No More Goodbyes

Since March of 2020 three of my friends have ended their lives — two in the last 7 weeks. Three entire human beings who mattered, who meant something to their friends, family, and community no longer exist in this world.

The last two years have been extremely emotionally trying for all of us. Quarantine, masks, illness, job loss, racial tension, vaccines, conspiracy theories, deaths, Covid testing, finances, new variants, elections, gas prices, war…

In addition to the world turning upside down, many of us are in that middle place in life where we still have kids at home as well as aging parents who need more from us. We might be faced with difficult decisions in regards to their health or quality of life.

We’re no spring chickens, either. We wake up with aches and pains. We routinely schedule appointments for the most intimate parts of our bodies to be inspected. We look in the mirror and are often shocked at our reflection. “Who IS this person??? That can’t be me.”

Since the first of my friends passed I’ve been on high alert. Any time someone posts a vent, a prayer request, an emotional post, or “vague books” I worry whether this is a cry for help or their last goodbye.

No one knows what anyone else is going through in their minds, in their lives, or behind closed doors. Even the people who look like they have it all can be suffering in silence.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED

What these tragedies have taught me is that even if you think you are unloved, you matter to someone.

Something that you see as an insurmountable problem today, will likely look like a mole hill with time.

Help is out there.

You are NOT alone.

You are not a burden.

There are friends out there who are willing to listen, don’t be afraid to ask.

If someone doesn’t have the emotional availability or headspace to lend an ear at that moment, it’s OK. Reach out to someone else. There is someone out there ready and willing to listen and help if they can.

People may not know you are struggling, or may not see the signs because they are dealing with their own struggles. Don’t misinterpret not asking with not caring.

If you are in need of a friend and don’t know how to reach out, try these statements:

“Do you have a minute to chat?”

“I’m not feeling great, can we talk sometime?”

“I don’t mean to alarm you, but I could use a friend to talk to right now.”

“I’m feeling overwhelmed and could use a chance to talk out my feelings.”

Obviously talking to friends doesn’t replace getting help from a professional, but friends can help talk you down from a sudden emotional crisis until you can speak to a qualified professional.

THERE IS A LIMIT TO WHAT FRIENDS CAN DO

On the flip side, if a friend has taken their own life, it’s normal to have some feelings of guilt. Could you have called more, reached out more often, is it because you didn’t remember to respond to that last text, or didn’t see the message until it was too late?

As long as you are not mentally abusing someone, you are NOT responsible for anyone else’s mental health, or lack thereof.

It is physically and emotionally impossible to reach out to every person you know every single day to check in on them, but if there’s a friend who you haven’t heard from in awhile, consider dropping them a line.

Finally, if you feel as though you have done all you can to help someone, they are not willing to seek professional help, and it is becoming an emotional burden to you, it is OK to step back from that role of armchair therapist. Consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support. They are available 24/7, and can help you if you are worried about a friend or would like emotional support for yourself. Your mental health is as important as anyone else’s.

Si usted necesita ayuda, Lifeline ofrece 24/7, servicios gratuitos en español, y no es necesario hablar inglés. 1-888-628-9454

It Will All Be OK: A Letter To Parents Of High School Seniors

This time last year I was stressing about my son’s senior prom, graduation, graduation party, college financial aid, things he would need for his dorm, who his roommates would be, what we would do for our last family vacation before college, and how I would cope with not having him at home every night.

And then, just like that, in the blink of an eye, his freshman year of college is coming to close.

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First-time parents of high school seniors, I know all of this seems so overwhelming. But, I promise, it will all be OK. You will ALL get through it.

Whether they’re wearing a $1000 custom ball gown or a $25 thrift store find, prom will be memorable.

Whether they are the valedictorian or a solid C-student, your child will receive their diploma.

Whether you serve a taco bar, a mashed potato station, or chips and dip, their graduation party will be great.

Whether they are starting at Harvard, an in-state university, a community college, or a trade school, they are receiving an education.

Whether you buy 15 Ikea FRAKTA bags or carry everything up to their dorm in garbage bags, move-in day will be just fine.

Whether they have matching comforters and a professionally decorated dorm room, or mismatched sheets and one Pokémon poster on the wall, they will have a place to call home.

Whether they surprise you by immediately taking the reigns and handling everything on their own, or call you from the financial aid office because they forgot what they were supposed to ask, they are figuring out how to become independent.

I write this as much for you as I do for myself. As a mom, I have and will continue to worry about my kids for as long as I live. But I have to remember that in most cases, everything turned out OK.

When my son was 8, I didn’t know if he would pass the third grade. Last year he graduated high school Magna Cum Laude. When I was 5 weeks pregnant, the ultrasound detected what looked like an empty sac. 16 years later, that “empty sac” is now a high school sophomore and my ride or die sidekick.

You will worry, you will stress, you will lose your patience, and you will cry when you’re in your car, driving away from their college. But you will also wake up the following day with the rare and blessed opportunity to design the next, and possibly best, season of your life.