Melissa Smith: Virtual Assistant Matchmaker, Work From Anywhere (#196)
Our Guest Today: Melissa Smith
“I Just Didn’t Want to Ask For Permission to Be With My Family Anymore. That Was the Strongest Thing. Had It Been ‘How Am I Going to Make Money, How Am I Going to Support My Family, What About Health Insurance’, if I Put Any of Those Things Down on Paper, I Probably Would Have Never Ever Done It.” – Melissa Smith
Melissa Smith is a Virtual Assistant Matchmaker, VA Trainer, Remote Work Consultant & Author featured in CareerBuilder, Spark Hire, The Muse, Thinkific, & Woman’s World. I met her at Dorie Clark’s Writing Workshop in Boston.
After learning more about her business, I knew instantly that her knowledge will add tremendous value to our listeners on Feisworld Podcast.
In this episode, you’ll learn how to:
- Overcome your fear (Melissa feared flying her whole life until…)
- Deal with grief and the loss of loved ones
- Reinventing your career and business
- Build a business where you can work anytime, anywhere
What makes this episode even more exciting is that Melissa, like many of our guests on the Feisworld Podcast, isn’t so settled into only what she’s doing already. Instead, she continues to explore other areas and possibilities in her life.
Life isn’t always as trivial as it seems on the outside. As a successful entrepreneur, Melissa has been a single mom for years. She talks about building her business while reconnecting with her children after her husband’s sudden passing.
To learn more about Melissa, visit her website, and connect with her via LinkedIn.
BONUS: Melissa Smith’s newly revised and expanded of Hire the Right Virtual Assistant will be live on Amazon beginning March 17, 2019. She’s excited to have created an Interactive Hiring Workbook to go with it.
- [05:00] Can you share your experience about your travels? How did you start traveling?
- [08:00] How many years ago did you experience the transition from not liking flying to be an enthusiast?
- [09:00] What were some of the emotions you felt when you were afraid of flying?
- [14:00] How long has it been since you’ve been transitioning in and out of different careers?
- [16:00] What is your current business? Can you describe it in a few words?
- [20:00] You didn’t wait to leave your current job and start your own business. So many people are in the same situation and don’t dare to do that. What was your attitude, what was going through your head at that time?
- [22:00] What was difficult for you, some of the challenges you had (emotionally, financially, etc.) when starting your business?
- [24:00] What is your ideal client, avatar? How did you come up with that?
- [26:00] Are your clients generally based in the US?
- [28:00] How do you complete the matchmaking? What are some of the personality traits that you asses?
- [33:00] How did you overcome losing your husband to suicide? What would you recommend to other people in the same situation?
Melissa Smith Virtual Assistant Matchmaker, Work From Anywhere – powered by Happy Scribe
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I just didn’t want to have to ask permission to be with my family anymore. So I think that was the strongest thing. Had it been like, how am I going to make money? How am I going to support my family? What about health insurance? If I hadn’t put any of those things down on paper, I probably would have never, ever done it. And then it just got me thinking, like, am I really only going to do this once or twice a year now? So then I thought, there’s got to be a way. If I can work anywhere, like, there’s got to be a way to do this. You know, the control. Not having control is not bad. Looking for opportunity is actually fun. Being surprised, I actually enjoy surprises. These are all really good things, and that’s what flying became to me. It’s different because everyone talks about, like, if you put out the right message, people will find you, but you also have to put out a lot to figure out what you’re really saying. If there’s any way I can relate, then they know I really can relate. It’s a really weird thing to have in common with your children, you know?
If anyone’s going to have it in common with their kids, I’m glad it’s me. Hi there.
