When life gives you lemons… it typically throws more lemons at you to see if you can find a way to turn them into lemonade. At one point in my life, I had so many lemons, I had lemonade coming out the wazoo. I’d learned how to manage my own struggles and had stable friendships, a great job and a loving family. Life was pretty good. Until, it wasn’t.
5 months ago, I lost my best friend. After fighting for her life for months, she eventually took it all away. She lost her battle with mental health. Up until that point in my life, I had only ever been heartbroken due to the loss of a relationship. The loss of a life is very different. Especially when that life is taken by the person you love themselves. Suicide leaves behind a great big fucking mess. There’s no easy way to say it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, but I got through it.
When my best friend died, I struggled not to blame myself for failing to save her one last time. I always thought I would catch her when she fell, when she couldn’t save herself. But I didn’t. And that destroyed me. I was guilt ridden, mad, angry, broken, exhausted, depressed and a whole bunch of other shit that I have no reasonable name for.
Her name was Nicola and she was the best person I knew. She was my Best friend and I lucked out big time. She was too smart for her own good, too smart for this shitty place and I will forever be grateful for the time I got to share with her. I’ve made my peace with her death but it still haunts me every day. The loss of a loved one isn’t something you just move on from. You can’t just pick yourself up and keep going. You are broken down to the core and you need to find all the little pieces of yourself and put them back together.
In the weeks following her death, I realised that grief is a whirlwind of emotions. Some days I was happy and doing okay and others I completely fell apart. Grief is different for everyone and there is absolutely no correct way to grieve. I cannot stress that enough. C.S. Lewis said that ‘Grief is like fear’ and I can’t find a better way to explain it. Whilst I was feeling so many different things, the one thing that stayed constant was the fear. My body hadn’t registered that my biggest fear had come to light so I just transferred the fear I had for Nicola onto other people. I was absolutely terrified. Terrified of living without her, of what was to come, terrified I might lose someone else. I was just so scared.
I had so many people surround me in those first couple of days that I didn’t fully process what happened until much later. The hardest part isn’t in the beginning, it’s when the people start to taper off and you’re left with nothing but your grief, your pain and your loss. Having a support network is so important but so is dealing with it by yourself. Grief is lonely. That’s how I felt about two weeks after she died. Alone. Totally and completely alone. I just wanted to call my best friend and tell her all the crazy shit that had been happening. But I couldn’t. She was gone and life went on. That’s the funny thing about death. The clock keeps ticking but you’re completely stagnant. People keep going, but you don’t. I lost track of the days and the time and what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing. Mostly, I just paced around whatever room I was in, trying to figure out how it all went so, so, horribly wrong.
All deaths are sudden, but suicide hits a little different. You have nothing and no one to blame. And blame you shouldn’t. The stigma around mental health is something that needs to be broken. We all have mental health and it should be taken care of just as if we were taking care of our physical health. We all need to talk about it more, be open and honest and hopefully, one day, we can break that stigma. Never be ashamed to admit that you are struggling. Never be ashamed to tell someone how you’re feeling or that you need help. We all need to step up and look out for our friends, our family members, our colleagues. But most importantly, we need to look out for ourselves. Take time to recognise when you’re not doing well and take the time you need to get back on track. Take time to stop and check in with yourself. Are you spiralling? Is it all getting a bit too much? Remember to live and live well, whatever that means to you. 5 months on and I have found a little piece of happiness in my life again. Grief still weaves in and out of my life like an incredibly dark tapestry, but I know I am strong enough to handle it and I’m doing it for her now. I carry her strength with me and she lifts me up on days when I don’t think that I can keep going. If you’re ever feeling lost, please reach out to me personally because I’ve been through it myself. Please don’t be afraid to speak up. Because at the end of the day, in this shitty world, all we have is each other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.