Last month, the morning I left North Carolina, I woke to a text message from my friend Charlie informing me that a guy we had known and loved in high school was dead. After the initial moment of disbelief, I was immediately numb, because I knew in my gut what had happened.
In your 20s, you don't have to go to many funerals for your peers. It's a perk of being young(ish), I suppose. When you DO have to attend one, it's usually due to one of three possibilities: 1) the person has met an untimely death through a freak occurrence, like a car accident or a sudden illness; 2) the person has overdosed on drugs, which is an unfortunate but likely possibility for some people; or the worst of them all, 3) the person has committed suicide.
When I was 17, entering my last semester of high school, AW killed himself, the first suicide I ever encountered. His death tore our school apart: some of us were on his side, while others were vicious toward him and his family. I was friends with his brother, CW, and I was devastated for him. He worked so hard to survive the situation, and the turnout at the funeral heartened me--many others cared, too, and would help CW any way they could. When he made it through the first year after his brother's death, I let out a sigh of relief. The hard part was over.
Except it wasn't. He was the one mentioned in Charlie's text.
Even through the early-morning haze clouding my mind, the realization came to me, though I tried to convince myself otherwise: CW had followed in AW's footsteps and taken his own life. Two days later, I had confirmation of this, and I think my brain stopped functioning for a few minutes, not wanting to accept the answer.
Because CW was only 26. He had a beautiful son and wife, was still very much his own person, and--judging from the huge crowd at the funeral home--was so, so adored. I don't mean to romanticize him when I say this, but to me, he was an aspirational figure; I wanted to be as strong and non-judgmental and cool as he was, and I thought he would always be around, not as some vague teenage memory but a living, walking, talking person I might randomly encounter one day at the grocery store or in a restaurant.
I have said it before and I will say it again a million times, if I have to: if you're thinking of killing yourself, please get help immediately. Call a suicide hotline. Speak with a friend. Take yourself to the emergency room. E-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you can't face people you think might not understand you or your situation. We all want you here with us. I promise. And we're all just a few seconds away.
Be safe. Be well. Be strong.