What suicide loss taught me about greif
In every movie where a character suddenly dies, often times the victim of that loss is the protagonist. The protagonist often gets to their knees, shaking like a leaf on a tree, and breaks down in an ocean of tears.
Society portrays grief that comes with tears and shock. However, that was the complete opposite for me.
On the morning of July 14, 2017, I am on my lunch break. While eating a bagged lunch prepared by the state, like any other young person of the 21st century, I check my phone. I get a message from an online friend which was stamped at 11:08 AM. I click the message thinking it was a meme. However, I read: "do you know Nick?"
I respond with "of course! He's like an older brother to me!"
She responds in a sardonic tone, "They found him dead in his truck. They suspect suicide"
"NO NO NO! He was just hit by another truck! He's ok! He's in the hospital right?!" I respond in a panic
"I'm afraid not, I am sorry honey" she replied.
I was frozen, my heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach. I ran to the bathroom and threw up. My boss must've heard me gagging in the bathroom stall and asked if I was ok. I couldn't talk. The news tied my vocal cords in a knot. I pulled out my phone and just showed her the text. All she told me was "go home."
I walked home in a fugue state. It still hasn't occurred to me that my best friend died. My best friend who kept me company during the all-nighters I had to pull, my best friend who'd call me when he was taking a break from driving the highways as a truck driver, my best friend who was a listening ear when I needed it most. It still hasn't occurred to me that the text asking how I was doing would never come.
I didn't cry when I got the news. I just disassociated for weeks. I pretended as if I didn't get that text. But inside me a hurricane of rage was brewing. After weeks I came home and screamed into a pillow.
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! You hurt me! You betrayed me! You lied when you said you loved me!" I said over and over. Shortly after that, I soaked my pillow in tears. After almost a month it finally set in. My best friend would never come back. I thought the pain would subside after a couple of weeks, but it didn't. Weeks turned into months and months into years. The grief came in many forms.
Some days I would cry for hours when I was alone in my room, other days I would say things to myself like "he deserved to die!" And then it would go back to "I miss him." As I healed I began to learn that grief isn't a straight path. And it doesn't always come in the form of crying. Over the years some days would be better than others. When I started therapy and talked about our friendship and the rollercoaster of emotions caused by his loss, I began to think "I am healing, I am done grieving!" Until recently, I heard a stranger who had a voice similar to his, frequency, and tone. I almost turned around to ask "Nick is that you?" But it wasn't.
I came home that day and cried. When I am stuck in traffic and see a truck driver, I find myself peeking into the truck's cabin to see if it's him, even after almost four years, and again have to convince myself that he is gone.
Before Nick died, I grieved the losses of both family and friends before. But it never hurt as much as this loss has. Perhaps because it was sudden, and with the loss of my grandfather to brain cancer, and friend to lymphoma, I was mentally prepared to see them go. But with Nick, I knew he had depression, I knew he had ideation, but I was never mentally prepared for him to take his life.
That's what suicide taught me about grief. That the grief that hurts the most is the death that you're never prepared for. July 2022 marks five years since Nick died, and there are days that are worse than others. It took me three years to remove his contact information from my phone, I still get the urge to text him a funny meme, to find out which state he's driving through today, or just to ask "Hey big bro, how are you feeling?" Just to check on him the way we used to do. Intellectually I know now that he's gone. As cliche as it sounds, Nick is always with me and will always be immortal in my heart.
I don't think I'll ever stop grieving, the pain may have subsided, but his suicide taught me that grief is never linear. It comes in sadness, and anger can last for weeks or years. On July 11, 2021, I got a memorial ink with the lyric from Linkin Park's song "one more light" the lyric says Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do." And every time I see a truck when I am stuck on the highway in traffic, I lift up my fist and ask the truck driver to honk their horn.