Whether we have self-care tools or not, the only thing that matters when we are feeling a lack of connection with ourselves, and others, is CONNECTION.
My brother, Aaron, took his life on May 28, 2009. The day before I received the news, he called and told me everything was going to be ok and not to worry. He told me to have fun on my trip celebrating my graduation. He said when I got back, we would plan a camping trip. He told me he loved me. I would soon realize that this call was his way of trumping my inner knowing and his way of saying goodbye.
The truth is for as long as I can remember, I always worried about my brother and his well-being. I observed as he navigated his stages of life. At times he would appear to be too cool to care about connecting with others, but always had that one friend who understood him and was able to weave in and through life with. Then there were times he seemed utterly alone and would disappear down a path with drugs. Then there were the stretches of time he devoted to cleaning up his messes by trying to repair the relationships he helped destroy, recommitting to a drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyle, and starting a new job. With every stage he weaved in and out of, I believe all he truly wanted was connection. I believe this because he was able to connect with me like no one else could. There was a deep understanding between us on all levels. We let out every ounce of weird and silly with each other. I relished in our laughter. Our silent moments were filled with comfort. He was sentimental and enjoyed traditions as much as me, if not more. When I slipped into darkness and felt alone, unseen, unheard, misunderstood, unworthy of love, he was the one person I felt could cut through all the illusions and connect to the truth of my being. While those around him experienced unfathomable times he reminded them they deserved forgiveness, to believe in themselves and to keep moving through life. He did this by holding space for them without effort. I am grateful I was able to reciprocate by listening as he would reflect on his past choices and how he hurt himself, others and what he would do differently knowing what he does now. We always received each other with unconditional love.
Every year or so he would remind me that he knew he was going to live a short life and that he was ok with that. I’d listen but would also speak up and share my love, concern and how much I believed in him. I knew my love, or anyone else’s, could not save him. I encouraged him to embrace his creativity and try new things with the intention of strengthening his relationship with himself and simultaneously with others. When the positive streaks got challenged, I’d watch him loose connection with himself again. This pattern continued throughout his life until the day he chose to end his life.
Aaron reminds me that life is filled with ongoing challenges and that it’s up to me what I make of those experiences. I can choose to learn, grow, evolve or I can give up on myself and life. I can forgive myself and others or I can live in pain and regret. I can choose to commit to myself and well-being everyday or I can let life happen to me. I can choose to nurture my connection with myself, or I can rely on others for my inner fulfillment. I can learn to adapt to life’s changes and make the necessary changes to tending to myself or I can resist the unfolding.
I can confidently say that every time my brother got through a challenging experience, he would eventually focus on himself and his well-being and began to enjoy life again. He would share all the good he was creating for himself and how it was affecting others in positive ways.
Feelings are temporary. Thought patterns can be replaced with new ones. All of this takes effort, and we are worth the effort. We are worth strengthening our connection with ourselves and with others.
If you or someone you know is need of connection, make the effort right now.
There are a million and one ways we can tend to ourselves. I recommend tuning in and trusting the first thig that comes to you and take action. That might be getting outside, playing, or listening to music, moving your body, eating something nutritious, drinking a cup of refreshing water, taking a shower, jumping in the ocean, journaling, singing, watching something funny, calling and/or meeting someone who will hold space for you, etc.
If you know of someone who is going through a challenging time pick up the phone, stop by and say hello, listen, and spend time together. We don’t need to have all the answers. Our presence and attention are the answer when someone is feeling disconnected from themselves and their life.
The Jed Foundation: https://jedfoundation.org
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline