Mindfully Yours

September 2020 – Reflecting on Heartbreak

This month my family and I will acknowledge the ten year anniversary of my youngest brother Tyler Clementi taking his life by suicide. While the last decade has been a time of processing all that I have lost and learning to live without my little brother in my life, in many ways I find the wounds of grief are as fresh as the first days and months when I discovered his death. Dates have always been one of the hardest parts of losing Tyler: birthdays, holidays, graduations and anniversaries are a stinging reminder of what was lost and what will never be.

I remember Tyler as a kindhearted, loving and joyful young man, but I know there was a deep reservoir of pain that he hid from me. Suicide is completely preventable and I know that if Tyler would have been able to hold on to something in this life while he went through his troubling times, he would have looked back and been so grateful that he didn’t make that choice. As someone who once stood in his shoes as a young man, I know there was so much joy and love waiting for him to experience in life, and it breaks my heart to realize that Tyler will never get to experience the life he was destined for.

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Our society often blames people who die by suicide – I have heard these most fragile and vulnerable people often criticized as weak and selfish by well-meaning people. While I can agree that suicide is not ever an acceptable answer to life’s traumas and pains, I cannot stress enough how important it is to hold empathy and compassion for each other. Suicide is an entirely preventable way to die, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself how someone could get to a place where they feel it is their only option?

Judgement, shame, stigma, condemnation, and cruelty are rampant in the way we talk to each other and treat each other. We are consumed in our own negative thinking and then we inflict this pain out onto the world. Rather than sitting back and judging how people react to the pain that we all contribute to, there is another way. We can choose to replace our negative thinking with positive thinking. We can dare to be nice to ourselves, and watch how this attitude adjustment radiates in others. Just by listening to someone, showing that you are curious and interested in their life and experience, you will reach out and make a positive impact. This type of loving human connection gives all of us deep roots to cling to in hard times. We all inter-are with each other. The person being targeted, harassed, discriminated against does not exist in isolation. We have to look at the big picture: how the abuser contributes, how the silent bystander tacitly condones. No one is Switzerland here, we are all in this life thing together.

In the last ten years since losing Tyler, I have been on a personal journey of healing and growth. During the time I had Tyler in my life, I was living in fear. There were so many conversations I wanted to have, so many feelings I wanted to express. It all seemed so unacceptable, and I let so many opportunities to connect with my brother and instill worth and value into his mind go by. I learned how important it is to live out loud and speak your truth, not only for yourself, but also for the people in your world. In the last ten years I have fallen in love and married my soulmate. I went back to school and earned a Master degree in Mental Health Counseling.

These were big dreams and I first had to open myself up to believing they were possible. Becoming a mental health counselor has been especially important to me because part of my healing journey has been helping others to heal themselves the same way I had to. I know that this life is challenging and we all come at it with different experiences, and there is so much beauty in that diversity. That’s why I am so excited about writing this blog. This will be a space for me to share some of my hard-won knowledge about healing and overcoming. 2020 has been a difficult year like none other. Times are hard but learn more about who we truly are when we’re being tested. It’s easy to stay positive when things feel safe and fair. In these times of disease (global pandemic and emboldened racists alike), it feels like we are collectively being thrown into chaos and uncertainty. During a moment like this we have to look at what we have control over in our lives and what we don’t. Learning where to let go and where to hold on tighter will help us feel in control where we can, and be more comfortable with it when we can’t. I am excited to bring my perspective as a mental health counselor to address different ways that we can all practice continuing to improve our mental health. I look forward to taking this journey with you!