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"Trapped in darkness...Suicide of a friend"

Beach 50, fabulous & finally free

My beautiful friend

It’s been a little over two years since I lost one of my friends – and I don’t mean lost like “we lost touch” or I “lost her address”, I lost her to suicide. At first I couldn’t believe it, I kept thinking it had to have been a mistake. She was one of the most vibrant people I have ever known – the kind of person you can hear laughing from a mile away, that makes you want to join in and find out what’s so funny.

My friend had dealt with a lot of stress, her nightmare divorce still trumps any story I’ve ever heard (A spouse with substance abuse, being accused of attempted murder, spending jail time, losing kids to CPS just to cover the highlights). She had struggled with sobriety and come through with her head held high, her sole focus was getting her kids back in her life. So how could this wonderful, vivacious and tenacious woman give up?

In the days that followed I found myself reaching out to other friends of hers, fondly remembering her and wondering if anyone else had any ideas as to what had happened. Needless to say, the common theme among our conversations was guilt – why hadn’t we checked in more often? When was the last time we had spent time with her? Ironically it renewed and cemented a lot of our friendships as we had all drifted a bit apart and been caught up in our own lives.

Her oldest child was months away from high school graduation and the younger two were just beginning their high school careers. I have tried and tried and just can’t wrap my mind around her choice. It brought into stark reality for me how hard it is for someone who struggles with mental illness (or addiction) to cope on a day-to-day basis. Because we all knew she had found sobriety, we assumed she was “fine”. None of us stopped to think about how much despair there must have been in her life, having only supervised visitation with her children. We didn’t take time out from our own lives, spending time with our children, to realize how she might feel isolated and alone.

I am not saying that I feel we are responsible, my friend was an adult and made her own choice in the end, I just know that for me – I’ll never really lose the guilt of wishing I had done more and then perhaps she would have made a different choice. In the much darker world that my friend left behind I have adopted a few new rules. I check in with my friends much more often, and never hesitate to tell them how important they are to me. (I have gotten several witty comments from my friends about this change, but nonetheless I persevere.) If I have a friend who I know is dealing with any kind of stress I try to make sure they know I am there for them, day or night. The flip side to this is that I now sometimes reach out to my close friends when I’m dealing with things as well. I know that none of this will bring back my beautiful friend, but in her memory I’m trying to make sure nobody else in my friend group will feel as alone as she did.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please get help – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 1-800-273-TALK.

Needing help doesn’t diminish us; sometimes it’s a much-needed part of surviving life.

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