So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

Editor’s note: this post discusses suicide.

Normal is a goal we always seemed to reach for. It was something we could stand on the tallest chair, extend our arms as far as our toes would take us, but still could never quite grasp. We would dream of normal—what it would be like to live a full month with no big issues or ordeals; what it would look like if we could go to work form 8-5 and not worry about anything before or after; what it would feel like if we moved to a cabin in the woods and separated ourselves from the world. I remember we would even laugh at the question of, “What is normal?”

We would dream. Yet our dreams were met with the harsh reality that our life didn’t look like that. Although we held on to the dream, normal was something we didn’t feel the past few years.

After many years of fighting to find answers, my husband was finally diagnosed with clinical depression and ADHD last year. He was also tested for bipolar disorder. For years, my husband struggled to find an answer as to why his thoughts and feelings did not match his spiritual beliefs, his physical symptoms, and his day-to-day struggles.

Though my husband was fully alive, I lost him years ago.

In some ways it was a slow change, but in many other ways it was immediate and drastic. I knew he struggled with depression when I met him. We assumed it was situational, but it became worse over the years. In 2015, we lost a little girl before she was able to enter this world. I saw a drastic change in him after that traumatic experience. His depression worsened, his struggles became more severe, and his fight was like that of a never-ending roller coaster ride. He would fight for a while, then give up for a short time, then muster enough strength to fight again.

And so the pattern continued. He couldn’t catch up with his mind.

We took him to doctor after doctor and sought counseling for years. In the meantime, he was diagnosed with cancer and struggled with opioid addiction. He was able to get clean and was in remission, but his mental illness worsened. Opioids seemed to help him for a short time but they didn’t take away his deep-seated feelings of worthlessness and turmoil.

My husband took his life this year at the young age of 31. He fought to the end, but he got tired.

He was an amazing human. He fought so very hard for a long time. I wish he would have stayed in the fight. He is very missed by so many.

You may know this fight well: 

The fight to find the right meds.
The fight to meet others’ expectations.
The fight to understand why your brain will not function as you so desperately want it to.
The fight to find the answer.
The fight that tomorrow will be better—it has to be.

Personally, I do not struggle with a mental illness disorder, though I have been on and off antidepressants for situational depression and anxiety. This was a big reason I became a licensed counselor. I received help when I needed it and I wanted to help others in the same way. As a therapist, I have the knowledge to support my clients, to relieve them of some of their distress, to help them choose life when they wanted it all to end. Yet, with that knowledge and experience, I didn’t help save the man who laid beside me every night.

The question still comes back to my mind: what is normal? I try to find our “new normal” as I move through the grief of losing my husband, the father of our beautiful twins. I am often overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and pain.

I have been a licensed professional counselor for eight years now. I should have known how to help him. I should have seen this coming. I should have had the answers. I was also his wife. What did I miss? I stood beside a man every day I couldn’t completely help. I fought alongside him. All the while, we simply prayed for “normal”.

The truth is, there really is no normal, especially not when someone struggles with a mental illness. We set such high expectations on ourselves to find our happiness, to find answers, to find some sense of balance. We become exhausted trying to reach a goal and do not take the time to stop and take a breath and live in the moments we have—the moments I miss.

Since my husband died, I am learning that “normal’ is what we make it. Normal is taking the hand we’ve been given and fighting to live with it, to rise above it, and to believe there is a purpose in it. It’s having the knowledge that when the day comes for God to call us home, we can rest in His arms, look up, and say, “I gave it my all.” It is hope when we feel like giving up. It is learning to surf on the waves when they come and not just tread them.

What was it like living with someone who had a mental illness? It was our normal, and I wouldn’t trade our years together for anything.

It takes perseverance, a lot of grace, unconditional love, empathy, and fight. It takes showing up on the good days and especially on the bad. It’s reminding the person you love that he is not defined by his diagnosis, that he is more than his chemical imbalance, and that he is created for a beautiful purpose. It’s understanding that though it may be a part of him, it is not who he is and it will not break him.

Take time to ask your loved ones questions, to check in on them, to tell them you will walk alongside them or sit on the floor beside them. Tell them you love them EVERY DAY.

Loving Eric will always be one of my greatest gifts. Because of his life, I learned true grace, understanding, strength, and the value of second (and third) chances. Because of his life, I learned selfless love. Though I often ask God to take me back so I could do better, I have the opportunity to share our story with others who may desperately need to hear it. I can’t change our past but I can change how I handle the future.

That is why I am sharing about my late husband’s battle—about our battle.

We have the opportunity to look at mental health differently and learn how to recognize and love our loved ones who battle mental illness. I’ve come to understand that living with a mental illness is agonizing; it’s a constant battle, but it’s a battle that can be fought—even when you don’t feel like you can some days.

If you are struggling with depression/anxiety and/or suicidal thoughts, PLEASE seek help. Though you may live with a mental illness that often overwhelms you, you are here on this earth for a reason. Now, lift your head up high and keep fighting. Know that today you are not alone—we are in this together. One day we will understand it all; for now, we will LIVE!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Krissie Lain Garland

Krissie Garland is a proud mom of two year old twins. She is a Licensed Professional Cousnelor and works for a Ministry called Care for Pastors. Krissie began writing as a tool to help her heal after the tragic loss of her husband this year.

