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The Weight of Grief

Trigger Warnings: Depression Suicide Grief.

Dealing with death comes in waves. There are days the waters are calm, and keeping your head above them is no problem. You think to yourself I can do this. I’m sad but I’m okay. And other days where they are hitting us in the face and we pray for an end to the storm. Then there are tsunamis. They sweep us away and drown us in grief. There is no escaping those days. They are there before we can think about them and you’re drowning before you realize what happened. 

In the nearly seventeen years since my sister took her own life, I haven’t had many tsunami days. At first, I was drowning all the time but I sloshed through, pretending I was okay. Putting on a brave face. No one talked about suicide seventeen years ago. It was shameful. I tried not to talk about how my sister died. I tried not to talk about it at all which worked well because a month after my sister died I started university.

I tried to act normal. I put on a face and did everything else the other kids were doing, but I was numb. Nothing mattered. No one mattered. I was pain and depression. I’m not sure I was anything else that year. I barely remember it. I started having panic attacks but at least I was feeling something. I couldn’t drive in traffic nor ride on trains, and I was still numb to her death, but I started to feel like I wouldn’t drown anymore.

I haven’t felt so underwater since. Not until this year. At some point last year I realized the next anniversary of her death she would have been dead longer than she was alive.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve thought about it often over the last year. It’s made me feel lots of things. Mostly sadness. This year feels like I’m mourning the adult that I never got to know. The aunt to my kids I never got to share. My childhood best friend. My confidant. My sanity a lot of times because she was the only other person who knew what I was going through those years.

I find myself watching for the tsunami this year. I’m standing on the beach staring at the horizon wondering if today I’ll be swept out to sea.

The last year was hard. My anxiety which normally I manage pretty well, got out of control. Depression comes and goes and it makes everything hard. Writing has been hard. Relationships have been hard. Taking care of basic things has been hard. Every time I think I’m on an upswing it all comes crashing down on my head.

I’m not saying any of this is because of the death of my sister or for sympathy. But it’s part of the reason I keep waiting and watching for the tsunami. Not because I believe there will be any warning but because I want some semblance of control over my mental health.

But we don’t have control. We can do the best we can to manage this thing so many of us live with but we are going to have good days and we are going to have bad days.

Those of us with depression and anxiety accept that.

We push forward clinging to the good days praying they’ll last. While on the bad ones we fake it for those around us. Go through the motions or try to. Shoulder the guilt when we don’t have the energy left to even shower let alone any of the stuff for our busy lives.

Because of all of this, I’m dreading July. I’m dreading the tsunami of grief lingering under the surface. I’m dreading inching another year past when my sister ended her life. I already feel like I can’t breathe, and I’m dreading it getting worse.

This past year was hard.

For all of us. I don’t think there is a single person who would say otherwise. Collectively we lost a lot. We are mourning that year. Suicide prevention and awareness are even more important this year.

So many of us are barely keeping our heads above water. So many of us need support and help. So many of us are fighting a battle no one knows about. Kindness, compassion, and love are more important than ever. Help and awareness are more important than ever.

I love being a part of the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention every year. This cause is so close to my heart, and all the profits from Lost Love sold this month go directly to The Keith Milano Fund.

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