Where do I begin?

I’ve always been the happy girl. Easy to please, generally positive, and always looking on the bright side. I believe in hard work and honesty. I like to earn the things I have and I am always working towards something bigger and better. I love openly and always see the good in people. I am passionate about giving and have spent the past few years as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Helping others with their problems has always been sort of therapeutic in overcoming my own.

I had a good childhood, with parents who always did the best they could for me and my younger brother and sister. I moved out within a month after turning 18 because I felt my dreams were bigger than what could be achieved at home. I was highly motivated to become something great and get the most out of this life. Things were good, I smiled a lot. I felt ready to take on the world. I had my share of normal struggles and daily stressors, but I let the little things roll right off my shoulders and rarely let anything get me down. But then some things started to fall apart in my life when I was around 21 years old.

I’ll leave out some of the gruesome details and give just enough for you to get the idea but not enough for this to become a sob story.

In March of 2017 my dad died. My dad was the person that I could relate to the most, he was my biggest supporter, my reality check, and my voice of reason. We talked on the phone every other day, and the opposite days he would text me on his flip phone to check in, always signing his texts like a letter “Have a great day, love you, xoxo, -Dad”. We spent time together at least once a week, even if only for a few hours, but we always laughed so hard and talked about anything and everything. He was the one I would consult before any major decision-making. He was the one I vented to when something was wrong- and also the one that would put me in line when I was in the wrong. He was the first one I told whenever something exciting happened, because I could literally feel the energy in his voice when I talked to him about my accomplishments or adventures; he always said he loved living vicariously through his children. He was a family man and he loved us unconditionally.

He had recently been struggling terribly with constant pain from his back and his knees, and I knew he was feeling pretty inadequate and depressed. Honestly, it made him a little bit difficult to be around for too long because he wasn’t his usual bright and bubbly self. Within a few short years, I watched him go from a bull of a man, strong and energetic, the bread-winner, and constantly outside playing ball or working on something, to pretty much couch-bound from the pain, barely working, fighting a long battle for unemployment, and severe bouts of depression.

But even with those things going on, I never, not in a million years, would have thought he would take his own life.

I got the call from my siblings while I was at work… “Dad is missing”. Such a ridiculous seeming concept. He’s a grown man! I calmed them down and said he’s probably at his friend’s house or out for a walk to clear his head. He didn’t get out of the house much anymore and he often got frustrated and irritable. She called again later with an update… “Sarah, something isn’t right, the tire swing in the front yard is down and the rope is gone”. I knew what she was implying without her having to say it, but seriously? These things don’t just happen. This is some stuff out of a drama TV show.

I told her I’d come over after work and we would figure it all out. I felt a little uneasy about the whole situation, so I told her and my brother to stay inside until I got there, but I kept telling myself that this whole thing was completely irrational. I stopped at the park along my way home and banged out a quick two-mile run. It was a beautiful day and I had to clear my head before going and dealing with family drama. Literally as soon as I started walking back to my truck after my run, my sister called again.

She was sobbing. “There’s ambulances, cops, and a rescue truck at the trail entrance in front of the woods”.

I knew in an instant what had happened. I drove to their house so fast, passing car after car on back roads. I am still in disbelief that not a single cop saw me. I knew deep in my gut that my dad had hung himself in his favorite spot along those trails. And this was confirmed by the police when ran up the street and forced my way onto the scene. I kept myself from completely crumbling as an officer walked me back to the house where my mom and siblings were waiting, and he helped me give them the worst news they’ve ever received.

The years following, my mom struggled with depression and alcoholism and our relationship became extremely strained. In a very real sense, I lost both of my parents at the same time. I was struggling with the grief of losing my dad, the pain of watching my family fall apart, a broken heart from a mistake of a relationship, and living alone for the very first time. Life got very real, very fast, and I no longer could pick up the phone to call my mom or dad for guidance or comfort. My younger siblings went through their own form of hell and I felt helpless because I had too much going on in my own life to do much for them. They had to grow up even faster than I did. We tried to stand strong together and keep our relationships close while we went through this, but we were all in too much pain to really know how to support each other. I felt extremely alone for the first time, and had to learn to take care of myself and become highly independent.

