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The bereaved need more than just the space to griver the loss. They also need the space to grieve the transition. - LYNDA CHELDELIN FELL

When we lose a loved one unexpectedly, the pain is overwhelming and crushing. We wonder if we can even go on. Experiencing suicidal thoughts in the aftermath isn't uncommon, yet few readily admit it for fear of being judged or condemned. Have you had thoughts of self-harm or suicide since losing your loved one?


Kim's 23-year-old daughter Emily died from a multiple drug overdose including heroin and methamphetamine in 2016

My grief has taken me many places I never dreamed imaginable. I have experienced some of the most horrific pain since that day in January. So many tears come from a place so deep inside me, drawn from a bottomless well.

My mind is constantly working to process this hideous existence. I am distracted most of the time. While it may appear that I am listening to you, I'm not. I can't. The echoes of the life that came before that day, and all the pain that has devoured me since, deafen me. I have little to no patience with small talk of any kind. I have little to no patience with much of anything.

My mind constantly spins as I see people caught up in the minutiae of living. Don't they know that everything can change in the blink of an eye? Don't they know how incredibly blessed they are to watch their child graduate, get married, have children? What an incredible blessing it is to be able to call their loved one on the phone, go out to lunch, hug and kiss them. Do they appreciate each and every opportunity they have to hear their loved one say, "I love you," and to tell them the same in return?

I've had many challenges in my life and have suffered my fair share of loss and death in my family. I lost my father to cancer when I was nineteen. I lost my sister to cancer when I was forty-two. I lost my mother to dementia and health complications when I was forty-nine. And now I've lost my daughter to an accidental overdose at age fifty-four.

Each loss was devastating, and I mourned each beloved family members. I was a very strong person. But no loss prior to my loss of Emily could prepare me or hold a candle to what I was about to experience. Every night while crying myself to sleep, I'd pray that I wouldn't wake up. The pain and heartache were impossible to carry. Each morning I'd wake up, disappointed that I was still alive. As time passed, I gave thought to putting an end to my grief of my own volition. I live in a condominium and I'd often leave our bedroom and walk to the door, looking out, then stepping out, and wondered if the fall would kill me. Was it high enough? What if it didn't?

I'd think of the burden that I represented to those who loved me. My husband had to live with someone who would spend hours crying or not talking. Usually both. His love and unconditional acceptance of me in any and all forms throughout this journey humble me greatly. I self-excluded myself from life. I avoided having people over and avoided being around people.

More than once I said that if someone could offer me something that would take away even a small amount of the pain, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Then it dawned on me that this must have been what Emily felt like. This is what that pill, that buy, that baggie allowed her: peace within herself. An escape from the pain that was her mind. I now had a new understanding of my daughter, and am overwhelmed with compassion and empathy which touches me to the core.

Despite my overwhelming pain and despair, my thoughts turned to Emily's sister. She and I would talk about our loss in ways that only we could. We had walked so much of Emily's road together. We had front-row seats to the illness which destroyed her-and us. The selfishness of my thoughts made me cry. Here I am, so very blessed to have been the mother of these two incredible girls. Yes, one it now gone and that will forever and always cause me pain that I wouldn't wish on my very worst enemy. But one daughter remains. A daughter who still needs me, who does her best every day to make sure I know what I mean to her. A daughter who, like the phoenix, has risen from her sister's ashes and found a path out of the rubble life. A daughter who, like Emily, I love with the entirety of my heart and soul.

Time reflecting on my and Emily's life have also shown me that the truest tragedy would be to not honor the life and love that was Emily. In fact, one of my biggest fears is that Emily will be forgotten. So much of me died when she did, but I also remember what her dreams were and what she loved most about living. Her life was a gift to all that knew her, especially me. Although I am her mother, she taught me more about love, patience, strength and hope in her twenty-three years than all my other relationships combined. I look at those who suffer differently now. I seem to have endless compassion for those who are hurting, especially from mental health and substance issues, and know that they are someone's child. Their lives matter Ther did not intend to end up where they stand, but they need not stand alone.

Having other children does not, in my opinion, make matters better or worse. Some might say-and have said-you have another daughter. True. But I only had one Emily. I still can celebrate holidays and special occasions, constantly reminded that someone is missing. Just as watching our loved one suffer with their addiction, it is very painful to watch your child or children suffer the loss of their sibling, especially when you're just trying to survive your own pain.

A mother who lost both her children to suicide once told us that prior to one son's death, her younger son told her, "At least you lived years before you had kids. I've never known life without my brother."

That hit home for me. The guidance and support we offered to our lost loved one needs now be given to their sibling, their partner, their children, their friends... any person who now survives them. These people all deserve to know what our loved one meant to us. We can share their dreams with them. All the stories of their lifetimes. It is this mandate that gives me purpose. It is this incredible love that gives me the strength to share Emily's story for this book. If anything I can share about Emily gives you even a moment of peace, acceptance, understanding, knowledge, relief or insight, then I know I am serving her memory well, providing a place for all the love I carry for her to continue to grow.

As was true during my pregnancy, my heart once again beats for two and I need to do my best to take precious care of the gift of her life which I will carry for the remainder of my own.

Pp. 287-291. Excerpted from "Grief Diaires: Surviving Loss by Overdose" by Lynda Cheldelin Fell, Whitney O'Brien, and Shannie Jenkins. Published by AlyBlue Media. Copyright 2019. 

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