Trigger Warning: The following post discusses themes and details around losing a high school best friend and coping over the years. If you are aware that these topics may be triggering to you there are other places on the website that you can read through while you are working on your healing. If you'd like to read on and this becomes triggering for you I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust to share your feelings and participate in self- care. If you are unsure on how to do this please reach out to GGH.
"I think the biggest challenge was when all the 'company' and 'distractions' of people around me stopped, that I started to feel alone or find myself crying again".
I am a supply chain coordinator for a Pharma Distributor company. We basically import goods from different countries and distribute them to manufacturers all over Canada. I'm the oldest sibling of two.
How do we know each other?
We met about 6 years ago working retail together.
Who have you lost/ what life altering event have you experienced?
On September 11, 2013 I lost my best friend Kae Anne. She was like the sister I never had and one of the very few people I confided it as a teenager and young adult.
How long has it been since?
It will be 7 years this September
Can you talk a bit about the day of/days leading up to your loss/these life changing events?
Kae Anne had a boyfriend for almost 3 years of our friendship, and although it was hard realizing we couldn't hang out as much, we still had a bond that I couldn't compare with many other close friends. A month before her death, her boyfriend had broken up with her. It was her first heart break so she was in a really bad place, and she relied on my company a lot more than usual, but I didn't complain. As selfish as it may sound, I liked that she needed me again, because I had missed her. So in those days left of her life, I didn't hesitate to come over or talk on the phone if she asked me to.
One week before her death, she had texted me a nice paragraph basically thanking me for being a friend to lean during a tough time in her life. I still have that text in my archives. I had replied to her text reminding her that I'm always a phone call or text away.
The morning of September 11, my dad had barged into my room shaking me to wake up. I felt like I was in a bad dream when he yelled, “Denise! Kae Anne passed away! Her uncle just called!” In a daze I yelled back, “What?! No she didn't!” I started shaking as I struggled to turn on my cell phone. That's when all the text messages came in, and minutes later, several phone calls from people that I haven't seen since high school, poured onto my caller ID. I had sobbed on my bedroom floor for I don't know how many hours, before two close girlfriends from high school came over to clean me up.
How did you cope in the month that followed?
I worked part time at IKEA at that time, so I had given away my shifts whenever I could to spend time at home. I also had family visiting from the Philippines for four months, so the kids always kept me entertained and smiling. Almost every weekend, I'd also spend time with Kae Anne's parents and siblings. It helped me feel close to her still. Friends had also come around whenever they could just to take me out for coffee and talk. I think I had good company around me all the time, which made the coping part a little easier and less depressing. It helped that Kae Anne's family always wanted me around, because in a mutual understanding, they wanted my presence to feel close to their daughter too. For me it felt like I had dealt with my loss in a healthy way. I think the biggest challenge was when all the “company” and “distractions” of people around me stopped, that I started to feel alone or find myself crying again. I'm someone who finds comfort in socializing all the time.
Spotlight on your loved one (share what they meant to you, how they impacted your life, a special story or something that always reminds you of them).
Those who know me probably know that I'm a sensitive soul. I'm also very emotional and I like to consider my words and how they affect others. I think a big reason why I'm comfortable being vulnerable with close ones is because Kae Anne had allowed me to expose that side of myself. She was also a sensitive soul. When someone hurt her, she would let them know ASAP and wear the words and her heart on her sleeve. If she hurt you, she'd apologize and cry, because she hated what her actions had caused. As a kid, I always felt like I had to be the tough one between us, but watching her and listening to her be raw about her emotions, made me understand that there's nothing wrong with that. It humanizes us. Eventually I found myself running to her first every time I needed to sob my eyes out over something I couldn't control.
How do you cope now when you miss them or when you think back to that time in your life?
I definitely still let myself cry about it, whenever I think about her. I still ask myself how a person who touched my life so magically can just be gone like that a tender age. I think watching her family grow stronger together over the years helped. They are deep believers in God, so their ties to the Church and community helped them find comfort in knowing she's in a good place. In my heart I believe it too, even when I find myself sad about losing her.
How does this loss impact you today still?
I still hang out with a few of mine and Kae Anne's mutual friends, so we definitely feel a void whenever we have get-togethers here and there. We all still talk about her and miss her, but we all have also moved forward with our lives and are in great places. Some of us have our own families now, or are trying to grow in our careers (I'm one of those lol).
Kae Anne was the “captain” when it came to hosting our hang outs, and she loved to socialize as much as I did. She made sure to not lose touch with any of us. She valued real friendships, and that was definitely not lost on any of us.
I myself, will always try to grow as a person everyday. Kae Anne was the first friend who taught me about self-awareness, and the only friend who would call me out when it came to consideration for other people.
If you could tell yourself something during that difficult time in your life when so much was changing you would tell yourself ....
I would tell myself: "Denise, I know your heart is so broken right now, but do not stop showing love to others the way Kae Anne showed it to you. Laughter is contagious, and in time, you will be spreading it again to others".
Girls gotta heal because... she's got the world to conquer.
Grief In Me: Sister stories will continue next week. These are a collection of stories and conversations with women I've encountered and have formed connections with along my own grief journey and healing. Join the conversation on Instagram Live every Tuesday with the Sister Story guest of the week.