And then, I fell in love a man who had been one of my best friends for years. He was the most amazing man I have ever met and I was fully convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. We loved each other fiercely and quickly built a beautiful life together. I moved in with him after a few months and we were so happy together. I took on the role of “step-mom” and loved his son like he was mine. I had a little family, and we talked often about getting married and having a child of our own to complete it. I had never loved anyone as much as I loved those two.

Most of the time, things were picture perfect, but he had a long history with mental health issues. There were some very bad days mixed in with the good. He could go to a very dark place without any warning, and it could be downright terrifying, but I knew he was trying his best and I put a lot of effort into supporting him even though it was hard. I started therapy to keep my own head above water while I was trying to help him, because in all reality, it can be exhausting living with someone with unpredictable mood swings and I was starting to burn out. I wanted so badly to save our relationship and to help him find peace with himself.

He died in October of 2019. We were at home preparing to go on vacation the next day when things took a horrific turn. He completed suicide with a gun in our bedroom. His beautiful heart of gold took it’s last beat that day, and when I saw his lifeless body, I wished mine would too. How could I survive this life without the one I love the most?

I called 911 and screamed hysterically for help even though I knew he was gone. I realized later on that at that point, the help wasn’t for him, it was for me.

For only a fleeting moment, as I sat there holding his hands one last time, I considered joining him and ending it all. But as quickly as the thought entered my mind, help rushed in and ushered me out of the house and the weeks of brutal chaos of life after a death began.

Within one blurry month I had to say goodbye to the person I was closest to on this planet, the life that we worked so hard for, and the home we used to share. I had to scramble to become financially stable, and start over living alone again in my new home, with minimal familial support. Thankfully, I have a small circle of very true friends to help. I had to rediscover my will to live and make the choice to not only survive, but live the best life I could manage.

Suicide has absolutely destroyed the life I used to know.

But, I’m healing, and I’m once again living on my own and figuring out how to navigate adulthood while also trying to make my dreams come true. I’m looking to the bright side and working hard to make the most out of every single day. It takes time, but it’s getting better.

I’ve had so many people ask: “How do you do it? How do you keep going?”

How am I supposed to answer that?

I wasn’t exactly given the choice.

Trust me, I wouldn’t have chosen the terrible things that have shaped my life as I know it. I wish I could remove the haunting images from my mind and sleep peacefully again. I didn’t wish for these losses, and it would have been very easy to fall into some bad habits and let my whole life apart, but I absolutely refuse to give in to that.

I don’t always know how I do it, and it’s often not easy. But giving up is not an option.

These events have made me stronger, more independent, and wiser. They’ve changed me and helped me become the person I am today. Would I change it if I had the option? Hell yes I would! But there’s nothing I can do about it, so I keep living on and I accept the life I have been given.

So I’m left with the raw facts, some brutal memories, and deep wounds that I have to tend to along the way. But otherwise, nothing is different. I have no other choice. I still have a life to live and responsibilities to keep up with.

How do I do it? I stand up, wipe the tears, and put my best foot forward, even if some days my best is not very much. I get dressed, eat breakfast, and drive to work, even when I’m exhausted. I come home, crank up the music, and take care of my house, even if I’d rather curl up under a blanket. I have bills to pay and people that depend on me.

I’m working on repairing my relationship with my mom, who is making huge strides in her recovery. I practice self-care by eating healthy and drinking water. Fuel the body right, it’s going through enough right now from the physical effects of grief. I exercise hard. I try to get enough sleep. I keep my nails painted and get my hair cut. I take adventures when the opportunity arises and I serve others whenever I can. And I write about my experience as I go, because unfortunately, I know I’m not the only one out there going through something like this.

I keep going.

It’s not always pretty. Grieving is complicated and messy. It brings out my worst and my best, and I can never predict which it will be. My patience is thin, I am easily worn out, and I cry at the drop of a hat; but I also love more deeply and feel genuine gratitude for so much more than before. Some days are amazing and I’m full of energy and light, and other days I feel like I’m dragging the weight behind me while everyone watches.

I. just. keep. going. The best advice I ever heard was “cry standing up”. It hurts, it sucks, but I just keep going and I try to make the most out of every single day. I can’t change my past, I can’t change the things that I’ve had to endure, so I choose to learn from it and to try to help others with my experience.

