Trigger Warning – Suicide, Death
Last night was the one year anniversary of my friend committing suicide.
I was studying when my friend from home phoned me asking if I’d seen her instagram, her brother had put a post up. Shock was the immediate feeling in an almost selfish way, this wasn’t meant to happen to me or my friends. This was something you watch on the news and feel devastated in a pitying detached way.
It was then immediate denial, she had a wildly inappropriate sense of humour and I found myself praying that this was just that. The first evening I sat waiting to get really angry that she had made us worry. It never came.
There is no handbook on how to grieve the loss of a friend to suicide when you hadn’t seen her in 18 months.
It was never deliberate, we just drifted, both went to uni in opposite places. Pandemic hit. We just grew as people and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m doing it already, justifying why we didn’t stay in touch. Nasty habits.
With this kind of grief there feels another stage, validation. I always feel I have to validate my friendship with her, what she meant to me, validate my hurt and feelings. As if people don’t think I deserve to miss her.
There was a cathartic feeling about social media the following week as people shared memories and photos, I found the ones from my time with her at sixth form incredibly healing. I wanted to join in, there was a group of girls and I who all went to Russia and some beautiful and hilarious photos were taken. I didn’t feel like I could post.
When I did, I spoke about how I felt like I couldn’t grieve as openly because of our distance. I had a few people message me saying how they felt the same.
So a year on I want to give my advice on how to grieve the loss of a more distant friend to suicide.
Don’t blame the fact you didn’t stay in touch
People drift and that’s okay. You are only human and brutally honestly there is only so much one person can do to make a difference. They still cared about you and you still cared about them.
Stay in touch with friends who knew her when you knew them
What really helped me was talking to mutual friends. “Do you remember when” became a favourite of mine. My friend in particular was electric, lighting up a room was an understatement. The memories never stop being bittersweet, but try to make them more sweet than bitter.
Write it out
This wasn’t my own idea, due to the pandemic there couldn’t be a large service. Her brother asked that we send any photos, memories or letters and they could be cremated with her. Writing about what our friendship was and about her really helped me make peace with her being gone but also how special our time was and how lucky I was to be her friend.
Grieve how ever you want
At the end of the day you are allowed to grieve how you like. Cry, scream or don’t. Grieving for someone who you drifted from is still grieving and it is valid. You are valid, as is every reaction you give.
This might be a controversial one or something that might not work for everyone but I really love it. I like to think about what she would do in certain situations or how she’d react to a situation I was in. It was comforting to imagine her watching all of our lives play out and laughing at it all.
In a way time does help and heal like a wound but heals into a scar. I look at it like a sentimental scar, a mix of incredible pain and beautiful memories and that’s all we can do really, look at the scar and remember all of it. It was real all of it, you may have lost physical touch but they’ll always be with you.
Featured image: Charlotte Sutcliffe