When your best friend dies, you remember everything.
I still remember the way I dropped the telephone on the ground—listening as I heard the distant moans of her voice. There I was, twenty years old and yet my life felt like it had just ended. My mind waded in the darkness, for a moment that was so long, that I learned what eternity was. I couldn’t deny it any longer. It was here. He was dead and I wasn’t ready yet.
If you are reading this blog I am sorry for your loss, I’m really sorry because people expect to lose their parents or grandparents at some point in their life, but no one prepares for their best friends to die. In fact, we expect these people to be around when our parents die and act as our bedrock when times get tough. So, when your best friend dies it is absolutely earth shattering. Surviving the death of your best friend is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. Speaking from the other side of the tunnel, I hope that this blog helps you accept what’s happened and begin the stages of moving on without them.
Disclaimer: I know a lot of my followers wanted this to be a series, but the more I thought about the intent behind this, I realized I couldn’t. When my best friend died eight years ago I was distraught and I know if my past self could have read something like this, he would have needed it all in one go. Besides, splitting it up would completely ruin the personal element. Look at the bright side, now you get to learn about me.
You will need to mourn.
When your best friend dies you are going to have to mourn, potentially cry. Sounds terrible right?
Well I cried — like a lot. Night after night, day after day. I mean anything and everything would set me off. A certain tree, the way the wind blew, even emotionally charged movies like titanic would elicit a tear. (I mean what type of robot doesn’t cry at the end?) It was really bad, but sometimes you reach a point where crying feels good and boy I could cry. The funny thing is, when your best friend dies you stop caring about who sees you. I would revel in my tears, wrapped up in my blankets sobbing like a girl. I exclusively listened to emo music for months so that I could get all the tears out–so from MCR to Taking Back Sunday, The Used, I cried to them all.
School was a wrap, I remember one day in stats just tearing up in the middle of class. I had no business being in that room. I’m sure the teacher was riveted by his plethora of numbers and rhetoric he bloviated, but every word he said was completely lost upon me. I was in a different world and no matter how much he postured, or yelled, none of it was going in.
And then there was the people, they literally come out of the woodwork and will find you like Liam Neeson just lost his daughter for the 3rd time. No matter how much you want to avoid them, you become this unavoidable magnet for them and constantly hear things like, “How are you doing?” “What happened?” “I never knew it was that bad.” These are just some of the spectrum of questions you will be asked. Just nod your head and be open to a few hugs and the potential tear. Sure, you might be reminded of something you don’t want to fester on, but in this social media frenzy we call life, it’s impossible to avoid it.
So, I went on moping around like Peter Parker in that horrendous Spiderman 3 movie. Moped through my exams and possibly even harder at the results. You see, my university was in Canada, and I am from Bermuda. So by the time I got home I had missed it all, I missed the funeral, all the tears and cries of his family, all the different vestiges of him that were still alive in his mother and his sisters, I missed beautifully written soliloquies about the meaning of life and about the lives he touched, but most of all — I missed seeing his body put to rest.
I had been detached from it all for so long, I hadn’t yet grasped the reality of the situation, but once I stood above his blank tombstone and felt the last whisper of him disseminate into the ether I finally began to internalize everything.
Soon after, I met up with his mother. She raised him as a single parent, so for as strong as our bond was, it paled in comparison to theirs. He was her pride and joy, her only child, so this was especially sad for her. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to do or what to say, but as we sat there in the youth of spring the words came and flowed into stories. Stories that we sobbed over together.
She told me about his final moments on the air ambulance, how he decided to end the medication and told them to stop trying to resuscitate him because, “he was tired.” Tired of all the pain and anguish and watching the sorrow in his mother’s eyes. Tired of going to the hospital week after week, while his friends were in school and having fun. Tired of pretending to not be in pain when all the while, every minute of every day his blood curdled and needled him in ways only us mortals can imagine.
Although it hurt to hear the truth, I got something in that conversation that I had to have. Closure, something that I am not sure she will ever have. And something you will desperately need when your best friend dies.
