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Dealing With the Anger I Felt After My Friends' Suicides

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A new year brings the opportunity to make new memories, but it also means remembering old anniversaries. While some of these are good, some are really hard to live through again. The anniversaries of my friends’ suicides are in the latter category.

Last year, the world lost four fantastic people I was very close friends with. They were social, fun and struggling — the first two characteristics masking the third. Of course, people knew they were struggling, but not to what extent. Nobody knew the extent until they were gone, until they had died by suicide.

When I found out each one had died, I was so angry. Not at them, that wasn’t something they deserved. I was angry the mental health system had failed them. I was angry they felt they had no other options. To some extent, I was angry at myself for not noticing they were in such pain. Feeling anger was hard and I didn’t know how to deal with it.

I started running, stared at my wall blankly instead of sleeping and snapped at people who had nothing to do with the situation. I wanted so badly to scream or hit something. I had no idea what to do with myself. I was so mad these wonderful people had left the world.

I didn’t like the anger, but those around me validated my feeling angry. They told me to let myself be angry because I was allowed to be angry. After I’d been angry for a while, it was suggested I figure out why I was angry and what was underneath it. After all, I’ve been told numerous times: “anger is a secondary emotion.”

So, I let myself be angry. I let myself scream. I started kickboxing so I could hit something without causing myself damage. I wrote awful letters to the invisible “people” who had kept them from getting treatment. I wrote awful letters to myself.

At some point, the anger transformed. The letters stopped reading as angry and started reading as sadness. The screaming turned into sobbing. Hitting something didn’t feel right. I realized, underneath the anger, I was profoundly sad. People I loved were gone and my heart hurt so badly. People I loved were gone and I was sad about it. Processing through the sadness was easier than processing through the anger. It felt calmer, more understandable. I wouldn’t have gotten there without feeling angry and letting myself feel angry. When I felt angry, I felt guilty for feeling angry, but I let myself feel it anyways. The sadness felt painful, but I let myself feel it anyways.

The anniversaries of their deaths will inevitably be hard this year. I will go through the process of being angry and being sad again. But angry is OK, and so is sad. It is hard to watch people you love die and it has been harder for me to watch friends die by suicide. It still hurts and I will carry my friends and the love of them in my heart for the rest of my life. I will likely carry anger and sadness for the situation for the rest of my life. Everyone grieves in different ways. My grieving process involves being angry and being sad and being unable to identify how I’m feeling sometimes. That is OK. I am allowed to grieve in whatever way feels appropriate. We are all allowed to grieve in whatever way feels appropriate.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 29, 2017
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