*Talk of suicide / grief related to it*
One year ago a truly brilliant light went out, leaving the world in darkness and changing my life forever. My wonderful, special, beautiful friend Liv, couldn’t survive her demons and tragically ended her own life.
I haven’t dealt with it, even now. Before this lockdown business I had intended to reach out for bereavement counselling, to get me through this difficult time. I’ve not managed to sort anything out, so just have to cope with it alone.
Even just a couple of days ago I sat in disbelief that she’s really gone, and that she’ll never be in this world again. I feel I’m in massive denial at times. There are times I feel I’ve ‘accepted’ it… if you ever can accept your only remaining friend taking their own life… I carry on, I talk to her… I try and talk about her – people get uncomfortable though and don’t engage in conversation about her. I guess that’s contributed to me not dealing with it. I have nobody to talk to about her and about the loss of her. So in a way I’ve had to stuff it down and just carry on.
But my life is so different now as a result of her decision. I’m not the same person I used to be. The world is changed. Nothing will ever be the same again, and nobody could ever fill the void her absence has left me with. She’s irreplaceable. I wish I could’ve told her that. I wish I could’ve told her I couldn’t bear the thought of a life without her here. I should’ve told her. For years I had feared something like this happening…. but I never truly thought it would happen.
So for it to happen when it did, it was a shock to the system. It seems strange to say that she was the best friend I ever had, yet I only actually met her in person once in my lifetime. I feel like a fraud saying that. But I knew her for thirteen years of my life. We met because of our mental health struggles and bonded over our shared appreciation of a certain Irish boyband, by the name of Westlife. People always mocked them and their fans, but we didn’t care. We knew our taste in music was awesome. Nobody would ever change our minds on that!
We’d been there for each other through the ups and downs of life. She was the one person I could always count on for support, advice and unconditional love. She was the only person who never gave up on me, no matter what. We never fell out. She never judged me. She never left me feeling I was alone in this world. She never let me feel invisible. She was perfect in every way. She just couldn’t see it. She was too humble and far too hard on herself. She couldn’t see all the wonderful things we all saw in her. She hated herself inside and out, but she had no reason to. In the end, her demons won and she gave up on herself.
I feel so grief-stricken and heartbroken that I couldn’t do anything to save her. And now I never can. Once she made that choice there was no going back…. no second chances for those of us left behind, to do something to keep her with us. We have to live with that forever now. I still have my moments I feel angry with her. But mostly I’m devastated and miss her so much. She was my rock. I may not have been her best friend – in fact most people in her life wouldn’t even know I existed. But in terms of quality and duration – she was the best friend I’ve ever had. I will never know anyone half as wonderful as she was.
I find it hard at times… thinking of all the things she’s missed and will miss in the future. I can be listening to one of the latest Westlife songs, and I think ‘She never got to hear this song’. I can be unsure of what to do about a situation and want her input, but that’ll never happen again. I can see a video she’d love, or I can do something creative that I think she’d really like, but I’ll never hear her feedback on any of it. I may be able to talk to her… I do it often… but she will never reply again in this lifetime.
And I think I’ve been taking it day by day, but when I consider the future…. the many years that could lie ahead… she’ll still be gone. She’s gone forever. I don’t deal well with ‘forever’ and ‘never’… it’s something I’ve always said. The thought that I’ll never talk to her again is a brutal reality to face. She was the only friend I had left. She left me on my own. Five weeks before I would finally see her again, she decided life wasn’t for her. I never got to see her again. I never got to hug her, like I wish I had done the first time I met her. I never got to share that front row Westlife experience with her. Five weeks…. that’s all it was. I know it’s selfish, but I wish she could’ve held on until then…. I feel at least I’d have had a chance to see her, speak to her, change her mind in some way, even without knowing her intentions. Being denied that opportunity is what drives part of the anger. The rest is the being left totally alone thing.
Her death has forever changed me. I don’t like who I am anymore. I hadn’t for a while anyway – ever since my first experience of grief two years earlier… that changed me. It worsened my mental health… that caused people to avoid me… it made my best friend abandon me forever… Liv was the only one really there for me through it. She helped me cope with the new experience of grief. But now there’s nobody to help me with my grief for her. She’s gone. And I feel like a ghost… invisible to all. Avoided by all. Irrelevant to all.
The loss of Liv has made me more depressed, anxious, paranoid, untrusting… I’ve withdrawn more. I’ve felt suicidal myself most of the time. I already was before she took her own life. Losing someone to suicide does put you at higher risk of it yourself – the Samaritans told me that. But I already knew it because I’d researched about suicide grief, as I had nobody to talk to about it.
I’ve become unreliable… flaky. I hate that. I push people away. I take forever to reply to people… if I ever even do. They eventually all give up on me. I don’t blame them. I probably would too… I just wish they knew I’m not deliberately being like this. It’s my mental health, but more than that it’s the grief. When we lose someone we love, we don’t just lose them… we lose a part of ourselves too… who we were with them in our lives – Liv made me feel like a ‘somebody’…. now without her, and without others treating me like a somebody, I feel I’m a nobody. It’s hard to reach out when you feel you don’t exist. My ability to communicate isn’t as good. My concentration isn’t good. My memory is atrocious ever since. My self-esteem has crashed even more than before. My motivation and will to live just went. I felt certain I would take the same path as Liv eventually – it seemed inevitable. Last Christmas and New Year felt like the last ones…. I even said to the Wellbeing Centre that I’d be lucky to see one more birthday – I was only holding on for that birthday, as I was seeing Westlife on that day – but that’s unlikely to happen now, so who knows….. I got a bit better at the Centre, because I was inspired by someone I formed an attachment to. But being separated from him now for the foreseeable future makes everything even harder. So yes, those ‘inevitable’ thoughts have crept back in.
Death changes people. Suicide even more so. It leaves all the questions of ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’… I’m isolated in my grief…. due to lack of friends, and loss of peer support during lockdown. I fully expect social media to be all about her today, but I’m an outsider. Nobody knows who I am. They don’t know how important she was to me. They will support each other, and not support me. Social media can be quite cliquey like that. So I told my family I might need a bit more support, and I’ve asked my key worker to phone me too, just to check in with me. She said she would, but didn’t. That’s how alone I am with this. But at least I asked for that support. That’s progress for me. One day I might get some proper help to work through this. I hope. But no amount of working through this will fix it. She’ll still be gone. Nothing can bring her back. That’s the worst part.
Do you know how deafening silence is after you get home from a live gig? That’s what life is since she left. Deafening silence. Not to imply she was loud in any way as she certainly wasn’t. But her absence is deafening to the soul. It sounds cliché but the world is definitely darker without her. It’s hard to find any meaning with her gone. Time is distorted, as it seems to be in grief…. part of me thinks ‘how has it been a year already?’… the other feels she’s been gone so much longer than that. How can I have lived in a world without her for a whole year?
I still remember the day of the funeral. I remember the courage I had to find to go there. I had to travel to a place I’d never been before, all by myself and work out the bus system to get me where I needed to be. I remember turning up and knowing I was in the right place, because of people wearing blue items, and the police officers there. Then obviously I saw people I recognised from her photos / friends list etc. So many people turned up, they couldn’t all sit down. She was so loved. I wish she knew.
I felt so alone there, but eventually got chatting to someone. We sat together, and she gave me a tissue as I started crying as they brought her past to Westlife’s ‘I’ll See You Again’. It felt too surreal that in five weeks (a week or two by the time of the funeral) we were meant to be seeing them together, and now here I was, listening to them at her funeral. It was a beautiful service, but two things still haunt me… putting my hand on the coffin, telling her I love her and saying goodbye – it broke me… and seeing the pain on the faces of her family – it’s an image I can’t shift. I know I didn’t have to go…. as unassuming as Liv was, she would never have expected me to go… I wasn’t exactly invited and found out about it by chance, through her partner. But I had to be there. Because that’s how important she was to me. She may not have known how special she was in life, but I would’ve done anything for her. Although it was traumatic, I am glad I went to the funeral and said goodbye. It made it more real. And I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t go.
But I have a lot of work to do to process this still. Today I’m going to be gentle with myself, as Liv would advise me to be. I bought some tulips yesterday, to lay in the garden next to the ornament I got in memory of her. I’ll light a candle, probably play some Westlife at some point, and remember the wonderful friend I had, and how lucky I was to know her for as long as I did.
I love you Liv. I miss you. And I wish so much I could’ve saved you from yourself, because life without you is no life at all xxxx