This post was going to be about money, goals and paying off debt but that topic will have to wait for another day. My mind has been preoccupied and unsettled all week, my heart heavy and sad so I'll instead write about what's on my mind.
Last week there were two murder-suicides in Utah, one in a community close to where I live. In both instances young children were killed by their parents before they took their own lives, which is an added dimension of horror to an already horrific situation. All of the victims are strangers to me, although one of them was a friend to many people I know. Still, my heart is heavy and sad for these strangers, for the beautiful lives lost, and the grief and despair I know so many of their friends and family are now experiencing and will live with forever.
There was a time in my life when such news would have given me only momentary pause. I would have thought how sad it was for their families, but then would have quickly forgotten all about it and carried on with my life. Now such news causes an instant, visceral reaction in me, triggering memories and thoughts that take me back to the darkest days of my life. Not only my mind, but my body remembers what such devastating news and grief feels like, triggering what can best be described as a post-traumatic stress reaction.
Now, every suicide I hear about is personal to me. I grieve for the person that was in such emotional pain that they felt the only way to escape it was to end their life. I feel deep regret that the epidemic of suicide is continuing, that people still don't seem to be hearing the message of hope and that so many survivors are sharing. My heart aches for their families and friends, knowing how profoundly their lives will be affected. I cry for them, for me, and for my sweet sister Julie. My mind remembers things that most of the time are buried so deeply that they seem forgotten. I remember the phone call from my sister telling me she knew something was horribly wrong. I remember being told our worst nightmare was true, where I was and how time seemed to stop, the world as I knew it shifting and falling away. I remember calling my dad to break the news, the exact words I said, his scream and feeling his anguish from clear across the country. Every heartbreaking moment of the first days, weeks and months after Julie's death comes back to me.
I want to reach out to the survivors, the newest members of our awful club and tell them I understand. There will be questions they'll never have the answers to, but hopefully they'll be able to make peace with those unknowns. I want to let them know that even though they don't think they can survive this, they can. Their broken hearts can heal. Joy will eventually return to their lives.
All of these thoughts and memories remind me that grieving is a circular process. It never really ends, but is does change and soften. Anger turns to compassion and understanding. Denial and avoidance turns to acceptance. There will always be grief and sadness for the lives cut short, the dreams unrealized, and the beloved individuals who will no longer share their gifts with the world. I'm reminded of how far I've come and how much I've healed, that I'm a survivor in the truest sense of the word. I've come to truly appreciate and cherish moments like I had yesterday while I was running. Julie was there in my mind the entire time. Yes, my thoughts of her made me sad and filled with regret that she'll never run beside me again. But I refused to give in to the sadness. I kept on determined, putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, happy to be alive.