A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Vernon Slovin was a legend. He was one of the best swimmers in his home country of South Africa, and for a time in the world. He prided himself on being the best. The best in sports, business, and life. He had it all, a big home, athletic prestige, fancy clothes and cars, and a beautiful wife and family. Everything was going his way until it all came tumbling down. He lost everything, including his own life. In the wake of his suicide he left his wife and two young children.
In this riveting memoir, Vernon’s son, Sebastian Slovin chronicles his experience of living in the shadow of a suicide, and his journey out of the darkness and into the light. Slovin shares his quest to uncover why his father took his own life. A pilgrimage that led him around the world and eventually back to himself.
Ashes in the Ocean is a powerful story about facing one’s fears and choosing a different path.
Paperback: 222 pages
Publisher: Nature Unplugged (March 2018)
Ashes in the Ocean: A Son's Story of Living Through and Learning From His Father's Suicide is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.
Book Giveaway Contest
To win a copy of Ashes in the Ocean, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway ends Sunday, April 1, 2018 at 11:59PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author
Since he can remember, nature has been a central part of Sebastian’s life. He was fortunate to grow up in the beach community of La Jolla, California, and spent his childhood mixing it up in the ocean. As a young boy, he lost his father to suicide, which would later deeply inspire his path in life. As a young adult, he had the opportunity to travel extensively and experience many of the world’s great surf spots as a professional bodyboarder. Through his travel, Sebastian developed a deep love and appreciation for our natural world, and at the same time was drawn to the practice of yoga.
His love for yoga led him to study at Prana Yoga Center in La Jolla, California, and his passion for nature eventually led him to pursue a BA in Environment and Natural Resource Conservation at San Diego State University. He also holds an MA in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego.
He lives with his wife Sonya in Encinitas, California. He and Sonya have a business called Nature Unplugged, which focuses on cultivating wellness through healthier relationships with technology and a deeper connection to nature. When he is not writing or working on Nature Unplugged, Sebastian enjoys swimming, bodysurfing, surfing, and stand-up paddling (pretty much all things) in the wild Pacific Ocean.
Find Sebastian Online:
---- Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
WOW: First of all, thank you for sharing your story and for choosing WOW! I am absolutely amazed by your bravery and touched by your honesty.
How did you overcome your fears of how others might perceive the story of your father's suicide? What advice would you give others who consider sharing sensitive stories?
Sebastian: This was a slow process for me. I spent a long time (from age 6 - 17) hardly sharing anything about my father let alone his suicide. During that window, there were a few times when I did share about my father’s suicide and I was met with judgement (and the stigma around suicide and mental health). Those experiences reinforced my belief that there was something wrong with me/my family and aided in my running away/suppressing thoughts and feelings around my father’s suicide.
|Sebastian and his dad at Windansea Beach.|
La Jolla, California. Circa 1988
That conversation was enough to give me the courage and inspire me to stop running away from my father’s suicide. Beyond that, it encouraged me to step into it and learn from it.
As for advice when sharing sensitive stories, (especially when in the early and more raw stages) it’s important to seek out people (friends, family, support groups, therapists) who can provide a safe space to share. Beyond that, I believe it’s important to remember that you’re likely not alone in dealing with what you’re dealing with and that these things are better out than in.
WOW: You read my mind about support and I love how you say "provide a safe space to share" - that's so important. What role has your family played in publishing Ashes in the Ocean? Who has been your greatest support and how so?
Sebastian: My family has been supportive during this process. My immediate family and extended family abroad (in South Africa and Australia) have inspired me and served as resources in making sense of this story and providing information about my dad during earlier phases of his life when I wasn’t around. I have also been fortunate to have an incredible network of family friends here in California and abroad who have helped and supported me throughout.
Out of everyone, I’d say that my mom has been my greatest support. She’s helped me with putting the pieces of the story together. And, throughout this process I drew inspiration from the strength and courage she showed in supporting my sister and I in the years after my father died. Her courage helped keep me going when things got tough in the writing process.
WOW: I'm glad you found the support you needed, and I'm sure the process was therapeutic for your mother as well. When you first began writing, what were you hoping to gain by sharing your story of loss? How has this changed as the project progressed?
