You can hide a lot with a smile.

(Trigger Warning: talk of loss by suicide & bereavement)

My best friend was the life and soul of the party. She was confident, clever, people gravitated towards her. Three years ago she took her own life.

Three years on and I still think of her every day. It’s hard to be in the world and know she’s not in it.

it’s hard to come to terms with knowing that when she was taking her own life I was walking the dog on a park five minutes from her house.

I’ve been sad, I’ve been angry and every emotion in between. I’ve thought I was going mad because I didn’t know how to deal with the overwhelming grief that felt too big for my body to hold. I didn’t think it would ever leave. I was terrified I would always feel like that.

Grief doesn’t ever go away. You just learn to live with it. And eventually the sharp desperate, maddening insanity you feel doesn’t take up quite so much room inside you every minute of every day. Maybe you can get through one day without crying, or you can laugh at reruns of Friends. At some point you can talk about the things you did together and smile.

The tsunami of grief turns into waves that hit unexpectedly; if I watch Pitch Perfect 3, or if I see a pigeon on the street or hear Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.

Then there’s the birthday and anniversary waves. They’re not as turbulent as the 1st anniversary waves were. First birthday after she died, first Christmas etc, but the waves ebb and flow and sometimes the sadness comes with a nostalgic smile and sometimes they come with tears of disbelief. But the waves do ebb and flow and I’m not afraid that the grief will eat me whole anymore. It will come and it will go.

But some days i still forget she’s not here for half a second. A barely formed thought will appear and I’ll reach for my phone to call her.

I think of what she’d say about the world right now. Of the pandemic—I imagine she’d be giving loads of zoom tutoring during lockdown and doing some fun exciting kids read along story time to get kids excited about books.

I wonder about silly things too, like when Philip Schofield came out as gay because she always had a crush on him. I imagine something witty she’d say about missing her chance with him.

I think of what we’d do if she was here. How we would have gone on social distanced walks during lockdown, and how we’d talk about our writing everyday.

The world is a colder, scarier place now. Because if she can do something like that then what other horrors are out there?

She was a big part of my life for over twenty years and I miss her. We met on the bus on our way to college, we went to uni together, lived together, partied, argued, she travelled the world then eventually came home, and I stayed home the whole time, but we’ve always been friends.

Sometimes it feels like she’s just gone travelling and one day she will be back to tell me all about it.

Being left behind In this way is a weird thing. It’s like I’m living in the twilight zone. Everything is mostly the same, there’s just one thing missing. It’s small and huge at the same time.

I phoned a helpline shortly after it happened. It was one given to us by work so not specifically for suicide bereavement. The woman on the phone obviously had no training in this because she said to me “haven’t you had anyone in your life die before?”

It’s not about the dying. I’ve had aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers die—but not one of them took their own life. It’s a different kind of grief when that happens.

It’s also mixed with guilt, shock, anger and you can’t stop playing the what if game—what if I’d asked her to walk the dog with me—what if I’d got her to stop at mine the night before— a hundred different scenarios that play on a never ending loop in my head and drive me crazy because I can’t do anything about it. But what if?

The grief bordered on insanity and I never thought I’d claw out of it. I’ve spoken to more specialised volunteers since then, People who have been through it too. But what helped the most was going to see a counsellor and just talk. And cry. There was and is still a lot of crying.

This is the first time I’ve talked about this online, I’ve seen a few things on the news—someone falling/jumping off the balcony in a shopping centre, an incident on the railway track and I think about their families and friends and understand a little of their pain.

Suicide Grief is a maddening, crazy, overwhelming, lonely thing to experience. If anyone is going through this don’t try to do it alone. Speak to a counsellor,or experienced volunteers. I spoke to Cruse https://www.cruse.org.uk

If you’re having suicidal thoughts then know that you are loved and also consider getting help.

Here are a few links

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/supporting-someone-who-feels-suicidal/useful-contacts/

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/behaviours/help-for-suicidal-thoughts/

Books for the bereaved:

Unfinished Conversation: Healing… https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/193700645X?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

Wilderness of Suicide Grief: Finding Your Way (Understanding Your Grief) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1879651688/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_i_FTP4HQ6NEEQZRDX63WS5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

for those suffering with depression/suicidal thoughts

Reasons to Stay Alive https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1782116826/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_i_YXF9S1PD7NDS2N81H4VF

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