I went to your funeral today. Everyone was there. Your mother, your sister, your brother. Your cousins, and aunts and uncles. Your nieces and nephews, running around in their brightly colored clothing, looking out of place among the black and dim hues, playing on their game systems and making round trips to the refreshment tables.
I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. I came with a friend. He needed support; wanted someone to be there with him. I don’t know you. I don’t know your family.
A tired woman greets us. She has been wiping away a lot of tears. It’s your mom. “Thank you for coming, how did you know him? Were you close? Had you spoken with him recently?” She asks. I notice her ask this of multiple people. She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand why you did it. She’s looking for a reason, an explanation… She needs to make sense of her loss. She didn’t know you had felt suicidal. No one did.
I went to your funeral today, but not to mourn. I am merely an observer. And yet, I can’t help but mourn the loss that all these people suffered. To see how much they miss you. To see them tell stories of you, and laugh, and their eyes light up with the memory. And then suddenly there’s silence, as everyone turns inward to their own weighted thoughts.
There are a lot of silences. Every story, every anecdote, every conversation is peppered with them. It’s not the awkward silence of a party, not the empty, yawning silence begging to be filled by an interesting conversation. It is not a silence that anyone is eager to break. It’s a heavy, bloated, crushing silence that hangs over everyone. It’s not a silence that falls between voices, it’s a liquid lead that pours down through the cracks in our thoughts. The silence is the place where you used to be. The joke you would have made, the thing you would have referenced, the laugh you would have given. But you’re not there, and in that silence, everyone is alone with their grief.
I have never really been to a funeral. I always thought, “funerals are for the living.” And they are. You were hurting, and you ended that hurt. Now everyone else must cope with their own pain. They are not there to help you, because you are beyond help. They are not there to bring you back from the edge, because you aren’t there anymore. All they have now, is each other. And the endless, endless “what ifs.”
What if I had been there more. What if I had asked the right questions. What if I had supported him more. What if I had been there that night. Could I have stopped him? Could I have helped him? What did I do wrong, because you are not here and my job on this earth was to love and support you and I must have missed something, a cue, an opportunity, somewhere.
No one says these things out loud. And yet, I hear them. The guilt, the blame. People say that suicide is a selfish death, but that doesn’t begin to describe the depth of that feeling. I am sure that you did not think of all these people when you took your life. They were worlds away from your mind when you decided you were in so much pain that there was only one way out. I’m sure you did not think of these dozens of people, all of whose lives you touched, who are crying right now. You were not in a good place. But now, you never can be. And every single one of them feels like it was their fault. That they failed you.
I am not mad at you. I don’t think you wanted to hurt anyone, ever. I think you would be mortified to see your mother and your siblings sitting there, in the front row, grieving over your lifeless body and trying to make sense of it. This isn’t what you wanted.
I was there once. I was in that dark place. And I took every pill in my cabinet. Because I was afraid, because I was in pain, because I wanted it to stop. Because I couldn’t imagine existing any longer. And my mind was clear; I didn’t think about those that would miss me, or maybe I thought they wouldn’t miss me at all. Maybe I thought I was worthless, that they were better off without me.
And when I woke up in the hospital, and I saw my family, I knew the truth. I saw the faces of those that almost lost something they love as much as life itself. And I knew I would never try again.
I wish you could have had that opportunity. I wish you could have woken up in a hospital, surrounded by your loved ones. I wish you could have seen their relief, their love, their fear of losing you. I wish you could have had that second chance, to decide that suicide was not the way to go.
I went to your funeral today. I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. But I mourned for you. I cried for you. And I listened to your friends and family talk about you, telling me about your life and your passions and all the things that made you great. And by the end of the service, I felt like I, too, had lost a friend. I never got to meet you, but I have come to know the hole that you left behind.
I hope that others don’t make that same choice.