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Hole In My Heart

Two weeks ago, I donated 12 bags of my sister's clothing and shoes to a battered women's shelter here in Denver. The man helping me unload my car casually asked if I had 'cleaned out my closet?' only to realize halfway through his sentence that I was crying. It is tough to explain the sudden onset of tears to someone but usually the statement, "my sister died," speaks for itself.

“So that Sunday, six months exactly to the day she took her life, I summoned the strength to load up my car up, and on Monday I drove it down.”

I've known since the day after she died that we would donate her things to a battered women's shelter. I had a conversation with my other two sisters, while standing in her closet, deciding what to do with all of her belongings. You see, we didn't have time to plan for this. My sister was not sick for a very long time. There was no preparation done mentally, physically, emotionally. My sister committed suicide on February 20th of

this year - almost seven months ago now. No warning (not immediately, anyway), no note, no nothing. So we made a decision in that moment, amidst the devastation and overwhelming grief, that all of her clothing and shoes would be donated to a cause she held dear to her heart. Seven months have passed and I hadn't been able to bring myself to do it.

In the days after she died, I spent hours packing her belongings and moving them to my house. I did 16 loads of laundry in three days, making sure all of her clothes were clean. In hindsight, I don't know why. There was no rush. I just wanted to DO something. Some days I wish I had never washed her smell out of the clothes. Everything has been sitting in trash bags in my basement for 6 months. I called and found out how to donate, when the facility was open, got the address and looked up directions, and still couldn't do it. I finally made a plan two weeks ago to load up my car and bring everything to the donation site. I still couldn't do it. So that Sunday, six months exactly to the day she took her life, I summoned the strength to load up my car up, and on Monday I drove it down.

I cried the entire time we unloaded the car, cried on the way home, and cried throughout the day. I already had to let go of my sister, and her clothing seemed like an extension of her. These pieces of fabric held my sister when nobody else did. They were the closest possible things to her person, every single day. It was symbolic to let it go, and I had been avoiding that symbolism for the very same reason. I do not want to let her go. Some days, it still doesn't seem real.

I've written countless blogs about my sister's suicide and been unable to publish any of them. I can't seem to put my thoughts into words. But guys, this is important. The daily struggles faced by so many with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, chemical imbalances - MENTAL ILLNESS! - can seem overwhelming and unbearable for some. People often condemn the one's who finally succumb to their feelings and leave this world by their own hand. I've heard the term "selfish" too many times to count. The problem is not in those reactions, after the fact, but lies within our reactions and responses to mental health while people are alive and struggling with it. Outwardly, people may seem fine but there are usually signs that they have been struggling. It can be difficult to understand what someone is going through if you haven't experienced it, but what people really need is empathy, not sympathy.

In the days following Chris Cornell's suicide, and then Chester Bennington two months later, I saw countless posts on social media from those who were devastated by their deaths. Yes, these two deaths were shocking and sudden, but both had a long history of depression and addiction, which often go hand-in-hand. If you open your eyes and look at their behavior, their deaths were not as unpredictable as they may seem on the surface. That is what we all need to do - open our eyes. I've received dozens of messages from people that I know who have been directly impacted by suicide, and I had no idea. Friends who have lost fathers, brothers, friends. Why didn't I know this about these people, my friends? How is it possible that people close to me have gone through this unbearable pain of losing someone to suicide, and I didn't hear about it? Because people don't talk about suicide enough. A celebrity hangs himself or overdoses and it is headline news for a week, then it slowly fades away again. We cannot let it become the norm or fade from memory as soon as TMZ stops talking about it. We have to keep talking about suicide until it isn't a topic that people fear. We have to let people know that they are not alone in their struggles, and that they do not have to suffer in silence.

I'm not saying anyone could have saved my sister. I believe that she would have eventually taken her life, even if things had gone differently that weekend. It was not because she did not want to live. It was because she was sick, and never received proper care for her mental illness. Perhaps, never received the support she needed from those around her. Looking back, it is easy to see the signs leading up to her death, and wonder what I could have done differently. The grief of losing her is crippling some days, and other days it is overshadowed by the guilt. Why didn't I listen to her cries for help? Why didn't I take her more seriously? Why didn't SOMEONE help her?

In the end though, we are human, and the only thing we can do it try. So I'm asking you all to please be kind to one another. There are people you know, struggling daily to survive, and you have no clue. September is Suicide Prevention Month, and this week is National Suicide Prevention Week, which involves every single person on this planet. If you don't think you know anyone who is suicidal, or has been, or has attempted suicide, you're wrong. If you think this doesn't relate to you and nothing you do will matter, you're wrong. Reach out if you think someone needs help. Sometimes, a kind word to a stranger, or friend, can make a world of difference to that person. Conversely, a hateful comment or action can push someone over the edge. Please choose wisely.

On September 23rd, my family and friends will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Walk in Denver as Team BCC, which are initials of three people we've loved and lost to suicide. The BCC Evolution is a project created to help bring awareness to suicide, as well as provide resources for those struggling, and those who have lost loved ones to suicide. If you'd like to support our cause, please consider donating to Team BCC for the Out of the Darkness Walk by purchasing a BCC Evolution bracelet for $1. All proceeds go toward suicide prevention. Please message me for details or to purchase a bracelet. If you wish to share this blog, please include #forCarrieLyn in your post.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please call 1-800-273-8255 or Text "GO" to 741741 for assistance 24/7. Someone is always listening, and even on days when it feels hopeless, YOU are loved.

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