A tribute to my late friend Adam.

Today, I watched as a friend of mine was lowered into the ground.  As I stood in the direct light of the sun, in a full suit, I felt the countless beads of sweat falling down my back as I stared at a plain wooden casket descending.   I just couldn’t believe I was standing there, watching as Adam Greenberg was buried.  The sobs of his heartbroken wife cut through the prayers and the sounds of wind on the trees.  Adam’s 6 year old son was waiting in the Limo, unaware of the severity of the situation at hand.  And somewhere out there, Adam’s 1 year old daughter was being loved and held as the rest unfolded before us.

I’ve been to funerals before.  My grandparents, parents of my friends, relatives, but I had never been to a funeral like this.  We weren’t burying someone who had lived a long life, or a life that simply provided too much physical pain for that person to continue on.  No, we were burying a 36 year old man who had suffered from severe depression for a very long time.  We buried a man who suffered so severely that he said goodbye to his wife and kids and took his own life for reasons that remain unclear.  More than that, we buried a friend of mine, one who kept his secret from me for as long as I knew him, and it pains me to know that I probably could have helped him had I known.

I knew Adam for years, but we really bonded when Adam became manager of Total Wine as their purchaser in 2015.  He knew about wines, but knew very little about spirits.  Once he learned of my heavy obsession with bourbon, we began to talk, almost on a daily basis.  Adam would come over and try the products his store sold.  He would bring bottles with him to get our opinion of them.  A few days would not go by without a text or a call or a message regarding something with bourbon.  He would visit the bourbon trail to pick out bourbons and send me pictures along the way.   We would talk about our kids, about life in general.  He was one of those genuinely nice guys who really cared about you and your family.  There was nothing fake about Adam, and he always seemed content with life.  I enjoyed the bond that we shared.

In all the times we talked, or drank together, I never knew he suffered.  He had been depressed for years, but few people knew.  Had he told me, I probably could have helped.  On the surface, I am very similar to Adam.  I am outgoing, I am friendly, and I am generally very calm.  I am the life of a party, extremely extroverted, and I have no problems making friends.

And yet…

I have suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember.  I have been on antidepressants, mood stabilizers, sleeping pills.  I have a therapist and a psychiatrist.  I have coping techniques, breathing techniques, relaxation techniques.  No one but my wife and my therapists and a few close friends know the severity of what I have.  I have been stable and happy for awhile now, but I know that could change easily with a major life shift or extreme stress.  My friends know me as the guy who always goes to bed by 11.  I know that not getting enough sleep raises my anxiety, so I sleep as much as I can to avoid that.  You could know me for years and never know I have a mental illness, but I do.

There is a tremendous stigma around mental illness.  We can have cancer, diseases, anything that is physical, and we get support.  But we mention depression or anxiety and there are still far too many people that think it’s not a real condition.  “Oh you just need to toughen up”, “you just need to pray it away”, “just take some meds and you’ll be fine”.

No, that’s not how it works.

Mental illness is real.  It’s not imaginary.  It’s not weakness.  It is not a lack of faith.   It is a physical condition where the proper amount of chemicals are not created in the brain for one reason or another.  It exists with many, it is spoken with very few.  You probably have friends or family who suffer, but you don’t know it.  We all say we don’t know the demons people experience, but we still turn a blind eye to someone when we hear they have ‘mental issues’.  Society still shuns the mentally weak, the mentally ill.  We’ve come a long way, but we are no where near where we need to be.

I hope one day anyone who is suffering can speak freely.  Until then do your part and don’t judge.  Stand by your friends and your family, and don’t wait until they are being lowered into the ground to really offer help.

And Adam, thank you for all the memories.  Rest in peace my dear friend.


Comments (30)

  1. Beth

    Very well said with grace and a beautiful tone. Best of luck to you in your realization and dutifulness to help your self where you know you need it. Inspiring you choose to rise above and not let anything get the best of you. I grieve for Adam and his family but know they have a village surrounding them to support them. God bless

  2. Angela

    ;thank you;

  3. Rachel

    This is beautifully written. Thank u for putting I got to our friend’s situation and may u continue to stay strong.

  4. I attended Adam’s funeral today as well. I only wish that Adam could have seen the support and love of all those that attended. I lost a niece in a most tragic way and all we could do was offer remorse for not being able to “help”. You have expressed a very important truth about mental illness and the disaster depression and anxiety can wreak on an individual and their family.
    Listen to those who call out in pain! Thank you for this blog and also for speaking so lovingly of Adam. He was a sweet young man and will be sorely missed.

  5. Linda Devlin

    My love and prayers are for his family and friends. My sincerest condolences, Linda Devlin

  6. Scott

    May Adam’s memory always be for a blessing. Also thank you for sharing your own personal story and struggles. My hope is that through your sharing, others will seek the help they need. Thank you for being a role model.

  7. Lisa

    Thank you for this blog post and the tribute.
    As I stood there today after a long drive from VA to be there to support Jennifer who was a friend and a former colleague of mine I stood there with a secret of my own. Few of my friends knew that I too suffer from mental health challenges and in 2008 when I was living in Atlanta and ldidn’t know how to handle the stress in my life of the loss of a job and the slow but real decline of happiness in my marriage I checked myself into a facility in Atlanta called Ridgeview because I was having suicidal ideations. I reached out to my therapist and one of my closest friends to rescue me from my personal demons when I felt like I was a danger to myself. Today and Tonight on my drive back to VA after a beautiful service for Adam I can’t help but wish he knew that there were so many people he could have reached out to that would have stood by him and helped him through the struggles. It pained me to stand there today, not just because of how heartbroken I was for Adam and his family and baby girl who won’t ever know her dad but because so many times we deal in our own darkness with things and don’t share because of the stigma mental health has. I said today these exact sentiments you wrong to my boyfriend and he challenged me to do something to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. I feel so grateful to know there are others out there with the same struggles and I appreciate this blog. Please don’t ever stop reaching out to your loved ones for help, and my prayers and love go out to you even though I don’t know you. Rest in peace Adam for I’ll always remember this day and seeing how much love there was out there for you I’m hopeful will help remind the rest of us who stood there at your funeral secretly dealing with the same thing that we have lives worth living and people who would miss us! My heart goes out to all those who struggle and to them I say, you’re not alone!

  8. kaia

    Thank you for these words

  9. Sylvia Williams (nee Sheftman)

    I too know about depression, both as a sufferer and a mental health counselor (retired). I just wish Adam could have been helped before he got to that final decision. He will be forever loved, and missed by those who knew him.

  10. Sara

    I am so sorry for your loss and may his memory be a blessing; may his family be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is only through sharing and breaking the stigma that we can change it. As someone who works in healthcare I see this field neglected every single day among any type of person you can imagine. It is under treated and under recognized, and certainly not something spoken about. Thank you again for speaking up. It means a lot.

  11. Bill

    Please be careful about, and discuss with your therapist, the drink. I “treated” my depression and anxiety with alcohol for many years. It almost alleviated my suffering with both by nearly ending my life.
    It can exacerbate an already compromised chemical balance.

  12. Fran

    Everything you’ve said is so true…Thank you for sharing❤️

  13. Lisa

    This is not my first funeral of someone I have known who has taken their life due to depression. It is one of the hardest funerals to attend due to the total devastation that follows in the wake of one who takes their life. I understand depression. I have been there. I have been to the brink but did not take the life God has given me for so so many reason. I find it very hard to understand why a loved one would leave so much destruction behind by abandoning those who love them so much. I hope and pray that his family and friends can find comfort in knowing he was not completely able to find the hope to continue on with his life and that it is not their fault. I fear we have really not gotten anywhere with depression and that we just medicate and medicate and medicate. I fear there are many who suffer that won’t seek the help they need. Especially men who will talk of sports, jobs and the weather but won’t talk about the deep sadness that haunts their souls until it is too late. There are so many that loved Adam if only he had turned to at least one of them. If only he had looked at his sweet family and known they were there to support and get him through anything. If only he could have said today is bad but tomorrow could be better. But depression blocked his hope and we have lost a good man, great husband and wonderful father. If you suffer from depression seek the help you need. Taking your life doesn’t just end yours……it ends all those who’s life you touched. May you finally be at peace now Adam.

  14. Karen

    Thank you for this post. I also knew and worked with Adam years ago and never knew. But what I know now is also because I too have suffered from from depression and anxiety. Mainly, after the birth of my first child. As with many women it showed itself in the form of Post Pardum Depression. Being afraid to share the feelings one has when suffering is hard because of the stigma associated. I pray more people will find the strength they need to ask for help. It is not being weak, but a true form of bravery.

