On April 25, 2013, my best friend/first love Brian lost his fight with depression. Everything I thought I knew about love, loss, pain, grief, and life itself changed the moment I got that phone call. I’d had a few missed calls early that morning from some of our friends and a few texts that said: “call me back as soon as you get this”. I didn’t call anyone back.
I got a call mid-morning and when I saw my friend Lacey’s name pop up, my heart started beating faster. I had a sudden understanding that with so many people trying to reach me, something must be really, really wrong. I clocked out with a shaky hand, adrenaline coursing through me, to go outside and call her back. I greeted her cheerily and she said, “everyone has been trying to call you to make sure you’re okay, but I can tell from your voice you don’t know yet”. “Don’t know what?” She went silent and softly started crying while I told her she was scaring me and to just tell me. I begged her over and over; just tell me, just tell me, please just tell me; heart pounding so hard it felt like it could beat out of my chest. I’ll never forget the instant she told me through her own tears that Brian had taken his life. Never forget collapsing to the ground while grief ripped through me like a hurricane, shredding me to pieces in an instant while I screamed “NO! NO NO NO NO NO” over and over again as if it were a mantra. Maybe if I said it enough it could undo what had been done.
An older woman came running over to me asking me what was wrong. I couldn’t answer her. I had collapsed to the ground, as if the earth could swallow me up and save me from this misery, dropping the phone at the moment she told me what happened, crying and screaming harder than I would have imagined possible. I cried so hard I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath, snot running down my face in a way that made me feel like a small, injured child. She picked up the phone and spoke to my friend, asking her what had happened. Once she was told the news she told me she was sorry, that she too had lost someone and knew how it felt. She asked me what she could do to help but by then I was in a place tucked far away inside myself as terror and horror rocked through me, wave after wave after wave. I couldn’t do anything but sob.
She went inside and grabbed my boss who had no idea what to do with me because I was in such a bad state, so he did the only thing he could think to do. He drove me all over while I spoke to Brian’s brother in law, begging him to tell me it wasn’t true. Of course, he couldn’t tell me that. He told me what had happened and after I hung up I called Brian’s cell phone over and over and over again hoping somehow, impossibly, he would pick up the phone. I didn’t know at the time but I was going through such an intense trauma my brain had shut down in an attempt to protect me.
That day remains to this day the hardest day I’ve had to survive in my life. I am grateful that while during this period of my life it was my norm to take medication that would dull my senses when things got overwhelming, on this day, I didn’t. Instinctively I knew there was no escaping this. I would have to feel my way through all of it if there was to be any hope of survival. I had people who rallied around me that day and in the days to come and for that I am so thankful. I fell deep into a pit of pain and despair so intense I didn’t think there would ever be a way out and I’m thankful for the people who rallied around me to buoy me up.
I will live with regret for the rest of my life that my friend was able to save me in times of my deepest darkness but I was not connected enough to save him on this day. I wonder constantly what life would be like if he were still here. Losing him was a harsh wake up call that I needed to change my attitude toward life, though I didn’t know it until I came out the other side of a deep existential crisis a few years later.
If these words happen to find their way to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I send you my deepest condolences and so much love. I am so sorry for the pain you are going through.
If you are reading this and you feel you are ready to end your life, please know that the loss of you will reverberate through the cosmos and every cell and fiber of the ones who love you. You are important, you matter, and there will be a hole left where you were in this lifetime that no one else will properly be able to fill. Please talk to someone, reach out, let someone know you are struggling. Sometimes being able to share the burden of what we are moving through makes it easier to bear, and I promise if you tough it out and stay here, you will look back on this time and be grateful you didn’t give in to the urge to end it all when you were at your lowest. Life is worth living. It is pain, yes, but it is also joy, and the joy makes everything else worth it. Hold out for that joy.