So, today I’m going to talk about something that happened to me last week, an event I had to attend.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I had a very good friend who sadly committed suicide two years ago next month (I’ll not be mentioning her name for obvious reasons). This was obviously a very distressing time for everyone who knew her, friends, families and everyone in college. I had to miss her funeral at the time because I managed to catch pneumonia and put myself in intensive care in the time between her death and the funeral, so I never got to be there along with everyone else that day. I have subsequently visited her grave (although it is a long-distance journey), and that certainly did help me gain some sense of closure, although of course in these sorts of things I doubt it is ever possible to fully understand, as you know that you can never talk to the person about it. Visiting her grave that day also helped me feel closer again to her, and allowed me to talk to her (well, to myself, but directed at her), and say things that I wanted to say, and wished I’d said previously, along with telling her the things that had gone on in the intervening time too, just in case she could hear.

Anyway, last weekend, our college planted a tree in her memory in the gardens. It was organised by her mother and sister, and many of her former friends were there for the occasion. We heard some nice words from both another student, and her mother, along with the Master of the college, before going to the location where the tree was to be planted. Her sister planted the tree, a moment of silence, further words from her mother, a poem was read, and then it was done. It was a very strange feeling, and evidently very upsetting for most of us involved, although important for us all to be there too, together again, remembering her and what kind of person she was, and all the good things that she did, and the way she brightened all our lives. We moved inside for tea and spent a good couple of hours chatting between us. Having never met her mother or sister (I was in hospital), and only having talked to her sister on the phone shortly after her death, I felt very anxious about speaking properly with them. I was introduced to them both, although I found it very difficult to find what to say, or anything to say at all. I feel very ashamed even now, and wish I had said more to them, as it must have been hardest of all for them that day.

Everyone put on a brave face during the time we were there afterwards, and we also moved to a pub, where her mother bought drinks for many people. I could tell that others were also finding it difficult, trying to make up for the difficulty they were having by smiling and laughing. We spent much time just sitting and chatting, catching up on what people had been doing (now having mostly left university, or at least being elsewhere), and I feel that this was something that we all needed at that point. Inside, I was desperate to go home, to be on my own, to think about her, and inevitably to feel very down and upset, going over all the same things that repeatedly enter in my mind most days since it happened. Could I have done something? Should I have known? I knew that she had problems and she was upset, and I’d recommended she see her doctor, but still could I have done more? Was I there for her when she needed me? These are all very difficult feelings to cope with, and I think that it is natural to have them when there is this sort of traumatic experience. I understand that there is very little I could have done, but it doesn’t stop my mind swinging wildly back to those thoughts at the most inopportune of times. As I was saying, I was convinced that I should leave, but in the end I stayed, with an old friend from undergraduate, and three others from the year below me, and we chatted and helped each other along until quite late in the evening.

In hindsight, I think this was the best choice I could have made. I still had my time to remember her, but I didn’t let myself be overcome by it, I didn’t allow myself to fall into the pit of self-pity that I had visited very often over this, and I didn’t let myself get carried away with feeling so helpless that I might end up back where I was over a year ago, finding it very difficult to do anything. I’ve still spent time after the day thinking about her in great depth, thinking about the times we spent together, the things she said, the times we laughed, and the times one of us cried. Those aren’t moments I’m ever going to forget, and I miss her sorely every single day, but those memories will always be there, and for one day, last weekend, we were there for each other, helping each other get along after a tough experience that we all felt very sharply.

I hope that nobody who reads this ever suffers from suicidal thoughts, and I think it is important that people know that no matter how hopeless they feel, no matter how bleak everything seems, there are ALWAYS, and I really do mean always, people who love you, people who care for you, and people who will be there for you, people who will be a rock for you, and people who will keep you above the waterline when you feel like drowning. There are organisations you can speak to, most universities have things such as Nightline, there is always the Samaritans, and if you really need to you can go to your GP or even the Emergency Department at a hospital. Nobody can understand what goes through a person’s mind when they decide to go through with something like suicide, but I can speak for those that are left behind. It is hard, it is incredibly hard. Someone you loved, someone who you spoke with every day, and someone who you cared for, and wanted to always be there for, is gone, and you will never be able to help them, and you will never be able to bring them back, and you will never be able to hear their voice again. Grief is a black country, you have to travel a long way to catch a glimmer of light, and it is so difficult being left without any answers, and I wish more than anything that nobody should be left feeling like that, because it makes me feel dreadful much of the time, but what I feel must be a drop in the ocean compared to the parents, siblings, children and partners of those that lose a loved one.