I’m Not Okay, and That’s Okay…I think

I’m in a movie. A movie I’m pretty sure I’ve seen before, except I’m playing a major role and I don’t like it. It’s the one where the police call and want to come to my workplace to speak to me. Why? I ask rather curtly. Already I don’t like the sounds of this. In the movies I’ve seen, when the police show up with their caps across their chest, it can only mean one thing, and it’s not good. Immediately, my mind tries to justify the why, like somehow I can change the outcome I’m instinctively dreading. Maybe it’s about the 911 call I made a few weeks ago when a neighbour was using his brother-in-law as a battering ram against the wall outside my apartment? I try to assure myself with this possibility. But I know it isn’t. I feel it deep in the place where I don’t want to acknowledge a truth that is about to be revealed.

Within an hour, I’m numb. Sitting in the back of the cruiser being taken home, having learned that my daughter is dead. Learned that my daughter took her own life. Shit. I won’t be able to finish my musical theatre class. The thought passes through my mind like a stray hair falling onto my face, and I brush it away. Funny how the human mind creates thoughts and ideas to distract you from the Big Feels. Protection from the brain imploding on itself.

Fast forward about a month, and we’re at the funeral. It’s a blur. Standing in the receiving line greeting people; some I knew and some I didn’t. Listening to the same thing over and over, So sorry for your loss, or How are you? I realized that I was not offended by the how-are-you question, despite peoples instant mortification over asking what they were sure to be the most insensitive of questions. It’s not. It’s what we do, people. Relax.

The question that did bother me, and still amazes me that no one was throat-punched for asking, was:

“How did she die?”

She took her life.”

“Yeah, but how?”

Breathe in. Breathe out.

” I don’t see how answering that question will serve either one of us. I prefer not to talk about it, if you don’t mind. (Even if you do mind, you cretin).

So now it’s been almost two months. People still ask how I am. My response varies, depending on how it’s asked. The casual and heartfelt, “How are you doing?” doesn’t irritate me, but the serious, “How are your doing?” has my nerves wound like a cheap watch. As if the person asking has suddenly acquired a PhD in grief counselling, I outwardly cringe. What if I blurted out that I was suffering from nightmares that wake me up in a cold sweat, or responded with, I’m freakin’ awesome! Thanks for asking.” Suffice it to say that I’m probably lying if I say I’m fine, or I’m okay. I’m not. Yet.

My emotions run the gamut on the regular. I’ve walked through the grocery store and been a total wreck in the toothpaste aisle. Who knew that seeing Toms of Maine toothpaste would reduce me to hot mess in aisle 7, or seeing a display of live-edge tables at a farmer’s market would have me giving the artist tips on cerenova wood finishing? (Cuz that’s what Hilary used.)

I’ve been told that I’m so strong, so courageous. No I’m not. I’m sitting in the same track pants that I’ve worn all week, and I may or may not have remembered to use deodorant this morning. I’m high-five-ing myself for actually using the stove/oven to cook a meal. I went for a two-hour walk and I feel like I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I’m hanging on; that’s it.


Distraction has been both a friend and an enemy. Friend in that I can just zone out and not feel anything, and enemy in that I can just zone out and not feel anything. Face Book posts have been particularly subjected to my scrutinous eye. As if there is some sort of AI that can tap into your brain and read your thoughts– or people suddenly have a passion for suicide awareness–posts appear talking about how suicide removes the chances of tomorrow being better. No shit, Sherlock. My question, and the one I posed after said post appeared, was this: Do the same people who tsk, tsk those who succumb to their feelings of hopelessness, have the same opinion of doctor-assisted suicide? Is it more dignified and acceptable for someone to decide to take control of their life/death when they are terminally ill, than for someone who decides that living with their illness–depression/ anxiety is equally excruciating? I’m not a proponent of either, but I’m not gonna judge you. The other FB post that another well-meaning person (pftt) posted was from a suicide awareness group. The whole idea of re-naming the act of taking one’s life from “committed suicide” to “died by suicide”. Again. It’s just my opinion, and perhaps I’m not in the right frame of mind to have one at all, but my question to this post was, “Does anyone notice that the only people posting their opinions on this are alive? Does anyone know what someone who has ‘died by suicide’ wants it to be called? It doesn’t change the outcome. I. Don’t. Care.” I’m sure I was really popular that day and perhaps people thought I was on my side of cyber space, bawling my eyes out. Nah. I was just irritated by a sudden surge of benevolence where previously there had been none.

