On Justification

Dear Daniel,

Nobody should have to justify why they don’t want to attend a family event if they’ve lost a family member. I don’t care if our family never celebrated the 4th of July or Easter wasn’t that important to us. The fact is it’s still a holiday where you’re supposed to be spending time with your family. And it’s still painful because I can’t spend it with you. I don’t need to create a case for why I shouldn’t have to go if I don’t want to go.

On Being Pushed

Dear Daniel,

I think it’s good to be pushed and to push yourself. Part of moving on has been facing triggers (like listening to music you liked) and doing things I don’t want to do (spending holidays with family) because I want to be able to do those things again (mostly for others’ sakes). But sometimes it’s too much, and it’s okay to say no and push back. In the pursuit of making others happy, I sometimes forget to take care of myself. My hope and goal is that one day these things become a non-issue. I still miss you and wish you were here.

On My Brother-in-Law’s Wedding

Dear Daniel,

A couple months ago, I went to my future brother-in-law’s wedding. I noticed I was feeling anxious, but thought nothing of it and hadn’t thought of you until over halfway through the reception. The pain was sudden and searing – and more painful than anything I had felt in a really long time. It’s obvious that this type of family event would be exceptionally hard for me, and I should’ve seen it coming but I didn’t. I had to let my fiancé see the most dark and vulnerable side of me. It was an awful experience and makes me nervous about my wedding and future family weddings.

On My Wedding

Dear Daniel,

I got engaged a while ago. The majority of the time, I am extremely happy and excited for the wedding. I push down the thoughts of you not being by my side and how you haven’t even met and will never know my fiance. It devastates me and I cry whenever I really think about it. I can picture you there, smiling and having a good time. I know you would’ve been happy for me. I am incredibly sad that you won’t be there and that you’re still gone. I miss and love you always.

On Marathon Training

Dear Daniel,

I ran my first marathon a couple months ago. Most would think completing the marathon is the accomplishment, but I’m more thrilled that I was able to even train for it. I found a post I made 3 years ago complaining about my health and how frustrating it was that I seemed to be sick every other week. Depression would knock me sideways and I was unable to work out consistently. My training wasn’t perfect, and I still had to fight through funks, but I stuck with it for 5 months. It’s nice to know I’m still making progress. I miss and love you.

On Anxiety

Dear Daniel,

Over the years I’ve become better at recognizing when I’ve slipped into depression. What I haven’t realized is I also slip into anxiety. It feels like a less intense version of a panic attack. I get overwhelmed by everything and I can’t think clearly. It seems like I’m going through less depressive phases, but more anxiety-filled phases and I don’t know why this is happening. But like panic attacks, the feelings eventually subside. And I think recognizing the anxiety is a start to fixing it. I miss talking to you and wish you were still here.

On Aging

Dear Daniel,

I’ve noticed I have quite a few strands of gray hair – more than I think someone my age should have. It doesn’t bother me too much, it just makes me think of those before-and-after pictures of presidents and how their job takes a toll on them. Your suicide has taken a toll on me. I miss you and wish you were still here.

On Judgement

Dear Daniel,

I’d like to pretend it doesn’t bother me when people judge me for not moving on as fast as they think I should. Everybody moves on at their own pace, and the people doing the judging don’t have a clue anyway. But it does bother me and it hurts. It wasn’t even said directly to me, but just knowing about it makes me angry. The world could use more of your empathy. I wish you were still here.

On December

Dear Daniel,

The holidays continue to be a struggle. During December I feel like the worst version of myself. I’ve known that I get easily stressed or depressed, but I noticed this year that I also become insecure. I become insecure about myself and my relationships. I start to feel like I’m not connecting with people, that my friendships aren’t strong, and feel myself withdraw and become less social. I start to question what I’m doing with my life and then pivot to thinking well, none of it really matters anyway. I know this will eventually pass. I love and miss you.

Year 5

Dear Daniel,

This was the first year your death started to feel a little distant. During meltdowns, the pain still feels very fresh, but I’m having less of those. This year I even found myself excited for the future (moving back to AZ, buying a house, a future wedding). I don’t know when the shift happened, but I’ve gone from just surviving to starting to live again. A happy realization, but even as I’m writing this, I’m shoving down the pain and sadness from missing you and wishing things were different. I’ll never stop missing you and wishing you were here. Love you always.