Sometimes you just don’t know what you need until you get it.
In January 2020, Kenny and Christie were with Joe & me in Florida–they were actually there in December after Christmas and stayed into January. This had become our tradition–spending this week and a half- two weeks together, fishing, making pictures, shopping, eating, and just having a good time on the beach.
When Joe and I returned home in mid-March, things had already become crazy, or at least the craziness was beginning. Joe had already started exhibiting signs of his depression returning and now stacked on top of it was anxiety- before we ever began packing to come home. As I’ve said many times before, I was trying to shield him from what was happening because I knew he couldn’t handle it. And quite honestly, I needed him to be in a good place so that I could be in a good place. He always knew how to calm me down when I was fretting over something.
I remember on the drive home how difficult it was just trying to find something to listen to. We didn’t want to listen to the radio because we knew it would be full of bad news and despair. We were careful of the podcast world, too; we didn’t need anyone fueling this fire.
Somehow, Christie and I had gotten off track between them leaving Florida in January and June 26. If you ask her, she’d say that I was pulling back– just as I had the previous year, and they wanted to give us space. And me pulling back was probably true. When Joe and I would come home from Florida, it was a hard adjustment for him. Leaving the beautiful sunshine and the water to go home to gray days and dryland was such a contrast. (The sun really does make a difference.) Joe didn’t want anyone to know how worried and affected he was by what was happening. He didn’t even want me to know. Kenny and Christie are the only two who he had confided in about the source of his depression. He did that because he could see how it was affecting our friendship. He could see me withdrawing from the world with him, and he felt solely responsible. Depression is a terrible thing, and so are secrets.
So we’d been out of touch for weeks with Kenny & Christie when Joe died, and they did not receive word that he was gone until early the following day. As soon as they got the call and Erin told them that I needed them here, they were on their way. I didn’t know they’d arrived, but I was standing in the kitchen when I looked up and saw Christie come through the door. The way that she walked towards me with such purpose; her long legs making giant strides across the floor. She was already in tears- I’m sure she had been since she’d gotten the news, but it only took her a few steps before she reached me. She grabbed ahold of me and pulled me into her chest as tight as she possibly could; the fierceness with which she took hold of me was apparent to anyone standing in the room. We just stood there and cried. And cried, and cried. She had her hands in my hair, holding my head. And it was exactly what I needed in that moment. I will never forget it.
I needed someone to grab me and hold me and squeeze me until it hurt. To tell me that it was going to be OK. She was so, so sorry. But, of course, we had so much at that moment to be sorry for. Sorry that we had just lost Joe and sorry for letting each other slip away. How had we let the silence separate us in such a time as this? I was trying to protect Joe. I knew how he felt when others saw him as weak. Of course, no one saw him as weak- ever, but in his mind, they did- and it was devastating to him to think of that happening.
One day near the end of March, Joe and I were standing on the deck–he was attempting to make me laugh (it worked) and I snapped a picture of his silliness and sent it to Christie. She would tell me at a later date after Joe was gone that she knew right away something was wrong when she saw that picture, because he was visibly thinner since they’d last seen him in January. But she was afraid to say anything. (Others saw it too.) She told me through tears that she wished she would’ve said something. I don’t want anyone to live with regret, including myself; it’s no way to be in this world, but I know how Christie feels. I know it’s the unsaid things, the silence that is the most deafening after a death by suicide.
Christie and I became silent again last year in September 2020 and did not speak until November. When we finally did have our hard conversation, face-to-face, we were honest and RAW. And it wasn’t pretty, but it was the BEST conversation I’ve ever had. We told the TRUTH about how we were feeling and how Joe’s death had affected each of us–Kenny was not immune; he was part of all of this. We all showed up and spoke up! We said what needed to be said. We expressed our feelings, emotions, grief, anger towards one another, towards Joe towards whoever, and whatever it needed to be directed at in that moment. And guess what… our relationship is stronger now than it could have ever been before. It was so worth having the hard (heart) conversation and letting the anger, disappointment, and sadness bubble up just how it did; it was cathartic, healing, and exactly what we needed.
Why are we so afraid to talk to each other? When your heart is in the right place and your intentions are pure, you’ll have no regrets. So what if you get a little nervous, your voice is shaking, or you break out in hives. Maybe you even feel sick to your stomach. But it only lasts for a minute! I promise that if you stick with those uncomfortable feelings, you will make it through and come out feeling better on the other side of it. Too many times, we let the silence separate us, sometimes for years, for no good reason at all.
What had happened last September to create that silence? To boil it all down into one nice, neat package, (which you really can’t, but I will give you an example) Christie didn’t feel that she had anything to offer me in the form of comfort or words. She was in such a deep state of grief and disbelief herself. Where I was finding gifts, and looking for them- she could only see our loss. From her perspective, (for example) she saw nothing but the place their best friend had killed himself. She felt she had no words to lift me up, encourage me, or support me, so saying nothing was better than saying something that could hurt me more. At that time, my cup was overflowing with love and gratitude from everyone that was pouring it onto me. My cup- yes, even at my darkest hour- was running over. I told Christie that I was sorry I had made her feel anything less than amazing and that I was sorry I didn’t see what was happening. That I had so much to share, to help them-for me to lift them up–we ALL suffered a tremendous loss that day, not just me! And that that’s how we heal TOGETHER. When your cup is running over, give someone else a drink!
And me? Well, I accepted their pulling back, their silence as a rejection, and I became bitter. It was festering, and I knew it would become toxic if not tended to. And then I remembered how very much I loved them! And that I could not lose this amazing friendship we’d developed over the years. So many memories we’ve shared. Losing Joe felt as though I had lost everything, but there was truly so much more I could’ve lost. I sucked down my pride and the need to be right and remembered what Christie had told me in her last text, just two weeks prior- in an attempt to apologize (I was not in receivership space, at that time) that their door was always open. I showed up late in the evening, unannounced and ready to say I was sorry. I was NOT-am NOT- the only one grieving.
Once we all shared our hearts with each other- in LOVE and TRUTH (angry as it was- it was still love), the healing was almost immediate—another gift. We are not afraid of the truth anymore, and we hold each other- all three of us- accountable for speaking it. Even when it stings, or worse–we are honest with each other because it WORKS! We’ve built an UNBREAKABLE bond. We can all speak freely in front of each other, and believe me… we DO! Christie has a fantastic BS meter that she uses often. The truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, as we are all aware. So, THANK YOU, MY DEAR FRIEND- for being BOLD, COURAGEOUS, and HONEST. THANK YOU for RISING UP! There are so many other things I thank you for. Both of you.
A couple of years ago, after my dad died, the four of us were sitting on our deck having a deep conversation–like we often did–and I remember saying to them…” You know, guys, someday one of us will be the first to go, and when that happens, we’re going to have to be there for each other, to pick up the pieces… to get through it.”
Who would’ve ever thought it would be so soon?
To your healing, and to my healing.
xo, and peace.
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I just want the pain to stop… (video)