Sebastian: When I first started on this book my hope was that I’d be able to help at least one person who was in a similar situation as I was when I lost my dad. As the project progressed and is now coming to a close this intention remains true.
Beyond that, this has turned out to be incredibly helpful for me and my processing which has been an unexpected side effect of the journey. The process of writing in itself has unveiled so many insights (both personally and relating the the story) that I don’t think I would have come to otherwise.
WOW: You're not in this journey alone, that's for sure. There are many families touched by suicide even if it is an attempted suicide. This is a big question and one that touches so many. What resources do you recommend to those families trying to navigate their own feelings?
|Early yoga days with John Maher. La Jolla, Ca. Circa 1990|
There are a great deal of resources out there for individuals dealing with depression and suicidal ideation, as well as for friends and family members to help in support. This is not my area of expertise but would point people seeking more information to the American Association of Suicidology: http://www.suicidology.org.
As for other general recommendations to families trying to navigate their own feelings, I would encourage families to speak as openly and directly as possible about topics like suicide and mental illness. Based on my personal experience, and in speaking with many survivors about this, it is all too common for conversations (and feelings) around topics like suicide, depression, and mental illness to be avoided and suppressed. While avoidance makes things easier and more comfortable in the short term, it’s not a solution and will make things far more difficult and complicated down the line.
I would encourage individuals to feel and acknowledge what emotions are coming up for them around these topics. I would also highly recommend working with a counselor, therapist, other mental health professional, support group, to help facilitate this process of cultivating greater awareness of ourselves and others.
WOW: Thank you for tackling the tough questions and providing such great ideas. I appreciate your honesty.
What's next for you personally? Professionally?
Sebastian: My next steps are to continue to get out and speak about suicide and what it means to be a survivor. I’m deeply passionate about using this book and speaking as a vehicle for helping others have the conversations that need to be had about suicide and mental illness. I see this is a way to do the work of breaking down the stigma and shame around these topics.
Additionally, my partner, Sonya, and I have a business called Nature Unplugged where we offer coaching, workshops, and retreats focused on cultivating wellness through healthier relationships with technology and a deeper connection to nature. I’m excited to continue to grow and develop what we do. I see Ashes in the Ocean as the “why” behind my passion and inspiration with Nature Unplugged.
On more of a personal note, I’m looking forward to doing some traveling this spring, some related to the book release and some not. I’m also eager to continue to enjoy the beauty around my home in Encinitas, California with lots of surfing, hiking, and adventuring with Sonya.
WOW: Sounds like many adventures await you, but before we go today, what advice do you have for survivors?
Sebastian: Surviving the suicide of a loved one is one of the most difficult things a person can deal with. I have tremendous empathy for survivors. And, in the aftermath of a suicide I believe it is particularly easy for survivors to take on a lot of shame and blame and to play the role of the victim. I know this all too well. I spent a very long time running away from my father’s suicide, living in shame and playing the victim.
My advice for survivors would be to turn and face it. To feel it and deal with it. This would look different to different people. To turn and face it could be talking to friends and family, finding a support group or therapist, it could be writing about it, singing about it, sitting with it, in other words bringing intentional awareness to it and processing it in some way.
Beyond that I would encourage survivors to use this loss and situation as something we can learn from and grow stronger in spite of.
WOW: Speaking of learning and growing, what advice would you give to your 6 year old self if it were possible to get together for ice cream and a chat?
Sebastian: Wonderful question and this idea is what inspired me to write Ashes in the Ocean. I’d love to hand my six year old self a copy of the book but I don’t think my reading skills were that stellar back then. I think the challenging thing would be to put it in language a six year old would understand.
First, I would give him a big hug and then I would say:
Sebastian, there are some things I want to share with you (I’ll fast forward through my explanation of how I was able to travel back in time for this ice cream chat). Dad’s death was terribly sad. I want you to know that it’s okay to be sad and cry. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel everything that’s coming up for you. This whole thing isn’t your fault, it’s not your sister’s fault and it’s not your mom’s fault. While dad’s death is very sad and this is a big loss, you’re going to be okay. You are strong to begin with and while it may not seem like it, this is going to make you stronger. Most importantly always remember that you’re not alone.
