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When I Let Myself Think About My Friend Who Died by Suicide

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If I try not to think about it, I might be able to forget the guilt from being your friend and not being able to stop you.

I could pretend it was a selfish impulse, and not an attempt to relieve your deep suffering. I could accept your apology and pretend I deserve it, as if I am in a position to judge. If I try not to think about it, I might be able to pretend you are on a very long, overseas holiday. That your life was not cut short by the terrifying grips of mental illness. That you got the chance to “live your best life,” the life society expects you to be living in your early 20s. If I try not to think about it, I can pretend you are still around, working in your garden and taking beautiful photos of the sky.

If I think about it, you are not on a long, overseas getaway, or spending time in your garden. You knew you were loved, but you were in so much pain for a long time. You cared deeply about those around you and it was not your intention to hurt them. If I think about it, mental illness is not a choice, your pain was overwhelming and there is nothing to forgive. I believe you knew you had support, but it does not change that you felt alone. If I think about it, I can recognize that although you are no longer with us in person, the support of others may have eased some of your pain, even if it was just for a few moments.

There are times when I wonder if there was just one thing that could have stopped you. Maybe if you met someone special, tried a new treatment or just waited a few more weeks. Even years later, there are still times when I think, “Lenny would love this.” There are times when I remember that you will never hear that hit song on the radio, meet the new friend you would have loved or try the delicious food at the restaurant that just opened.

The more I have thought about you over the years, the more I have appreciated how lucky I was to know you during your short time here. The more I remember laughing with you uncontrollably, staying up all night and going on adventures that we wouldn’t have with anyone else, the more I can see how much of me has grown from knowing you, and the prouder I am for being your friend.

The more I let myself think about you, the closer I get to accepting the unbelievable but inescapable reality of your death. The more I think about you, the more I can honor your life by living my life again.

Getty image via Lisa Vlasenko

Originally published: June 24, 2019
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