This previous week marks the first anniversary of my friend’s suicide. It’s weird to be aware of this and have this sadness, and to also be a part of the celebrations for the Fourth of July. I struggled to find an appropriate balance between my grief, and to not let it permanently stain the holiday time.
The biggest pain has been witnessing the hole it tore into his family, and knowing that his baby girl, now almost two, will never know her father.
Inwardly, the surreal brain warp is dealing with the anger and sadness while also understanding what may have tripped him. He, like me, struggled with depression. I could understand how things could be “going so well for him” and yet that’s not enough to save someone with a mental illness. It’s deeper than that. Harder to fight than that.
It seriously disturbs me that I can maybe understand. It’s all “maybes” and “coulds” because I’ll never really know what led him to leave, but I can see a version of the path. It scares me that I can sympathize with him, because in my mind that means it is also possible that I could snap and give up the fight. It’s been a hard subject to broach in therapy. It’s an uncomfortable idea to sit with.
I have been forced to sit with it however, by my therapist. It's angry-making (so a phrase), frustrating, uncomfortable, but I know she thinks its good for me. I'm not sure I believe that yet myself, but I also know that ignoring it and bottling the feelings up aren't good either, so what the hell I'll try.
I'm not particularly religious, nor do I necessarily have traditions or beliefs to fall back on to help express grief or symbolize letting go, so much of our discussion in her office centered around how to acknowledge the anniversary without letting it become a week of suck and depression every year. How to create a meaningful ritual that wouldn't drain the colour out of the week surrounding the day. Worst case scenario (since it was a holiday weekend), I envisioned myself at a party, drunk and weeping into my beer and shouting to the world angrily that my friend was gone. The other worst case scenario was that I would hide at home, ignore all celebrations, and be miserable. I couldn't figure out how to mark the day without it marking me, if that makes sense.
I took her up on one of her suggestions; I contacted five of my closest friends and told them that it was the anniversary of a friend's death, and in honor of that I wanted to let them know how much they meant to me as friends. I did it through text message, because I am an emotional chicken.
What I didn't realize was twofold: 1, that it would become silly-crazy easy after the first five, and I would find myself easily telling people that I cared for them, and 2, most surprisingly to me:
They all responded back to me with how much they cared for me. Which was something I needed to hear, though I did not know it. So a sad memorial day turned into something positive.
Anyway. Here’s to you friend. May I see you in the afterlife so I can kick your ass, and then thank you for being a friend.