Optimism > Pessimism

Today marks the 5 year anniversary of Jordan's death. To commemorate her life, we'll post a series of blogs every day for the next few days. This first one was written by Elisha, Jordan's younger sister. 

I think everyone that has gone through some tragic, life-altering event can agree that it had the potential to turn them into a somewhat pessimistic person. For me, it took a while to begin to see the world in a more positive light again. 
My older sister, Jordan, suffered from severe depression the last six months of her life and ultimately died by suicide at the age of 22. Today marks the 5 year anniversary of her death and the word ‘Why’ has never seemed to escape my thoughts. Why Jordan? Why me? Why did I have to lose my older sister, my life mentor, my role model, my best friend? Why have my parents, two of the most incredible human beings you will ever meet, been made to suffer through the death of not one, but two children? Why did Jordan, the light of so many people’s lives, have to suffer from such a debilitating mental illness? Why did she have to be so overcome with darkness that her only escape was death? I could go on for hours with these questions that swirl through my mind.
I have a dry-erase board hanging on the wall in my apartment that my roommate and I write or draw whatever is inspiring us at any given moment. It can range anywhere from movie quotes and song lyrics, to drawings of Christmas trees and leprechauns. At the start of the year, we listed out our 2017 New Year’s resolutions. Most of mine were your typical cliché resolutions – eat out less, read more books, visit one country I’ve never been to, etc. But there was one that I’ve really been pushing myself to be consistent about, and it reads “Optimism > Pessimism.”
I don’t consider myself to be a negative person, and I don’t believe the people who are closest to me would describe me as one either. However, there are some things I can’t help but be negative or mad or sad about after losing my sister. In the last 5 years since Jordan’s death, I’ve thought a lot about the things that I’ll never be able to do again. I also constantly think about what the future looks like for me and one of my immediate thoughts is that Jordan will never be there. I’ve slowly come to realize that these negative thoughts don’t particularly benefit my mental stability. I know for a fact that Jordan would not want me to live my life like this and dwell on these thoughts. She would spin every pessimistic thought that enters my mind and turn it into an optimistic one, that’s just the type of person she was. She always wanted the best for me despite anything she was going through.
So, I’ve been trying my best to implement the mantra of “Optimism > Pessimism” into my life, not only when it comes to thoughts of Jordan, but in all aspects of my life. Below are some pessimistic thoughts I’ve had related to Jordan, followed by a more positive outlook, similar to how Jo would have spun them.

  1. She’ll never be able to visit me in whatever city I’m living in (Chicago, currently) and I’ll never visit her in whatever awesome city she might have been living today (Detroit, NYC, Buenos Aires, etc.) -- I’d like to think her incredible sense of adventure rubbed off on me and has given me the courage to travel to places like Cape Town, South Africa by myself or leave my hometown and move to a brand new city. I also like to think that part of what drew me to move to Chicago was a mutual love for the Midwest (Jordan attended the University of Michigan). Or maybe we were both just dying to escape the brutal Texas heat. 
  2. A more obvious thought that has entered my mind and others who have lost a loved one to suicide: is there anything I could have done to prevent this? -- As much as Jordan’s death has pained me and so many others, there has been an enormous amount of good that has resulted from her passing. My family formed the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation two years after her death to help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and lower the suicide rates in this country. The Foundation has made tremendous progress on helping to prevent more deaths by suicide, including funding a team that helped to intervene on a group of 16 high school students who signed a suicide pact. The Foundation is also currently in the process of planning a cross-country bike ride to educate communities outside of Dallas-Ft. Worth about depression and suicide awareness. (Learn about Light the Trail HERE)
  3. My new friends, my future husband, and my children will never know the loving, silly, encouraging, free-spirited person that Jordan was -- If I’m being honest, there’s not really a positive way to spin this that I can think of. As hard as I try to describe her to people, my descriptions never do justice to the type of person she was.   

The reality of the situation is there are some days where my grief is a black hole that I cannot dig myself out of. My sister is gone and I have come to realize that it’s 100% ok for me to be sad or pissed off about that. There are some thoughts that I am still trying to find a positive outlook on, and I think my search for this positivity is all a part of my grieving process. These thoughts include things like not being able to pick up the phone and call Jordan to talk about all of the current events in our own lives, whether it be talking about the parties we went to the weekend before or obsessing over a new song by Florence + the Machine. We also frequently talked about how we would be each other’s Maid of Honor at our weddings; Jordan won’t be standing by my side on that special day. 

There’s a void in my being that is forever present, an empty hole that only Jordan was able to fill. This emptiness inside me has become less noticeable over the last 5 years, it’s no longer a 50-ton boulder on my shoulders like it once felt like. Time has been a friend and has helped me to heal. Life continues on, even when one of the people most dear to me has left this Earth. Though, I know that Jordan’s spirit is always with me; she has some of the most clever and silly ways of letting me know that. Whether it be a random person walking past me on the sidewalk wearing a University of Michigan hoodie, or driving somewhere with my entire family and seeing her very first car, a 1998 white Toyota Rav-4, turn onto the same street we’re driving on. Signs like these help to keep me a pretty optimistic person.
Grief is complicated. Just when I start feeling like myself, it comes out of nowhere and hits me like a high-speed train. But when the world feels like an inescapable darkness, I try my best to dig deep and seek out the light and turn those pessimistic thoughts into optimistic ones. In the words of my wonderful mother, “Life can be tough, but it can also be beautiful.” I’m learning every day how to let more of that beauty in.

- Elisha Harris

Posted on March 27, 2017 .