MASON, Mich. — This week’s Good Neighbor experienced a tragedy that altered her life completely. But it also put her on a journey to helping others.
Mason resident Kristine Brickey says she experienced grief so strong it shook her to her core and changed her as a person.
“Back in 2010, in May, I came home from a riding excursion and found that my son had died by suicide," Brickey said. "And so that was, as you can imagine, traumatic, and devastating, and changed the rest of my life.”
Kristine says up until that devastating day, writing had always been her escape and her happy place. But after the death of her son, she says she couldn’t read, let alone write something on a piece of paper.
“It was not until that following fall when I could finally read a book all the way through. And I was like, okay, I can get this back. And it the more I did it the better I got, just like when you're learning to read and your write, the more you do it, the better you get at it.”
Kristine is a retired teacher and says as part of her healing she felt she needed to get back into the classroom and talk to kids about mental health.
Today she travels to schools across the state talking to kids, parents, and other teachers about grief, suicide, and mental health issues.
Kristine’s former student Veronica Chantelois says Kristine has a gift for helping people.
“She is like an empath and has the ability to see when you're struggling or in pain," Chantelois said.
Former student Megan Berg says she was going through a lot of personal things and was withdrawing mentally and emotionally. She credits Kristine for helping her.
“Miss Bricky correctly identified me as a suicide risk when I was very young," said Berg. "She pulled me aside and talked to me. She told me a bit about Robbie, and it was very hard for her because Robbie's death was fresh at that point. I was in so much pain. I thought that people felt that they would be so much better off without me here. Then, I realized what it would do to my mom. And my mom loves me very much. And I saw Miss Brickey’s pain in real-time. It made me realize how much I would devastate my mother. She is an extremely good neighbor. Her care for me and the community literally saves lives.”
When Kristine isn’t visiting schools, she leads writing retreats at her newly opened Brick House studio located on her property in Mason.
“I always had this image of a safe place where people could come and use their writing to help their healing. I really feel like this is what I've created," Brickey said. "It’s a backdrop for healing. And I just love it. I sit up here and write. I can't wait to have people come and look out the back windows and see the land and sit in the chairs by the pasture and watch the donkeys and the horse and just really absorb the property and let the writing come through.”
Kristine is also an author and has written several books, many of them centered on what she’s learned through her loss and the road to recovery. If you would like more information on Kristine’s books, and writing workshops or to have her visit your school, then visit her website.
Kristine Brickey - for helping others through grief, and mental health issues, and teaching how writing can heal, you are this week’s Good Neighbor.
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