Wednesday, May 25th

What Suicide Leaves Behind

I don’t normally use my blog as therapy or get too personal here. But something happened in my life that is so intensely painful that I’m having trouble moving on. I’m hoping that the practical process of writing and organizing my thoughts will serve as a means of catharsis.

Angel of Grief

A close friend of mine died last month. It came as a surprise. She was young in years and even younger in spirit. We hadn’t spoken in several months, which was not unusual for us. Our friendship didn’t require constant maintenance or checking in. She shunned social media so our catch-ups happened over email or even better, in person. I would save up stories and photos our mutual friends shared on Facebook and deliver the news, savoring each piece of juicy gossip. She always had news for me, too, and even after marathon sessions of chatting, we never ran out of things to talk about.

If I had known the last time I saw her that it would be the very last time, I would have made every moment count. I would have hugged her tight and said the important things that friends should say to each other: You taught me so much about being kind and selfless, just by being that way yourself. You are worthy and talented and smart. You are supposed to be on this planet a long, long time because you make it a better world.

I didn’t get to say those things and apparently she didn’t know those things. It took several weeks of digging and finding out information in small terrible pieces, each one deepening my grief, lessening my understanding. Eventually it was through the police that I found out my sweet friend took her own life in a horrifically violent, punishing way.

When I was trying to find out answers, suicide was not something I considered. Because she was healthy and happy. She could (and did) run marathons without even training for them. She regularly did yoga and got massages because she believed in treating herself well. She didn’t struggle for money, nor did she care about material things. She volunteered constantly because she enjoyed giving back and didn’t even view it as a sacrifice. She played the violin and never missed a performance of the Austin Symphony, buying season passes and bringing a different friend to each show. She had no enemies, only legions of friends who loved her. Her family was doting and supportive. She loved good food and didn’t smoke or do drugs, and could barely handle a glass of wine. No, she lived life unaltered and wasn’t looking for an escape.

Except that she was.

There was no depression or mental illness, but something was very, very wrong and I missed it. We all missed it.

And now it’s too late. There are no more answers to be had, only questions upon questions. Still, I google her name in vain. I check her obituary online several times a day, hoping that someone new leaves a comment that will provide some answers. Anything. I compulsively look at the one social media account she had—LinkedIn—which I made her get when she was job searching years ago. But there are no answers.

Dock on calm water at dusk

Eventually I’ll have to let this go and learn to live with the questions. I’ll have to stop obsessing over the terrible way she died and try to remember the gentle way she lived. But this loss has left a hole in my heart. I look at Violet and see all the promise and happiness the future holds and it devastates me how much my friend lost. I think of her parents and my body shudders with sobs. It’s a tragedy unlike any other I’ve ever experienced and my sorrow feels bottomless.

So much of Austin reminds me of her. Our regular dinners at Whole Foods downtown where we’d linger at the seafood counter. Of Eeyore’s Picnic. Of a North Austin spa we went to and a restaurant around corner where we sipped wine and ate oysters in a treat yo’self day. The Driskill Hotel, where we met at a Halloween ball and were wearing the same costumes. So many memories.

Death is a dreaded topic on its own, but suicide is so much more complicated. Because mixed in with the grief are confusion, regret, and anger. I feel all of those things. I’m angry that she robbed herself of a future. And that she robbed us of her. And I’m filled with regret that I waited too long to reach out and plan our next dinner. And I’m confused as to why she didn’t think her life was worth living. But through those feelings, it’s the grief that has the tightest grip.

Red Northern Cardinal

I miss you, CJ.

11 Responses

  1. Georgiana says:

    Kristin-
    I’m sorry for your loss. Your writing is a beautiful and lasting tribute to CJ.
    When our friend and neighbor committed suicide this time of year 5 years ago
    we had similar feelings and even guilt for not realizing something was amiss.
    Keep her with you.
    Pray for her parents.
    Love and miss you.

  2. Kristin says:

    Kristin, my heart aches so much for your loss. We lost one of my best friends’ brother 2 years ago to suicide. It can be so painful, frustrating, sad and guilt-ridden. Know that you were a loving friend and I’m sure she cherished those memories just as much. I am thankful that you wrote about this because I think one of the most important things we can do is raise awareness. There are so many people who appear happy, but we don’t know what could be beneath that.

    Beautiful piece Kristin, thank you for sharing. My eyes are raining for you and for her <3

  3. Beautiful tribute, my friend. Her spirit as you remember her will always be a part of you. It’s a good reminder for all of us that mental illness is something that should be discussed openly. xo

  4. Jodi says:

    Kristin – I can’t imagine the hurt and confusion that you feel. I’m so so very sorry for the loss of your friend. I think sharing is so important and I’m glad that you did. Also, love the little cardinal image 🙂

  5. Kristin,

    My heart aches for you as you mourn the tragic death of your beloved friend. I have no words of comfort other than to say I believe you were a good friend. You did all you knew to do at the time you did it. I’d like to think she knew and felt your love and appreciation of her. That she found comfort in it, despite her eventual choice.

    Holding you and those who knew and loved her in my heart and thoughts.

    Cecilia

  6. Liz says:

    What a beautiful well written piece, Kristin. And a way to honor her memory. I as well have lost many people this past year and can relate. Thank you for sharing and you will be in my thoughts and prayers along with her family.

  7. Ashley Blom says:

    Oh lady 🙁 I am so, so sorry. I lost my Dad a number of years ago–not to suicide, but in a way he was somewhat responsible for “letting himself go” to an extreme extent as a result of his depression, so it was almost a subconscious suicide? Anyway. The hurt doesn’t ever go away when you lose someone you love, but it does get to a point where it’s manageable. You can get through a day with it only passing through your heart once or twice, instead of the constant ache. There will be a time where you can smile without crying when you remember, I promise. But for now, it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to even be angry in between the sad. Do what you can to take care of yourself. Thinking of you, I hope things get better <3

  8. Kristina says:

    Kristin,
    I feel your tremendous loss in these words above. Suicide has so many added triggers of pain. It comes with so many more questions.
    I wish I had the right words to say to comfort you.
    I’m glad you took the time to share how you feel, and to include us in your thoughts. I pray that you will continue to search for ways to help you heal. You are not alone. <3 Sending a tremendous amount of love your way. K

  9. Linda says:

    A dear friend of mine lost her fiance to suicide last year and I ache for her ever since she called me sobbing with the news. I’m sorry for your loss and am here for you if you need an ear or a hug.

  10. Michele says:

    How terrible! I’m so sorry.

  11. Anita says:

    Kristin – I am so sad to hear about your friend and that you are going through this traumatizing time. Thank you for sharing. It sounds like she was a wonderful person. I hope day by day you’ll find peace with the unanswered questions.

    Wish I could help more. I’ve found that the best way to lift the cloud is with time, gratitude and action. This post was cathartic for me to write and maybe it will help in the future: http://www.fearlesscaptivations.com/2016/04/23/fearlessly-live-sadness/

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