The Other Side of Suicide
BY DEE MCGEE
Grief is something we all experience at some point in our lives. It’s disorientating, awakening, inevitable and super fucking painful.
16 APR - 2018
It’s important to share the point of view of those who are left to deal with the aftermath of suicide.
Today’s post comes from one of my closest friends, Dee, who suffered, is still suffering, and will continue to suffer from the hurt that replays like a broken record. When we met, we bonded instantly and were attached at the hip due to our mutual love of kbbq and our commitment to binge-eating pork and kimchi. After a while, Dee disappeared off the grid out of the blue, and I was pretty fucking befuddled, to say the least, as to why she stopped talking to me.
After a couple of years of living our separate lives, we recently rekindled our friendship and as a way to encourage catharsis, I asked Dee to share her story with us. She’s the girlfriend who was left bruised, broken and riddled with guilt.
If you’ve been left to live your life without a loved one who’s decided to leave a little earlier on their own terms, I’m hoping this piece will help you somehow. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, or for a shoulder to cry on... You’re not alone - everyone suffers, it’s just relative, that’s all.
I’m sitting at my desk of the job I’m about to leave thinking how I would even start to write about you…
I thought a letter to you explaining how I feel would be the easiest way to get it all out. It’s your anniversary today - two years. It feels like yesterday. I wore your shirt today that I haven’t washed in over two years hoping that there is some trace of your scent left. I keep sniffing it secretly so I don’t look like a weirdo.
I remember first getting the call, when I felt the wave of dread come over me. I wanted more than anything in the world for this to be a dream; I slept for hours and hours trying to wake up from this nightmare. It’s like the feeling of hunger, the feeling that can only be stopped by eating but there is no way to stop this pain. I kept thinking to myself I can’t wait for the day where this gets bearable to live with, like a break up. There’s one day where you just sort of, snap out of it, and it doesn’t hurt as much. I’m sitting here two years after you took yourself out of my life with force and it still stings like yesterday.
The first day after I found out, I woke up to a missed call at about 9am and I was still sleeping off the tear-induced slumber I was in. When your body has cried so much, you can’t even stay awake. I didn’t want to face the world let alone take a call and hear someone say how sorry they are but when I saw it was your dad, I had to call him. He answered quickly and said “Brayden’s died” and it happened again as if I didn’t know already - it was like the cement that made it real.
The next few hours and weeks that followed were, and still are, a blur.
I went to see my Aunty who had lost her husband. He died in an accident about 6 years earlier so I thought she would understand losing someone special to me, even more than my parents who have never understood what mental health really is and when mine was deteriorating they had no clue what to do, thinking it would pass with time. I arrived at her house the day after and spent the next few days talking to her and getting to know my permanent passenger a little better, sadness.
“Dee, this pain is never going to go away. The only thing that will happen to you is to learn how to live with it,” she said. This was the best piece of advice I could have been given while trying to navigate my way around my grief. I have held this strong in my mind since that day.
Part of me just wanted to die. A huge part of me wanted all of this to end when there was no light fathomable except turning out my own. I went through the motions of feeling like the only way I could see you again was in death. There was, and is so much I need to talk to you about. I have become this person and it’s all for you. I wasn’t happy with the way I treated you so I changed - I did it so that I could protect you and make sure nothing like this would ever happen. I knew that you were feeling horrible and had thoughts of suicide. I thought I could save you if I went away and sorted out my own problems. When I was ready, I came back to you but I was too late. Too fucking late.
The feelings of guilt came after.
Those days I spent in Waipu after you died were long and hard. My friends didn’t know what to do and it hurt. I wanted their support, I wanted them to know my pain and understand how strongly I felt we were meant to be together but I couldn’t articulate this pain. You ripped my heart out of my chest and while it was still beating you squished it in your hand like it was merely a marshmallow. My friends thought I was pushing them away which was partly true, I didn’t know how to let them into this. How do you tell the people you love most in your life that their love isn’t enough to keep you alive? I am still struggling with this today.
Then came your funeral.
Why did I leave you? I knew you were sick and after going to your funeral it was clear I was one of the only ones who really did know the extent of your sickness. I could have saved you, and I know it. The reason I went away and spent a lot of time getting better was to be able to handle my own emotions so I could take of yours more permanently, forever if you wanted that too.
I want to say that this day was harder than hearing of your suicide, but it wasn’t. I felt numb and looking at all the people who loved you and how broken they were just fuelled the ever-growing gap in my sanity. I was losing my mind and could see no apparent way to fix it except being with you again. The day felt so long, the tears felt endless and the guilt was building within me. I saw your brother that day, he hugged me and held me for a long while and we just, sort of, were. We were there in the flesh, but neither of us felt a thing aside from unbearable grief. It was like two shells holding each other together because we were both at our tipping point.
I could feel the grief of your family seeping from the ceremony as people got up and spoke of their time with you. I didn’t think my heart could break any more than it already had until your mum took the podium. She spoke swiftly and briefly, clearly trying not to be distraught in front of everyone who’s ever loved you. She, to this day, is one of the strongest women I have ever come across and to make it worse, you were her soul mate. That was the common trend of conversation when discussing your relationship; you two were closer than anyone I knew.
I remember after the funeral we went to bury you. Shit, I thought, this is fucking real, this is as real as it can fucking get and here I am, breathing, when I don’t want to be.
The days slowly dragged on after this. I continued living my life and everyone seemed to move on. Meanwhile, it felt like I was the only one who wasn’t or couldn’t move on. That’s when the suppression started. I suppressed every thought, feeling and emotion that I felt within myself and I shared nothing. I tried a few times to open up, but people seemed to be very uncomfortable discussing the love of my life who was now dead. No one can really grasp the thought of death, especially the thought of death taking your most treasured human. I pushed everyone out of my life so I could wallow in peace, which didn’t help. I never lost friends which I am very grateful for - they all stayed by my side no matter how I was dealing with it that day.
As I sit here recalling this trauma, it makes me think how much it really has stayed with me. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you. I wake up and think of you. When someone tells me they love me, I think of you. When someone kisses me with passion, I think of you. Two years is like a blip on the timeline that is getting over you. I never knew how much I really loved you until you were taken from me. Do you know that? Are you watching me? I hope you are…
I see monarch butterflies almost weekly, and I know it’s you. The thought of you watching over me makes the days ever so slightly easier. I think bearable is a more appropriate word to use for the feeling. I don’t want to die most days.
I don’t know what the future holds for me or for my grieving but I hope that one day we are reunited and it’s the right time, not because I chose to go. You were the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I’m not sure if anyone could take your place.
I thought I could feel love again for another man but it’s been quite the opposite. I feel guilt, like I’m cheating on you - but you’re dead. I feel ashamed that every guy I’ve been with has no idea you’re on my mind always. I feel sadness knowing they aren’t you. Can you cheat with a dead guy? I don’t know, but sometimes it feels like it. I say it, "I love you"… but never really mean it like I did with you.
I remember you asked me once, “will we be together forever?” I said, "I don’t know, but I hope so." Now I know, whether it’s physically or you haunting my every thought, we will always be together.