Every year, October 30th creeps up and every year it stings just as badly. Immediately I turn to my words as a place of comfort and solace. I woke up this morning and immediately started clicking away at my keyboard snuggled in my childhood bed (I’m visiting my parents in New York from England.) The sense of grief is overwhelming today. October 30th is the day one of my very best childhood friends took her own life at the tender age of 16. 12 years have passed. Every day grief is present but I’m sure anyone who has lost someone very close to them, anniversaries present a fresh wound each and every year.
Corey’s life and story has been such a driving force for my own life. I talk about her all the time. I tell her story. I advocate for mental health. I spread the message of hope far and wide. Unfortunately, this does not bring my very goofy, kind and fun loving friend back. It doesn’t replace the years we have lost. I never stop wondering who she would be now and what awesome memories we would have made. I never stop worrying about her sweet parents. I never stop feeling guilty.
Nothing makes me more frustrated than when people tell others who are grieving that it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” I live a very full life. I have incredible friends and a partner who I want to spend my future with, a loving family, a career and business I am building from the ground up and travel stories for days. I have lived such a beautiful life because as soon as I lost my best friend at 16, I was taken into grief and survival mode. Some people get angry, depressed, lonely, desperate. I drank through a lot of the sadness but I also WOKE UP.
I knew that life was short and that it was my duty to life it to the fullest. It was my job. Despite the overwhelming grief I knew I had to “cherish every day” (which I got tattooed on my foot.) It doesn’t mean the grief isn’t there, it means I’ve done something with it. I didn’t get over my grief, I used it to shape me into a kinder, more passionate, let’s do it right-fricken-now kind of person. So, I proudly have never gotten over the traumatic loss of my best friend, I have carried it with me and learned how to grieve and live simultaneously. Something that continues to be a work in progress.
Right after Corey passed away, those closest to her began to get signs from her in the shape of a heart. If you don’t believe in signs GREAT! Stop reading this paragraph and agree to disagree. It started the day of her funeral, we got a heart shadow attached to the straightener that my other best friend had bought because of Corey. The cord wasn’t tangled, it was straight but there was a heart there. In the months following we noticed hearts in food, leaves, rocks and in many unsuspecting places. As the years went on I got them less frequently, which made me sad but also made me confident Corey felt I had all the strength I needed within me.
When times were hard or confusing, if I felt alone in one of the many countries I moved to, I would ask for a sign and usually within the same day it would arrive. I decided to bring the magic of the mental health organization One Wave to my coaching leadership retreat in Florida this month. I shared about how I found One Wave in Australia and why I grew up with such a fire in my heart surrounding mental health and open communication about our struggles. Of course this always leads back to Corey’s story. When I share about mental health I feel in a state of flow, passion and purpose and every single time I feel Corey with me. I asked everyone to put their phones away before the Fluro Friday circle chat began because as much as I adore technology I also am very cognizant of it’s power to disconnect us when we are sitting right next to each other. Afterwards I was sad since I put the phone ban I didn’t get any pictures of the circle. My teammate was happy to share that one of our teammates took a picture of us from above. She looked at her phone and smiled big and said “Wow! Look at that, the circle isn’t a circle… it’s a heart!”
Immediately tears filled my eyes. I didn’t see the photo yet but I knew. I knew that Corey was there with me on that beach. I knew she sent me that heart to show me she was just as big a part of my life and mission as I believed her to be. I knew that she was proud. I shared the heart signs with my friends and teammates and many of them were also brought to tears. Because Corey’s influence didn’t stop the day she died, I am determined to have her influence, story and legacy live on forever.
I know that her presence in my heart is what keeps me feeling so courageous and open about my mental health struggles, suicide, depression and what it’s like being left behind. These are heavy topics. Most people shy away from them. But I volunteer to get that deep. I honestly thrive from it because I know if there is one young girl just like Corey scrolling Instagram and feeling bad about herself, comparing herself to unrealistic beauty standards or materialistic lifestyles, maybe she will see my post about mental health and ask for help. Maybe she will remember it’s okay not to be okay. Maybe she won’t feel so alone in this beautiful but twisted world we live in.
My bond with Corey continues to grow and develop although she is not physically here. That might sound weird but the deep bond of friendship and love we created didn’t ever go away. I hear her as my voice of reason, I definitely hear her giving me fashion & hair advice and I continue to get hearts from her when I need them the most. The most beautiful part about knowing and loving Corey is the lasting impact it has had on all of our lives. I am just one of the many hearts who carries Corey’s heart so closely. Her life was short but damn, was it meaningful and I promise to use her story to continue to impact lives all over. I wish I could say that the epidemic of suicide has slowed down but that is just not the case. I personally have known dozens of losses that have happened over the last 12 years after losing Corey and each one breaks my heart just a little bit more.
This is your reminder that I am always an open ear, a shoulder to cry on, a place to vent or ask for advice. It is my actual job to help and coach people to their best self but sometimes you just need someone who “gets it.” If you don’t have a friend like that, you have me. I beg each of you to cherish every day, check in on your friends and family like you really mean it, skip the surface level stuff and get to the heart of things.
Over the years I have shared about a lot regarding Corey’s life, death & everything in between (you can click the links if you want to read more): Dealing with the anniversary abroad , my journey with grief , Corey’s story , The impact she has had , remembering 10 years without her , My own mental health struggles and What it’s like being left behind by suicide.
I miss you every single day Corey but I will continue walking with the confidence that you are right by my side. I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart. Please continue to walk with and protect those who love you, especially those who need it most right now. Today will always be a horribly painful day but I find comfort in knowing just how far and wide your message lives on. I will use my gift of words to help you live on. That is a promise. I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart.