Kym Klass wears a semicolon necklace. The necklace is related to the death by suicide of her sister, Katie.
In Kym’s book, One More Day, she shares about her personal journey through multiple traumatic events in her life. One of those was Katie’s death by suicide on October 31, 2015.
Kym and I have been online friends for quite a few years, enough years to have outlasted the site where we met, Daily Mile. Fortunately, Kym’s work brought her to Tallahassee a few years ago (I’ve forgotten how many, frankly) and we were able to share a meal and time together. (Even though it’s powerful to connect over the internet, there’s still no substitute for looking someone in the eyes.)
Our family has had our own experience with losing a member to suicide. It’s not a community I want anyone to have to be a part of. But once you are, you are. And the others who share that with you take on special significance.
I hope you’ll choose to buy and read Kym’s book.
These are some points that stood out to me:
Grief manifests itself physically
We are kidding ourselves (or maybe we just aren’t fully informed) if we think we can segregate our emotional pain from our body’s functioning.
Kym talks of being “on the couch for about two weeks, staring mindlessly at the television with tears running down my face most nights” during one rough period.
Some of us deal with trauma by eating too much, by exercising beyond reasonable limits, by holding everything in when we don’t even realize what we’re doing. Our bodies know, and tell us eventually to stop avoiding what’s in our heads.
Forgiveness can seem so elusive
I was listening recently to an episode of The Hamilcast podcast where Javier Muñoz, who played Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton: An American Musical,” was interviewed. He discussed moments in the show that have been the most significant to him.
There’s a moment when Hamilton and his wife, Eliza, have been grieving two devastating blows to their marriage, one being the death of their son and the other being Alexander’s unfaithfulness. Eliza has to decide whether to take Alexander’s hand (referred to by Muñoz as “the gesture”) as they walk (spoiler alert: she does).
At the 48:30 point in the episode, the following conversation occurs between Muñoz and the host:
JM: The lyric after the gesture is “forgiveness.” As an actor in that moment, I … decide … there is no right way … it is an individual artist’s choice … I go to the place that I have not yet forgiven myself for. So when she grabs my hand, it is legitimate ‘human being forgiving me externally for the thing that I’m choosing personally that I have not forgiven for myself.
Host: In that moment, do you forgive yourself?
Host: You never forgive yourself?
JM: Never. I say “thank you” for someone else forgiving me, but the truth is I’ve not yet forgiven myself for that thing, so I can’t say that I forgive myself. That’s the truth … that’s what the audience receives. I’m not saying, “I forgive me.” I’m saying, “This human being has forgiven me. What does that mean? How do I manifest that? How do I show you that that’s happened and let that physically happen?“
I have thought so often about Javier Muñoz saying there’s something in his life he can’t forgive himself for. I don’t know him (but I love his laugh!), yet I wish I could relieve him of the burden.
I don’t want to project my work following my brother-in-law Chuck’s death by suicide in 2008 onto Kym’s experience.
But I’ll say that forgiveness is a multi-faceted thing in these situations. Can we forgive the person who is gone? Can we forgive ourselves for all the things we think we missed? Can we forgive the people around us who, not knowing what to say, either say nothing or utter a ridiculous platitude? Can we forgive a world where loss seems so abundant sometimes?
I liked one of Kym’s stories, about an evening when Kym had questioned her 12-year-old daughter’s priorities after Katie’s death, asking Jenna, “Do you really think this is the most important thing in life right now?” Jenna replied, “It is … to me.”
Later that evening, Kym explained that her retort had to do with how much she missed her sister, and that Jenna followed up by, “… forgiving me, and understanding me in a way nobody else did.” Forgiveness is needed (and handed out) by in multiple ways after losing a family member to suicide. I think it’s hardest to forgive ourselves.
It takes a really long time to begin to heal
Toward the end of the book, Kym talks about a moment of reckoning that led her to a therapist as she came face-to-face with a deeply-held anger. She went to a therapist, who helped her realize that she had been “carrying … baggage for more than two decades.”
At that moment, she decided, “I refused to carry on something else for that long just to feel damaged two decades later. Kym “asked the hard questions,” took an extended leave for work, “shed the hard tears,” and “had the hard conversations.”
I’m so proud of my friend, Kym, for writing this book. I know she didn’t do it to get recognition from those of us who already know and appreciate her. She did it both to further her progress on a path of healing and to help people who have also lost family members to suicide (and/or struggled with their own mental health battles).
This is a book for anyone who needs to know they’re not alone.
To quote Kym,
We are here to help each other, to lean on each other, and to offer encouragement and support each and every day.
I am linking up with Mama’s Losin’ It for the prompt, “Tell us about the last book you read.”