On the evening of August 28th, at the end of my husband’s 39th birthday, we got a call letting us know that his son, my beloved stepson, had been killed in an automobile accident. In that moment, the world stopped. Our world stopped, again.
It is WAY too soon for me to really write or reflect much on this tragic and befuddling loss. But I will say that in the moment I found out, it felt like my Andy-grief was blown up into the atmosphere, like the top blown off a volcano. Not gone or replaced or anything like that, just displaced and sort of far away. And everything else is just SO intense.
Every day is a day to get up and choose not to go down the rabbit hole. To put one foot in front of the other and keep trekking. To focus on the love in our lives and to be grateful for every second we have with those that are still here. Every day we miss him and mourn him and can’t believe he is gone.
And now, somehow, October is upon us. And yesterday marked the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week. The same week we observe the 2nd anniversary of Andy’s death.
I keep in touch with a very small group of people on Facebook. I intentionally made it small so that it would feel safe and like community for me. The following is what I posted tonight announcing my project for this week:
“I am taking some time this week to bring my focus and attention back to the young man at the center of this photo. My sweet and sorely-missed baby brother…our other beloved angel, Andy.
We are just a week away from the 2nd anniversary of his death and also, interestingly enough, right at the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Strange timing? Or strangely perfect? Either way, this week I am going to stand up on my tiny little soapbox and do my best to spread some awareness. While also stopping to remember Andy. And also sharing with you a little more about this journey (now incredibly complicated and compound) of grief and healing.
Some of you may have noticed that we did not hold the 2nd annual Friendship Festival yesterday as we had planned. I am sure you can understand our reasons, but we hope you will all still consider joining us in February 2014 for this VERY special event that will be all about love, compassion and “creating a kinder and safer world for those living with mental illness.” That is the vision of the newly created 501c3 “The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation.” We are OFFICIAL!
Now back to my brother and his story since he is the inspiration for it all. This family Christmas photo was taken just a few months after he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It was a shaky and uncertain time. A holiday of second chances and unspoken truth. We had no idea that less than one year later he would be dead. That he would fight like hell to regain balance and maintain his dignity, but to no avail. That ultimately, he would succumb to a fatal brain disease that claims the life of 20-25% of its victims via SUICIDE.
In this photo, we also had absolutely no idea that last statistic even existed. Did you?
So here we are. I have spent the last year after the 1st deathiversary trying to get to know my brother more. To get to know his illness. To understand mental illness in general. To be able to make “The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation” something worthy of its name.
If you are new to this story or missed my blog project one year ago, you can read my 10 Posts in 10 Days leading up to the first anniversary.
I hope you will join me this week to light a candle (or a virtual one) for all of those we have lost to mental illness and for all of those who currently struggle in whatever way. I hope you will join me in raising awareness and increasing our understanding of these brain-based illnesses that impact MILLIONS.
I also hope you will keep reading.
With love and gratitude,