Also published on The Good Men Project
Edited by Melissa Drake
I was talking about suicide the day my sister took her life.
I don’t recall how it came up, but I do remember hearing about my client’s close friend who battled depression and suicidal thoughts. I don’t remember if I mentioned anything about my sister, but I do recall the final words I uttered on the subject that day...
“I’ve been in that desperate place, and I could never blame anyone for wanting to end that kind of torment.”
Those words will probably haunt me until I’m dead.
I also remember finishing work early that day and feeling giddy about having some alone time before picking my kids up from daycare. I recall hopping in the car and considering my options, but as home drew closer, I became tired and unsettled. After arriving home, I thought about napping, but I felt too agitated. Disappointed by my sudden energy drain, I decided to forego the time to myself and collected my kids early instead.
It all makes sense in retrospect. Although we hadn’t been physically close in years, my sister and I had a very strong energetic connection. My body knew she’d left before my brain found out.
I still shudder when I think back to that afternoon. Honestly, I’d rather pretend it never happened and return to my life as I knew it before she died. But, then again, would I really?
That is the question.
The silence in Elizabeth’s home was an unexpected comfort to me in the days following her passing. The time I spent there surrounded by family, friends and her personal treasures, helped me to release fear and reconnect to the love and light that was always her energetic core. I don’t know how to adequately explain the healing that took place during that tender time. It was the stillness. I could feel her in the stillness.
When I returned home after the memorial, I attempted to get back to work and to life as I had always known it. Nothing was “as I’d always known it,” though, and something deep inside of me was beginning to stir. I started seeing my own dysfunction: The way I’d kept quiet when I had something to say. The way I’d held myself back from doing the things I said I’d always wanted to do.
What happened? Where had I gone?
I was waking up out of a thirty-year slumber and realizing the life I was leading no longer made sense to me. I had been hiding for years; behind my sister, behind my kids and even behind my husband. I finally saw the truth.
It was as though a halogen light beamed directly onto my current reality and I had no other choice than to look directly at it (and without the added comfort of protective eye-wear). It wasn’t pretty.
I had been living a lie.
Somehow, I managed to cram myself into a tiny closet behind a mountain of random shit, and none of it belonged to me. What I had been doing, how I had been behaving and even what I had been wearing suddenly didn’t make sense anymore. It wasn’t me.
I can remember sitting on my bed, shaking my head and thinking, “Oh my God. They’re both gone. The two people in my life who helped me to survive our trauma didn’t survive our trauma.
Was it possible that the decades I spent in therapy yapping, emoting, grieving and processing kept me alive? I was always considered the "emotional disaster" of the family. I was labeled the “sick” one.
I sat completely stunned with this “new” revelation and woke up instantly to my power and who I really was. I immediately knew what I wanted, and I wasn’t about to wait for anyone to give me permission to live my life anymore. It was time.
No more would I wait to do what I always longed to. No more would I hold myself back out of fear because I might fail, or because something might not work out as I’d planned. My days of waiting were over. If I was going to fall on my face… well then… so be it!
I created a list of things I’d always wanted to do but never did because of lack (lack of energy, lack of time, lack of money, lack of courage, lack of support) and then I got moving.
My list didn’t include skydiving, but it did include things like taking classes, drawing, singing jazz, creating a blog, writing poetry, zip-lining, and most importantly, getting some additional support. I was in desperate need of some girl time.
My daughter loaned me a book called “Prosperity Pie- How to Relax about Money and Everything Else,” and told me I would love it. I read it in two days, and then found a six-month online webinar called “Manifesting Your Succulent Wild Life,” created and led by the same inspirational author (who calls herself SARK). SARK’s book and webinar thoroughly nurtured my new life venture.
Within the online group, I was granted access to some of the most powerful, creative, and courageous women I have ever known! Together, we took a brave (and sometimes dark) dive into some serious self-introspection and self-love.
We learned how to manage the voices of our inner critics and re-establish our personal boundaries. We connected to our inner wisdom and cared for (and owned) our own feelings. We learned how to break down large, ominous projects into fun and attainable bite-sized wins. We cared for ourselves in big and bodacious ways while exploring our problematic relational patterns. We learned how our early programming taught us how we related to money and we learned how to set ourselves free from our scarcity mindsets. We cared for our bodies and we cared for each other.
It was emotional, liberating, fun and exactly what I needed to survive the coming turbulent months. Things were changing fast, and I wasn’t about to hinder the process. I would go where it led me, no matter what it took.
I learned to lean in and to trust myself again. I have since accomplished everything on my list and more!
I am no longer hiding or wishing or waiting. I am doing.
It is true that you find yourself in others, but probably not in the way you might think.
I found myself through the unconditional kindness and support of women who had struggled and conquered and were traveling the same path; back to themselves.
I would give anything to have my sister here with me now, physically cheering on my efforts, but there is one thing I know for sure: It was her voice I'd heard in the silence, asking me what I was waiting for.
R Jade McAuliffe-
Author and advocate; believer in things unseen.
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break."