Overwhelm


I have been missing in action. It's been too long since my last post. I know. I tell myself every day, "you have to sit down and write." It's even set as a daily reminder on my phone. Every day. And yet... nothing happens.


I am in overwhelm. I have been there for about a month. On January 11th, the younger sister of my son's best friend in the world, chose to end her life and in that moment, time. just. stopped.


A neighbor texted to ask if I knew what was going on because the previous night a police car had been parked in front of our friends' home for hours. They are our backyard neighbors, so my son and I walked over to make sure everything was okay. As we left our patio, I could see people sitting by their pool. Not an unusual occurrence on a nice day in Florida but I could tell instantly that the energy felt off. Something was very wrong, but nothing could have prepared me for this new reality. The air fled from my lungs as I tried to process what I’d been told. We hugged our friends tightly as they struggled to share more information, visibly willing themselves to say the most painful of words out loud. She was dead... she took her own life... It was suicide... And as long as I live, I will never forget the anguish in her mother's eyes as she looked into mine, pleading with me to somehow make this not be true.

We stayed with them for a long time, listening, hugging, breathing, still in total shock and when we finally came back home, I sat on my front porch and bawled. I cried big ugly, fat sobbing tears over the loss of this young woman and the little girl we’d known all her life. We shared the news with my older son and knew I would need to tell my parents as well. For close to two decades our families had shared birthdays, barbeques, New Year's Eve parties, fireworks, hurricanes, dog sitting and more. There were more boo boos and band-aids than I can count (mostly Dylan's) and "little sister" had been part of it all. So close in age to the boys, she was rarely seen as a tag-a-long but rather a full-fledged member of the crew. Whatever they were up to, she was there, and Dylan thought of her as his sister and friend.

It's been little more than a month and she continues to occupy my thoughts on a daily basis. A smart, funny, beautiful, athletic girl, brought to the brink after one semester of college in this frustrating (among other things) time of Covid. I'm aware the heartbreak I feel in my personal grief journey, mourning a young woman I've known since she wore diapers, is nothing compared with the agony her parents, siblings and extended family are feeling and, as a medium I believe there will be a time when I can help. For now, none of us are ready. I cannot be a good medium while still enmeshed in grief of my own and mediumship is better utilized once the sharpness of death has been somewhat numbed by the passage of time.

Every day, I am grateful for our slightly unconventional lifestyle and my nocturnal ways. The blessing of which was made very clear during this time as our home became an escape for Dylan's "brother from another mother" where he could seek refuge at the end of the night. Our boys always know, the kids, their friends etc., are always welcome here. I'd much rather be the mom at the house where "everything happens" than the mom at home wondering what was going on and, when things went quiet across the yard, Dylan's pal would come tromping this way. Some moments saw him pacing the floor, at others he was crashed out on the couch, and the inevitable tears enveloped promises to make his life mean something, for her.

We listened. We hugged him. fed him and created a haven where he didn’t have to "be strong" for his family. He could just be. As night after night saw our lights on well past 3am, I was so grateful for my unorthodox life so we could continue to be there for whatever and whenever was needed.

There is no one way to grieve and especially after these past two years, so many of us are just "grieved out." We've lost friends to covid, to politics, fell out of touch during quarantine or working from home and we're even grieving the “way things used to be,” before the pandemic changed the world. For many, this time has been a gift but, for so many of our young people, the pressure, loneliness and uncertainty have just been too much. And while they are technically adults, they simply do not have the life skills or wisdom that come with time and the lessons learned over decades of simply being alive on this planet.

We cannot continue to ignore the toll this is taking on our communities, and I implore you to stop and take a good look around. When Dylan was home with us during the original shut-down period, he was angry, lonely, bored and frustrated. Frankly, he was often a bear to be around, but we understood that his whole life, his plans, goals and what he believed to be possible was all just scooped out from under him and tossed to the side. But he was safe. He here and we could see him and know what was going on.

And for whatever it was worth to him at the time, we were there to help. But now our kids are back at school and they're on their own again, trying to figure out how to pick up where they left off, and they need our help. Young people don't have the same ability to shift gears when the world is screaming at them to PIVOT (yes, I hear Ross in my head as well.) They need to know they're not alone, that someone cares and is listening. They need to know that asking for help is a sign of courage, NOT weakness and that even as adults, we may need help too.


Often, we are struggling with overwhelm long before we even identify that concept within ourselves. If you come to that place, where it all feels like too much, please, be kind to yourself. Step back from obligations or commitments if you can and ask for help. In my darkest days, I could not lean into this concept, that help was not weakness. I felt a blinding certainty that I had to walk this path alone, that no one could be trusted and, I could not have been more wrong. In the years since, I have learned what true and enduring friendship looks like, what honesty and trust can feel like and that I was never walking my path alone at all. So many, alive and in spirit, have shown me that our community is stronger when we walk together with love and compassion. Unfortunately, our twenty-somethings, in trying to prove themselves capable in the world, are too often missing out on this lesson and if I could share this knowledge, and save them a walk through the darkness, I would shout it from the rooftops but, none of us can do it alone.


As my older son Eli is fond of saying, "you can't raise me to be an independent free-thinking adult and then fuss at me when I act like it" and, as infuriating as it is when he says it, he's right. The trouble is, they’re constantly bombarded with propaganda telling them what they're doing, thinking or being is wrong. They are the next generation, the future leaders of our communities and our nation and they need to know we've got their back. Frankly, they deserve nothing less and so much more.

And in states like Florida, Texas, Nebraska and others, where legislators continue to push through bills aimed at curtailing what our kids can read or think or who they choose to be, young people need our support now more than ever before. Real support, that listens, that cares and reminds them they are not alone. Support that shows them that who and what they want to be is not wrong and that they are loved No Matter What.

If you know a young person in trouble, please talk to them, encourage them to open up and share what's going on. They can also text TALK to 741741 any time of the day or night and get help. If you are the parent of a 15-24-year-old, look into their eyes and genuinely ask, “how are you doing?”

If you know parents of young adults, ask them too. And then listen, quietly, without judgement or “fixing.” Just Listen. Too many people are living in “overwhelm” and, while we may not be able to fix any or all, coming together to share the journey can make a world of difference. Knowing we are not “in it” alone can be the opening for someone to seek the help that’s needed. Depression and anxiety thrive in the dark, shrouded in shame, and we do well to shine the light of love and compassion in every direction we can.


Please consider following me on Medium too! sharidworkinsmith.medium.com


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