Dear Sheryl and Adam,
Thank you. You don’t know me. You may never read this. Whether you do or not, I needed to express my gratitude. Reading your book, Option B, is quite possibly one of the best things I have done for myself this past year.
My world was turned upside down in August of 2016 when I learned that my best friend had passed away. It was that stereotypical call in the middle of the night from a friend who had heard ” something happened” to our friend. I immediately jumped into investigation mode – my knee-jerk reaction. I remained rational and calm hoping that the words were just a rumor, or that someone misinterpreted a message. I finally settled on if something did happen that whatever it was would be something we could deal with, that this was a road bump in an otherwise normal road. I received confirmation from my friend’s brother that he was, in fact, gone. The words he spoke didn’t make sense to me. It was like he was describing someone else, not my friend, not his brother.
Looking back, I’m not sure my response was normal, but then again when a bullet loaded with tragedy is shot into your life, there’s really no “correct” or “best” way to act. I may have been in shock, denial, or maybe both. I wrapped up the phone call in a matter-of-fact fashion and began to call our friends to let them know. My best friend was gone and I found out by a phone call. I was about to do the same to so many others. I would leave the nights of my friends once calm and ordinary into an explosion of despair, shock, and tears.
Between each phone call, I uttered, “This can’t be happening. This isn’t happening.” I’ll never forget the shrill in my mom’s voice when I called her at work to tell her. She would come home to stay with me and would hold my hand when I broke down telling the news to my friend, Erin. Luckily for me, Erin was in Scotland. Halfway across the world sucks, except for a time difference that allowed us to have a conversation that didn’t jolt her from her sleep.
But it was when I told Erin the news about Matt that I finally broke. “I just can’t believe I’m never going to see him again,” I sobbed as tears soaked the sides of my face. Erin, Matt and I lived together our senior year of college. She called me Matty (she’s the only person that does) and told me she loves me. That simple reassurance gave me the momentary peace in order to get some sleep. That night the darkness of my room would hypnotize me into a slumber of a handful of hours before being jolted awake once again. This time it was piercing. My eyes were heavy and my face damp. And so began the phone calls of friends who awoke to my “Call me when you see this” text. It was 7:03 a.m. and I thought for a minute that this was a dream. But by the second round of my ringtone singing its tune, it all came flooding back and one by one I informed more friends of Matt’s passing.
These were the first eight hours. I would take a few days off from work and spend those days gathering photos of Matt with all of his friends – a monumental task because everyone who crossed Matt’s path instantaneously became his friend.
Next came Matt’s services and as I drove myself there I crossed many places that defined our friendship. Every red light brought with it memories of nights planking on Transit Road or midnight bowling, or the occasional restaurants we would stop when we had nothing better to do. I got out of the car and could not move. I was frozen not knowing how one says goodbye to their best friend this way. It was always a “see ya later” or “hit me up if you want to chill.” There was always a continuation, an expectation that we would see each other again. This was final.
But there were many moments of hope as I would see friends from near and far all reminiscing about the best of times with Matt. I smiled. In this moment of feeling my life was burning away to ash, I remember feeling good that Matt is my best friend and those years had more fulfilling memories than most get in a lifetime. But I felt robbed. Stolen from me and so many others were the continuation of those moments. It was as if a rope bridge connecting us to the future possibilities was suddenly severed. We are all now falling into a ravine we thought we were above, that we could cross over unscathed.
Soon after Matt’s funeral, I began to feel the rug of comfort pulled out from underneath me. Friends and family would check in daily to make sure I was okay. This was a weird feeling because in many ways I’m the helper, not the one needing help. But I began to see how many people were resuming their normal lives and I felt like I was stuck in a haze of desolation. Getting out of bed was like climbing a mountain. Not breaking down was like trying to blockade flood waters. I began to drown myself in work and let myself crack when no one was around. I’m not sure why. Maybe it felt safe this way, maybe I was in denial. Whatever the case, this was my mode of coping. Little did I know it was doing me more harm than good. I’m sure I thought others were doing a lot better than I was and so I felt I needed to look and act like I was okay, even if I wasn’t feeling that way.
As I felt the daily check-ins slowly drift away, I began to feel alone in my grief. I felt like a wall was building isolating me from the people I cared about. My nights were sleepless, my work became robotic. I felt that I would be alone in this forever. My desolation would boil over at points and I would crumble in front of friends, and sometimes family. That was when I decided I needed to channel my grief in as healthy a manner as I could.
I began to journal again, although I wish I would have journaled more throughout this process. I, too, find journaling a sacred experience. I find it my therapy, my way of refocusing. I find it my entertainment and my great escape. For me, writing is like breathing. But when I was forced to confront my friend’s death, it was like I had to teach myself to breathe all over again. Putting pen to paper was painful. It was acknowledging the loss and the current and very real new normal I was in.
I imagine that the pain was like having a limb reattached – when the blood flows through the appendage, the pain is unbearable, but normalcy can resume shortly after. To get to that normalcy, however, it hurts. It’s never quite the same, but there is some stability that awaits.
I found the courage to seek out formal therapy only after many months of a friend’s prodding. I found some much-needed perspective to seek some objectivity and clarity around the many emotions I felt. I began to see how grief was skewing my perceptions of experiences and it helped me get back to cherishing a wonderful friendship, and not allowing death to tarnish that.
But what kickstarted my own desire to heal and climb above the hurt, and despair was your book. Option B helped me see that through the tidal waves of regret, guilt, anger, sadness, frustration, and many other emotions that have crashed over me, I am still standing. I am resilient. I don’t always feel that way or begin to trust in that. Some days are much kinder than others. But as I got lost in the pages of this book, I realized that while life does continue ticking on, there is still so much to be grateful for. I grieve so deeply because I have been blessed by an amazing friendship. For the days I feel broken, I can still see Matt’s smiling face, his prodding to do something epic – even though our adventures were more ordinary they were nevertheless unforgettable.
Option B showed me that I wasn’t alone and that there was still such beauty and joy left to experience.
The chapter that particularly hit me was on recapturing joy. Like was written, the thought of being happy again, much less experiencing joy seemed like it would never happen. That was until I met my new niece. Her name is Victoria (Tori for short). She’s absolutely amazing. As I write about her, I see that she has given me hope for the future. She has allowed me to believe in the future again. It’s not to say I no longer feel angry or sad, but I do feel hopeful for life’s possibilities once again. I’m looking forward to what awaits, instead of dreading how I will make it through.
Thank you for this book. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is never easy to open your heart and your wounds for others. But you have given me a sense of growth, and a sense of vision. Most of all you let me see there are plenty of options that are left to live a spectacular life. It will be far different than what I ever expected and will be missing a very important character. But I feel like I have a new found sense to keep writing and to keep living. My appreciation exceeds this blog, and I want to thank you on behalf of the thousands of people who you gave hope to for their future.
Have you read Option B? If not get a copy on Amazon by clicking here.