on a day-to-day basis.

Those, who knew Ben well, were acutely aware of his continuous stream of rituals that he hid from most of his community and peers. His fear of being judged, criticized, and misunderstood was his greatest challenge socially. Most of his peers had no idea of the inner demons he fought against every day. He didn’t let anyone get too close — especially, GIRLS!

If he let anyone get too close, they would see his brokenness. From the stream of young women, who attended his funeral, it was clear there were many who would have loved the chance to get closer to him. He was physically gorgeous, and, of course, he thought he was ugly!

Compiled by an educational system that only serves a small minority of our children today, learning was painful, as well. He pushed through every single day and came home with knots the size of grapes all along his scapula bones, which I would lovingly call his angel wings. We had a nightly ritual.

“Mom,” he would say, “can you PUSH on my back?”

I would stop whatever I was doing, and push on him until all his demons from the day were released from his body. His sister, brother, and closest friends were witness to this event on many occasions. They used to say that he sounded like he was having an orgasm. They would often tell us to “GET A ROOM!” He would make sound to release his anguish, and I would sit on his butt and push, squeeze, knead and heal. This was yet another ritual in the life of Ben Giovangelo. One that I believe saved him for many years. As a teacher, healer and spiritual seeker for the past 15 years, I am at peace with the loss of this immense presence that graced me with his life for 18 very short years. I understand, and see the bigger picture, and know that he will continue to be part of the journey of my work as a healer and teacher moving forward. This does not bring solace to the deep vibrational tear of pain at the center of my heart as his mother. He knew I would be devastated. He also knew that he needed to take care of himself. To be true to oneself at the expense of others is not widely accepted here. In our society, we call the act of self-loving, selfish. It is my belief that this is the highest form of self-love.

Benjamin loved all of those around him deeply. His suicide was filled with love and concern for those he was to leave behind him. There was no anger, no judgment, no guilt or shame, just a clear sense of surrender to release his pain and suffering.

From the moment Ben passed to spirit, I have felt, seen and heard his presence. His beingness is larger than life, his spirit is soaring, his body is empty, and a mere shell of what was once a boy carrying the spirit of a master.

His presence in human form will be missed beyond words. His spirit lives on in our hearts, minds, memories and choices. I am so grateful for the gift of being his mother. He was my greatest teacher; and I will hold him close in my heart until my own dying day.

To learn more about Ben Speaks or to make a donation go to: www.benspeaks.org

Judy Giovangelo can be reached at giovangelo@comcast.net

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