Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Out of the Darkness

A little over two months ago, I stayed home from work.  I was sick.  It certainly wasn't the worst cold I'd ever had but it had zapped my energy.  So I stayed home.  I don't get sick often, and I rarely call in sick to work.  I don't know why I couldn't pull it together that day.  I just couldn't.  

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was laying in the bathtub, listening to a podcast.  I think it was about the disappearance of Maura Murray.  The podcast went silent.  That was weird.  I reached over for my phone and saw someone from work was calling.  This is someone who has never called me on my cell phone before.  As soon as I touched the phone, I heard the words in my mind: "Mark killed himself."  I know people think I'm crazy when I say that, but it is exactly what happened.  I frantically tried to swipe my phone to turn it on.  My finger was slightly wet.  It took a few tries.  I was starting to panic.  Our Manager was on the line.  She asked if I was home.  I said I was.  I knew her part of the office was short handed, so I immediately told her I was sick but I wasn't so bad that I couldn't come in if she needed help.  I needed this call to be about anything other than what I knew it was.  Then she said the words.  She didn't know how to tell me this but that morning, my boss had committed suicide.  She asked if I could call someone to come be with me so I wouldn't be alone.  My whole world started to swirl.  I didn't know what to say.  We exchanged some words, mostly to comfort each other.  Then that was it.  In an instant, my entire life changed.

I could not have guessed how much I was going to love this job when I started in February.  After spending 20 years in litigation, I was finally in a job that was fun, challenging, rewarding, and didn't make me feel like I was getting an ulcer.  I couldn't believe that my amazing, happy world was being turned upside down.

There is some controversy over my boss' suicide, but none of that matters.  He was a good man and a great boss.  He left behind a devastated and confused family, and a lot of friends and co-workers who did not see this coming.  In the wake of his death, we are all still reeling.  Our office brought in grief counselors immediately.  I went into work that first day, specifically to meet with them.  My knees almost buckled when I walked into the office, but I was otherwise slightly worried about how well I was handling everything.  I mean, I was sad.  I was profoundly sad.  But I found that with every new person who wanted to come into my office and talk about it, it got a little bit easier.  People remarked on how well I was working through my grief.  The funeral was hard, but still I felt like I was holding it together.

Then the panic attacks started.  You'd think they'd happen at work.  Or in crowds.  But they didn't.  They started happening when I was falling asleep.  Or when I was in yoga.  In the quiet moments, my body would revolt.  There were a couple of times when I jumped out of bed in my sleep and found myself in the front room.  Apparently I was not handling things as well as I thought.  

Tragedy and grief are such weird things.  This terrible thing happens.  And then what?  The first day or two, people worry about you.  They ask how you're doing.  Then they move on with their lives.  But you can't move on.  You have to keep living it.  Every time you walk into the place where you used to see him every day.  Or see his signature on something.  Or you forward yourself an e-mail from his e-mail address, forget, and freak yourself out that he's e-mailing you from the dead.  Every day gets a little easier but you don't forget.  Then you feel bad.  You're just his co-worker.  What about his family?  They must be suffering more than you.  This sick circle begins -- feeling sorry for yourself, then feeling guilty that you are being selfish when other people must be hurting more.

I have been very lucky.  I have been blessed to not have been dealt a lot of tragedy in my life.  My Auntie Lori also committed suicide in 2009.  But she was a tortured soul and I only ever felt relief that she had finally found peace.  This suicide was different.  What did I miss?  Sure, I had noticed my boss had seemed more stressed and down than usual.  But, despite those words that flashed through my mind the second I touched my phone, I don't think I saw this coming.

It has been two months and one week since my boss took his own life.  Certainly, every day is a little easier.  However, I do have days that catch me off guard.  For example, after returning from a week off work for Thanksgiving, I somehow expected to see him when I walked through the door.  Then I was kind of confused when I remembered that he wouldn't be there.  I also feel some anxiety when I think about who may possibly be his permanent replacement (we already went through some stress while waiting to see who would be his interim replacement).  I started with the grief counselors again after the panic attacks started.  I am back on track with my yoga classes and am now working out at home in the mornings.  I still feel days where I am sad and miss him.  But for the most part, life goes on.  There is no other option, right?  I feel like this happened at the best time possible.  I feel like I have my eating disorder under control for the first time in a very long time.  I have mostly made peace with my body and actually like how I look these days.  It is a huge win that I haven't turned to food for comfort during this time.  Also, as part of the healing process, some of us from the office will be organizing an Out of the Darkness walk through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Hopefully, that will keep us busy, help us feel like we are giving back to the community and help honor the memory of our beloved boss.  

I was touched by the number of people who reached out to me after this happened. I wanted to thank everyone again for all of their kind words. I am taking it one day at a time but feel like I am coping fairly well. The holidays are coming up and I know that can put a lot of stress on people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out and ask for help. AFSP's suicide prevention line is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). I imagine my boss didn't understand exactly how many people loved him until there was standing room only at his funeral held in a two story church. I remarked that it was sad that it took someone's death for them to learn exactly how many people do care. I think we all get wrapped up in our own bullshit and lives. I'm trying to take a look at the people around me to see who is struggling. But if you are struggling and you aren't getting the help you need, please ask for help. I promise you are loved.  


  1. You too Lori are loved. Each year I see a stronger woman. I hope you see that as well.

  2. Thank you, Rita! It always helps to know I have good friends around me. I know you understand these feelings. I hope you are well too and know you are loved!

  3. Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry for your loss and for his family. I'm glad you have some help through this and I hope it continues to get better.

    1. Thank you, Angela!!! I hope you are doing well! <3