As I sat in the school parking lot waiting to pick up my kids, I listened to the words coming through the phone but they weren’t registering.
Gabriela took her own life yesterday.
I was in disbelief. I didn’t know what to say or how to react.
In that moment, I felt like I was supposed to be overcome by grief…like I should cry or have an intense emotional reaction.
But I felt nothing. Numbness. Shock.
It wasn’t until several hours after hearing this devastating news that the reality of it started to sink in.
That’s when all the questions came up for me.
Why would a 41 year old woman kill herself and leave a husband and three young children behind?
How did she do it? Did she leave a note to say goodbye? How long did it take before someone found her?
What kind of emotional pain must she have been in to want to do something like this? Why didn’t she reach out for help?
I’ve been a therapist for 17 years…and I’ve helped countless people work through their grief…and I’ve dealt with the devastating effects suicide has on the survivors…
…so I knew I’d never have answers to these questions.
But they haunted me. I couldn’t get them out of my mind.
I wanted to make sense of a situation that makes no sense at all.
Gabriela was a bright, kind woman who worked as a counselor in my private practice for a few months before taking a medical leave of absence due to severe depression and anxiety.
I was so surprised when she told me she was struggling emotionally because she always seemed so calm and laid back…like nothing bothered her.
And on the outside, it looked like she had a great life…three children ages 8, 10, and 12 whom she adored…her high school sweetheart husband whom she’d been married to for 17 years…
…a large network of friends…hobbies and interests she enjoyed and participated in regularly…and a church community she was actively part of for many years.
Gabriela was on leave for six months.
She called me on a sunny day in early September to talk about what to do next…and at that point…she said she was doing much better and felt like she was headed in the right direction.
But she made the decision to not return to work…and decided to leave the mental health profession entirely due to her own mental health issues.
Our conversation was pleasant and I supported her decision. That was the last time I spoke to her.
Six months later, she died.
In the midst of my own grief, I regretted not checking in on her more often…or asking for more details about what she was going through…or offering more help and support.
But I also remembered Gabriela was a private person who didn’t like to share personal information with me and I always tried to respect her privacy…and the boundaries she set related to that.
But I wondered if this all could have been avoided had I tried harder…that’s what survivor’s guilt is all about.
My heart ached most for her family and I felt compelled to offer some kind of comfort to them in this dark time in their lives.
I knew that a Go Fund Me page had been set up to collect donations for funeral expenses…and to pay for Gabriela’s family to fly from Switzerland to attend the funeral…
…so I went to the page and donated $500.
It was the only thing I could do offer support…and I knew that no amount of money…or words of condolence would ease their pain…
…but I couldn’t think of a better use for my money than for Gabriela’s parents to see their daughter one last time and say goodbye.
There was a time in my life I wouldn’t have been able to do that…because my financial life was such a mess.
When I submitted that donation, I felt such gratitude that I had the money to give…
…and a deep sense of pride that I did the hard work years prior to improve my financial life so I was able to use my money in a powerful way such as this.
The goal set on Gabriela’s Go Fund Me page was $15,000…and $23,000 was raised in ONE day.
Again…money would not erase the pain of losing Gabriela…or bring her back…or make things right…
…but that money eased the financial burden on her family…and made it possible for her family to honor her at her funeral…
…and it helped her husband step away from work so he could grieve and be there for his children.
That’s the power of money…it helps people…it provides…it eases burdens…even just a little.
Here’s why I’m sharing all of this with you:
My newsletters are usually positive, a little silly, or packed with money advice…but life isn’t always sunshine and roses…
…and I want you to know that life is hard at times…and pain and struggle doesn’t discriminate.
Everyone faces challenges and heartbreak in different ways and at various points in time.
And it’s ok to talk about it openly…and ask for help…and there’s always an important lesson buried in every painful experience…but you might have to look hard for it.
I also want to make the point that NOW is the time to invest in your relationship with money…
And improve your finances…because you never know when you’ll need that money…either to help yourself…someone you care about…or a complete stranger in need of a miracle that you can provide.
And finally…I want you to know that you are loved and adored…and if you’re struggling with depression and anxiety (which can often be caused by financial distress) you deserve getting help.
Your life matters…EVERY life matters…and the world is lucky to have you in it.
There is no shame in reaching out for help…talk to a parent…a friend…a pastor…a co-worker…your partner…a therapist…a doctor.
Just please talk about what you’re going through…openly and honestly…so you can heal and feel better.
Check in on your friends and family…ask nosy questions to make sure they’re doing okay…tell them you love them every chance you get…
…and offer to be a source of help to them if they are the ones suffering from mental, emotional, physical, or financial pain…or connect them to a professional (like myself) who can help.
I’m so grateful to be connected with you…thank you for doing life with me…and know I’m always here for you if you need a little help.
Everyone one does from time to time.
Money love and hugs ($O$O$O),
P.S. If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or simply dial 988, where a crisis counselor is available to help 24/7.