Hey, I’m Chaundra.

When @projectnightlightyyc asked me to contribute to this amazing cause of course I agreed, and as a therapist nearing the end of my graduate studies I immediately had a number of things run through my mind as to what to talk about. I have dedicated a vast amount of my life so far to learn about psychology, so how would I ever choose one topic?!

Then I paused.

This is a forum for personal stories wherein everyday human beings share their struggles with mental health in hopes of bringing this community of humanity a little bit closer. So with that, I decided to take off my therapist hat and speak honestly from a personal perspective.

My story is about loss…..a type of loss that isn’t always recognized for the emotional devastation it can cause, like that of suddenly losing a loved one. Five years ago I lost my marriage. I lost my home. I lost my family. I lost my life as I knew it.

It felt like a bomb had been dropped. There were pieces scattered everywhere and the pain was overwhelming. I spent days unable to do anything but cry. The grief consumed me. I felt completely immobilized. Initially, I reached out to family and friends for support, but as time went on I felt like a burden. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. It was then that I became isolated and withdrawn.

I hid it.

I didn’t want my family, friends, or anyone for that matter, to know how much I was suffering. I was ashamed that my marriage hadn’t been successful. I was also ashamed that I “couldn’t handle this”. I remember wondering why I always felt so sad. There wasn’t a day that went by without this overwhelming sadness creeping in. I would tell myself that my experience must not be “normal” because it was so consuming, and I would chastise myself for allowing the sadness to endure for so long. I would have thoughts like, “people get separated and divorced all the time, what’s the matter with you?”, “why can’t you manage this?”, “why can’t you just move on?”.

The grief slowly turned into depression.

I quit doing the things I loved, and when I did participate I couldn’t experience feelings of happiness. I secluded myself from my friends. I quit taking care of myself. Enter shame and guilt associated with the loss. I had 2 beautiful, very young daughters to whom I couldn’t provide the sense of family I wanted for them. I felt defeated. I also felt completely alone. Especially, when I was separated from my children while they spent time with their father. I lived with these ugly, dark emotions that swallow a person’s joy whole. I had lost myself.

And then I did the work.

I found an inner strength I didn’t realize I had. It was an innate human desire, that I truly believe we all carry within us, to fight for myself. I wanted to live again. I wanted to experience all of the amazing moments with my children. I didn’t want to feel like I was constantly in the dark anymore. I didn’t want to live in the pain. So, I reached out. I asked for help. I fought my way back. I faced the ugly, dark emotions head on. I sat with them. I learned from them. I allowed them to be heard. I came to understand the weight of this loss and the depths of grief, and I honored my own experience.

I walked through it.

Today, I look back on my journey thus far and am thankful for all that I have learned. My story continues, with my experience of grief and loss woven neatly within. I firmly believe that strength can be found in adversity. I reflect on how vital it was for me to have my story heard and I hope that others struggling with grief and loss can find their voices too.

Love and light.