Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bittersweet Fall Memories

"Don't Let the Last Chapter Write the Book"

Dear Readers,

"Don't let the last chapter write the book." That is something a friend used to say. We both lost loved ones to suicide and the message was, do not let that define their lives. I lost my father 12 years ago October 26th. He was a son, a husband, a father, an uncle, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson, a friend, a carpenter, a colleague and much more to many people. We always have to remember who are loved ones were before tragically leaving us forever.

Recently, Paul O'Neill posted a Question of the Day on #PLN365 that made me stop and reflect. 

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall....which is your favorite season of the year and why

Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the cooler weather, fall clothes, football, changing of the leaves, pumpkins, hay rides, back to school, pumpkin flavored coffee at Dunkin Donuts and scarecrows. I love driving down a tree lined road as the sun lights up the different colors-red, orange, yellow-on the trees. I enjoy bundling up for a Friday night football games. But hands down, one of my absolutely favorite sounds is crunching leaves. I am that person who will "wade" through a nice deep pile of leaves. I refrain from jumping in them as to not destroy someone's hard work. 

In 2005, it was just like any fall day, the unthinkable happened. It was Wednesday October 26th and a phone call divided my life into before and after. I was devastated to hear the news regarding my dad's passing. It has been 12 years and it does not get easier, it is just a way of life now. The anniversary will always be there, the feeling of loss and knowing I will never see him again.

Over the years I have watched a remarkable transformation in myself. I have turned that loss into being a voice and advocate for mental health awareness. I have volunteered for AFSP and participated in the Out of the Darkness Walks. I have moderated chats (thank you #ImpactMatters) on the topic of suicide and been a participate in mental health awareness chats (thank you "PeopleSkills). I have been to conferences and Survivor Days. I have done research and shared resources. I wanted to learn and do as much as I could.

Parallel to these wonderful actions though, there was always a feeling of despair and sadness that I could not quite shake. The questions that would never be answered. The feelings of guilt, anger, sadness. Feeling like my world was turned upside down and was no longer living in the world I once was. The feeling that I could no longer relate to peers. I struggled with feeling like a member of an exclusive club I did not ask to join.

Somewhere over the past few years, my perspective has changed. I need to remember, although it was a traumatic, life changing event when I lost my dad, it cannot define my fall. It is one aspect that I will always have with me, but it is up to me to decide how much it is going to impact me. 

Members of my PLN have been instrumental in helping me move forward. You know exactly who you are. You have supported, encouraged, pushed me and been an amazing friend to me when I needed it. 

Now, when I get teary, it is not because of my loss. It is because what I have gained. I am overwhelmed sometimes by the friendships that have developed with people I still have not met! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do for me.