Today is my uncle’s third deathniversary.
Of all my extended family, my Uncle B and I were the closest. He was incredibly sensitive, kind, hysterically funny and very intuitive when it came to feelings of others, particularly mine. My brother spent a year in Iraq and B remains the only person I’ve ever talked to about it in depth. He knew how scared I was, how badly I was handling it, and some of the thoughts I had about it that really bothered me. He went out of his way to check on me with phone calls, emails or funny forwards everyday of his deployment. My parents didn’t even do that; it meant the world to me.
Three years and two weeks ago, unbeknownst to most of my family, he moved in with my grandmother while trying to work out some extreme marital difficulties. Believe me when I say most of us had no idea. I still have emails from those weeks where NOTHING is off. No weird tone, no signs of depression, no mention of any problems he was experiencing with his wife.
Three years ago this morning, my grandmother went to water aerobics. We have put together this much: around 11:10, B called his attorney and got devastating news. Around 11:35, another uncle had a missed call. My grandmother returned home later and found B in her garage. Self inflicted gunshot.
What happened after that I hope that none of you ever experience. Reactions that ran the emotional gamet. Mine was extreme rage. Not at my uncle, mind you, but at his wife. Anger so pervasive that I would lay in bed at night unable to sleep and so overwhelming that I had a hard time breathing. My dad wouldn’t allow me to attend the funeral because I couldn’t promise I wouldn’t make a scene if his wife showed up. And relationships with her torn beyond repair to this day: imagine two separate obituaries and two separate funerals. In the same town. Because when you are trying to keep a suicide quiet, that is a sure fire way to fly under the radar, right?
Imagine what that did to my RA. I was newly diagnosed and newly on meds. My symptoms went from a 4/10 to an 9/10 overnight. Anxiety and sleep medications interfered with the efficacy of the RA meds. And I was in no way, shape or form even pretending to try to take care of myself.
I guess what I want to say is that I know as a part of our experience, we do experience depression and anxiety while we’re trying to manage our symptoms. I hope we all know that experiencing it and seeking help for it is not a sign of weakness. Actually, I think it’s an extraordinary show of strength. I’ve done it and I hope if you are ever in that boat that you do too. I was pleased to learn that there are counselors specializing in pretty much every area- I’ve been to both grief counseling and one that specializes in chronic illness. Well worth the investment!
We’re all strong people here and we’re doing all we can do to live with our respective illnesses. I think it’s so important that we’ve found each other and continue to talk and support each other. Knowing that you are not alone is a huge thing.
I wish everyone had that. I wish my uncle had that.
I still look for him at holidays and family functions. From what I hear, that will never go away. I still cry about it if I think about it too long and I will probably never talk to my “aunt” again, especially since she hasn’t allowed my grandmother to see my uncle’s young son since his death. I think that’s shittier than shitty. I choose to think about him everytime I hear an AC/DC song- I did that because it’s one thing that I don’t associate with the pain of losing him. And yes, there’s a GREAT story behind that. I miss him and love him like crazy and am incredibly thankful for the limited time that I had with him.
And I’m very thankful for all of you.