A journey out of the darkness and into the light

I was very interested in having Sebastian Slovin appear here today. He has a story to tell about what he learned from his father’s suicide, just as I had a story to tell about what I learned from my son’s suicide. We are definitely kindred spirits even though our experiences were quite different. However, one thing is certain. Suicide is a death different from all others, and it leaves the survivors broken, guilty, and always searching for answers to “why?”

Mr. Slovin appears here courtesy of the WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of his memoir Ashes in the Ocean, published in March 2018 by Nature Unplugged.

About Ashes in the Ocean

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

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.

You can buy it here.
Paperback: 222 pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Nature Unplugged (March 2018)
ISBN-10: 978-0-692-05119-1
ISBN-13: 978-0692051191

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.

I’m also pleased that I had the opportunity to read and review Ashes in the Ocean. I do not hesitate to give it five stars and recommend Slovin’s memoir to others affected by suicide and mental illness.

My review of Ashes in the Ocean

Because I had a son who took his own life and I wrote a memoir about him and the way he chose to die, followed by how my family and I survived, I know that writing about a loved one’s suicide is not easy. A suicide death is different from natural or accidental deaths, probably because there is so much guilt and blame among the survivors. Survivors don’t even want to say or write the suicide word because of the stigma.

Yet this young man, Sebastian Slovin, wrote truthful and well-researched book about his father Vernon’s suicide that took place when Sebastian was six years old. His memory of how he felt at the time of the event is amazing, and that he supplemented that memory by contacting family members, friends, and sports and business associates of father to round out details about his father and how and why he died makes this memoir even more honest and thought-provoking.

Though the suicide death of a child is very much different from a suicide death of a parent I was very much struck by a few similarities. Slovin hears from his father’s cousin about the last walk they took together, the night before Vernon died. The cousin said Vernon seemed more calm and peaceful than he had appeared in the several weeks they had been talking and walking together. I had the same experience when seeing and speaking with my son the night before he died. I was so taken by his clear eyes, his calmness, and the peaceful expression on his face that I later wrote a poem about it called, The Last Night, and included it in my memoir. Clearly both men had made their decision to take their lives and had come to peace with that decision. Slovin’s learning about his father’s last walk helped him find closure about his father’s choice to die.

Slovin also writes about how we all grieve in our own way and in our own time – something I’ve been writing about ever since my son’s death. So many people want us to get over it prematurely, But, we have to listen to our own hearts and guts and minds when it comes to grieving. That is the only way we can deal with the pain. That Slovin chose to write about this experience was another way to deal with his grief and pain. Writing is a healing process we shouldn’t ignore.

One other thing that is similar to my experience is that Slovin stresses how important it is to erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide. I am constantly working toward that end as is he. A book such as his – its honesty, its attention to details, and its loving story – will go a long way to make the suicide act less pervasive than it is today. That is author Slovin’s gift to the world.


  1. Madeline, I too was struck with Sebastian’s honesty and courage in sharing his deep loss and journey back to wholeness following his father’s suicide as I was with your memoir. Both of you have helped raise awareness about suicide and in doing so have helped lift the stigma surrounding it. I am looking forward to featuring Sebastian on my blog next week. I appreciate your heartfelt review of Ashes in the Ocean. Thank you.

    • Thank you Kathleen. I appreciate your kind words and support on this. I feel grateful for the opportunity to do this work and it’s really empowering to see others on a similar mission. My hope is that by putting this out there and having these types of conversations, others who’ve lost a family member or loved one by suicide won’t feel so alone. Thank you and I look forward to your review and to continuing the conversation.

    • Hello, Kathy, so nice to see you here. I feel badly that we’ve been so out of touch lately. Hope you’re doing okay.
      Thank you for your kind comments about my review. I feel Sebastian has made such a big step toward raising awareness. I hope others who have experienced suicide of a loved one will read his book and learn from it.
      I look forward to reading your review next week.
      All best, Madeline

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