I guess my message in this rather in-your-face blog is this: Suicide isn’t easy to grieve and it’s not easy to talk about. I’m just feeling my way through this and I have no idea what I’m talking about other than expressing what I’m feeling in the moment. If you want to help anyone who is grieving any kind of loss/death, don’t ask that person what they need. They don’t know. Trust me on this. What you can do, is this: That one thing you know you’re capable of doing, do that. If you know you can bake someone their favorite cake, do that. If you know you can just sit in silence with that person, do that. You don’t have to have answers and you don’t have to say anything profound. And, oh, just thought of this one: Don’t say our loved one is in a better place. They’re not. The better place is with us.

Be assured that my hope and faith is, and always will be, in God, lest anyone feel that I require a faith-lift. God knows my heart and He also knows I haven’t felt like myself lately. He’s got broad shoulders and can take anything I throw –literally and figuratively– at Him. As for the rest of you, I hope I haven’t burnt bridges, alienated anyone or generally pissed you off. Not my intention; just pushing inside thoughts to the outside. If I have, I offer my warmest condolences. (Please see Nora McInerny’s TedTalk for that reference!) https://youtu.be/FlaMOn8_1bc

No pictures to go with this blog, unless anyone wants to see me in my sweats with no make-up.

Yes and amen? Meh.

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11 thoughts on “I’m Not Okay, and That’s Okay…I think

  1. Thanks, Brian. My goal isn’t to be angry in my grief- at least with those trying to walk along side me. I’m learning though, that I can totally set boundaries and be free to say ” no”, when the need arises.

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  2. I’ve stopped writing blog posts but always enjoyed yours and checked in to see if you had written anything. I am very sorry to learn this news. If it means anything, I will pray that God’s presence continues to surround you; I echo your sentiment that God has big shoulders. Take care from one of your writing friends, Marian

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  3. Dear Monica,
    There are many different stages to grieving; the shock, denial, anger, bargaining , depression, and acceptance. Everyone goes through each phase differently , and at their own pace. Take your time, vent , seek out help if you need it , and don’t be afraid to ever say that you’re not okay. Losing someone is never easy let alone when it’s your child. I couldn’t even imagine that heartbreak, and I’m sorry you’re going through this all. Take your time in being angry. You have every right to be. A parent should never have to bury their child. I’m sure you’re left with questions as to “why?” and “ Maybe I could have changed her mind,” or angry that people possibly contributed to her feelings of doubt , and let her down. The only way to heal and accept, is allowing that anger to take its course. Who gives a shit what others think, or if your a hot mess in the toothpaste isle lol let it out whenever you need.

    When a person passes from a chronic illness, or a tragic accident; it’s always easier to accept those things. Majority of the time in those Incidents you are not left with as many questions, guilt, wandering if you could have stopped it, and while you’re heart is still broken; it’s not the same kind of broken as when someone dear to you takes their own life.

    I won’t sugar coat this.. it’s never going to really be okay. In time, it will get better and you’ll be able to feel like yourself again. Those holidays , birthdays, and such will be easier to get through each year, but you will definitely still have your moments no matter how long that’s been. I’ve experienced a different kind of death, the death of lover. He passed in a motor vehicle accident 6 years ago, and to this day; I still sometimes find myself crying at random times, for random songs, memories that fly in and out of my head, or sometimes when he’s talked about. I have the odd night where I cry myself to sleep thinking about the past even though I have moved on with my life. You’ll still hurt really bad at times, and it’s totally ok to feel that way. Don’t ever feel it’s not.
    You seem to have a lot of people who care for you , a great support system. Never be afraid to lean on your friends , or cry on their shoulders. If you bottle things up , and say you’re fine , you’ll just build yourself up to a massive melt down lol.. I know from experience!
    I hope you are doing okay. Even if you feel you’re not; remember that you’re always making progress in some way, shape , or form.

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It’s a journey, and while I feel right now that I’m on a road with no definitive path, I have found that writing about it is therapeutic; getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the laptop screen. Not everyday is ” good”, but I know it will get less difficult as time passes.

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      • Just do whatever you feel helps you to get through this. If writing is what eases things, write as much as you need to. You may feel like you’re on no definitive path, but you are. This is definitely a journey for you, you definitely will feel lost, and uncertain. I know you are a firm believer in God, and I believe that every single thing that person experiences in their life , Is just as small piece of the puzzle that God has created for each individual. I believe that when our puzzles are complete, we will emerge from our depths more strong, courageous and knowledgeable. Every person has a path that God has created for them. They test you, and make you a stronger person, but also teach you things about yourself you never knew, and help you to build yourself up.
        When you feel you’re lost, uncertain, and can’t find your way.. remember there’s always a plan in place.

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