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The Email I Received From a Friend of My Daughter Who Died by Suicide

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

Just the other day, my eldest daughter rang to say that a friend of Kathryn’s contacted her, to see if it was all right to send me an email. Immediately my heart cried “yes!” Yes, someone, talk to me about Kathryn! Yes please, tell me more.

As I got off the phone I crumbled. I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. The intense grief, as if I had just been told of Kathryn’s suicide, hit me with the full sickening force of that devastating morning.

She was real — someone other than me and her sister and brother knew her. Someone was touched by her existence.

I initially thought it would be a school friend. A friend who just, for whatever reason, felt the need to reach out that day, to make contact.

I was wrong.

The email was from a young man, living across the other side of the world. He had known Kathryn online. They met through Tumblr and four years ago, when they were teenagers, spent time sharing their passions, angsts and woes.

He expressed his concern that his email would stir up painful memories and he pondered his reasoning behind his need to reach out; he thought that closure was his motivation.

His email was moving and so very welcome.

Yes, I cried and cried. I spent two days experiencing the first onslaught of grief all over again. Even that was welcome. I found myself thrown out of that endless, dull ache of grief and into the absolute agony of loss.

She lived!

Kathryn touched the life of a young man a world away. On the morning of her death, he found himself having to sit through a lesson discussing Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” and all he wanted to do was escape the banal routine of school and make sure the world knew of the beautiful soul he knew.

I have spent the last four years slowly building up routines and rituals to mark Kathryn’s place in a world without her. Each action, be it overt or private, says, “Kathryn was here, she was loved, is loved, will always be loved.” There are times those rituals will fill my heart with an ache so powerful that tears inevitably fall.

This young friend of Kathryn’s need not have worried about dredging up an old hurt. My life has reformed itself around a gaping hole, the place where Kathryn existed. I feel bereft of a limb. Every step I take is taken that way because she is not here.

At my age, this is not the first time I have experienced grief. My mother died when she was 58 years of age and my father 10 years after that. As we all must eventually do, we say goodbye to our parents; it is the “natural” way of things, the circle of life playing out as it should.

I remember curling up in a ball on the kitchen floor several months after my mother’s death. I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and drove home with such despair, that to this day I’m amazed that I made it home unscathed.

Yet, to lose a child to suicide is an agony beyond description. To lose a child in any manner is unfathomable, even to those who have had to drown in such devastation — yet we must endure.

I imagine it is difficult for someone who has not had to caress the lifeless lips of their child to navigate social interactions with a person who has. All I can say is, don’t avoid that beautiful name.

If you knew the child, share in the memory of her or him — if not, listen to the memory being shared and use her name in your responses to those utterances.

She lived.

She was loved.

She is loved.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via lolostock

Originally published: March 27, 2017
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