This may be the most vulnerable post I have ever written, but if it helps even ONE person, it will be worth it.
Normally this blog is used as a memory journal for my girls, so for those that have followed us for years, I’ll fill you in on the fact that they’re both doing wonderfully. Kensie is an (almost) 4 year old teenager and Leighton is a 16 month old ball of personality. I’ll attempt to get around to a real update on them in the near(ish) future. 😜
In case you missed it…we lost my youngest brother last month to suicide. 💔
It’s been traumatic to say the least; however, one of the positive side effects in my family sharing the honest story is how many people have reached out to us, privately, and admitted THEY were in a dark place, and seeing/feeling the effects of losing Will has been their true saving grace. They’ve taken the steps to get help and I hope that means their family and friends never have to experience a day without them.
I am certain for every 1 that has reached out, 5 others have also benefitted and we will never know about it. If being honest and open can help others in such an impactful way, I figured why stop there.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine this morning, a Doctor that specializes in child therapy, and we discussed her mission of PREVENTATIVE therapy. Ya’ll, the the concept is so simple yet simultaneously mind blowing. The thought that if we can NORMALIZE expressing ourselves to someone at a young age, of understanding ourselves, less kids (and adults) would get to the point of depression, much less act upon that depression. 🙌🏼
If I’m being blunt, I have been dealt some pretty shit hands in the last 30 years. I’ve experienced some traumatic losses that, thank GOD, most people could never fathom. After my dad was murdered when I was 9 (he was a cop, line of duty – I am happy to answer questions or honestly just google Ofc. Christopher Horner and you’ll get the answers you’re probably looking for…), I have always had this small voice in my head that said, “you’ve already experienced the worst of the worst…nothing that bad will ever happen to you again”.
I know it sounds ridiculous and you’re probably thinking “yeah Jenn, that’s not how it works”. Well, yeah…I noticed; but, I always used that thought to calm my (unbeknownst to me) anxiety. How I’ve made it this far without an on-call therapist is actually baffling to me! 😆 (Disclaimer: they did send me to some counselors or something after my dad died but I don’t really remember it and I don’t think I said much…)
I’m an “expert distractor” meaning that when I am in pain, sad, etc. I am GREAT at finding a way to distract myself so I don’t feel those feelings. I have also always been a writer. If I am upset or angry, I will write my feelings alllll down. Sometimes I will say it out loud, sometimes I will delete it, but something about putting my thoughts on paper has always been a cathartic release for me.
Shortly after things settled down from the “to-dos” (…ahem…my welcomed distractions) and William’s service, my cousin and one of my best friends asked if I was going to talk to someone. My initial response was “no, I think I’m good. I mean I’m sad, but that’s normal.” They continued to ask, to check on me and encourage it.
I was sitting in bed one night and reflecting on the day. I realized how disengaged I was from everything going on around me. I didn’t care to be in random conversations with people, hell, I didn’t even want to be around people in general. While I do know the wound is still fresh, I also know that that isn’t me. So I figured, what can it hurt?
I decided I would reach out to a contact another friend had sent me. Well, after my first session I went from “okay, I’ll try and stop it if it’s useless” to “you have lifetime memberships? I didn’t realize how screwed up I am and I need to find a way to fund therapy forever.” 😂
For me, therapy has been a lot of learning about myself. It’s been discovering how and why I process things the way I do, and in understanding how I deal with grief, I’m able to help others grieve, too. It also allows me to have less confusion, frustration and guilt over my feelings and actions, which in turn allows me to be a better friend, mother and wife in the midst of processing this loss.
I want to share a small piece of one thing I learned because it was extremely eye opening to me and I hope this message reaches as many people as possible: The THOUGHT of Suicide is NORMAL. It is a natural, biological reaction. 😯
This is the stigma so many people are fighting to overcome.
Now, if you have those thoughts – the danger comes in when we INTERNALIZE them. Talk to someone. A parent, a friend, a professional, SOMEONE. And if someone talks to you about it, take them seriously. Validate their feelings. Find someone who can help them.
My hope in sharing all of this is that I can do my part to truly normalize NOT BEING OKAY. I also want to state that going through something this traumatic isn’t the only way to “justify” needing therapy. It isn’t something anyone needs to justify. Honestly, it isn’t even something anyone else has to know about if you don’t want them to.
Even if you think you’re okay, I still encourage it. We ALL have hills to climb, obstacles to overcome and sometimes the world just feels like it’s against us. Having an outlet to speak those things out loud (without it being taken out on a spouse, child, friend, etc) is completely invaluable. Therapy truly embodies the concept that we “can’t pour from an empty cup”.
I know for me my first thoughts were “this is so weird. I don’t know this person. What would we even talk about?” but I promise, their schooling did them good. LOL All you have to do is commit to having the conversation; they find a way of opening the door for you to say things you didn’t even know you needed to.
There’s a million things running through my mind constantly – one of the loudest things being “if everyone felt the kind of love and support that has been shown for William BEFORE we lost them, maybe we wouldn’t continue to experience losing loved ones to suicide.”
I’m not saying I have the answer for that, but damn. Why do we only voice how much someone has touched our lives once it’s too late?
I hope if you take nothing else from this, you can take this: reach out to someone who has had an impact on your life and TELL THEM. Not only will it make their day, it might literally change their life.
Let’s normalize not being okay. Let’s normalize needing help. Let’s put time, effort and dollars into resources for mental health. Our minds are not separate from our bodies.