This is Fei Wu and you’re listening to the phaser Feisworld Podcast. Today I’m joined by Melissa Smith. Melissa is a virtual assistant matchmaker, a VA trainer, remote work consultant, and author, featured in Career Builder, Spark Hire, the Muse, Thinkific, and Woman’s World. I met her at Dory Clark’s writing workshop in Boston in July 2018, and I remember thinking instantly, wow, a business and virtual assistant matchmaking. That is wicked creative. How come I didn’t think of that? So during brunch, I sat across from Melissa and felt an instant connection and trust with her. No wonder why she’s so good at her job and why her clients and the virtual assistants she hired have very high job satisfaction and client satisfaction. What makes this episode most exciting is that Melissa, like many of our guests on the Face Feisworld podcast, isn’t so settled into only what she’s good at. But they continue to explore other areas and possibilities in their lives. And that is why Melissa is also in transition. One decision she made as someone who’s afraid to fly is to travel around the world, overcoming her fear. At last, Melissa shares her journey of embracing who she is in an outside work.
Life isn’t always as easy as it seems on the outside. As a successful entrepreneur, melissa has been a single mom for years. She talks about building her business while reconnecting with her children and talking to her. I could immediately think of a few female friends who have also lost their spouses and will benefit greatly from this conversation. And just when you think life gets harder, your hope and dreams are out of reach. You may surprise yourself by your own resilience. I have interviewed so many men and women who have gone through hardships and embraced them. Michael Bryan, for example, talked about his last bad day after a life altering bicycle accident that made him more human. This episode is where those, especially women who are in transitions, we’re still wondering if they deserve a second chance for their careers to explore something that intrigues them. Melissa’s a creative person, even though the word creative isn’t in her title. While everyone’s journey is unique and different, she will give you some thought starters on how to think about reinventing your career, perhaps even your new business. Before we get started, I invite you to check out a little gift I left for you on Faceworld.com Feisworld.
Look for the top of the browser on your computer or your mobile phone. A prerelease of our new docuseries is waiting for you right now. Let us know what you think, and thank you for your support, as always. Without further ado, please welcome Melissa Smith to the Phase World Podcast.
So I got to know you through Doria Clarke’s, writing for a high profile publication seminar in Boston and knowing that, first of all, you travel from elsewhere. So there’s definitely some serious dedication and commitment there. But I also find that you have this aura and this vibe of empowering other women. I learned very briefly of who you are and what you do. You spend a lot of time traveling on the road. So could you tell us about your travel? I mean, what was it like, how long where you’ve been and all that jazz?
Yeah, so I have not been traveling for a long time, so that’s something that people don’t always know. For most of my life, I was afraid to fly, and so I only did so when I had to. And I would take drama mean because it completely knocked me out. And then when I started my own business, even though I’m virtual, I was traveling a lot for work. And part of the reason I went virtual was to be with my family whenever they needed me or whenever I wanted to be with them. And mostly my travel to see family was quite long, like 5 hours or 4 hours. So the job me was really necessary. When I started traveling more for work, the flights got shorter and shorter, and the second I got off the plane, I needed to hit the ground running and I wasn’t able to do that ondomamy, so I had to start cutting back my doses. And then one day I thought I didn’t take my medicine, I didn’t take any germinine, I just made that flight. And so then the very next flight I had was a flight from Atlanta to La to visit my brother.
And I thought, I’m going to try it. I’m going to go in knowing I’m not going to take anything. And so I did it. I was perfectly fine. And the day that I got back to Atlanta, from the day of my brother, I went and apply for my passport, and I began planning this trip to the Monaco Grand Prix. And then I went on a trip to London. And then in late 2016, I started planning a trip to Italy. And then it just got me thinking, like, am I really only going to do this once or twice a year now? Is that really going to be my life? And it really made me sad. And so then I thought, there’s got to be a way. If I can work anywhere, there’s got to be a way to do this. I just started researching companies, but there’s all kinds of companies that do it. The company that I travel with is no longer in business, but there’s other ways to do it where you can work in a group setting and travel with a group and not do this by myself. Because at that point, I wasn’t comfortable traveling the world by myself, and I don’t like the logistics of it.
So I found this company, and I signed up in late October. In January of 2017, I hit the road for the first of twelve countries. I actually ended up going to 16 countries in 2017. And then from there, yeah, the whole new world opened up.
How many years ago was it when you realized that you didn’t take the pill? How many years ago did you witness that transition kind transformation within yourself?
