Last Friday night as I was just about to put my boys to bed, my mom called. I thought that was a bit strange since usually, she wouldn’t call to chat at that time. I picked up the phone and could tell something was wrong. “Did you hear the terrible news?” I knew it has been stormy where they lived in Southern California, so I thought maybe the storm had damaged something in their area. She went on to tell me that my sweet, 33-year old sister-in-law had lost her battle with clinical depression and taken her own life.
That night and even for the next few days I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe this had happened to us. I couldn’t believe she was gone and that she had passed away in that matter. We didn’t even really know what she was battling with.
My sister-in-law’s name is Elaine and I “met” her over Skype in 2011 when my brother came to visit us in Tennessee. I could tell already she was someone special. I met her in person in 2012 and knew right away how much she adored my brother. If you have a younger brother or sibling, you know how badly you want them to find someone special, and that day in 2012, I knew my brother had.
They got married in 2013, and over the next few years we got to see each other every once in a while. I hate that we lived so far away from them because whenever we were together, we had the best time. Laughing, making memories and just hanging out. She loved it when I would tell her silly stories of my brother growing up. I can still picture her laughing about those stories. She loves my boys and would always ask about them too.
To think about the pain she was going through breaks my heart. Mental illness is a very real thing and something I still can’t fully understand. What I do know is that Elaine was loved by so many. In the last week, we have heard from so many people. Some knew her so well, and others only met her once, but everyone can agree she was an amazing person. She always made you feel welcome, and she was just someone you wanted to hang out with, no matter what you were doing.
I was able to come out to California to stay with my parents and help my brother. We have gone through so many emotions this last week and did things we didn’t think we would have to do for 30-40 years. Her suicide was truly a tragic loss and one that we can’t or won’t fully understand. Because of her illness, she was never truly able to see how many people she touched and how loving she was.
During this time I am trying to depend on my faith as much as possible, but that isn’t easy. If I can get to a place where I can accept that she is gone, I still struggle with accepting how she had to leave this earth. It was tragic and something my brother will have to struggle with.
There have been a couple of songs I have been playing over and over again that are helping a little with the grief.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul”
“Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
The strange thing about the grieving process is that sometimes it looks like crying into a pillow, some times it looks like yelling out at God about why she had to be taken and sometimes it is laughing hysterically over a dumb joke one of us told. There are no rule books for how to grieve. Each day we wake up and work through our sadness in different ways.
My brother has an amazing support group, and that will make it easier for me to return to Tennessee. Knowing he has people surrounding him during this time. Knowing he has people who not only talk about praying for him but are there for all the logistical things that need to happen because of her loss. From helping my brother clear out the apartment to dealing with the business, she was a co-owner of.
Today is her memorial service and I have a feeling the room will be so full. She touched so many, some in really big ways like my brother and others in smaller ways like the clients she served in her beauty business. Today will be filled with tears and heartbreak but also a reminder of what is important in life. Family, friends and doing your best to love on everyone. That is what Elaine taught me and no matter how many years go by or how old I get, I will always remember that about her.
My brother has started a blog to work through his unimaginable grief. You can visit at After the Storm. We also have a YouCaring site set up to help with the costs of losing Elaine. Nothing will be able to replace her but knowing my brother has help with those expenses is a huge weight off our shoulders.
Any prayers you can offer would be great. Thank you <3