On Processing Goodbyes
I’m not exactly sure how to write about the loss of my friends. So, this is me doing my best.
People talk a lot about 2016 being a garbage year. As someone who’s been trying to get their life back together for about four years now, I could easily agree that 2016 was another piece of shit with the increasingly terrifying political climate coupled with elevated transparent, unapologetic violence.
In 2016, three people I love and connected with in the past few years are no longer with us on this planet. I can’t talk to them ever again. As an agnostic, I can’t masquerade a feeling that they’re in a better place, that this was some plan or anything positive. All three were brilliant, compassionate, loving people who were fighting through struggles and teaching me how to be a better friend and mortal.
When I got the news my friend killed himself earlier this year, I immediately reflected on the days I’ve fantasized (and sometimes still do) about suicide as my answer to what torments me. I thought about how I don’t blame him. Yet, I can’t help but sometimes feel pissed that he’s done, and I can’t tap out like that. That he left friends, family and kids who love and need him. That he got to the point where he truly believed things could not get better for him.
He told me once I saved his life after I assisted with a wellness check on him, and I was relieved because I didn’t know if I had done the right thing. I suppose I was only able to do that one time, and it doesn’t matter anymore if it was right.
Another friend was someone who reached out to me when I outed myself as a trauma survivor. We were better friends when our friends were dating but less so when breakups occurred. However, she let me know she was a survivor, too. We chatted for many hours about this terrible connection we had found in each other, but found a lot of love and comfort in being able to relate about the cumbersome, lengthy, arduous process of what it takes to heal from trauma. She inspired me to take charge and get real help for something that was bulldozing my life in every direction. I know she was working hard on her healing, too.
We referred to each other as kindred spirits. Our last two Google Hangout exchanges were “Sending love,” and “Sending love to you, too.“ While physically not close (since I had moved from the Bay Area back to Oregon), messenger was our way of connecting, and she still lingers as the last chat I had on Google. It’s haunting and heartbreaking to not see her online presence and to know I can’t ping to send love.
I just confirmed within this past hour that another friend and confidant died this weekend in the fire in Oakland. I woke up to the news Saturday morning, and I saw his name on the missing list. I then realized the fire had destroyed this warehouse (Ghost Ship), the warehouse in Oakland he told me he called home. I immediately started to call, text, Skype, message and ping, every way I could come up with to see if he was sleeping somewhere else. He could have easily just not been awake at 11 a.m. on a Saturday. I messaged a few mutual friends and the idea of him escaping the fire immediately were bleak.
The last few days I’d been stalking (and intermittently avoiding) the news, Facebook pages and blogs to find the beginning of closure. I was linked to a CNN video where his friend talks about how he broke his ankle trying to get out and was calling for help. He did not make it out of the fire. My heart just f*cking hurts. Again, since we messaged often, he was one of the chat windows I keep open. I’m not finding the heart to close it yet. He was asking me if I’d been to his favorite pasta place in Portland and how he may visit soon. I was encouraging him to come up this holiday and we could adventure a bit. Other days we’d talk for hours about our treatment-resistant depression, drug abuse, their effects on relationships, feelings of loneliness and many other topics from tech to kitties. I don’t think I can quite process what’s happened to him and that he is gone as well.
Since I know the intimate details of how my friends passed, the selfish part of me wishes I didn’t so I could live ignorantly and simply grieve the fact they’re gone. The fact is, it doesn’t work that way. Death can be horrible, painful, sad, ugly and mean. Life can and is often capricious and cruel. It may take us in the most destructive of ways. We can stay small and try to be safe or live large and take risks. There really isn’t a right answer, I think.
I don’t have wisdom to share or a point of writing this beyond catharsis. I’m furious and distraught. I don’t understand why my friends are gone today and I am here. I want to know how to honor and grieve them and somehow still have them feel that I care about them so goddamn much.
Grief is confusing. It just is. For me, this time around, it’s helping me forgot how to cope and making me question what the f*ck I’m doing with my little time on the planet. It does remind me to tell you I love you and to be a helper.
I love you guys.
This post originally appeared on Typing Vigorously.
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