Two second-degree connections of mine ended their own lives this past week, within a couple days of each other. I didn’t know either of these men personally, but social media has allowed me to witness others’ poignant expressions of grief. And while it’s been quite difficult for me to process my feelings as an empathetic witness, I know it’s nothing compared to what these loved ones are experiencing.

Grief is so hard. Grieving one who died by suicide is not something I’ve ever had to do, and it hurts so much to think about, just to imagine, that I can’t imagine the depth of the grief I would feel firsthand. As Mary wrote, “I’m having the unfortunate opportunity to learn that this form of death changes the grieving process.  There’s more guilt, confusion, anger, ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs.'”

I’ve thought a lot this past week about how to be a witness, how to contribute something positive after these types of events. I can post links to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and to Isamu Jordan’s sons’ education fundraising page. I can remind you that mental illness is not a weakness, can tell you that I have struggled with depression and anxiety and know the immense difficulty of it, can urge you to talk about it, to reach out to others. Ultimately none of these things will be really enough. But I’ll do my best to hold up my end of this bargain and hope that the suffering of my friends and peers is eased, and soon.

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth – the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a-night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

– Emily Dickinson


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