I hope to resonate with at least one person out there who is going through a hard time and needs a little boost. I hope that I can help you to believe that there is more to life than the pain you might be feeling right now.

This life is beautiful if you choose to see it that way. It wont be easy, but there is a light at the end of every tunnel, and we all deserve to see it.

Come with me. Keep going. We can do this together.

When the silence gets too loud, drown it out with music.

Living alone is a strange experience. I’ve always been the independent type, so living alone is not a big deal. In fact, most of the time I actually enjoy it. I have my own space and the freedom to do as I please with it. It’s rewarding to look around and know that I’m not relying on anyone but myself. There’s a peacefulness that comes with knowing that you are in full control of everything you have.

But, there’s also a loneliness that accompanies it.

I don’t get greeted with hugs and “how are you’s” when I walk through my door. There’s nobody to share my daily frustrations with, or to share stories around the dinner table with. The routine can quickly become rather bleak.

There’s nobody to roll over and hold close when I wake up from a nightmare. There’s nobody to scream at when everything seems to be falling apart. There’s nobody to laugh when I do something stupid and embarrassing. There’s just silence.

And sometimes, that silence is so overwhelming, I may as well be drowning.

So on those nights where I turn on the lights and see nothing but the walls I’ve grown so familiar with, I put on music. I put a record on and dance around in my underwear while trying not to spill my wine, or I shuffle my playlist on the speakers throughout my apartment and work out until I’m exhausted. It brings me company when I have none, and it brings comfort when all else fails.

Music speaks. It can say all of the words that are at the tip of my tongue but I can’t get my lips to form. It fills the voids left by all of those I try to forget. Songs speak the passion we wish we could convey to that person that means the world to us. They speak the pain that we didn’t think anyone could relate to. Music soothes loneliness.

Put your records on. Dance drunk and naked in your living room until the numbness fades. Cry along with the honest words poured out of that artist’s heart until the pain in manageable. Let the music take you off to a land that is more beautiful than the one you are in at the present moment. Let it lift that weight from your shoulders and comfort the loneliness you’re feeling during those panicky moments of solitude. I’ve found more consolation in songs than I have in anything else.

When everything feels empty, let the music fill the void. Tomorrow is a new day. ❤

My heart is safe right now…

Heartbreak, whether from someone leaving, loss of a loved one, or loving something you can’t have, is the worst pain there is. There’s no comfort for it and no pill we can take to alleviate the pain. We never fully recover from it, and we spend our lives trying to avoid it and walking around scarred from it.

I don’t think we ever heal from heartbreak. When a heart is shattered, and all of the pieces are in a pile on the ground, it takes time and effort to sort through them and rebuild. Brick by brick, course by course, foundation to ceiling. We sloppily fill in the gaps created by our past with a thick layer of mortar. It gets the job done so we can keep moving forward. We learn life all over again and we eventually accept what is. We find a sense of security, but it wouldn’t take much to topple those walls again.

My heart is a fragile combination of pain, strength, and resilience hidden behind my newly reconstructed walls. It wants to love, it wants to trust and protect. It wants to give someone all of itself. But it’s not entirely whole yet… I don’t think it ever will be again, but it’s beating for now, and sometimes that’s all that matters. The mortar is still setting, so I’m tiptoeing gently around to avoid any intrusions on it’s healing. I can’t afford another crack, let alone a collapse.

My heart is somewhat safe right now, and I hope to keep it that way for awhile. As much as I want to find someone to love, someone to give my world to, I’m terrified to open myself up to that kind of heartache. The next time I let someone in will be scary and uncertain, and I have no idea when I will be ready for that. I just hope that when I do, it’ll be with someone that is just as concerned with protecting it’s fragility. And in the meantime, I hope that life will be kind, so I can keep pushing forward, and keep making progress towards complete strength.

I am me.

I am me. Merely Sarah. I’m the always positive one. The one that loves unconditionally and forgives far too easily. The one that makes jokes at inappropriate times because I believe laughter heals everything. I am the calm-cool-and-collected turned total hot-head when I get pushed too far. But that’s what makes me, me.

The parts of me I am proudest of are my honesty, my work-ethic, my adventurous side, and my positivity. And unfortunately, I’ve been in relationships and friendships where they tried to make me feel inadequate in these areas. So instead of holding myself back to appease those around me, I’m going to keep these values at the forefront of everything I do.

Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way… to not change for anyone else. If I have to try to prove myself to someone, over and over, just to have them continue to doubt me, then I’ll step away. Those who have complaints about who I truly am have gotten me nowhere in life. Changing myself to become someone I wasn’t in order to please someone else has repeatedly left me broken-hearted and far from my true self. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Live and learn. Grow from your mistakes. And become better along the way.

I have learned how much happier I am when I stay true to myself. So I will no longer hold back my love and affection for people in general to quiet a friend’s insecurities. I will not dim my own light just to make sure someone is not threatened by my success. I know I’m strong-willed, and if that threatens a man’s virility, well then he is not the one for me. I will not change my friend circle because of gossip… talk away! And I will not cut people out of my life because of mistakes. That’s not who I am.

I will be kind to everyone, honest even when the truth hurts, and openly loving to those I care about. I will forgive people that have hurt me. I will trust someone until they prove to me otherwise.

Don’t tell me that someone doesn’t deserve my forgiveness. Don’t tell me that I’m too nice or too happy or too anything else. I’m just me. I have no time for controlling, jealousy, or manipulation anymore. If I have to be different in your company, then I don’t need your company.

Staying true to myself and being accepting of others for doing the same? That is what has given my life momentum.

I am who I am. I am me, nothing more, nothing less… and I am trying to be more proud of that.

Individuality makes you who you are. Get out there and shine on. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should be. Just be you, and I will be me.

Social Distancing and Grief: Like Oil and Water

During the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, take a moment to consider those who have recently suffered a loss, of any kind, and how they may be affected by isolation and social-distancing.

To some, quarantine or social distancing means bunkering down with their family and riding out this mess together.

To others… the grieving, the broken-hearted… it means taking away our escape from the overwhelming silence of our own home. It means forcing us to face these quiet and lonely nights, missing our loved ones even more. To some it is a reminder of just how alone we can really feel in this world at times. For those struggling with their mental health as it is, this may end up being much harder than just avoiding illness.

This could be a true testament to strength for those grieving.

On nights that I’m feeling especially lonely and panicked, I drive up to the bar for a beer and some music and to be around people. That option has been taken away.

Some days where the emotions are too much to handle, I run off to the gym to work out those frustrations. This has also been taken away.

And what terrifies me about this the most is how quickly we, as a society, have fallen habit to this divide. While I understand the need for social-distancing, we’ve lost all common courtesy. Nobody is holding doors for each other, people are putting their heads down as they walk past, hands extended upon first meeting are looked at with confusion. This is so disheartening for those of us who rely on that human interaction to bring a little light on the dark days.

We’ve started living in a world where human touch is looked at as a dangerous thing. Hospitals are putting restrictions on visitors, children aren’t in schools, and non-essential workplaces are shut down.

The core of our culture has been affected. Sporting events are cancelled, parks are closed, even fishing season has been postponed. Guys, they are closing the outdoors! I didn’t even know they could do that!

I’m not undermining this pandemic in any way, shape or form. I completely understand the need for social-distancing and extra precaution right now, and as a first responder, I am preparing myself in every way possible to handle this safely. I am just bringing attention to the complicated emotions this brings to groups that are struggling emotionally. This could cause unimaginable anxiety and depression for some.

Social distancing is the exact opposite of everything they tell you to do during a period of hardship. They tell you to go out and enjoy yourself, to surround yourself with supportive people, to exercise and socialize. Well now, all of those distractions that we have to keep us moving forward have been postponed indefinitely because of the pandemic. Us grievers are sort of “in limbo” right now, praying for something positive to happen and riding out these anxiety-filled nights and very confusing and numb days.

The concept of “isolation” is pretty terrifying as it is, but I think it’s magnified when grieving or struggling with depression. I’m just getting used to living alone again, and now I’m facing a time where I can’t just take myself out to dinner or wander around a mall when I’m feeling down and stuck in my own head.

Keep this in mind while you’re at home with your families. Practice gratitude when your kids are making you want to pull your hair out and you are just dying to get some peace and quiet. Send a little extra love to those who are hurting or in need of a little more support right now. This is a scary time for all, the best thing we can do is be there for each other, even if this is just by a text or phone call.

