We Can Never Really Know…


Recently, I saw a post on Facebook from a woman I knew for many years. I would call her an “acquaintance friend.” I say “knew” because the evening she shared this post, which sounded like a suicide note, she completed her suicide and is no longer with us.

This woman was a bright, shining soul. Every time I crossed paths with her I was always struck by her genuine kindness and sincere desire to know how I’d been. I had run into her at a local coffee shop in September and we chatted for almost twenty minutes, catching up as much as you can in that brief a time.  I had no idea she was in so much pain.

While we’ve all probably heard this saying a hundred times, I think it bears repeating: We can never know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.  

I first learned this lesson in a very painful way. A couple years after I finished graduate school, I was a practicing social worker and psychotherapist and worked with clients who had a range of anxiety and mood disorders. One of my first private practice clients, I’ll call him Jack, was a successful 35-yo banker with a beautiful young family. As we worked together, over the course of a few months, his depression began to greatly improve.

Then, one morning, I got a call from his psychiatrist letting me know that the evening before Jack had gotten drunk, taken an overdose, and ended his life. No note, no explanation.

While we will never know what really happened that night, it was my first real experience with someone who I knew and deeply cared for taking their own life. I will never forget how heavy my heart was that day, and for weeks and months afterwards. I truly did not see it coming and there were many questions left lingering about what had prompted him to take his own life.

We can never know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Think about your own life for a moment. Do you share all the details of your challenges and struggles with others? Probably not. I would even say that it’s not appropriate to do so. I often think of what Brené Brown says: that people need to earn the right to hear your story.

You get to decide who has earned the right to hear your story. For me, it’s the people I know will love and support me no matter what, who can hold space for whatever goodness and/or challenges are arising in my life without giving me lots of unsolicited advice.

Which leads me to my next point: we all need at least one or two people who we can safely share our deepest feelings and stories in times of joy AND sorrow.

Who are those people for you? And are you willing to be vulnerable enough to let them in when you’re going through a difficult time?

We all need at least one or two people who we can safely share our deepest feelings and stories with in times of joy AND sorrow.

Whether it’s your sister, neighbor, therapist, life coach or best friend, think about the ways in which these people have listened to and supported you over the years.  

I invite you to reach out to a few of them today to let them know how much they mean to you. It could be a quick text, an email, or (one of my favorite ways to communicate!) a good old-fashioned piece of snail mail.

Here are a few ideas if you can’t think of what to say:

  • “Hi! Just thinking of you and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate our connection and your presence in my life.”

  • “Hey! Happy Tuesday! Just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you today. Life gets sooo full sometimes, but I want you to know that I’m never too busy to make time for our friendship.”

  • “Hey ____! How’s everything been going for you lately? I think of you often and would love to connect for a cup of coffee or a catch up phone/skype chat sometime soon. Sending big love your way today!”


As cliché as it sounds, we never know when our time with someone might be the last time we get to spend with them in person.  It’s a fact of life that we are all going to die at some point and none of us know when.

Given this fact, I make certain that the people I love know it. And that I make the time to tell them on the regular. I hope you will, too, friends.

And remember during this holiday season that, for MANY people, this is not the “most wonderful time of the year.”  The holidays can often be a sad, lonely, overwhelming time, and if you’re feeling this way you are not alone.

I encourage you, if you’re struggling right now, to reach out and talk to someone you trust for a little extra support.

And if you don’t have anyone to talk to? Please reach out to me. I will be all ears.