Monday, January 18, 2021

In Loving Memory of Jordan Conkle

*Sensitive Topic / Trigger Warning: death, suicide

My cousin, Jordan Conkle, died from depression by suicide on November 3rd. 

Loss and grief are part of the human experience, happening in a multitude of different ways throughout our lives. It's never easy. Processing tragic, devastating losses is really hard. I want to share some things that I’ve written, as I've tried to wrap my mind around this loss. It may be a bit bumpy, but grieving is rarely smooth sailing. 

In the Moment
Today started like any other. When I checked my phone, however, I had a missed call and voicemail, overnight. I listened to it and reached out via message to find out more. It was about Jordan, but that's all I knew. I didn't feel up to a phone call, but my anxiety nagged at me, so I texted my sister in law to see if she knew what was going on and if Jordan was alright. She immediately called me. Ok, so it's something that takes explanation. My mind didn't immediately jump to the worst (which is actually an improvement for me). 

Then, she said the words. The words that made everything spin and stop at the same time. 

Jordan ended his life last night.
She repeated it.
I started to collapse down and lose it. Jeremy caught me and helped me safely down to the ground. 
I think I whispered, "Jordan's gone," in disbelief.

There is no good way to find this type of thing out. That said, I'm grateful for the family member that reached out during the night and for my sister in law. She was direct with telling me what happened, and was a soft and safe place for me to experience the initial shock and wave of emotions. I'll always be thankful for her love and care in such a heartbreaking moment.

Thoughts Day-of
Today, I found out that my cousin ended his life last night. I don't know how to wrap my mind around this.

Losing someone is hard. The circumstances around the loss, I find, can magnify different parts of the grieving process. You still must travel through the stages, in whatever order they present and re-present, but some come up more or are more pronounced.

This year, I've lost two people, both completely unexpectedly. I knew losing people would happen. It's part of being human. I wasn't prepared for the losses to strike so soon to people in their 30s, like I am. It's so hard to process, on multiple levels.

I don't want to sit in it, but I've been in the depths of depression. I know how bad that place is, and I'm so grateful that I've gotten out. I know others that have been in that place, too. We live with deep depression. There's a knowing that only people that have experienced that type of depth can have, even though everyone's experience is unique. I try to support those I can, in the ways that I can. They ultimately have to get out of the pit, but I can sit with them and shine a light for them when they're surrounded by darkness. 

I woke today, wishing it had only been a bad dream. It isn't, and that is crushing.

Memorial Service
The memorial service for Jordan was held in-person in Texas, followed by a graveside service. They streamed the memorial service on the church's social media. My sister and I were able to FaceTime and watch together. 

I attended a virtual memorial service earlier this year, but this one felt different. We weren't in Zoom rooms watching the service together. It felt like everyone was gathered together, and we were watching from afar. There was a disconnect. 

During the service, I learned that Jordan's favorite worship song was Here I Am to Worship. Jordan was someone who lived and loved big, and he's deeply missed by many.

I'm grateful for conversations with loved ones, both those also grieving the loss and those supporting me in my grief. I'm grateful for my cousins, who reached out and connected. I'm grateful that my sister and I were able to watch the service and be with one another in the ways we were able. I know that there will be waves of processing and grieving, much of which is done alone. I'm so grateful to have people that love and care surrounding me, who will support me however they can.

The Following Months
The holidays were filled with a lot of different emotions, for a lot of different reasons. In light of a loss in the family, my mind fluttered through memories, specifically those of growing up so close with my cousins. 

On Thanksgiving evening, I began to miss more... our big family Thanksgiving get togethers. Kristin and Jordan would get there later in the day and we'd play games. 

As Christmas approached, I felt the missing grow. Missing out being with family and friends, especially in light of a pandemic and unexpected family loss. I had dream(s) that included PaPa and Jordan, two family losses in as many years. I knew in the dreams that they're no longer with us, but they were special all the same. The one that Jordan was in: I think we were gathered as a family trying to watch his funeral service or something. Jordan came to me. He was younger. And we hugged, the way he did. 

I continue to give myself space to process. I wrote, "Jordan, it's Christmas Eve. We used to spend every one of them together (as we grew older, it was the weekend before Christmas). We would be eating, laughing, opening gifts, sneaking off to play with our gifts as the adults talk."

It's interesting the things we remember. I have tons of memories with Jordan, but many of them are simple moments. The silly grin on his face, his facial expressions, the way he hugged and laughed and smiled. 

As I've been processing, it's clear that we don't always remember the details of a memory or moment. That's ok. We can remember and hold onto how we felt in that person's company or presence. Love, laughter, comfort, calm, joy. All of these are so precious. 

Letter to Jordan
How can you not be here anymore? It's so hard to make sense of this world not having you in it. I know that we haven't kept in touch. But, you always have a place in my heart. I cherish the memories of all of us throughout the years. Watching Milan, playing games, playing pool, dressing you up, going to car shows, monthly family birthday get togethers, Thanksgiving at my parents' house, Christmas at your parents' house... I'm grateful that we were able to have that time together. 

We last saw each other in November 2019 at Grandma's 80th birthday party. When you were leaving, you stopped and chatted with me, giving me all of your attention. You told me that you read my posts and you asked me to tell you more about my advocacy work. We talked about Headache on the Hill and me speaking at RetreatMigraine and Miles for Migraine events. You shared that you wished I wasn't in so much pain, but that you're so proud of who I am and the work that I do. Then, you gave me a hug. Your hugs were so healing, a safe and loving embrace. I am beyond grateful for those moments and that memory with you. I felt seen. Beyond the childhood and familial connection, but rather one adult to another. That connection we had, I will always remember and cherish.

Jordan, I'm so sorry that you were in a place of such despair that you didn't see a way out. I won't get wrapped up in how I imagine you feeling or even what mental health challenges you might've been facing, as it's all conjecture, and truthfully doesn't matter... it won't bring you back.
I love you so much, cousin. 

Final Thoughts, For Now
I am working so hard to process the grief. To acknowledge and express the things I wish were different, without carrying the weight of regret. I will continue to process through the hurt places and grieving potential future outcomes. Learning lessons along the way that I can use to help shape how I move forward. Processing through the grief until what remains is love, cherished memories, and lessons to move forward.

About Suicide

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear" - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

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