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When Facebook Suggested I Should 'Friend' Someone Who Had Died by Suicide

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My sophomore year of college, I decided to delete my Facebook. I was recovering from anorexia and wanted a fresh start. I hated having evidence of how sick I had let myself get; the pain that was visible through my eyes despite my smile, my protruding bones from my hips and back and how thin and brittle my hair had become were images I didn’t need to be reminded of.

However, once I had reached a healthy place this past summer, I signed up for Facebook again without any trace of the old me.

I started receiving friend requests and friend suggestions. Some people I knew, some I didn’t. I had transferred colleges after my freshman year, so I was excited to reconnect with my old friends.

Do you know Joe Smith? Yes. Add Friend.

Do you know Jane Smith? Yes. Add Friend.

Do you know…I stopped. There was his name. I couldn’t move. I just stared at his picture. He was smiling, as happy as anyone could look on social media. The only thing was, he was dead.

Rewind to 10 months ago, May 2015. I was in outpatient after having just been discharged from the psych ward. Depression had pushed me to the point where I had tried (and thankfully failed) to kill myself. I was feeling raw, exhausted both mentally and physically, and scared. Then, one of my best friends from my old college called me.

“You know Adam?”

“Yeah, of course! I love that kid. Why? What’s he been up to?”

“He killed himself last weekend.”

I dropped the phone. The emotions hit me as unforgivably as a storm recklessly crashing waves into whatever is in its path. I felt sadness, anger, anger at myself for being angry with him, shame, helplessness and, embarrassingly enough, a little jealousy. How could he kill himself? He had so much to live for, he could have been helped. But then again, how could I judge him? I just tried to do the same thing and here I was, being angry with him. I was drowning under all of these thoughts, the back-and-forth conversation in my head trying to reconcile my anger and jealousy with the sadness and grief I felt in my heart. He was gone, but I was still here to feel every ounce of pain and every real and embarrassing emotion there was to feel.

Back to the present moment, I was still staring at his picture. It didn’t feel real that he was gone. It still doesn’t. What if I clicked, “Add Friend?” Would he respond? I almost anticipated a response. Hey Britt! Long time no talk! How’ve you been? But deep down, I knew I wouldn’t hear from him. In reality, he was dead, but Facebook didn’t know that. Facebook still thought he would be celebrating his birthday with his friends and family, that he would still be tagged in photos where he looked like he was having the time of his life, that he would still get to experience seemingly irrelevant, but incredibly beautiful little moments of everyday life.

But that’s not the truth. He’s not here anymore.

Sometimes, I consider Facebook messaging him like he would actually read it. There are so many things I would say to him. It sometimes feels like someone is choking me, like I’m trying to scream but nothing comes out:

Adam, if only you could read this. I wish I had kept in contact with you after I left Richmond. I wish you knew how much you were and still are loved. You are such a beautiful soul, making anyone who met you smile from ear to ear. You had that effect on people. I remember the first time I met you; we were sitting in a dorm, all of us getting ready for a night out. You instantly struck me as a person who had known struggle, and yet you still had a light about you. It pains me that you were in so much pain. Though our experiences are unique and personal, I can empathize with how you felt. I wish you had a second chance. I just wish you were still here to see that it does get better. That the pain can and will go away. That the world is a little dimmer without your light.

While Facebook can’t be the method in which we communicate anymore, I hope he knows, deep beyond the pain, that he was and is still loved and missed greatly. Rest easy, my friend.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: March 11, 2016
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