“You encountered me, a stranger, in the worst moment of my life and you coalesced around me with common purpose, to help.”
Image via Reflecting Out Loud (Deborah Greene)
The pain and loss of losing a loved one can be overwhelming. But the suicide of one’s parent is something else entirely. That was the experience Deborah Greene had a year ago when she lost her father Lowell Herman.
Greene was walking into a Whole Foods in Colorado when she received a call that her father had taken her own life. She immediately broke down in the entrance to the store. But rather than ignoring her, or awkwardly pretending like nothing was happening, a number of customers stopped to help and console her. Greene was so moved that she wrote an open letter to those anonymous strangers that helped her in her moment of extreme vulnerability and shock:
“You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn’t. You could have simply stopped and stared at my primal display of pain, but you didn’t. No, instead you surrounded me as I yelled through my sobs, ‘My father killed himself. He killed himself. He’s dead.’ And the question that has plagued me since that moment came to my lips in a scream, ‘Why?’ I must have asked it over and over and over again.”
Greene’s personal blog, Reflecting Out Loud, has become an ongoing series of posts dedicated to her father’s memory and processing her own grief more than a year later. The powerful messages she has written for herself and others have touched a nerve and led to interviews with NPR and the Washington Post even re-posted that initial letter in its entirety. And with all of the attention being paid to this random act of kindness from others, it’s entirely possible that Greene may one day soon reconnect with some of those people that helped her through her terrible day.
“I never saw you after that,” she wrote. “But I know this to be true, if it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all. If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would have done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief.”