I have been learning so much in these last few months since my sister died. Learning about myself & about my blind spots & about going into spaces & places that scared me before.
Depression was not something that I discussed before my sisters tragic death. Depression was not something that I easily brought up in conversation or felt comfortable asking questions about. For the longest time I have been prone to look at the bright side, build a vision & not only survive… but thrive. That was how I lived my life. I haven’t always been that way but a few years ago I made a decision to shift that & so far I have managed to keep that up even if I fall around deliriously sometimes as I go through it. This was what I motivated, encouraged, advocated. Building Visions. Making plans. Healing trauma. Stepping up, Overcoming! And then my sister took her life…
And my entire world took a turn that would not only wreck me, BUT ALSO transform me. I will be eternally evolving because of my sisters death. I don’t know if my sister suffered from depression. I don’t know if she momentarily lost herself in her own pain. I don’t know if she had anxiety that she was hiding or whether she was suffering some kind of hurt from life. It doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever the diagnosis, I would hope that the below would help the situation. I am NOT an expert & I have to state that the below is completely my perspective as I process the loss of my sister & my own thoughts through this process. When I meet her in heaven one day, I will embrace her & say all the things I never ever got to say. In the below blog I hope to open your mind to some of the thoughts that have not become part of who I am & I hope that my learning, growing & evolution will become part of your learning, growing, evolution.
Things I would say to my sister if I had the chance:
“I’m sorry I haven’t been there, how can I help?” Looking back I know now that there were signs. That I should have been a bit more aware. That had I had a better understanding of some of what she was doing, that I may have been able to pick it up. I want to encourage those of you out there who has a family member, friend, loved one, acquaintance stepping out of line or acting out of sorts, get help. Seek to educate yourself & get help for that person. Chat to them. Be vulnerable enough to tell them that their behaviour scares you & that you don’t understand. That you want to help. To my sister I would say, “Babe, I’m sorry that you may feel that I have not been there for you, how can I help?”
“I’m here for you” This is a good one because it is simple and straight to the point. We don’t always have the answers. We don’t always understand. The person does not always share all the details & we may not have the full picture or story BUT we can be there. We can be accessible & we can figure it out with them. Allow them to be vulnerable. There doesn’t always need to be words after I’m here for you… maybe sometimes that is enough.
“I’m here if you need me for whatever, whenever, however” My understanding now is that people who are suffering with some struggles DON’T always reach out. Those going through tough times don’t always say they are. Even if you ask them, they may even lie & say that they are fine. This could be for a number of reasons but the most important thing is that they know that you are there. Keep checking in. Stay aware & stay connected. To my sister I would say, “Stayc, I’m around babe. For whatever, whenever, however to talk about whatever. I see you out there living & I want to be a part of your everyday…”
“You don’t have to talk. Let’s just drink tea” My sister loved tea. Whenever she popped in, she would always ask me if I was making tea. Over a cup of tea, the worlds’ problems can dissipate. Over a cup of tea, sometimes defences can be broken down. Over a cup of tea, gentle words can be shared. Just inviting the person over for a cup of tea allows you to connect & feel out the situation at hand & maybe, just maybe break through.
“How is your spirit doing?” I could have been direct! I could have just gone straight in there & asked that question. My spirit didn’t do too well when I was going through my major life changes. I know how extremely hard it can be. Maybe if I had been direct, she would have been direct with her reply. Maybe she would have said…” My spirit isn’t doing too well…” and then we could have taken it from there. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions. There is enough help out there so that you do not have to go at it alone. I have included some helpline numbers BUT please reach out if you are needing help, a shoulder, a friend, advice… whatever.
“I won’t give up on you” I don’t know what was going on in my sisters head. There were a few areas of her life that seemed to be difficult. We will never fully understand or know the full truth. Yes, some of it was through her own choices & some of it was her own doing. She felt that it was time to give up. On herself. On life. On her situation. She didn’t think that it could be fixed…. Or she would have asked me to help her. Maybe she thought we would be disappointed in her? Maybe she thought we would not understand her struggles? If she were here today I would say to her, “ Munkee, I know that you have greatness inside you & I won’t give up until we unlock that together. There is NOTHING that we can’t handle together. I’m not giving up so don’t you give up either, we are in this together”
“Is there anything I can do?” She would probably have said no. She would probably have said she is fine. She would probably have started something then trailed off as she sometimes did, losing interest or getting stuck in her own thoughts as I know realise may have been the case. I would keep probing. I would ask if there is anything I can do to just make things easier. Simpler.
“Is there anything you need?” My sister hardly ever asked for anything. She was one of the most independent people I knew. She was always busy doing some wild, crazy thing that scared even her lol! I took that for granted. When she did ask me for things, I think I was hard on her. I should have gone easier on her. Realised that we grew up in different generations & that we had different strengths. Offer this gesture to people even if you are not sure what it might be that they would need. Sometimes we are unsure & we don’t know the answer. It is okay to not know. You can figure out the how once they tell you what it is that they need from you. You can figure it out together.
“I’ll go with you.” I have heard that someone suffering from depression may be unwilling to ask for help for fear of having to do it alone. In my head I think WHY wouldn’t you not ask for help when you don’t actually WANT to do it alone but not all of us think the same way. I sometimes don’t ask for help because of fear of being rejected. Some people don’t ask for help because they are proud. Some are shy. Some are scared. Maybe my sister just was afraid to deal with certain things & was afraid to tell me that she COULDN’T do it by herself. If you know that someone might be going through a tough time, tell them that you are willing to go with them to seek help, to pick something up, to sort something out. Ask them if they need you to go & assure them that you are willing to assist.