Grief Comes in Waves as Our Mother Nears the End of Her Life

In: Grief, Grown Children
Elderly woman holding young woman's hand

“I think we can all agree that this is not fair.” My sister, Kari, was referring to our elderly mother as she addressed my oldest daughter, Chelsea, and me. Chelsea was holding both of her grandmother’s hands with her own as my mother slept fitfully. My mother was terrified of being alone, and this was pretty much the only way she was able to rest. “There is pain that is physical and pain that is psychic,” she continued, “and one is not worse than the other.” Our mother was in mental pain, and we wanted it to stop. When my...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Who I Was Before My Mom Died

In: Grief
Woman looking out window at home

Life after dealing with death is hard. I’m no longer the person I used to be. I’m motherless. This motherless life is hard. I need time to grieve, but I also need time to find myself again. I need time to mourn the life I’ll never have anymore. I need time to process. I need time to process the fact that my mother is gone. I’ll never have new memories. My kids will never have new memories and people expect us to pick ourselves back up. I can’t pick myself back up quickly after losing my mom. I’m still trying...

Keep Reading

You Are the God of Details, but God These Details Don’t Make Sense

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Window open with shutters

That was not the plan. What just happened in there? We walked out a bit defeated. More than a bit. I felt deflated. Things were supposed to be different by now. This wasn’t what I asked for or expected. This wasn’t even what they told me would happen. We cross the street in silence. Headed to the car and as soon as I shut the car door, I could no longer hold it in. I let the tears flow. All this unknown. I don’t understand. This is life. This is foster care. This is what we chose. That doesn’t make...

Keep Reading

Donating Breastmilk Helped My Heart Heal

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman with packaged breastmilk, color photo

Dear grieving mama, You know when you lose a baby everything changes, but your body moves forward like nothing happened. It carried that tiny baby long enough to trigger a complicated hormonal cocktail that causes your milk to come in so that little life can continue to grow outside you. But your baby is separated from you in a way nature never intended. There will be no baby snuggles. There won’t be a sleepy, smiley, milk-drunk face looking up at you. But your body doesn’t know that, so your breasts swell and keep swelling with milk that has nowhere to...

Keep Reading

I’ll Always Need My Mother but She Left Me Way Too Soon

In: Grief
Family surrounding woman at end of her life

I married my college sweetheart over a decade ago. I want to ask my mom about marriage. I want to ask her about navigating arguments and personality differences. But she left me way too soon. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. My mother had three miscarriages. Her first two were before I was born, and I was her rainbow baby. Her third miscarriage was in the second trimester, after my little brother was born. It devastated her emotionally for several years when I was in elementary school. I want to ask my mom about grief and pregnancy loss. But...

Keep Reading

Have You Sat with the Dying?

In: Grief, Loss
Holding hand at hospital bedside

Have you sat with the dying? Have you seen the loved ones who sit at their bedside night after night, holding their hand? They hold on, afraid to let go, knowing the end is near but so not ready for the last word, the last touch, the last breath of life.  They sit, exhausted beyond exhausted. They know it’s time to let go, but they also wonder how life goes on without them. There was life before them, and there will be life after them, but life after now will never be the same without them.  Have you sat with...

Keep Reading

What Would it Feel Like To Hold Him Today?

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Black and white photo of parents holding toddler

 My breath catches. My heart races. I remember. I remember when they were five and six. When they ran around with my son. I remember now how many years have passed, how long it’s been. I’m watching. Sitting on the outside, peering in. Wondering. Wishing. Tenderly remembering, trying to breathe. One breath. One moment. One day, one minute at a time. The world still spins and time moves on. My other children have grown. But in 10-year-grief, the world stands a bit still. Remembering him. The 5-year-old, toothless smile. Shy hellos to his friends. Missing him. Missing them. Missing that....

Keep Reading

The Mother without a Mother

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman with kite on beach

“How is your mom?” My mother looked at me, waiting for my response. Born in a small town in the middle of Kansas, she genuinely wanted to know the answers to the questions she asked, and more importantly, she listened. I stared back—voiceless. I was holding my infant daughter in my arms, bouncing her up and down in that rhythmic, automatic movement that defines the early years of motherhood. Up. Down. Up. Down. I sped up, frantic almost. “She’s good,” I said. The words came out more as an exhale. I cleared my throat. “My mom is good,” I confirmed....

Keep Reading

What They Don’t Tell You about Child Loss

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Couple on dock by lake

What they don’t tell you about child loss . . .  They don’t tell you that you’ll never be the same—not that you won’t ever feel joy or love the life you have—but that it changes you. They don’t tell you about the countless sleepless nights and the not knowing why, holding your thoughts captive and the guilt that threatens to creep in.  They don’t tell you about the hole that can never be filled or replaced mostly because you never ever want it to. You don’t want it to because you hold space for your child, and you don’t...

Keep Reading

On the Day of Your Mother’s Funeral

In: Grief, Loss
Bride and mother on wedding day, color photo

On the day of your mother’s funeral, you will wake up and it will feel like any other day until you remember that it isn’t any other day. Someone will force you to eat breakfast and tell you when it is time to get in the shower. While showering, you will cry and wonder just how you will make it through this day. On the day of your mom’s funeral, you will look at your dress and think that it is really pretty and then shake your head because it’s such a shame that you will never wear it again....

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.