Welcome to your meltdown moment:
This is not to be confused with the classic, “Kodak moment” which is ten times better and has obscenely better lighting. Nope, your mascara will run, you will cry and I mean ugly cry – like Kim Kardashian reveal cry. Fall to your knees, scream to the heavens sort of vehemence. It’s the type of thing you never expect to have inside, I sure as hell didn’t think I did either, but trust me, it’s there. My great cinematic meltdown arrived at the end of the unenviable “denial stage” of grieving.
I’m not proud to say that this was my most pathetic moment of my adult life, but that’s what I do, I’m a man of the people, I do this for “y’all.” It was like something out of a movie – or a long running sitcom. I turned on my Xbox to a new message notification, and somehow it was him, he must have sent it right before he was rushed to the hospital. I dangled with my controller for what seemed like days, wondering what he would say to me, before finally – I clicked it.
He chuckled and mumbled his way through his words as he always did, but they were beautiful to me. They were the most candid sentiments he had ever loafed in my direction. He wasn’t the sentimental type, but this one message had more emotion in it than I had ever seen during our entire friendship and boy, it broke me down. Hearing his voice again unlocked everything. Suddenly, it felt as though he was right next to me, but in reality, I wasn’t even sure where he was.
After sucking back the tears, I sent what could only be described as an attempt at gibberish. Cry as I might, I continued to speak into the empty microphone leading to nowhere. Maybe I was saying these words just for myself, but deep down a part of me really believed that he was going to receive it and get back to me one last time. One last time.
But as you might have guessed that moment never came and after waiting for my reality to change, I became disillusioned to it all. He wasn’t coming back. And so I fell to my knees and looked up to the skies and I cried my little eyes out because my friend was gone and I was never going to speak to him again.
It’s been eight years, but I can still feel it. (side note: Now you know how old I am if you can do math)
Welcome to the real world (Denial is a bitch)
You will plot the most intricate, creative ways that your best friend is still alive, so well in fact that you will manifest this person into your dreams and weave them into existence. I can’t tell you how many seemingly lucid dreams I have had where he was still alive. So lucid in fact, that I thought I was in the matrix or something. (Listen, when your best friend dies, anything goes.)
Alas, these do not stop, you will awake from your bed and feel as though Leo has literally been spinning your brain like his little trinket. (Not me, the real Leo.)
I like to place these dreams in a few categories; the “The doctor got it wrong.” The, “Were just going to gloss over the fact that they died part.” And the best one. “My god this makes sense, they really could be alive,” or the “New information was brought to light.”
It stings when you wake up and they are not there. I just want you to remember it gets easier. I chuckle these days when it happens to me. It’s actually a blessing because I still get to see him and speak to him. Although he is normally making fun of me or cussing me out about a wacky scenario in my dream, I still get a piece of who they were when they were alive and that makes me feel good.
When your best friend dies you need to do the things you enjoy (Or figure out what that is.)
Take this time to focus on yourself, make yourself happy, so indulge in your passions and try to become the best version of yourself like your best friend would have wanted. Sitting around and crying about the past helps no one and you friend would not have wanted that for you. Like most people who go through toil and despair, I decided it was only natural to work out a lot of my issues at the church of iron. (Besides the view didn’t hurt either) So I hit the gym really hard, so hard people started to look at me funny, because I wasn’t training just for me anymore, I had him on my sleeve as well. I got back into my guitar playing and I started writing again. I wrote music, poetry and sometimes I even wrote short stories. Anything to help me come to grips with my emotions. All of this served the same purpose –release. It’s about releasing those emotions to the world, and letting go, because bottling it all up inside can lead to ruminating about negative emotions and never moving on from the past.
Do the things that you always said you were going to do together.
So our grand scheme was to learn Japanese, then once we achieved a certain level of proficiency (i.e understanding small sequences of anime without the subtitles.) We would then, go to the land of the rising sun and if everything went according to plan and maybe just maybe if the women found us attractive enough, or at the very least spoke back to us, we would bring (potentially bribe) some lovely Japanese ladies back home with us in Bermuda.
So far I am a paltry one for three, I ended up marrying a beautiful woman, albeit Canadian, she still meets part of the criteria, so maybe .5 of 3. None the less, I can’t trade her in now. (Love you Ashley.)