WOW: I could chat with you all day, but I promise this is the last question - you've been so lovely with this process and I must ask: If Ashes in the Ocean were made into a movie, what song would you choose to compliment the movie and why?
Sebastian: Great question. I’d like to choose two songs for this. The first one is a song by Radiohead called How To Disappear Completely. To me this song embodies the earlier part of my journey and my book which was characterized by a lot of loneliness and isolation, and a general sense of wanting “to disappear completely.” To me it’s a deeply sad song but a beautiful one. Here’s a link to a live version:
The next song is more aligned with coming out from the shadow of my dad’s suicide to a lighter place. It’s a song by the Pixies called Where is My Mind? I can’t say exactly why I chose this one. It’s not necessarily the lyrics or anything in particular. It just has the right feel and tone. It reminds me of the water and ocean and of letting go. It’s also used in the end of one of my favorite movies, Fight Club and reminds me of starting fresh with a new perspective:
WOW: Thank you for such a wonderful message for our readers! We can't wait to see when the reviews come in about your incredible book.
----------Blog Tour Dates
Monday, March 26th @ The Muffin
Join us at the Muffin for an author interview and book giveaway for the inspirational memoir by Sebastian Slovin, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Tuesday, March 27th @ Book Santa Fe with Dawn Farnsworth
Join readers at Book Santa Fe as they hear from Dawn Farnsworth while she reviews Sebastian Slovin’s touching memoir, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Wednesday, March 28th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Fellow suicide survivor Madeline Sharples reviews Sebastian Slovin’s memoir, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Thursday, March 29th @ Bring on Lemons with Alison Taylor
Wisconsin educator and mother, Alison Taylor reviews Sebastian Slovin’s moving memoir, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Friday, March 30th @ Our Side of Suicide
Sebastian Slovin pens today’s guest post “The Stigma of Suicide” at Our Side of Suicide. Stop by and learn more about Slovin’s personal and touching memoir, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Monday, April 2nd @ Jerry Waxler
Jerry Waxler, fellow memoirist, reviews Sebastian Slovin’s deeply touching memoir, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Monday, April 2nd @ Memoir Writer’s Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler shares her thoughts with readers at Memoir Writer’s Journey as she reviews Sebastian Slovin’s moving and inspiring memoir, Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Tuesday, April 3rd @ Bella Donnas Books with Dawn Thomas
Dawn Thomas reviews Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide for readers at Bella Donnas Books.
Wednesday, April 4th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Wisconsin mother and autism advocate Michelle DelPonte was eager to read Sebastian Slovin’s touching and inspirational memoir. Stop at Bring on Lemons as Michelle shares her thoughts after reading Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Thursday, April 5th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles
Nicole Pyles reviews Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide and shares her thoughts with readers at World of My Imagination. Learn more about this touching memoir and it’s author Sebastian Slovin.
Friday, April 6th @To Write or Not to Write
Sreevarsha Sreejith reviews Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide. Don't miss this opportunity to hear from Sreevarsha and visit To Write or Not to Write.
Friday, April 6th @ Bring On Lemons with Crystal Casavant-Otto
Crystal J. Casavant-Otto reviews Sebastian Slovin’s memoir Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Monday, April 9th @ Finished Pages with Renee Roberson
Fellow author Renee Roberson reviews Sebastian Slovin’s memoior Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Tuesday, April 10th @ Book Reviews by Deb with Deborah Blanchard
Deb shares her thoughts with her readers after reading Sebastian Slovin’s memoir Ashes in the Ocean; A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Wednesday, April 11th @ Write Happy with Catherine Brown
Catherine Brown reviews Sebastian Slovin's touching and empowering memoir for readers at Write Happy. Don't miss this opportunity learn more about Ashes in the Ocean: A son's story of living through and learning from his father's suicide.
Thursday, April 12th @ Ingenious Opinion
Varnika Jain reviews Sebastian Slovin's Memoir Ashes in the Ocean for readers at Ingenious Opinion. Don't miss this blog stop!
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