In August of 2014, after many years of struggling, my then-22-year-old niece Allison ended her own life. Needless to say, it was devastating. Her family and friends have been left to wrestle with unanswerable questions and broken hearts. One of Allison's best friends, Hannah, who herself has struggled with mental health issues and has already experienced much loss in her young life, wrote a blog which she entitled "All My Friends Are Dead." Hannah agreed to let me share her writing with you here.
"It was so hot out when I came to visit you. The world felt calm, but the sun was absolutely gleaming. You would have complained about it.
"I sit here next to you, and think about all the amazing times we've had. How our friendship blossomed in Theater Club and all the plays we did together. I loved watching you perform. I saw that spark go off inside of you. I always knew you were so talented, and I adored watching you light up on stage as you became another person.
"I think about the classes we had together, all the after-school clubs, the summers spent swimming in rivers we probably shouldn't be swimming in. We made so much food and had so many laughs. You got sick and I would come see you in the hospital. We both moved away but still visited each other.
"We mostly just sit here in silence while my brain wanders. You don't have much to say. I was hoping it would rain, but it never did. You would have complained about it. If you could talk.
"Going home is always so bittersweet. Most of the people I know have moved away, so I spend my time in cemeteries with my friends. I go to see them and I hope they can see me.
"Allison, you always had something special about you. I don't know if you ever knew that. I wish I could tell you to your face. The day I heard you had killed yourself, I don't think I had ever felt that numb in my whole life. It took a while to register that you had vanished, even though I had seen you smiling and breathing two weeks before.
"I don't want anyone to ever go through what I have gone through, but that's life. So I want to address something to the people who are constantly feeling suicidal. To all the people who want to die, I am not here to guilt trip you. I don't think you're a coward. In fact, I think making the decision to end your own life takes a lot of guts. But don't get me wrong when I say this. It's one of the worst decisions you can make. Trust me, because I have made the decision myself.
"When you think that you want to kill yourself, it's through a foggy mind. Your brain can't focus on what really matters because you're so pent up inside your pain. Your head isn't working properly. I just want you to understand that if you choose this path, what your "life" will be like from now on. Finally everything just stops, like you wanted it to. But now it's us who have to live with the agony. You are gone - no one knows where - and your friends and family are left to pick up the pieces. Not you.
"There is this tool used in Alcoholics Anonymous called "playing it forward." What that means is to play the tape of your life forward; run it through and see the effects of your actions. What is going to happen if you take that sinful sip? What repercussions will haunt you? What will you lose?
"I wish Allison had played the tape forward. I wish she had thought about what would happen after she pulled the trigger. I know she was only focused on how much she was suffering. And I am happy that she is at peace. But had she played the tape forward, maybe she would have realized what her life would have cost her. I want her to be able to see how her death ricocheted through the lives of those she cared about.
"So I ask that if death is something you are seriously considering, play your tape forward. Once you take that leap into extinction, that's it. It's going to hurt and then you're gone. Your funeral will be held, anguish will be felt for your loss. And then static. Nothing.
"Do you think you get bad FOMO now? Wait until you see all the things you'll miss out on when you're dead. No more dancing. No hope of a future. No more love. No more hugs from your pets. Think about how your death will fuck up the lives of those you cherish most. Your pain isn't gone, you've transferred it to your loved ones' bank accounts. You don't get to wake up from this. You can't fix this once it's too late. I hope you know that.
"I still experience those feelings almost every day. I know how tired you are, how much you think you don't care what happens to you, and how you think everyone will be better off without you. But that's your depression talking. And I wish I had realized that sooner. I wish it didn't take the suicide of one of my closest friends to shake me awake. Your potential suicide affects more than just you.
"So now, when I go home this is how I get to spend my time with you. The only way I can tell you about what's going on in my world is through six feet of dirt. I sit here and tell you about what's new in my life and only hope that you can hear me, wherever you are. Like how excited I am to travel. How I have things to look forward to, and how I've found new hobbies to help me try to be happy. I dyed my hair grey (and you would have loved it!). I think about how you'll never get to have grey hair of your own.
"We should be going to music festivals together (I promised to take you to your first one). We should be picking out dresses to wear and bars to frequent. I wish the whiskey would reach your lips firsthand instead of the dirt that I now pour it onto. When I want to see your sweet face, all I get is a picture on a cold tombstone. I'm sitting here clearing leaves off of your grave when I'd much rather be pushing the hair out of your face instead. It's just too fucking sad.
"I have to get going, but I wish I could take you with me. At least it's so pretty here, as gloomy as it may be. The air feels nice, and I love spending time with you. I just wish you would talk back to me..."
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AUTHOR: SUE DEVETTER
Sue works as a court reporter in Omaha. She has attended Corpus Christi Parish since February 2011. She is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, serves on the Digital Outreach Committee, and loves Bible and book studies. She and her husband, Chuck, live on an acreage near Council Bluffs. They have three grown children and the world’s six most beautiful grandchildren.