Yeah, so that was in 15. Oh, that’s all this took place very recently. So I started my business in late 2014, and then this would be around August 2015 when I realized I was no longer afraid to fly. And then my first international trip was to London in December 2015.
What did you fear about? Like, do you still remember the emotions that were going through your mind?
Yes, because I was so afraid I would get physically ill before I even got on the plane. So if there was anything particularly, particularly unnerving, I might have to take a Drama Mean just to leave the house, and I would take two more Drama Mean when I got to the airport to make sure I slept through the flight. But it was never about claustrophobia for me. What I didn’t realize so much was it was about control. I didn’t have control to stop the plane, to get off the plane. I was in control of nothing. Right. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom unless the seat belt sign was off. Like all these things really, I just had this real control issue, which I think also tied in with my perfectionism and I just was so afraid about not being in control and having to completely and totally release that. And then over the years, it really came to terms with what you’re never in control like you think you are. It feels good to think you are if things go bad, like, I was out of my control, and that was so frustrating. But if it’s a surprise or what we might consider an opportunity, then all of a sudden it’s not something that was out of my control.
Now it was this great surprise and this opportunity that came knocking on my door and I think rethinking how I saw those things. And not everything that happened that I didn’t plan was the universe out to get me. And I’m not cursed and, you know, all these other things because sometimes when things didn’t go the way I planned, I would really think that I’m just cursed. For me, that was really the thing. And when I realized those kinds of things aren’t, you know, the control. Not having control is not bad. Looking for opportunity is actually fun. Being surprised, I actually enjoy surprises. These are all really good things. And that’s what flying became to me, because I said the anxiety that I have was also for the unknown. Like flying to an unknown place before, the thought of it scared me to death, but now the unknown is very exciting for me.
I can relate to my professional working as a producer, project manager for over a decade. And so much of the nature of that job is about being control or putting chaos in order, all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I think deep down, I always knew my job was to put chaos into order, and therefore, I couldn’t have the preconception of things that would always work out the way they’re supposed to be. But what was your origin story that you think whether your childhood or whether careers you had or certain events in your life that may have led to you thinking that you need to be in control? Have you connected the dots yet?
I think there’s a lot of different things. I’m always trying to connect the dots because I’m always trying to be more self aware. So if it’s positive, I can put more positive things in my life. And if it’s negative or not, a great way of thinking that I can also make sure. I try not to do that behavior anymore. But I think there’s a couple of things that led to it. So most of the people who have passed away in my life or died was very sudden. So those things out of your control, they’re not like slow. It’s sudden. And for whatever reason, the suddenness of it makes you feel like you couldn’t control anything. You didn’t even get to control the way that you found out, because it’s just like, boom, this is it. And you’re like, Whoa, what just happened here? And I think having particularly some deaths happen, like, immediately following one another, like, every three months or every six months in 2012 and 13 were particularly difficult as well. So I think that had to do with it. And then also my profession. So my profession and what I grew up to be was an executive assistant and being married and having two kids, I think I wanted to control everything.
I really knew it was not in my control. At work was the place that I actually could at work, I could create organization from chaos. I could manage things, I could have a routine, I could check things off my list and have them be done, and I could get down to zero inbox every day. And I just felt like I had this real sense of control there. Everything was very orderly. It was very go in, do the same things, but at the same time. What I didn’t realize is that I would also get bored very easily when I did that. So now changing jobs every two or three years is really common. But I am Gen X, so it was not common for me. Like, I work with or I have friends now who I went to school with, also secondary school, and they’re at the same job they got when they left there. I can’t even count the number of jobs I’ve had since then because I would change every two or three years because I had created such a system that I would get bored, I would move. And back then it was like this big red flag on your resume to move every two years or so.
When they asked me what I was doing and why I was changing, I would say, Well, I’m trying just to promote myself. This is how I’m going to give myself a raise. And that answer seemed to work well, and I couldn’t have known it then, but certainly now has played a huge part in my career and in what I do in life.
So how long has it been since you’ve been kind of transitioning in and out of different careers? Has it been like the past ten years, the past 20 years?
