This holiday season has been a difficult one for many families. Many are grieving the loss of loved ones, and some are grieving the very recent loss of family members. I recently found out about two such losses the week before Christmas. One heartbreaking loss was the life a young pregnant woman to suicide and the other equally tragic loss was a young man lost to unstable choices due to mental illness leading to a murder. Though these individuals are very different people they are both young and both children and siblings. Both individuals lost their lives to their illness. One more specifically lost his life due to a lack of service support in his community.
So I sat up all night in bed wondering how this can happen? How do we stop this from happening and why aren’t we noticing that lives are being lost daily due to insufficient support for mental illnesses? I felt that after all my years of advocacy we were losing the war. How could I move forward when my heart was broken and I felt that no one who has the power to make change cares?
But then I thought about another life we recently lost, Mr. Nelson Mandela. And I wondered - how did he do it? How did he keep moving forward when possibly every other day felt like a loss? How did he keep committed to his fight when he was imprisoned? How did he continue to love both sides and offer complete forgiveness to those who were wronging his community?
This great quote says so much, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death” (Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom).
Though I do not find myself the eternal optimist I take heart in “keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward”. One step at a time. Remember the community who are fighting for justice with you. Remember that change is slow. Remember you are not in this fight alone. Remember love and forgiveness.