Donna died today.  We knew it would be soon. I was emotionally prepared. But I could not help but feel shock. Life is not in our control. It does not last as long as we wish or it lasts longer than we would wish. But ultimately we get what we are given. I could turn this into thinking about suicide since that is still on everyone’s mind after Robin William’s death. But I want to think about what I could learn from how Donna lived rather than how she died.

When I see her in my mind’s eye, she is smiling. Donna was warm and compassionate. And this quality was not because she had an easy life that made her full of love. Some people from her kind of background can become full of hate. But she turned life into love.

Donna was not a pushover. She could see people clearly and love them as they were without letting them take advantage of her.

Donna was considerate. She was aware of what other people needed and gave that to them whenever it was in her power to do so. She was my office partner for nearly 15 years and I saw this over and over.

Donna could have been depressed or anxious but she took her emotional life as seriously as she took other people’s needs and she put work into her own healing. She was brave. She did not bury the parts of her life that challenged her. That is such an important thing to learn: take it on, face it, walk through it.

Donna worked hard. She took responsibility for herself. I never heard her complain about things. I remember her driving a car with a duct-taped bumper until she could afford a new one. Why is this detail important? Because Donna was pleased with her ingenuity for fixing it until she could get something else. She was not angry that she could not have what she wanted. Donna was the epitome of wanting what she had.

I thought Donna was always going to be there, I did not imagine working without her in the office. 

Now that life has not given me what I want, I have to channel Donna’s spirit. Her image will be my anti-depressant when I feel sad about losing her.

This is what I want to remember about my friend. And when I am down, her smile in my memory will lift me up again.

About the Author

Margaret Wehrenberg Psy.D.

Margaret Wehrenberg, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist in private practice and a popular public speaker. Her latest book is The 10 Best-Ever Depression Management Techniques.

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