Rhonda Elkins was 54 years old

Rhonda

I wish I didn’t have to write this post. I don’t want it to be true.

I met Rhonda on the Alliance of Hope forum shortly after I started this blog. She had lost her beloved daughter, Kaitlyn, to suicide in April of 2013. She was heartbroken. She had struggled with depression herself and her daughter’s death made that struggle harder.

She sent me a private message because she wanted to start a blog of her own. I directed her to WordPress and walked her through the process, and then I read the beautiful love letters she wrote to Kaitlyn.

I found out today that Rhonda ended her own life on August 29th.

This news is devastating. I did not know Rhonda well, but I understood her pain as much as it is ever possible to understand something so personal. When I read her posts on the forum, or her blog, I ached for her loss and wished that I could somehow bring Kaitlyn back to her. She was kind to me at a time when kindness was the only balm for my soul. In spite of her own suffering, she reached out to so many people on the forum with words of comfort and hope.

She leaves behind her husband and another daughter. I cannot begin to imagine what this must be like for them.

Her name was Rhonda Elkins. She was 54 years old.

An open letter to my grief

blue gift

Dear Grief,

You’ve been here for a while now, and while I wish you would leave it seems that’s not an option. I hope you’re not planning to stay forever, but you are the Kato Kaelin of emotions. You’ve taken up residence in my guest house and no amount of persuasion will get you to leave. I wish I could say I’m enjoying your company, but I’m really not. You’re not that pleasant to be around.  

Here’s the thing, Grief. I really actually sort of hate you. Don’t take that the wrong way. It’s not your fault, exactly. Well, okay, it IS, but you can’t help who you are. Can you? CAN YOU?! Because if you can, I’d like to cordially invite you to cut it out. You’re on my last nerve, Grief, and I’m sick of the sight of you. You have on occasion spurred my creativity, but I was creative before I met you and I’ll be creative after you leave. You are leaving eventually, right? Because I’m not even charging you rent and you never clean up after yourself and did I mention you are the overflowing toilet of emotions?

Grief – are you listening to me? Pay attention when I talk to you! Seriously, you are the misbehaving toddler of emotions. I would like to hit you but that wouldn’t be appropriate and it wouldn’t teach you anything, either. I’d like to give you a time out but that doesn’t seem to work. There is always something there to remind me, so even when I’m watching The Princess Bride in the park, there are lines of dialogue about suicide and goofy emcees named Tony and people kissing and… I mean, how do you have SO many people working for you? I’m sure you’re not paying them well. I’m sure you don’t give them any vacation time. You are the Ebenezer Scrooge of emotions, Grief, and NOBODY likes a miser.

And yet… even with all your faults, Grief, you have been unexpectedly good to me. Oh, you’re surprised? Well maybe you should be, given how I’ve railed against you and cursed your name. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the fact that you are the misguided but generous fairy godmother of emotions. You bestow the kind of gift that is not recognizable as such when first unwrapped. How could I have known, at the time, that the howl of pain that escaped from me when I first learned that Tony was dead was the beginning of me reclaiming my life? It did not look like a gift. It did not feel like one. It still doesn’t at times; but in my clearer moments, when I am not on the floor and in tears, I can look at the road I have traveled and see its beauties.

I can see the love and compassion and grace of my friends and family, and of acquaintances, and of strangers. I can see the bonds that join me to those people and feel how much stronger they are than they were, before. I can see that the world is overflowing with love, if we only let ourselves recognize it. I can feel the expansion of my own heart, how much easier it is for me now to extend compassion and love to others without fear of hurt or rejection. It’s not that I want to be hurt, it’s simply that I know I can survive it. I also know that a life lived without the risk of pain is not worth living. I know now that my heart is an ocean, a universe. You gave me that, Grief.

I look at the scars you have given me and they are medals of valor, awarded by you on the field of battle. Even as you flayed me and burned me and wrung me out, you decorated me with reminders of how hard-won happiness can be. I’m sure I will have days in the future when I look at these scars and regret them, but in this moment I am proud to wear them. Thank you, Grief. Thank you.