Shifting priorities

It’s amazing how your priorities change when you lose a loved one.

The little, petty things you’ve been holding onto fall out of your head like they weren’t even there. All of those unremitting disagreements become irrelevant. It’s hard to care about couch stains or fantasy football when you’ve just lost one of the most important people in the world to you.

And yet, everyone handles tragedy in a different way. Some become closed off, while others need to surround themselves with family. Some cry uncontrollably, others are overflowing with rage. Everyone has their own painful snowflake of a reaction, but there’s one emotion that tends to rear its ugly head when you lose someone in as sudden and devastating a way as suicide, and that’s guilt. 

“There was nothing you could have done about it.”
“You did everything you could.”
“It’s not your fault.”

We hear these phrases over and over. We repeat them to ourselves to help them sink in. But no matter what, on some level, we blame ourselves for not doing more. The guilt eats away at you slowly, and coming to terms with the fact that you couldn’t have done anything to prevent what happened, that depression is a terrible monster that your loved one couldn’t escape, is an incredibly difficult thing to do. 

But once you are able to accept this, your mindset starts to shift a little. 

It’s still okay to be sad, but the sadness will start to make your memories of your loved one that much happier. You can get mad about your loss, but that anger can be harnessed to motivate you to help those who are still suffering. Your heart will never be fully recovered, but your loss can make your love for others even stronger. 

I feel like I covered most of the emotional spectrum after we lost Jordan four years ago. The initial sorrow and anger gave way to gratitude for the outpouring of support for my family. Unfortunately, that quickly faded into helplessness as I wondered how I was supposed to move on after this life-altering event. Then came guilt, along with a very real fear that depression might one day envelope me like it did her. The list goes on, but I am thankful for those that helped get me through the lowest point of my life to a state where I am happier, more motivated to help others, and able to love deeper.

 I’m sad that Jordan won’t be there when I get married in three months. But I’m happy that Jordan’s words of wisdom about women led me to the love of my life. I’m happy that, despite going through such a painful experience, it caused me to grow up enough that I am ready to take on the responsibilities of being a husband. 

I’m sad that when Claire and I have kids, they won’t get to meet their Auntie Jo, but I’m happy that someday, I’ll be able to talk to them about mental health and tell them about the meaningful work done in Jordan’s name. Everything Jo did was to help others and bring happiness to the world. It’s only fitting that the work done in her name would have the same mission.

- Matthew Harris

Posted on July 13, 2016 .