Gosh, it has been almost the past 20 years. I’ve stayed in the same field sometimes, but I have been moving around. And even where I am right now in my career, I was thinking, how funny, because I’m coming up on that four year mark of being in business for myself. Here I am again at the two year mark, I made big transitions, and then here again, I’m at the four year mark, and I’m literally transitioning again. And I hired a consultant to help me through the whole process. I’ve never felt like I had more opportunities, which makes me not focus on one. And he’s helping me put together the dots and also an actual system and a flow, because this is all brand new for me.
I find what you do, let’s say what you did in the past four years to be fascinating.
Before we talk about your transition, let’s maybe paint the picture of what is your current business, which is I love Matchmaking for your virtual assistant. Like, what does that even mean?
Yeah. So my business at the end of this year will be four years old. And like I said, my background is an executive assistant. So I went to school for that. That’s what I wanted to be. My mother was an executive assistant, but six years ago, my husband committed suicide. And it’s just like everything went like, wow, okay. And here I was in Georgia. I’m originally from California. I stayed in Georgia for another year, and then after that, I moved back to my hometown in California, Regrouped. I had a job there also as an executive assistant. Everything was great. I actually loved that job. But after a year of being there, I felt like I was finally good again. I was centered. It had been two years. I felt like, wow, I’m like me again. I’m figuring this whole thing out. But unfortunately, my daughter, who was going into her senior year in high school, was not feeling it. And she said, you know, I want to go back home. I want to do my senior year back in Georgia. And so we left California, came back to Georgia. I left this job that I loved, but they were so great.
They said, we don’t want to lose you. How can we keep you? And I said, well, I can do what I do from anywhere. I don’t actually have to do it from here. And I said, okay, let’s do that. So I started working remotely for that company first, and then just a few months in, out of nowhere, really, because I had no business plan and no idea what I was doing. But we had to sign contracts for the next year early on. And so the contract came, and I didn’t sign it. I said, you know what? I’m going to go out of my own. I’m going to start my own virtual assistant business. And so I finished having a contract with them. But I did start my own virtual assistant business, and I was doing a lot of networking and meeting a lot of people, and they needed a virtual assistant, but I wasn’t the right one for them. So I started making introductions, and that’s how I became a VA Matchmaker. I help my clients find the right type of virtual assistance based on communication, strategy and ideal client fit. Then a year and a half in, I wrote my first book.
So then I wrote a book on it, which was also like, I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I did it. And then that led to virtual assistants actually reaching out to me, which was completely unexpected because it wasn’t written for virtual assistants. It was written for the client. Then that came like a different side of my business and consulting and training. And then I created an online summit. I have an online class, and I wrote my second book on how to become a virtual assistant. And then in doing that and traveling, then I got into remote work consulting. I was working at a startup earlier this year as the director of Sport.
What a journey. Melissa. I mean, it just.
Hi there. This is Fawu, and you’re listening to the Phase World podcast. Today on the show meet melissa smith. Melissa is a virtual assistant matchmaker, a VA trainer, remote work consultant, and author. Recently, she took some time off to travel and explore the world.
One thing I noticed, and I love the fact that you didn’t wait. What was going through your mind at that time? Your kids are still young, and then you said, okay, I got to do this. I’m sure you had questions and doubts, and then so many women have those doubts and those questions.
You know, I have to say, it was a lot of just me being naive. I think it was great. But I was so naive about running a business. I mean, I had always said I would never do it because everyone that I knew did it. They weren’t allowed to spend time with their families. That was the one reason that I said they were married to this business. They were always there. They were always doing it. But I think the reason I felt so convicted to do it was just the opposite. I was doing this for the main goal of now. I never had to ask anyone to take time off to go visit my family, whether it’s my sister in Northern California and her kids, my brother in Southern California with his kids. My son was in school in Iowa, my daughter I have extended family all over the country. I just didn’t want to have to ask permission to be with my family anymore. So I think that was the strongest thing. Had it been like, how am I going to make money? How am I going to support my family? What about health insurance?
If I hadn’t put any of those things down on paper, I probably would have never, ever done it. That little taste of freedom, working from home and making my daughter’s lunch, being here when she got home from school, seeing things, just being around and just being present, you know, I never know what she’s going to poke into my office and say, hey, do you have a minute? All those things wouldn’t be possible if I was working at a regular job. I read freedom is the new wealth. And so when I had that, I felt wealthy. I was naive to think about all these other things. And then once I started, I just knew I was going to figure out a way to make it work.
What a counterintuitive way to look at this. I mean, it’s such a highlight. That was my intention as well. I want to be able to visit my mom in China whenever I want. I want to be able to offer her the support. If she’s visiting me here in the US. I can spend time with her, which I finally did. In retrospect, when I worked those fulltime years. My mom visited me eight 0 mile later. I barely saw her during the day, and she understood there’s a little bit more to explore. What was difficult? I’ve told everybody if I knew how much it went into the docuseries, the documentary, I probably would have never gone started. Between the lack of sleep, the insane amount of money, and how disorganized it could be, I probably wouldn’t have done it. So what was difficult for you and then? I know there are many things, but what are some of the things that come to mind and how did you overcome them emotionally, financially, physically?
Yeah. I think the most difficult thing for me was figuring out why people found me valuable, why they wanted to hire me, so I was always able to get a job, which is one of the reasons why I wasn’t afraid to get clients. And I didn’t even think of that as being a fear, like, who’s going to pay me to do this? Because it just never occurred to me. The last job that I had, they hired me and we had never even met in person. I’ve never ever had a problem getting a job. And so it didn’t occur to me that I might struggle to get clients. That was the biggest thing that I struggled with. Hiring someone as a virtual assistant is not the same as someone who’s looking to hire an executive assistant. Some people have never had an assistant before. They don’t know the value that you can bring. And so when I started working with a business coach, she said, you have to niche down and show that you’re valuable for your worth for doing one thing. I mean, it was just so counterintuitive. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
The fact was, until I really figured out where my value was, I just wasn’t getting regular clients and I didn’t do it. And finally I had niche down and my clients were actually full time employed males who wanted to write a book. And that’s really what catalyst, write my own book, because they were the ones that would tell me, when are you going to write your book?
To break it down a little bit. Male, fulltime employed, ready to write a book. I think it’s really targeted because, you know, they have an income stream, so they can afford, and also they’re working on a book. So the launch pad or the marketing strategies are somewhat not the same but similar. So could you talk about that? Like how you’re able to niche down to that cohort?
Yeah, so it’s a process. It’s different because everyone talks about like if you put out the right message, people will find you, but you also have to put out a lot to figure out what you’re really saying. If I go back to what I wrote before, it would definitely be different. Now, I might think the same things, but I might write them differently because it goes back to growth. But when it came to being working for these men, it really came down to we had started talking about other things, but I found, like, this really important question that I still ask my clients to these days what have you wanted to do in your business but you haven’t yet? That’s the sweet spot because everyone gets buried in the DayToday. And if you can help them uncover as an assistant or as a coach or as a consultant what they really want to do, when you can get them to think that and then to know it’s a possibility, that’s where the book comes from.
Wow, I love this. I love how we’re just talking about this. So much of what we heard everywhere else is like the ten step process and the five secrets to achieving all of this. But I think somehow I always believe that we need to have these real oneonone real conversations about what it’s really like. So who are these virtual assistants that you match these, for example, female or male executives with? Are they usually based in the US. Or are they from around the world?
Most of the systems that I place are US based unless the client says, you know, I need someone who is actually in Spain or familiar with another country, it’s okay if they’re in South America because I need someone who speaks Spanish or I need someone who speaks Portuguese or something like that. But the majority are based in the US. And then some are us. But they are location independent, so they might live somewhere else in the world. And it really just depends on what my clients need. Most of them came from some kind of administrative assistant background and that just no longer fit their family’s needs or they just wanted more freedom and flexibility. I know some, and they left because they wanted to travel in an RV around the country and do long hikes and be in nature. They’re all business owners, just like you and many of your listeners. There was a greater desire there to do something that mattered, that made them feel very capable and like they were doing something that felt really good and that challenged them and they got to use their skills and have more limitless life.
