Death is inevitable. There is no way around it; we all are going to die one day or another. We are also all going to eventually lose people we care about. It is a question of when, rather than if. Nothing about death is easy, but someone taking his or her own life is an especially hard concept to grasp.
1. It’s incredibly hard to talk about.
When people die, the people that loved them often find solace in talking about them with their loved ones. Taking turns telling funny stories and our favorite parts of them and all the lessons they taught us. When someone commits suicide, it’s a whole different concept. It’s harder to talk about because we are all questioning everything that could have made an impact on the decision they made.
2. You don’t go through the stages of grief the same.
5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All five are experienced, but anger seems to stay with you in each stage. I was so angry when my best friend killed himself that I began to take the anger out on the people who were trying to help me through it. It took me much longer to grieve because I began with anger and carried it into every other stage. I wasn’t able to fully let go and get acceptance until I could stop being angry with him for leaving and begin to understand that this was what he wanted and no matter how much I couldn’t understand it, I had to accept that this was his decision, not mine.
3. You blame yourself.
Could you have done something? Were there signs you missed? Were you not a good enough friend for them to confide in? Questions flooded my mind. I knew that I had been a good friend and had shared my love for my friend but I couldn’t decide if I could have done more, listened more, been better. I had so much anger and confusion that I needed someone to blame and the only logical person I could think of was myself.
4. It’s hard to know how to remember them.
With all loss, you want to remember only the good times. You want to picture them with a smile on their face so that you can think that they had a great life and that they were happy. With suicide, it’s impossible to do that, at least in the beginning. Knowing that they were so unhappy with their life that the only way out they saw was death is heart breaking. It takes time to get passed that, but eventually I think we all do. We start to realize that they did have good times in their life; they just weren’t strong enough to beat the darkness they were in at the time.
5. Where are they now?
Growing up, I never had religion forced upon me. My parents let my brothers and I choose when and how we wanted to learn about and express our religious views. I chose to get involved during middle school and I was taught that people who commit suicide do not go to Heaven. So, as you can imagine, when my best friend killed himself, I was very distraught on where he was going to be now. I was terrified that I would never see him again because I was stuck on the thought that God doesn’t forgive those who end their own lives. It wasn’t until much later and reevaluating my beliefs that I came to the conclusion that this isn’t how my God works. My God forgives all of his children and doesn’t punish some because they could not whether the storm he gave them.
6. It made me realize how much people care.
Sometimes we forget how many people’s lives we have touched. After my first experience with losing a friend to suicide, I noticed all of the people who were affected by his death. People from the past that might not have kept in touch, friends of friends, even strangers were showing up to show their support to his family and close friends. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming and it put a lot in perspective.
7. It changed my relationship with every single person in my life.
Before this, I treated people as if I would always have them around. I said unkind things and took my anger and frustration out on the people I loved the most. Seeing that someone could be broken by something that was said made me change the way I spoke to people, even strangers. When I know a friend is going through a difficult time I make absolute sure that they know I am there. I try my best to make everyone feel like they are worth something. And I tell my friends and family that I love them every single time I speak to them.
8. It showed me how strong I am.
I have had a handful of very close friends die, the majority to suicide. Before any of this had happened, I never thought that I could handle losing someone so close to me. However, the saying, “you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option” has never been more relatable. With any kind of loss, there are two options. One, you let it ruin you. Or two, you grow from it. I could have easily started to push people out of my life and throw myself a pity party. But instead, I chose to use my losses as reasons to find the joy in life. A reason to maintain the relationships I had. I choose to still be optimistic and hope that everything will work out in the end. Maybe this is a naive approach to life, but it is the only way I know and it has gotten me through hell more times than I would like to admit.