Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 23, 2012

Giving thanks for friends, family

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Thanksgiving. Really? Should I be expected to feel thankful this year? Thankfully, I think I’d be forgiven if not. Despite everything, I discovered that I am still grateful. Just not for the usual stuff.

I’m thankful for the trained and compassionate professionals who guided us through the worst moments, hours and days of our lives. They cared for my daughter and for us with gentleness and skill — and with heart. I will never forget them.

I’m thankful Jocelyn was able to donate organs and extend the lives of at least three people.

I’m thankful for the prayers of others. I’m almost afraid to pray these days for my own family because it didn’t work out very well. Years of prayers, thousands of them, didn’t go as I hoped. So I’m wary. But I am thankful for the power of other peoples’ prayers because I feel them every day.

I’m thankful for my daughter’s friends. They post regularly on her Facebook page, saying how they miss her, what funny thing reminded them of her, or what song makes her voice ring in their head. She is not forgotten in their virtual world or their real world.

I’m thankful because her friends are still a part of our world, as well. They text or message me, ask to come by, they take my younger daughter out for ice cream or burritos, they come to dinner and they share laughs and tears with us. They are an extended family. I imagine watching them mature into adults, going away to college, entering their careers, getting married and having babies. I imagine being able to experience through them what we can’t with Jocelyn. I understand they may grow apart from us long before those milestones, but even imagining witnessing those things helps a little for now.

I’m thankful for family that has drawn even closer, friends who’ve become like family, physically distant friends who’ve overcome the miles or estranged friends who’ve overcome the emotional distance.

Before my daughter’s death, I didn’t invest this kind of attention in my friends or expect or encourage it from them. I was good with a call every once in a while and a periodic cup of coffee. Now, I am blessed with the knowledge that there is someone within reach nearly any moment and my life is enriched by communing with them and mutually sharing our lives.

I’m thankful for the army of volunteers who helped us move from our home in a fog of shock, the closing date falling only three weeks after our daughter died. I’m thankful for the general who coordinated the army, the troops who packed and unpacked us, and the other legions who fed them.

I’m thankful for the people who cooked meals, delivering food even months later. I’m thankful for the friends who weren’t afraid to gather at our house, a house of mourning, where we believed in the healing power of food, laughter and tears. I’m thankful for friends who included us in their dinners or parties, not worried that we’d carry in with us a wet blanket.

I’m thankful for all the family and friends who came from around the country over the last several months, visiting and bringing from a distance their special brand of love.

I’m thankful for my husband, who affirmed me and never condemned me. Many marriages break up in the aftermath of suicide, which brings with it a tsunami of emotional upheaval. Instead, our marriage feels like a rock that we cling to, holding on despite the rough waters and the whipping winds. We remain attentive, sarcastic, compassionate, patient and still lovey-dovey enough to gross out our 13-year-old.

I’m thankful for said 13-year-old. She is an incredible person. She was before the loss of her sister and I know she’ll weather this storm and be even more incredible.  

I’m thankful we have been embraced by so many people, rather than rejected or treated as though our tragedy is contagious. We are loved and supported by our community where we live and our community of friends around the country. I’m thankful I live in a time where suicide is discussed openly, in an effort to prevent it, rather than hushed in a misguided attempt to avoid it.

I’m thankful for the teens and adults who’ve shared with me that Jocelyn saved their life. I’m thankful that being able to see how she is loved and missed changed the lonely hearts of some despondent people. I’m thankful that being able to see our pain up close made others reject self-murder as an option to painful times. It is not, and should never be, an option.

I’m thankful to have learned that our best tribute to Jocelyn can be eventually living greater, fuller and more meaningful lives.

And I’m thankful to readers who allow me to process my experience here, walking the journey with me and waiting, patiently I hope, for the day when my heart and hands will turn to other subjects.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at