A smile as you walk past someone is not going to spread the virus. Remember to keep your chin up and show your support for each other, it’s us against the problem, not us against each other.

Love to you all. Stay healthy and safe out there.

Guilt. Another painful twist on grieving a suicide loss.

Do I even have the right to miss you? Do I deserve the support being offered? How can I be out having fun when he’s gone? Why am I so selfish? Why wasn’t I good enough?

If you’ve lost someone you love to suicide, I’m sure you’re plenty familiar with these thoughts. They come up out of nowhere, and they feel like a hot knife in your belly, you can’t just ignore it. The guilt wells up in your throat and you aren’t sure if you are going to scream or throw up or break down in tears. You have this overwhelming urge to fix the problem, to make up for it, to beg for forgiveness, to change the last words you said… but there’s nothing you can do and nobody to listen to this madness, so instead you just kind of hyperventilate until you’re dizzy and wait for it to go away.

Your brain is telling you that you know it’s not your fault. You know you’re being irrational. But your physical reactions say otherwise. The knot in your stomach is screaming for your attention and making you second-guess any rational thoughts. Those haunting, nagging thoughts creep back. It’s all my fault. If only I had… I should never have said…

I’m going to share with you some more of the details of my boyfriends suicide. This is something that is extremely difficult for me to talk about, and for some this is probably equally as difficult to read about, so please stop reading if you feel this could be too much.

The day my boyfriend died started just as any other day. It was the day before we were supposed to leave for vacation and to celebrate his 30th birthday. We had been counting down the days for this trip for months and I was elated. It was finally here and I had the next ten days off with my love and no responsibility!

But he was in one of his moods, he was in a darker place than I even realized. I tried to cheer him up. I tried to be playful with him, but he shrugged me away. I tried to join him in the shower, but he made it clear he was not in the mood. I felt a bit rejected, and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but whatever, I was on vacation and I wasn’t going to let his mood swing get me down. So while he showered I poured myself a glass of wine and sat at the kitchen table working on some things I wanted to finish before we left.

When he got out, he sat down at the table and had THAT look on his face, I immediately was on the defense, because that look always meant something bad was going to happen. He proceeded to bring up an argument that we had many times before and I was in no mood to deal with the drama. I tried to blow him off and I finished my glass of wine in a few gulps. I made it clear how weary I was of his fits, and how unfair it was for him to play with my emotions and make me feel bad for being myself. This created a ripple effect and turned into a huge fight. He slammed his fist down on the table which shattered my glass. I responded with a bitter “you have to ruin everything, don’t you?”. From there, the accusations flew freely and we spit venom at each other out of anger.

We knew exactly what to say to hurt each other in the deepest ways. Funny how love can do that.

I was so angry, I told him I wasn’t going on vacation, and I grabbed the bag I had packed and told him I was going to stay with my friend. That’s when he began threatening suicide.

My blood boiled and my heart raced. This had happened so many times before. He threatened, I stayed, I did everything I was supposed to do. In the past I had called the cops, I took him to doctors, I took the weapons out of the house, and I did everything I could to keep him calm and happy so he wouldn’t try anything. It always worked, temporarily, but then it would happen again and the cycle was so exhausting.

And this day, it happened all over again.

This happened all of the time; could we not just get ready for vacation in peace and have a good time?! I was being accused of things I hadn’t done, I was being called a liar and every other name in the book, and I was, quite frankly, sick and tired of defending myself. I was so frustrated; could we not just get ready for vacation in peace and have a good time?! Could he just not be grateful for our life and love me for who I was instead of trying to tear me down? I was seeing red and screamed that I wasn’t going to deal with this again. I told him how exhausting this shit was, how I didn’t deserve to be spoken to that way, and that he needed to go and get help.

In response, he pulled his gun out and loaded it. He cocked it in front of me. All of my own rational thinking disappeared, because I was terrified. I screamed hysterically and threatened to call the police. He said if I called, it would be too late by the time they got there. He slammed the gun down on the nightstand, punched a hole in the wall and walked away.

I felt absolutely insane. Was this truly my life? What do I do now?

I climbed into our bed and just sobbed. I didn’t know what to do. I was so tired of this. I couldn’t do this, I shouldn’t have to do this, but I knew I couldn’t leave. I loved him too much.

