I went to a funeral yesterday for a twenty four year old woman. I think everyone would agree this is far too young to die. It was not mentioned in her obituary or at the funeral how she died, only that she died suddenly. “Suddenly”, it’s the code word for in a tragic way that we don’t want to talk about. I get it. If my daughter died because her demons finally won, I don’t know if I could put into words what killed her. I would want her to be remembered for the good she brought to the world, not for how she left it. I don’t know what I would feel if I had to say good bye to my child because the demons won even after we all fought so hard. I don’t even want to think about that kind of pain.What is so horrific to me is that this woman’s parents had to choose their words in writing an obituary that they never should have had to write. They had to swallow whatever rage and despair they felt for what took their daughter out of their lives forever because it wasn’t some socially acceptable disease like cancer. No matter the cause of death, it wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t her family’s fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. A brilliant, sensitive, wonderful woman is gone today because she lost the battle with her demons. She fought the battle the best she could, but the demons still won. That doesn’t make her weak. But again, if it was cancer that killed her nobody would question how hard she fought. When people lose to the demons, somehow society thinks they should have fought harder. When the demons win, the victim is blamed. That is a tragedy. Overdose and suicide are just a few of the names of battles lost to demons. But we don’t like to say those ugly words. Those words place blame on the victim yet again. Those words carry shame. But in the end that’s what the words come down to. The demons won.
I know about fighting those demons. I know that the demons like to fight in the dark, alone. I fought my own, alone in the dark for a long time. I probably would have lost too if the people that love me hadn’t dragged those monsters out into the light. My shame and guilt tried to keep those demons buried in the dark where in my mind I was somehow going to fight them alone and win. But I was never going to win. I can’t beat the demons by myself and I can’t do it in the dark. Fighting demons takes a really big, really badass army. And the thing is, they don’t go away. They stay lurking in the dark, waiting for me to send my army home. So I check in with my army every day. We all keep an eye on the demons and when they reach out to pull me into the dark I pull them into the light. Sometimes I don’t even see them coming and one of my soldiers gets them first. And the more of them we pull into the light, the weaker they get. The beauty in this is that when I surround myself with people who are fighting the same demons, we can help each other. Once we start to name the monsters and drag them out in the open they aren’t nearly as formidable as they were in the dark.
I went to the funeral for a young woman who I didn’t know that well, but I shared a bond with. I heard her when she talked about her demons because I knew them well and I felt pain when she left this world because I knew that she was one of my soldiers, just like I was one of hers. I’m sad that a young woman left this world before I could thank her for being one of the many helping me fight my demons. I know that there are a lot of people out there walking this earth with not a single demon on their back. There are those too who have never had to wage war against a demon, their own or a loved one’s. And sometimes those people don’t understand what it’s like to be a warrior. They don’t need to understand. I am a warrior and I am going to keep fighting the demons, the ones I know and the ones I don’t. I am going to keep fighting the only way I know how by dragging them into the light.