Trigger Warning: The following blog post discusses themes around suicide including loss by suicide, suicidal ideation and supporting a partner with suicidal thoughts. If you are aware that these topics may be triggering for you there are other places on the website that you can read through while you are working on your healing. If you are reading this and it 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 or would like more resources please reach out to GGH.
"At this point in my healing journey, I make a conscious effort to live for Daniel"
I have been asked to explain who I am by articulating the roles I play or my line of work but I’ve always been of the belief that the answer to those questions will not help you understand me better. I don’t believe you knowing what I studied, or what I do or where I’m from will be memorable to you. What you truly remember about someone is the way they made you feel; that is the true trace of what we leave behind. I will let you readers decide and imagine what I must be like. But if I must answer the question, for the purposes of this blog post:
I am in love.
Who have you lost/ what life altering event have you experienced?
I consider myself to be a writer, but no string of words would ever do Daniel justice. We met when we were sixteen years old and I know it may sound juvenile to believe you found your soulmate so young, but I’m confident I did. In the few years we did share together, I’ve experienced more love than most people do their whole lives. We were both nineteen at the time he died by suicide.
How long has it been since?
He died by suicide three years ago. At this point, he has been dead for as long as I had the pleasure of knowing him. I can’t really articulate what that feels like.
Did you experience any significant life changes or impacts following?
I always used to say, “When Daniel died, I died.” I became completely unrecognizable to myself. Everything that made me me vanished, I had become nothing. I used to describe myself as an empty, hollow shell; with nothing human in it. I made a home in my sadness and refused to welcome anything good in my life.
Can you talk a bit about the day of/days leading up to your loss/these life changing events?
For us, mental illness was a part of our relationship. I was no stranger to the darkness in his mind so him dying in this way was something that we would talk about. We were very open and honest with each other and he shared his suicidal thoughts with me. Obviously, I think there were a lot of things he couldn’t bring himself to tell me. In the months leading up to his suicide, there was a time when everytime the phone rang, I thought it would be that cruel night.
But in actuality, in the days leading up to Daniel’s suicide it appeared (to me at the time at least) as though Daniel was happier. This is something that I have later come to learn is quite common in people who die by suicide through a Mental Health First Aid course.
When the suicidal person comes to the decision that they will die, they feel a form of elation because they have made peace with the decision. So for me, it was so hard to wrap my head around because it seemed like he was just starting to get better.
How did you cope in the month that followed?
I stayed frozen in time for a long time. I kept reliving the past; I replayed every painful memory in my head like a movie. If my heart was already broken, then I was splitting it up more and more. I refused to welcome anything good in life. I think because Daniel left this world in pain, I only wanted to feel pain. I was trapped in a painful loop of all the what if’s. I now know, this is what is called survivor’s guilt and mine was not pretty.
Spotlight on your loved one
It’s so hard picking the right words to explain Daniel because nothing ever feels like it's enough for him. I was loved so wholeheartedly and so completely by that boy it was unbelievable. We always used to tell each other, “We must’ve been created from the same stardust.” Everything about us meeting was almost like a reunion, like our atoms had been travelling through time and space just to find each other again. I felt so at ease in his presence. No one on this earth understands me the way Daniel did. I like to think we still have a relationship, it’s just different now. All I ever strive to do is love him hard enough that he can feel it in whatever realms of the universe he is in now.
How do you cope now when you miss them or when you think back to that time in your life?
I think what the non grieving community needs to understand is that you don’t just lose someone the moment they die. You lose them every second of every day. That’s why the healing process is nonlinear, which is why this idea of “coping” is difficult for me to answer. Personally, I like to create a space in which Daniel can still be alive. I love talking about him, I love writing about him, I love hearing stories about him. I think just talking about the death and the feelings and the thoughts was the most helpful thing for me.
How does this loss impact you today?
For a long time, the idea of living in a world without Daniel seemed so unfathomable to me. I really didn’t think I would survive this loss. I remember what it felt like to wish heartbreak would just kill you.
At this point in my healing journey, I make a conscious effort to live for Daniel. I like to think that he gets to wander and experience life with me, so I try to keep it interesting for him. I travel quite a bit and make a point to lead the audacious, adventurous life we always wanted together. Since he has been dead, I have travelled to: Iceland, LA, Spain, Amsterdam, Chicago, Japan and now I live in the Canadian Rockies. I go to every concert he would’ve loved to go to. I try to experience everything for him. I like to think of us as one.
What were some of the most pivotal healing moments in your journey?
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well I like to say it takes a village to console a grieving girl. I always acknowledge friendship as a dominant pillar in my life. My community really stepped up for me. Daniel died two years after we graduated high school so everyone was still very well connected. I received a lot of external support but still there was a void in me that only I could heal.
Writing was one of the most helpful things for my healing because it was my way to still communicate with Daniel. I could create a space in which we could both exist together again. My journal entries are written as if I were speaking to Daniel. It’s my way of still keeping him updated on what’s happening in my life.
I have also found therapy helpful in sorting out my scattered and fragmented thoughts. I was already an overthinker, but the loss made my mind go a mile a minute. I really needed the additional support to talk through my worst memories instead of just constantly reliving them in my head alone.
What do you wish you would’ve known then that you know now? What would you tell yourself then if you could go back to those most painful moments after your loss? ....
After the loss, I became obsessed with suicide and mental health so I spent a lot of time educating myself on the topic. At this point, I know a lot of skills and resources that I wish I would’ve known then. I think it’s important for everyone to take that time to educate yourself on available resources and behavioural training to support the people in their lives that may be struggling. The Mental Health Commission of Canada provides a lot of great online resources.
If I could go back to those moments after the loss I would tell my Past Self that the pain I was about to endure, is only a reflection of the love I shared. I would remind myself that I could only know true loss if I had something worth losing. And I definitely had everything worth losing.
Girls gotta heal because … as a team, and as a community, I believe girls can unite and bravely talk about death, grief and mental health and maybe somewhere down the line, someone else doesn’t lose their soulmate to suicide.
If you would like to read more about my grief journey, please visit https://www.audaciousfool.com/post/the-night-it-happened