In seventeen days it will be the second anniversary of Jay’s death. There have been two missed anniversaries, 24 missed monthiversaries, and four missed birthday celebrations (both mine and his). I count each one. And it’s been heavily implied that time is running out. I should stop mourning. I need to pack those emotions up, and stow them away. Surely, enough time has gone by. You can’t still be sad. Time heals all wounds, right? And your hour glass just ran out of sand, chica.
So many careless words spilled at my feet. Words that amount to, “Buck up little camper! It’s time to move on! You’ve had two delightfully self-indulgent, sad years, so let’s turn that frown upside down! Pssst, also we didn’t want to mention it, hun, so of course we are, we’re all impossibly bored now. I mean “boo hoo,” am I right? Whoopsy poo, someone just spoke that thought bubble out loud. AWKWARD! I should really lay off the wine!”
Little spoken reminders litter my days letting me know there’s a cutoff date on expressing my feelings. There’s a cutoff date on my mourning. There’s a cutoff date for sharing my loss.
“You can get away with saying that for now.”
“You don’t realize how much you talk about Jay.”
“Don’t worry about [what you just said], she can handle it now.”
I get it. I do. It’s exhausting. You’re over it. You’ve moved on, but I’m still here. Me. Your friend. Moving through time, yet some how fixed. I’m still sad. Maybe not like I was, but it ripples beneath the surface sometimes bubbling forth at unexpected or inconvenient times. Sometimes erupting. Maybe not all of the days – some of the days – fewer days. And parts of me are permanently damaged – never to be fixed.
A broken teacup – pieced back together – whole in structure, but fractures ribbon through the beloved and familiar pattern. Made whole again, still beautiful – new, similar – not the same.
And while my sadness doesn’t define me, I do get sad. My heart aches. The tears spill.
I recently discovered the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, which has a number of great resources, and I truly wish I’d found them sooner. That lead me to the local chapter’s website where I found this beautiful manifesto from one of their members. I need you to read this, and keep me in mind – keep Jay in mind.
Revised by Farren Smith with credit to Laura McCord
I will not get over this regardless of how much time has passed. There is a wound in my heart that will never heal.
I will speak my loved ones name whenever I wish. They existed – a beautiful person and I will not allow them to be forgotten.
I will cry for my loved one whenever I feel the need – be it in the grocery store, the middle of a restaurant or at home in bed and I will not feel embarrassed.
I believe I lost my loved one to an illness not unlike cancer, diabetes or heart disease. That illness might not have been visible, but it was no less real – or deadly.
I will not allow any stigma to fall on me because of my loved ones choices. Their decision was made from an unimaginable pain and a desperate attempt to end their suffering. No one – not even my loved one is to blame.
I will allow myself to feel no matter what emotion I experience whenever I feel it. Be it guilt, anger, resentment, rage or laughter at a fond memory. I will accept these feelings as a natural part of grieving and express them however I need.
I am entitled to the same respect and kindness, sympathy and dignity shown for the survivors of any other kind of death. No matter the cause I lost someone I loved dearly. My grief is justified and no less important than anyone else’s.
I will allow no one to slander or smear, belittle or demean the name or memory of my loved one. Their death is in no way a reflection of the person they were and I refuse to let one action define them.
Finally, I accept that I will never be the same person I was before this loss and I will not pretend otherwise for anyone’s comfort. In fact, I will demand that others in my life accept these truths and accept me.
And I say all of that as a reminder to everyone that I’m not over it. That there’s no time limit on my feelings. I’m not going to reach July 9th and shrug and say, “well, we had a good run sadness, but Jay isn’t going to be more alive if I cry one more time. AMIRITE?” You’re all right: I am still very strong and I am still funny and cheerful and goofy, and all of those other adjectives. But please don’t shut down my sadness, or ask me to move on, or ask that I not speak the name of my favorite person because you’ve heard it enough, you’ve moved on, or you’re quite simply bored with it. Because if you truly are, that’s fine, even understandable, and you can also move on out of my life. No hard feelings. Best of luck to you. May you never know sadness.
On November 10th I will participate in the Out of the Darkness 5k walk for Jay in Austin, TX. I would love it if you would join me or support my team. There will be a second walk in Dallas – a 16 mile Out of the Darkness next June. That one starts at dusk and ends at dawn. You truly are walking out of the darkness. As you walk across the finish line, the path is illuminated by luminaries, representing those who were lost. The ones who weren’t able to make it out of the darkness.
Let’s raise awareness. Help honor Jay, and do our best to help destigmatize mental health issues. Will you take a walk with me? Because I’m here to tell you that I will continue to honor him, to celebrate both him and his memory, and I will never stop.
And I will not recognize a deadline.
This was beautiful. After Tommy died, we never, ever talked about him with Guy’s mom. She would show us the sympathy cards people had sent, and pictures she’d found, mementos from his childhood, and we were still not able to talk about him. Bizarrely, we were worried about hurting her more by bringing up his memory. She finally gave us an article called “The Elephant in the Room” about how the writer WANTED to talk about her deceased son. That finally opened our eyes. I’m not at all trying to compare your experience with mine – they are deeply different. After ShakeUp died, we had to remind ourselves & each other that everyone grieves in a different way, at different times. It’s been less than a year, but some songs still make me cry for her. Seeing certain pictures hurts my heart. Part of why I don’t leave the league is how much they supported me & we all supported each other after she died. Sharing a deep loss somehow bonds people. I will always listen when you want to talk about Jay, and when you don’t. If you ever fall in love again, I will be happy for you. If you don’t, I’ll still be happy that you knew true love and I won’t suggest maybe you should try to find someone else. And I’m still willing to come down and stay with you if you need it. ******************** Action figure sold separately!
I think about you, Tommy, and ShakeUp a lot, and I think of Guy waking up on the anniversary of Tommy’s death and feeling pain. In looking at the SOS and AFSP site, it really has made me want to talk about Jay’s death more and be more honest. I tend to tell people that he died without going into the details, because the details are rough. And I love the manifesto for pointing out that Jay shouldn’t be defined by one action – one he took because he thought it would end his pain, and he thought it would be better for everyone. His illness told him he wasn’t important, and that we’d all be able to move on – that the thing holding us back was him.
I may take you up on the offer, because I still need to organize the house – get rid of things. I just keep putting it off, and I need to just knuckle down.
On Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 8:52 AM The Big Blue Mess wrote:
I love this so much.
Thank you, David! I’m kind of good at thieving content. A lot of credit goes to the person who wrote that manifesto.
On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 10:40 PM The Big Blue Mess wrote:
grief never ends, it is always there, they are always there with you, in you, in you heart, in your memories, in the house you lived in, the stories you told each other… they are part of your being. Just because they are physically gone doesn’t mean that that part of your life has to be over… I still talk about Charley, talk to Charley, Dream about Charley. Keep Jays memory alive. Cause he was and is a part of your life….love and hugs Beth.
Thank you, Carolyn – your words mean a lot.
Death may be unsettling and scary, but not ever speaking a name or talking about what was – that’s even more frightening. Can’t be healthy. Honesty of honoring memories – has to be part of life.
You rock. (DIdn’t know about the Nov walk. Concept is perfect. Staying tuned for that.)
Cheers for all of life and lives lived
Thank you! And what a truly beautiful sentiment- “Cheers for all life and lives lived!” Cheers indeed! Celebrating all the lives who have touched ours, and whom we in turn touch – the lives that make up the fabric of who we are, and who we will become. (Which includes every creature – both of the two legged, four legged, and winged variety.)