I called friends frantically trying to get some help. I was desperate for some guidance. What do you do when someone you love so much is doing this? One of them told me I had to get out of there right away. I scrambled out of bed and grabbed my bag, frantically trying to figure out what else I would need.

He stormed back into the room and walked over to me and wrapped me up in a hug. I stood there like a statue and let him hug me. He said “I love you, I’m sorry it has to end this way”.

And I said, “just stop, just leave me alone, I’m so tired of this”. I never hugged him back. I never said I love you back. I just shrugged him away.

I’d do ANYTHING to go back to that moment and hold him so close and tell him how much I love him.

He walked over to the nightstand and said “fine, don’t worry, after tonight, you won’t have to worry about this anymore”.

I said, “is that a threat?”.

He said “nope. that’s not a threat.”

“Is it a promise?”

“Let’s just say it’s not a threat”.

I honestly don’t remember what happened next, or who said what. I just remember seeing him reach for the gun and putting it up to his head. He looked me dead in the eyes. I so clearly remember my own scream. I screamed “NO!” and I tried to make my feet move towards him.

By the time I started moving forward, the gun fired.

His body slumped to the floor as I ran past, dialing 911.

I screamed into the phone and begged for help, then ran back to the body of the man I loved.

I squeezed his cold hands and rubbed his still chest. I begged, pleaded, said my goodbyes, and apologized through the sobs.

But no apology would ever be enough. I felt entirely responsible. My brain kept telling me that I was the reason my boyfriend was lying on the floor, lifeless.

I got shuffled out of the house and interrogated by many. Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months. I experienced every emotion imaginable. But guilt… guilt was always right there through it all. It could not be ignored.

It got so bad that I was basically begging people to blame me.

The guilt was destroying me. I sat up at the firehouse in front of his gear locker in the middle of the night just sobbing and begging his forgiveness for not hugging him back or saying “I love you”. Repeating over and over that I’m so sorry for getting mad and threatening to leave. I’d work myself up to the point of being physically sick and dealing with my own suicidal thoughts. I felt like I took him away from his friends and family. I felt like I failed him. I felt like I failed as his woman, as his supporter. I felt like I was the worst thing to ever happen to him, even though I only wanted the best for him.

This was truly the worst mix of emotions I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t think I would survive it. The pain from losing the love of my life and the guilt of feeling responsible for his death was just far too much to handle. I sought help quickly, but even then I struggled to feel as though I deserved the redemption.

After multiple sessions, my therapist put this in the clearest perspective for me. I explained my feelings of guilt and she said “Honestly, it’s quite narcissistic of you to really believe you had anything to do with his choice to take his life. You aren’t God. You didn’t pull the trigger.” Well damn. Okay. That was a hard pill to swallow, but the logical side of me knew she was right. He had a very abnormal reaction to a normal situation. Couples argue. Couples break up. We have the right to stand up for ourselves and leave a situation that is not healthy for us.

She asked me if I was satisfied with my efforts in the relationship, and if I felt like I gave my all for him. And I realized, yes, I gave that man everything I had to offer.

I loved him unconditionally for everything he was. I tried daily to show him love and compassion and understanding. I worked hard on our relationship, on myself, and on our little family. I gave my all every single day, even through the hardest moments and the challenges of his mental health battles. He frustrated me, absolutely, and challenged me every day, but I loved him endlessly, through thick and thin. He was my one and only. We always said “forever and for always, no matter what” because we knew how hard things would get. He was a very loved man and I gave him the best of everything I had to offer in the time I had with him.

Do I still struggle with these thoughts? ABSOLUTELY. Every single day. I battle with myself on why this happened. I beg for the answers to questions that I know I will never get. I still get overwhelmed with the feeling that I could have, should have, found a way to stop this. But I’m working on positive affirmations and trying to remind myself that I had no control over this awful situation. I’m human. I am allowed to get frustrated with people, even if it’s someone I love. I’m allowed to stand by my expectations. I’m allowed to stand up for myself.

This pain is so unique and immense. I know it’s going to take a very long time to come to terms with this. But I keep reminding myself of the love we shared and the wonderful man he was. And I try to be kind with myself and tell myself that this was a situation beyond my realm of control.