What are some of the qualities that you look for? Because I also just want to acknowledge, first of all, not only you created freedom for yourself or your clients, but also these people who work for you or contracting for you. How do you complete the matchmaking? Do you make phone calls? What are some of the personality traits that you assess before making the match?
So one of the things that I do differently is normally the person has to be in business for themselves for two years because I know from personal experience your clients change, what you want to do changes and I’m always looking for that long term relationship. So most of the VAS that I work with have been in business for about two years at least. So they really know what they want to do and who they want to work with. And then that leads into the ideal client fit. So when I’m matchmaking, this person should tell me who you are before I tell them who you are.
I love it. And then do you expect the answer not to be like somewhat matched? Like the vision should sort of align, right?
Yes. So I just did this huge round of matches last week. I did all these interviews and I was talking and I have this new form and so when they were writing down, they might say, like, I want to work for a female coach who specializes in social entrepreneurship. That’s their ideal client. That doesn’t mean they’re always going to work for that kind of person. You might have others that say they want to work with someone who is in startups or in tech. Others might say they want to work with someone who is specifically launching a podcast or who wants to write a book. Others say my ideal client is someone who is really, really unorganized and needs help and is willing to get help. So those are the key things that I look for when I’m doing the matching.
So you are pivoting to something different. Do you have some concrete ideas at the moment you like to share it?
Yeah. So right now I’m pivoting and I’m doing remote working. So I definitely will stay in virtual assistant space. I’m not done here yet. I just don’t know how to grow it in a way that is still very personal as I’d like to be. And they’re also scalable. So that’s what I’m working with my consultant with now is how to do those things. And again, I’m going back to lots of user feedback, why they hired me, what problems I solve for them, why do they find me valuable. So I’m doing all that and then the other side is more in the remote working space and remote work and full team, particularly in those who are looking for work in the remote space and then those who manage remote teams. Well, after I worked for the startup and I had all these people that I had to report to and I had this team that was spread out all over the world. And working in different time zones. We were 24/7. There was all these different things happening. And then I started getting questions from other people and other companies, and I was like, this is not how you do it.
This is so wrong. This is how you burn people out. This is how you burn yourself out. And that’s when I realized, okay, my next book is going to be on how to make remote working work.
I love what a smart transition. I know you definitely spend some time thinking about this, but from just virtual assistant, it’s only one type of remote work, and there is infinite amount of roles that are opening up. One of my Zumba teachers is a remote civil engineer for a company I don’t even think it’s local. And then for myself, for the past three years, I’ve worked remotely as a project manager, which is I didn’t think of for people who work in my domain. And everybody’s been asking me about this, and I just wrote it down. It’s like, what’s the point already? Because you’re already a project manager. Like, no, we don’t know how to do this from home. It’s impossible, isn’t it?
I love it.
It’s so, so super smart. Melissa, thanks for opening our eyes.
Hi there. This is FEI Wu and you’re listening to the Phase World podcast. Today on the show meet melissa smith. Melissa is a virtual assistant matchmaker, a VA trainer, remote work consultant, and author. Recently, she took some time off to travel and explore the world.
There’s something kind of hanging behind the back of my head the way that you said, like, the word suicide hits home for me because in a very unexpected way, about three years ago, we really started focusing on suicide as a topic for the podcast. Maybe the reason was a series of events from living here in Newton, Massachusetts. And there are two, I believe very young high school students were reported missing and later found that they committed suicide. And then it really impacted the entire community. And I know people who attended the high school and literally a week later, one of my friends. And it just all happened so quickly and it was just so difficult. So I had to do something about it. And I was very committed. And that’s one of the few charities that I give to every single year. That’s a long winded way of saying why this topic is so important. How did you overcome that with two young kids?
Yeah, so for me, actually, it’s kind of a unique thing. So my children were a bit older. They were 15. My father also committed suicide. So it was almost like preparation for my children.
I’m sorry. Yeah.
