Even after all this time I still cannot fathom the words I am about to write – my sister-in law, Howie’s sister Jeri, died almost exactly two years before Howie did. Their deaths were not at all related, two completely different tragedies.
Jeri’s death, along with Amanda’s struggle, have made me very much aware of how horrible it is to suffer from depression.
The first time I met Jeri was when Howie and I were dating. He said he wanted me to meet his sister, who happened to live right near me in the city. She had a boyfriend at the time so the four of us made plans to go out for dinner. We met at her apartment first. I walked in and could not believe that this girl was his sister – she was absolutely beautiful – stunning. She had a fabulous apartment, a great job working in a beautiful hotel in Manhattan, and her boyfriend seemed like a great guy.
This girl seemed to have it all. To say I was intimidated is an understatement.
Just by looking at her, I expected her to be the biggest bitch. Many girls who looked like that would have been. But she was the exact opposite. She was so warm and inviting to me and I could see how she absolutely adored her brother.
For a while I only saw this perfect girl, as I’m sure the rest of the world also did. But little by little, I got to know the real Jeri. Still beautiful, and still sweet and loving. But she wasn’t the perfect, happy girl that she appeared to be. There was a sadness in her. At first it was hard to see, but as time went on it became more apparent.
It was almost as if this tiny little sadness inside her got bigger and bigger over the years until it took over. It was a horrible thing to see.
I am certainly not a doctor, and I knew much less about depression back then than I do now. I could not understand how or why this amazing girl was so sad. Now I know that she didn’t want to be, she just was. She did get help for her depression, but I guess it wasn’t enough.
But Jeri of course had great moments and that is what I like to remember about her. I remember sitting on her couch, drinking wine and laughing with her when I still lived in Manhattan. I remember her as a bridesmaid at my wedding. I remember this amazing friendship that she and my sister formed on their own – they had a connection that had nothing to do with me and I loved that. I remember the way she and Howie argued – like any brother and sister do – always with love. But what I mostly remember was the amazing aunt she was to my daughters. She adored them and they adored her.
When my girls were was born, she quoted Monica from “Friends” and said, “I will always have gum.” She always had more than gum for both of them.
Jeri’s birthday is December 24th – Christmas Eve. I will always picture all of us out in some restaurant in the city to celebrate her. As bad as she may have been feeling, she always seemed to have fun. I think of her all the time, but especially at this time of year. I like to imagine that she and Howie are celebrating together somewhere.
Depression is an illness. I know that many people don’t see it that way but it is.
I am not going to try to give advice on it because I am certainly not knowledgeable enough. But if someone you love shows any signs, please urge them to get help. Even if it’s someone you would least expect.
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Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.