Now, I can do nothing but move forward, practice patience and forgiveness, and try to let go of the questions I’ll never have answers to.

Remember this as you navigate through life. Be gentle with yourself. Love and healing to you all.

Tonight I’ll Light a Candle.

It’s the 3 year anniversary of the day my father took his life. It’s not a milestone anniversary like the first year, and in all reality it should be treated like any other day on the calendar. But we remember. We see the date and have to take a deep breath. We might be a little out-of-sorts today, but we will keep functioning because we’re past the point of being allowed to let grief swallow us whole. We will hide our irritability and we will save our tears until we’re behind a closed door. Everything will take a little bit of extra energy today, but we get through it with some comfort in knowing that we’ve gotten through this date before and we will have to get through it again and again.

Tonight I’ll light a candle and I’ll remember my dad for the amazing man he was and all that he taught me to be. I’ll put my head down and say my thoughts out loud to nobody in particular. Ask the questions, yet again, that I know I’ll never have an answer for.

I’ll toast him with a Captain and Coke and choke back the threatening emotions.

One day I’ll have to walk down the aisle with his ashes in a little pendant around my neck and my brother by my side holding his place.

One day my children will know of their Poppop only by the stories I tell, and the part of him that lives on in me.

But today, I’ll just remember. And I’ll watch the flame of the candle and feel the burn in my chest.

Temporary Emotion

Isn’t it funny how temporary our emotions are? And how, when the feeling passes, it’s hard to remember exactly how that emotion felt in the moment?

When I’m pouring words out into my keyboard, the emotion is so real in the present. I’m feeling all of the things I am writing, and it feels so true and perfect. But when I go back and read what I wrote at a later time, it almost seems foreign. Is that really how I felt? Did these words really represent an emotion I was trying to capture?

It’s like when you eat that new food, you know, that REALLY good food that just knocks your socks off. You think about how great that food was for months after, craving just another taste. Then you finally get to have that much-anticipated dish again, and you’re disappointed by it. It’s different from what you remember. It might still be good, but is it as good as that first time? It’s hard to tell after months of imagining.

Grief is the same way. Looking back at some of the pain I felt, I remember it being completely crippling, but I can’t muster that feeling back up even if I tried. It makes it hard to tell if it was ever even real in the first place. But the beautiful part of writing is that I know it was real, and I’m ever-so-grateful that the emotions I put on paper aren’t as intense now as they were then.

That’s what I remind myself when it hurts like it does tonight. At the moment, I’m drowning. I have so much weight on my shoulders I feel like I can’t move. My heart is aching for the things I’ve lost. I put my head down between my knees and try to catch my breath between sobs.

It hurts so bad, I’m convinced that one of these breaths will be my last.

But, it never is. This pain isn’t the end. It passes. It gets better. Just like it has so many times in the past.

I think of the day after my dad died, when me and my siblings laid on the L-shaped couch in the home we grew up in, crying until we ran out of tears and then laughing at the silliest things just to keep each other going. Visitors coming in and out, and eventually we didn’t even get up anymore. We just laid there giggling at each other and ignoring everything happening around us until the pain was bearable enough to stand up and keep moving forward.

I think of the nights after my boyfriend died, where I was sleeping on my neighbor’s couch and begging some greater power to end this pain for me and take my life. Listening to the traffic outside and wondering how life can continue on when it hurts this bad. I never thought I’d get through that… but I’m still here. And I’m grateful that it doesn’t hurt that bad anymore.

The emotions are temporary, and I find comfort in the fact that this feeling will pass. I’ll remember hurting, but it wont feel the same as it did in the moment. Each moment feels as though it is the most painful, vivid, and real moment of your life, until it passes and becomes a memory.

Hold on. I know it hurts. But experience this moment while it is here. I promise you that soon, it will be just another memory, and another moment that you can look back on and say “yeah… I conquered that”.

Time may not heal… but time does alleviate some of the intensity that you are feeling right now. Hang on. I promise you it gets better, and what you’re feeling right now, you won’t even be able to remember when you look back on this.

Missing You Extra

Tonight, I’m missing you extra. Nothing triggered it, at least to my knowledge, but at the moment the pain is exceptional. It’s an overwhelming homesickness that I can’t soothe, because home was in your arms.