  15. Melissa

    Absolutely beautiful tribute and a wonderful message for all to hear.

  16. Linda

    I just shared this on Facebook but wrote what a beautiful tribute for a beautiful friend. You were so courageous to share this part of you with the world. By writing this from the heart, you have very possibly saved someone’s life. And you have enlightened so many others. Bless you and bless the Greenberg family.

  17. Joel Harrell

    As I started today thinking of work tasks, the fact that I have a painful week ahead and have to finish taxes, etc…I read this post as it popped up. Puts it all in perspective. We lost a dear friend last year who was also too young and left this world too soon. Sincere condolences and thoughts with you and the family. I would encourage everyone – live life to the fullest, hug your loved ones…tomorrow is not guaranteed and sometimes thats easy to take for granted.

  18. Gary D

    Ben, your words are beautiful and courageous. I too suffer from depression and anxiety and have been medicated for quite some time. The one thing that keeps me going is the love of family. It’s a shame that people can’t always remember that or in some cases don’t have that. Thanks again.

    • Sara

      Gary, I am so thankful to you for also sharing on this forum. I would like to add in response to your comment that “it’s a shame that people can’t always remember that [the love of family]” is much akin to saying “it’s a shame the cancer didn’t stop spreading.” Without medical treatment (and even at times in spite of it) the illness just beyond our control, and the disease took over. It’s not a case of simply remembering. I imagine you meant the message in the best way possible but I just felt that it was important to clarify that one point. Thanks again for sharing.

  19. Jennifer

    Very well said and so sorry for this major loss to many. I can definitely identify with this crisis.

  20. Bobbie Suttler

    You are so right!!! My Mother suffered a breakdown when I was a little girl and she retired two psychiatrists. She was hospitalized and received many shock treatments. This affected our whole family but thank goodness also the support of all. Through medication and therapy my Mother was able to function as Mother and a wonderful loving Grandmother. My heart aches for the pain that this wonderful loving Husband, Father and friend felt. We should all remember that this could easily be us or a family member. We should all learn from this. I pray for this wonderful young man’s family. There but by the grace of God go I.

  21. Linda Kinsey

    My heartfelt condolences to Adam’s entire family. I was so grateful to have shared many moments of laughter with Adam. Those memories make this even more difficult for me. I remember the last time I saw him he was encouraging me to stay strong during difficult times at work. His then joyful spirit was ignited even more when we spoke about Jen and his son. His baby girl was not born yet. He loved them so. Just knowing how happy he was to have her in his life even before marriage. At work some time ago, I got to hear about so many great places they went on dates together. Rest in peace Adam.

  22. Karen

    Thank you for sharing this and I’m thrilled it is being shared across FB instead of everything being hush hush. Sharing could potentially save one person and their family and friends from every going through something so painful!

  23. Leslie

    I don’t know you but today you are my hero.

  24. Alane

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being so honest. There are too many people like Adam in this world…the whole, fake it till you make it attitude. There are too many Adams that are ashamed to ask for help. Too many Adams worried that their pain is too much of a burden for anyone else, so they suffer alone.

  25. Debbie Ingland

    What a well written tribute to your friend
    And so many have issues but hide them as they do not want to feel others are talking behind there back, pointing fingers.
    It’s a true issue, I as well sufferer, some days are ok some just want to hide other days I can put the fake smile on others I feel a bit of happiness.
    I stuffed it for so so many years and the last 10 years it has been a true struggle.
    Thank you

  26. Sonny

    A friend of mine’s 22 year old niece recently committed suicide. She had a history of depression but they didn’t get the dosage correct yet and she was drinking. It’s so sad at any age but she didn’t even start her life. This beautiful tribute and the many comments hopefully will help others recognize themselves and get the help they need.

  27. MattH

    Very well-written post. I too suffer with anxiety and have found that sleep , exercise, and watching my caffeine intake helps alleviate my anxiety. It takes a lot of courage to discuss anxiety, so thank you for writing this post. Very sorry to hear about your friend Adam. Thinking positive thoughts for his wife and children.

  28. Drew C

    Thank you for sharing the story of your friend and your own. I have lost two friends in the last 3 years due to mental illness and suicide and I appreciate your candor and the way you use your voice. God bless

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