For the first-time ever, a unique event is happening in Southeast Minnesota that is giving many individuals and family members a moment to remember those that lost their lives due to overdoses, addictions, and suicide.  Seeing those words may make you a bit uncomfortable, and that is understandable, but sadly, many individuals are grieving for the loved ones they have lost and this event will finally give them a moment to remember them.

I sat down with Toni Kay Mangskau and Valerie Mangskau recently to chat a bit about the event on June 3rd and learned how their own personal journeys have played a role.

Close up. Man and woman hold hands tightly.
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JESSICA - Townsquare Media cares about our community and I wanted to chat with you because there is a very unique event in our community, a first of its kind, that many individuals would benefit from- A Time of Remembrance.  Why should people attend and if you are open to it, sharing a bit of your own personal story.

TONI - The event is happening just so that we can continue to remember all of those individuals that we've lost to overdoses and suicides and people that have struggled with addiction. My daughter, Valerie, and I, we've been around the recovery community ever since Valerie was born and it just seems like things have changed within that community to where every day or every other day, we're losing more members of our community to overdoses and suicides.

Personally, this touched our family as well. Individuals that have been friends with my daughter and son.  Some people that they grew up with, we've lost to overdoses and suicides. For quite a number of years, while my daughter was actively using, I also didn't have a great relationship with her.  There were maybe up to three years that we had no contact with each other and I didn't know if she was alive or dead.  I would see her on the news every now and then being arrested for something. Then I knew she was in jail.  I knew where she was.

But it's really a struggle for families and people that have friends that are struggling with the active addiction. And it's really scary now with everything, with fentanyl being so prominent in our community.

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VALERIE - I was raised in the recovery community and my dad was recovering alcoholic and he had about 29 years before he relapsed, and now he's in active addiction.  When I ended up becoming addicted myself, I knew where to go and I had the right places to turn to. However, throughout my years of use and the behavior that goes with addiction, my mental health was never looked at.  It's so important to look at both suicide, addictions, mental health, and chemical dependency because for 15 treatment centers, everybody from probation to the courts to whoever and even family members there were like, "OK, it's the drug use, it's the drug use."

Well, I never could stay sober or have long-term recovery because my mental health was never addressed. However, the last treatment center I went to was mental health-focused, so I got my mental health under control. I've been sober ever since.  I just recently celebrated 7 years of sobriety and I'm not just sober, but I'm actively living in recovery.

My last use I was drugged and I overdosed and I barely made it out alive.  Now I feel that I got rescued from something so I can go in and rescue others and that's how I live my life today.

What has been happening since COVID, the majority of the people that I became family with during my years of addiction and recovery, a lot of them aren't making it out alive.  And the correlation is men do not have the same support and services that women do in this community.  If you're a mother with a child, you have access to a lot more support services, housing, etc. If you're a single male or even a dad, your support is limited.

And then there's the stigma that goes with a man asking for help and being the provider of the family, or staying strong and I think that is contributing to people not asking for help or not having the right supports and services to abstain from alcohol or drugs and to get the help that they need.

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JESSICA - Appreciate you sharing some of your personal journey and struggle and congrats on 7 1/2 years, Valerie!

One neat thing about the event A Time of Remembrance, is that people can bring a photo of somebody that they have lost.  And Toni, you and I spoke before about how no one talks about this. It's like this type of conversation is taboo. If you've lost somebody to suicide or addiction, nobody wants to bring it up. Maybe they don't know how to bring it up. They don't have the right words of comfort to say. Or maybe this is just a Minnesota thing, we don't want to offend somebody or make them feel bad and so sometimes we just don't say anything at all.  Unfortunately, that quietness just continues and it's like the big elephant in the room.  Having this opportunity to honor those that people have lost is going to be such a huge impact, especially with the wall of remembrance.  Can you share a little bit about that and what individuals can bring for it?

TONI - We welcome everybody to bring a photo of their loved one or their loved ones, because many people have lost quite a few individuals.

JESSICA - During the event, I heard that there are a few nice items that individuals who attend will receive.  Can you touch on those?

TONI - We have packets of forget me not seeds so that people can plant the seeds - it's a way of remembering an individual.  We have crosses, small pebbles, and then we also have a small charm that looks like a feather. 

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JESSICA - One thing about loss, it doesn't affect somebody who is just a Christian, just you know "this faith", those who are agnostic, etc. It doesn't care who you are or what religion you do or don't practice.  Although this event is at a church, that thought of "Well, I can't go get help or mourn my loved one because I'm not ____" should not be a reason you don't walk through the doors.  This event is not for a specific faith.  It is for those who have lost loved ones due to addiction, overdoses, and suicide. You can find help at this event, comfort, and strength from other people if you show up.

TONI - A Time to Remember is taking place at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, but anybody and everybody is welcome.  If you have other beliefs and don't practice the Christian faith, you are more than welcome to come - the door will be open to join us.

JESSICA - I have a feeling that at this event could stir up a lot of emotions for individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide, addiction and overdoses.  What type of support will be available for anyone that day who might have questions or need to talk to someone?

TONI - The Landing MN, Docs Recovery, Fernbrook, Salt and Light Partners, Hope Ranch, Mayo Clinic, C.E.R.T., Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, Pathways, and a number of other groups will be having the table.

JESSICA - If somebody has a friend or a family member who recently lost somebody because of addiction or suicide, what words of comfort would you suggest be given to those who are now dealing with that loss?

VALERIE - I think grief and loss affects people differently and with the stages of grief, sometimes there's not exactly like a black and white.  However, I know that a lot of healing comes from people coming together and supporting each other wherever they're at, whatever level of response or lack of response they want.  Just being with somebody and just sitting with them in their time of loss and grief and encouraging them if they want encouragement or any words of sympathy.  It it's kind of a case-by-case situation and you just have to use your wisdom and intuition.  But "you're not alone, and I'm here to walk with you" is what I would say.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
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JESSICA - Valerie, let me ask you this. Somebody who might be reading this who is struggling with an addiction or mental health, what would you say to them right now?

VALERIE - I would recommend reaching out to two places, Doc Recovery House or Recovery's Happening - they have a great team of peer recovery specialists.  That would be the first step that I would take - connecting with the peer recovery specialist and kind of assessing what type of support you need and then they can walk alongside with you through that process.

A Time of Remembrance
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If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Resource information is provided for free as well as a chat message service. To speak directly to a professional, call 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone and help is available. Every life is important.

Townsquare Media Rochester - Preston
Townsquare Media Rochester - Preston
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Townsquare Media cares about our community! Every year, we help the community in a variety of ways from supporting local fundraisers, to running daily public service messages, to creating digital community campaigns and hosting events attended by thousands.

Do you have a community event coming up or a fundraiser?  Let us know!  Contact us at jessica.williams@townsquaremedia.com or fill out the form requesting more info at our Townsquare Cares page.

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