So my father having committed suicide, it was quite different. While it was, of course, shocking and saddened and we couldn’t believe it, my dad raised us. He was like the poster child for what it was like to be a good parent, especially a dad being a Gen X, or that we were the latchkey kid generation, and most single parents were moms, not dads. And it was like, you know, maybe you saw your dad on the weekend type of thing. He had bipolar disorder, which we didn’t find out till much later because he had a rough life going up. He was ten or 14 kids. His mom died when he was 13. His dad died when he was 16. He was in Vietnam, so he had PTSD. You’re a single parent. You got all these things going on. Who could know all the ups and downs?
Why was you a single parent, if you don’t mind me asking?
Because my parents were divorced, and my dad just was like, I can’t live without the kids. The kids and my family are everything. So my dad raised us, and I’m very close with my mother as well, but my dad is the one who raised us. So when we got that call, my sister actually got the call. I happened to be on her. I had called on a cell phone because we hadn’t heard from him in a couple of days, and so we were kind of worried, but we thought, well, this kind of is a pattern. We’ll hear from him soon. And so I was on the phone with my sister, and she had put me down because it was a cell phone, and she answered the other line and she started screaming. And I knew exactly what happened then, and we had to go through it. But something about that was you know, it’s like well, it’s like the circle of life. Your parents are supposed to go before you. His life was spared so many times. At least I had my dad. He was the greatest dad versus some people who don’t know their dad or their dad was abusive.
So I always just really tried to look it as a positive way. And like any other disease, he was in a lot of pain. He was really, really suffering, and it comforted me to know that he was not in pain anymore. However, there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment, and it’s not something that people talk about. So when I would tell someone who I didn’t know, and certainly our kids were very young at the time, we just told them he had a heart attack. That was very socially acceptable, to say he had a heart attack. Well, then when my husband committed suicide, I knew I had to tell my kids what really happened, which means I had to tell my sister. She had to tell her kids what really happened as well. And it was good for them to know and talk about, but in a way, it was great preparation for being able to share with my kids. I can’t say that I know what they went through, because I had my dad walk me down the aisle. He was there when my kids were born. I was driving. I had a lot of life experiences that they won’t have.
But if there’s any way I can relate, then they know I really can relate. It’s a really weird thing to have in common with your children, you know, if anyone’s going to have it in common with their kids, I’m glad it’s me.
Wow. I never thought about it that way. Wow. It’s incredible. When you say watching your dad suffer. I mean, watch my dad suffer from cancer for two years, and there were times I actually thought he would do something to harm himself. And I remember during the darkest days before I left the hospital, I would remove all the blazer, I’ll remove all the sharp objects from, but I don’t think that was his intention. Still, during the final moments, I just literally whispered in his ears, I said, you don’t have to hold on for us anymore. If it’s letting go, we’ll see you one day. It’s just so peaceful to be able to say that. This is so hard to explain to other people. The next day when it came, I felt really prepared for it, and I thought I was gonna be okay, and, well, nobody else around me was. But there’s something in me this sounds so strange to me that it comforts me to realize that you’re prepared and therefore you can be there for your children in a way that very few people can, you know?
Yeah. And the other thing about it is you just never know who you’re going to come in to contact with. So I was working at a school, and one of the girls, her father went missing, and a few days later, they found him. They found the note, and we were very fortunate. The fool had a great counselor, all these things. But she did know my story and asked if I would be willing to speak with her. And I said, Absolutely, I am. And in times like that, you’re just like, I’m so glad that I could talk to you and for the most part to tell you, you don’t have to be ashamed. You don’t have to be ashamed, because that’s the I want people to see it as, you know, this is something like a treatment. This is like cancer. This is like, you know, other things that you would treat. And an article I wrote recently, I was talking about, you know, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. And I remember where I was when I heard about Robin Williams. There’s not the same level of openness about it.
Part of, I think, for survivors and for their friends and family, there needs to be, like you said, we can treat suicide the way that is being treated right now. This needs to be a universal language that people need to understand how we all need to heal from this. So thanks for sharing, Melissa. Well, thank you so much. Please keep in touch and we’ll find a way definitely to stay in touch.
Yeah, definitely. All right, I look forward to everything.
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