I write today with deep sadness in my heart. You may have been a member of my brick-and-mortar location in the Poncey-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta. If you ever came to the Highlands building location, you most likely dealt with my incredible office manager and the backbone of my administrative operations Karen Gimnig.
Karen moved back home to Washington state a few years ago, and after transitioning with me in a remote setting, she eventually left her role with Brain and Body Solutions to build her OWN career/business.
It is with a heaviness that I tell you her son Ryan is no longer with us.
I will let you read Karen’s words directly:
I lost my son this week. We’ve struggled for years, he and I and others, to find a joyful life for him. We found a lot of joy, though less and less lately. We built love too, and that we hold on to still. The last time I spoke with him he still had his quick wit and infectious smile, his “Thanks Mom” and his “I love you too.”
Ryan was 17. I believe he held on as long as he could. We spent years working through various supports for him and about a year ago he turned finally to meds. When the fifth medication failed to give relief, he lost hope and used the pills to end the pain a different way. The tragedy for me is less that he stopped breathing and more that despite doing everything we knew to do, we failed to find a life he found worth living.
Yes, he chose to end his own life. Suicide is no easy thing to maneuver. And the suicide of a child brings tremendous emotion and questions for the family and all of those who cared for, loved, and every doctor, therapist, etc that treated Ryan over the years.
The entire family convened in Atlanta last week for his memorial service. I was out of town and unable to share in the community Ryan helped to build. Although I wasn’t there, I can still feel the joy Ryan brought to others through his own struggle to feel joy. I could feel everything permeating through Karen when we spoke; she is bathed in grounded peace that is so powerful it left me speechless; I could see it when Ryan came to me glowing in light and joy during a dream telling me to tell his mother he was finally light.
He was Karen’s greatest teacher of compassion, surrender, and trust in this life, she explained to me. Please know that Karen is very loved, supported, and not alone for one moment at this time. In fact, she is surrounded by so much joy during this time, it is an honor to who Ryan was and how he was a master of teaching connection to those who loved him. Ryan is survived by his loving father John and his brilliant sister Megan in addition to his mother Karen. I ask you to please pray in any way you feel comfortable for John, Megan, and Karen as well as his grandparents, extended family, and his close friends.
Joy is an interesting emotion that can be layered on top of any emotion. It may seem odd to write about joy in the same blog discussing the suicide of a young man that once played in my home, but I want to suggest it is not. Joy is especially relevant and needed in times of pain, grief, and sadness. During some of our greatest suffering such as the death of a loved one, we find ourselves naturally coming together in community to share in the pain of grief with each other. Often no words need to be spoken but simply the understanding that, “I am here for you to share in your loss and pain. I am joyful to be with you no matter what.” Joy is not happiness; joy is connection to another. That connection, that human face-to-face moment, is how joy can uplift and overwhelm even the most broken of hearts. It’s why we can laugh and smile and hug at funerals. Joy is the gift we give to each other and ourselves in relationships.
I think Karen might be one of my greatest teachers of the embodiment of joy. And she will tell you, she learned it all from her children.
For the families’ own words and to remember and honor Ryan through the charity donation the family has chosen, please go here to find details: https://www.forevermissed.com/ryan-gimnig/about
In addition, Karen has started a blog to share her journey. I look forward to following it and learning from the heart-centered, relational space that Ryan cultivated in Karen throughout his 17 years with her:
May you take the time to cultivate connection, love, and joy with each other at every opportunity – because taking it for granted that you will get a second chance “someday” just might not happen.