It had been such a good week, too! I worked long hours and got the bills paid and even had enough left over to go out and enjoy myself. I was surrounded with friends and family and had a heart full of gratitude and love. But tonight, your absence is palpable and I feel especially alone. The music that usually cheers me up doesn’t sound the same. And my motivation to get anything done is just nonexistent, so tomorrow I will feel extra stress as I try to catch up from the things I let slide today. But tonight, I just have to let these feelings take control and I’ll deal with tomorrow when it comes. Tonight I’m missing you a little extra and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Staring at your picture isn’t enough… it doesn’t fill the void. I can’t feel the roughness of your hands or smell the sweetness on your breath. Videos on repeat allow me to hear your voice, but make me want to have new conversations with you. I have so much to tell you, and maybe you hear it when I talk to you while I drive, but I won’t ever know your response. I want to talk to you about how well your little boy is doing, because you would be so damn proud of him. I want to tell you about the funny thing that happened the other day and hear you laugh while you shake your head. I want to show you that thing I fixed on my truck, even though you would have picked on me for my YouTube mechanic skills. Things keep changing, and every day that passes is another day you wont ever experience.

Every night when it gets dark I get mad because you should have been home hours ago. You missed dinner, I had to take care of all of the chores by myself, and now I’m lying down in bed and you still aren’t home. It doesn’t matter how many times I check the time or glance over at the door, I know you won’t be home and I’m just going to keep on missing you.

Tomorrow will be better, as it usually is. The aching I feel right now will lessen when the sun comes up, and this pain will be just another memory, at least until the next time this void you left in my life decides to swallow me up for a few hours. There’s a comfort in knowing that nothing is permanent. This hurt is just another part of the human experience, and hopefully will mold me to be something even greater in my next chapter of this life.

Ride each wave as it comes and trust that tomorrow will bring some relief. Come to peace with the pain, as it is just another feeling and just another reminder that we’re alive and vulnerable. Nothing lasts forever, so tonight I’m going to curl up with your old t-shirt and feel every drop of emotion that washes over me.

The Sun Rises, The Sun Sets

The sun rises… the sun sets.

The sun doesn’t care what is happening in our individual lives. It doesn’t mind if we beg it to stop. It rises each morning and slowly warms the surface of the earth while we scramble around below trying to find some meaning from it all.

The morning after my boyfriend died, I laid in bed wide awake and completely still, trying not even to let my breaths move my chest. Like thin glass, every tiny movement made cracks. Blink slow, breathe gently, and hold onto the numbness for as long as possible. Nothing felt real, and I allowed that feeling to carry me through that first night. I stared mindlessly out the window at the small area that was lit up by street lights, trying to process the events of the day before.

I stayed like that for hours until the sun started to rise. The sun was bringing everything back to life. The street light turned off and the light spread over a wider area, showing all of the little details that seemingly weren’t there an hour ago. I suddenly felt hyper-aware as I watched the sky explode into color and cursed it for being so beautiful when my life was in such shambles. A wave of reality hit when I realized that this was real, this was my life, and it was continuing on. The sun rising meant I couldn’t hide anymore, I had to face another day… the first day without him.

Fast forward through a very long day to that evening, I had no idea what to do next, so I walked. I walked for miles until I walked past that pond and saw the colors of the sunset, and then I sat down in the wet grass and pulled my knees to my chest and sobbed. I took that picture with shaking hands because I couldn’t believe how pretty it was even though I was hurting so bad.

The sun rises and the sun sets. This became my mantra as I grieved through each day.

It gave me something concrete and predictable to hold on to; we can literally count down the minutes to when it will rise or set. Even in the darkest hours of the night, we know the sun is coming and we just have to get through a few more hours. Even when it’s raining and you can’t see it, the sun rises behind the clouds and lightens everything up. Then it sinks down and gives us time to rest.

It’s grounding to watch the sunrise or sunset, because it’s something so much bigger than us. It teaches us to let go, because so many things happen that are way out of our control. Take a little bit of time out of your busy schedule today to watch the sun rise or set. Take it all in, let go of the things you can’t control, grant some acceptance to your struggles and give a little gratitude for all that you do have. It’s free, it’s always there, and it can help change your whole perspective.