“You are not alone.” Loneliness is apparently a common symptom of depression. Maybe she felt alone, even though she wasn’t alone. Maybe she felt lonely even though she was surrounded by people. Maybe she felt like she deserved to be alone because the people she wanted to be with were not available when she needed them. Maybe she felt like no-one really needed her even though we all loved her. I would say to her…“Stayc, I know that right now may feel like a lonely day, moment, place, situation, time BUT you are not alone. Im one call, whatsapp, car ride, voicenote, DM, post, conversation, hug, piece of advice, suggestion, visit, outing, trip, look, embrace away…”
“You are NOT a burden.” I now know that 5 friends of mine suffer from depression. My sisters death has opened a door that I never actually walked through before. I now stand directly in this doorway & I have an awareness that will hopefully continue to grow. I am by no means an expert but i am learning…. Daily! Apparently people with depression often feel like a burden. If my sister were alive I would be direct with her & say, “YOU, Stacey Assure are not a burden! You are a wonderful, beautiful unique human specimen with so much potential & I admire you!”
“You can get through this.” It is very important to NOT compare & reference something from your own life. This is something that is very hard for me to do or not do. I empathise by looking into my own situation & seeing the connections. This has always been how I have operated. I believe that we are connected, learning & growing together. I feel like it says, ‘if I could do it then so can you!’ I feel like it says, ‘we all go through some tough shit & we are going to be ok.’ I feel like it says ‘I am open to understanding because I have been there…’ BUT I also realise now that this is not always helpful. I am learning about not comparing. It is hard for me to do. Instead, to remind them that they can get through this. That we may not have all the answers right there & then but that it doesn’t matter. If my sister were still here, I would say, “ I believe that you CAN get through this!”
“You’re not losing your mind & you are not crazy.” VERY OFTEN, even clients come in telling me that they feel like they might be going crazy! My sister never asked for help but struggled on her own so I cannot imagine how she might have felt like SHE was losing her mind or losing herself! In the midst of a struggle one DOES feel like that! I would assure my sister that she isn’t crazy! We process things differently. We see things through our own filters & no 2 are the same. How you FEEL things may not be how the next person feels things. Always try to understand that. I am trying to understand that & I am learning everyday.
“Its OK to not be OK, we all have varying degrees of NOT OK days” No one should ever feel guilty about feeling sad, ill, down, lost, anxious, depressed, alone, forgotten, fearful, traumatised etc etc etc. This is life & YES, sometimes it sucks to not feel great. People go through hard stuff. People struggle. You are able to get through it though & be assured that you can overcome it! It’s totally OK to admit when you are not okay & to say that. Those who love you will still love you & they will still be there when you are ready to start healing! We may not have all the answers & we may not get it right every time but we are not going anywhere…
“Promise me that you are not going to do anything to hurt yourself” I would CUT straight to the chase and say the things that are hard to say! My sisters death has made me alot less fearful. I have learned to speak my mind & ask the hard questions & apologise & get to the point. Maybe that is not right but for now it’s what I have. Being honest is paramount to me. Being open and upfront. Hurting oneself does not only have to be suicide. Hurting oneself could be harmful behaviour like not being honest, binge drinking, taking drugs, medicating to numb, eating unhealthily/ eating your feelings, putting yourself in harms way, toxic relationships, aggressive outbursts, acting out basically. Kids & adults alike do this. We all do! If someone is acting out ASK them if they need to talk about how they are FEELING. Often acting out is due to something in.
“Let’s talk to someone who can give us advice or offer us alternatives” I would not have been able to coach my sister. I am too close to the situation to have ben impartial. I would have had my own blindspots & our family dynamic to contend with BUT i have friends & professionals on call that would have been able to assist her. I could have been there as a sister & as a friend. There is a multitude of resources & people out there who are capable & willing & it does not always have to cost money. I know that finance is often an issue for people BUT let me assure you that help is out there!
“Promise me that you will keep on trying” It is vitally important, I have realised to assure people that there are options out there & that they must never give up trying. Finding the right fit for you, the right theory or motivation, the right treatment or medication, the right lifestyle changes or transformation plans, the right advice or mentorship, the right programme or group, the right friend or family member to assist, the right therapist or life coach is not necessarily an easy decision. YOU ARE ALLOWED to be confused & you are allowed to take your time & your are allowed to change your mind a few times BUT please, please, please DONT give up! I would say to my sister, “Babe! Promise me that you WILL KEEP ON TRYING!? Promise me!”
“We will figure it out & I trust God to carry us through this together!” I am now at the point where I finally understand that the process is complicated & hard & messy & painful & people hide & pretend & isolate & give up & lose hope & overcome & thrive & push & pull & reach out & disappear & cry & laugh. That some of us are easily motivated & others not, some are easily angered & others not, some are easily hurt & others not. That some need just a chat, some need a plan, some need a vision, some need a therapist, some need medicine & some just need a hug. There is NO RIGHT or wrong. I have faith that if you are reading this today, it has helped you even in just the smallest way & that really is the point of it all! Of this life! My life!
If my sister were here I would say, “Babe… the sun will come out tomorrow. Whether the day is rainy or shiny, cold or hot… I love you! I will love you till the end of the earth & I KNOW that we will figure it out & God will carry us through this…. Together….” But she isn’t here so I say it to myself… and to anyone else that will listen!
There is help out there! I have attached a link to SADAG but know that even if you just need to talk to someone… I am here.