Every year it’s hard to see October 30th on the calendar. I used to hate October in general. Last year, it was the 10th anniversary of losing my best friend Corey to suicide. Luckily, I created a small project which you can read about here and I felt very connected to all of those who loved her in planning this surprise. I also had the opportunity to share her story at my One Wave Fluro Friday in Bondi and it was received with so much compassion and love. That really meant something.
This year, I am in a brand new town and apartment in England with my wonderful partner. I’m working from home so I will probably spend most of the day on my own working. Luckily, I feel deeply connected to my work- helping others work on their health mind-body-spirit. Giving women their confidence back. Helping people pay attention to their mental health, self care and internal voice more than ever before. Every year the emotions I feel today surprise me. I try to let myself feel and work through them however I can. It hurts but I want to make it mean something.
I think of Corey every single day of my life. If you have lost a loved one close to you, I’m sure you understand that this is not an exaggeration. Grief is a roller coaster ride and even 11 years later I am very much still on the ride. But I have leaned into that grief. I have dealt with it in a variety of ways, healthy and unhealthy. Losing Corey was the single greatest catalyst for learning to use my writing as therapy. As a 15 year old, I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t even really know how to fully express my thoughts and feelings (hell some adults still don’t.) But when I wrote, it made me feel better. When I wrote the pain wasn’t too much to bear. That is why today, I write because it means something.
Some people suffer a tragedy and they are never the same– in a negative way. I’m no expert but I’ve seen grief in many forms, and I promise you, it’s not about what happens it’s about how you react to it. If you are experiencing grief now, my best advice is to allow yourself to fully feel all of the emotions: anger, sadness, guilt, shock, longing, bargaining, frustration, desperation, isolation, depression, and pain. Some emotions of grief don’t even have a word to embody them. Cry when you feel like crying, tell happy stories when they spring to your mind. Talk about your loved one memories as if you do any other person in your life. Don’t feel guilty for being happy. Don’t feel guilty for being sad. When you feel as if you can’t go on another day without them, go for a walk, watching a child playing or a cute animal running, drink a glass of wine, do yoga, call a friend, fill that day up with SOMETHING that makes you feel alive. On the days you feel able- give back in honor of them. If they lost their battle to depression, cancer, a drinking and driving accident, or old age– find a cause that is related and get involved. Use your pain as fuel to propel you forward. It hurts because it means something.
The worst thing that grief can do is take your life along with your loved ones. If I have learned anything in the past 11 years of grief it’s to live my life. Live every bit of it for myself and for Corey. I do everything in my power to use Corey’s life and story as a catalyst for change in others lives and my own. She sparked my passion for mental health and with the help of One Wave, my blog, and following my heart it has turned me into the mental health advocate I am today. That doesn’t mean the grief hurts me any less, it means I decided to do something with it.
Grief is scary to face alone especially grief from suicide. Mental health issues are hard enough on their own without the extra stigma society places on them and the judgement and misunderstanding from others. Suicide is a topic that we tread lightly on, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening every single day to people of all ages, races, nationalities and social statuses. Mental health is a topic that affects every single person on this planet because suffering from a mental illness is something that has a ripple effect to everyone around you. Being left behind hurts. Grief can even induce mental health struggles. Even if you never experience a specific mental health disorder– we all have ups and downs. Highs and lows. We all should want to help anyone who feels like they are struggling. It’s not a topic we can or should brush past or sweep under the rug. I know it hurts, but let’s make it mean something.
In honor of Corey, I have committed my life to making an impact for the 450 million people who suffer from mental disorders(including myself) and the billions more who are affected by those peoples disorders. I have committed my life to ending the stigma against mental health. Mental health should not just be remedial care. Mental health should be preventive. Physical health is not reserved for when we get sick and need to go to the hospital. We work on our physical health daily with exercise, nutrition, and sleep. We have check ups and preventative measures that are accepted and practiced by a lot of society. Mental health deserves the same attention. Meditation, mindfulness, gratitude journaling, positive affirmations, therapy as common place– these are things I hope to bring to people worldwide and have them mean something.
Today will always be a difficult day. Grief is relentless and consuming. But I truly believe that Corey’s life, friendship and heart has been gifted to me to save lives. The strength I carry comes from a place I’m not even sure how to describe. Each year on this day, I pause, I reflect, I remember, I let that pain consume me fully and then I write. The pain and grief has been one of my greatest teachers because I am willing to learn from it. I am vulnerable. I am reflective. Corey’s heart will be a part of mine until the end of time, and my beautiful sweet friend, I intend to honor it fully. I miss you, I love you and I hope I am making you proud. I feel you with me and I know you are guiding me. You live on in the lives of so many and that will never change. You will always mean something.
To anyone who is reading this, feeling Corey’s loss today or reminded of your own loss and grief– feel it fully. Express yourself. Use the pain as fuel and do the best you can. Explore, absorb and cherish every single day because you never know when it could be your last. And yes, it’s going to hurt, but let’s make it mean something.