Carey’s Corner: Keep Looking Up

Posted By on November 7, 2019

Moving on from the unthinkable

By Carey Peña

            It was a day like any other day. Carey Conley’s husband, Ross, got up early, showered, dressed and left her a note that he had an early morning coffee appointment.

            She would never see him again.        

            “I went to the radio studio to record a show and got a phone call from the police that they were looking for me to give me news about my husband,” Conley explained. “They aren’t allowed to tell you anything on the phone.” Soon she would find out that her husband had died by suicide.

            Conley, a successful speaker, author and business coach, was left to pick up the shattered pieces of her life. The couple had two beautiful children, Cole and Laurel.

            Why did he do it?

            A lot of people asked Conley that question. She doesn’t have a clear answer, but points to the deep unrest Ross felt about his job and career outlook.

            The death of her husband was a delicate subject and one that Conley did not want to talk about publicly for some time.

Vision Is Victory

            Later, Conley’s story would come to my attention. As is the case for many of the people who appear on my digital TV shows and podcasts, someone mentioned to me that she would be a great person to interview. She had picked herself up, carried on for her kids, and continued to inspire thousands of people.

            The focus of her writing and business coaching was all about vision and how to manifest it in your life for greater purpose. She was not ready to open up about her family tragedy, so the day she appeared on our talk show, we focused on her book, “Vision Is Victory: Where Hopes and Dreams Become Action and Achievement.”

            In the book, she wrote about “living your purpose and passion, and how to move beyond walls to create a vision that is bigger than any obstacle you might encounter.”

            Little did Conley know, the obstacles and pain in her own life were about to become even more massive.

August 9, 2017

            Three years after his father’s death, Cole Conley moved back in with his mom to figure out the next steps in his life and career. On the morning of August 9, 2017, Cole dropped Carey off at a luncheon. She thought he was heading to work — at the time he worked as a news producer for Channel 12. And then, the unthinkable happened.

            Like his father, Cole died by suicide.

            “I first saw the news on social media when one of the anchors from Channel 12 posted a tribute to Cole,” Conley said. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading.”

            Conley and her daughter had to live through the nightmare all over again. She dropped out of public view and went “underground,” as she described it, to grieve two of the loves of her life. Cole’s death was rock bottom.

            “There are no words in the English language to describe how much I miss my son every single day. He was my buddy and we enjoyed so many things together,” she said.       

            When Conley began to emerge a year after she lost Cole, she had a new vision: to take action that might save another family from enduring this kind of pain. She appeared on my podcast and revealed to listeners that she and her daughter were working on a book about their journey. The title would be “Keep Looking Up.”

            “The whole purpose of the book,” Conley explained, “is to help people who may be going through adversity, or wanting to help someone who is, to have a bigger perspective on life. The only way Laurel and I are getting through all of this is because we know where Cole and Ross are, and that we will all be together again.”

            Laurel Conley, who is now married and entering a new chapter of her own life said, “I also hope this opens up the door for anyone to be courageous when it comes to sharing their story. It isn’t easy to be vulnerable, but it is such a key to connecting. Each chapter sheds light on what we think are important lessons that we have learned and that could be useful to readers.”

Great American Family

            Carey Conley told me that they used to have what could be considered the “great American family.”

            “We enjoyed our time together and made a lot of memories. We were truly the family that nobody ever would have guessed something like this would happen to,” she said.

            When it did happen, she was forced to make a choice: Stay in the shadows, or come out and fight.         

            “I have an option to not do anything and curl up and stop,” Conley said. “But then what’s it all for? This is an epidemic. If we don’t reach into allowing people to understand their purpose and what they are meant to do and why they matter, it perpetuates itself.”

            Suicide is a complex subject. Conley doesn’t pretend to understand what was in her husband’s heart and mind, nor her son’s. Both were struggling with decisions about how to best navigate life, but both tragedies came as a shock. “We all go through challenging times,” she told me. “But do we automatically think they are going to take their life? Of course not.”

            What keeps her going today is seeing a vision for her future and understanding her purpose.

            “It’s hard to wrap your brain around that level of loss,” Conley said with tears in her eyes. “The first hour or two of every day for me is total solitude. I have to bring myself back up for the day.”

            She does a lot of devotion and journaling. “The true desire of your heart is to know your purpose for existing,” she said. “Unfortunately, the only way people generally figure that out is when they have had something devastating happen to them.”

            She went on to say, “There is something bigger that you are called to do while you are on this earth. Stop living in a reactive mode and start living in proactive mode.”

            “Keep Looking Up” is being released on November 11, 2019 — what would have been Cole’s 28th birthday.

To see more of Carey’s reporting, go to

Karen Werner

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.