Still this cannot stand! One day when I am not perpetually broke, I will travel there, I will go in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and I will cry my face off. But at least I will be able to look as the petals sough past my face and say “we did it.”
It’s totally fine to go and do something crazy.
The night is dark and full of terrors – the same can be said about the road you are currently on to survive the death of your best friend. Now other people might go out and do something balls to the wall crazy, like jump off of a building or go skydiving. When your best friend dies that’s totally fine. My manhood was and is a bit more average than that, so I dialed back the crazy just a tad.
I figured a tattoo was more my speed. Prior to this, I never had a good enough reason to get a tattoo (piercings still scare the hell out of me by the way.) But after he died, something changed inside of me, and instead of being on the fence about tattoos or a what I call a “bareskin.” (Another blog another time) I was all in. After a lot of thought and a ton of research, I realized it was only fitting that my first tattoo be a chest piece big enough where moms everywhere could hate it. I decided on the epic Hyrulian crest. (Zelda fans celebrate here) That way it was close to my heart and symbolized all of the things that he meant to me – courage, strength and wisdom.
The tattoo artist was blunt enough to tell me that he didn’t think getting a huge chest piece was going to be easy for a virgin tatooie like me. But at that point, no amount of pain was going to deter me from this, I needed it. And so, he poked and prodded for all of 4 hours, until my masterpiece was complete. Although it was painful, there was something cathartic about the continuous pricking of the needles. Sure, it was a slugfest, but I think I really needed to feel that, because it really shed some light into what he felt on a daily basis. It not only made me feel closer to him, but I felt like if he was alive he would have respected me for doing it as well.
So embrace your pain and transmute it into something beautiful and positive. Pain is not always a negative thing, it is how you channel that pain or anger that really matters.
(Carrying them with you so you can let go.)
The tattoo idea naturally bleeds into this point. This of course isn’t a tangible thing, it’s a state of mind and it might be difficult to comprehend, however, as I normally do, I will try to explain.
I put my tattoo on my chest so that he would always be close to my heart. In that way you have to remember to carry that person with you every day, because the words you speak, the actions you pursue are all manifested by the time you spent with that person. There’s a causality there. You are who you are because of the way you were when you were with them. I know it sounds like a tongue twister but it’s true.
But then, in this really subtle way they are always there with you, when the last light of the setting sun burns itself away in crimson I can still feel a whisper of him smiling back at me, blowing the tide inward and rustling the leaves around me. It’s the ebb and the flow, the moon and the stars, that twinkle in the dark waters. The warm cozy feelings you get when things are going your way and the calm placidity when you are under immense pressure. You see, they never go away, because you carry them with you, whether they are physically here or not.
Talk to someone
I wasn’t as smart as you clearly are for reading this blog. But I had amazing friends, friends that let me cry and were not afraid to cry with me. When your best friend dies, you will need a support group, or at the very least, people who can handle your meltdown moment. If you don’t have friends like this maybe consult a therapist or cheaper, your parents, but you need to talk to someone or at the very least release your anguish.
I know you feel like every moment feels amplified, that the world is ending and that your future doesn’t exist without that person. But it does and it will. Yeah you’re crying now with tears of sorrow, but one day those tears will be tears of joy, of memories you shared and happiness that will never go away, things will get better I promise.
Time does not stand still.
Time can be the cruelest of all deities. At times you will find it heartless and unforgiving, in this instance it will fester on your agony and make each moment linger for eternity, but even time is not without benevolence.
Take respite in the sheer fact that we are built upon a continuity of moments, each moment although different, move inexorably forward as time cannot stop. This means that although right now things feel like the world is ending, soon enough you will be able to look back on this prior version yourself knowing that you survived it and that going forward you can do anything, because if you survived the death of your best friend, you can survive anything.
Your friend didn’t die in vain, they passed along their entire being to you. All of their courage, their honor, integrity, strength, but most importantly, you have inherited their will because, you are their will. You live on despite their physical death, and now that person is etched in the very foundation of your soul. The clock will tick you further and further away from the incident and the further you go, the brighter your soul will glow. You will come to radiate with all of the beautiful memories that you once captured and understand that immortality resides within your mind, for moments are untouched, no matter how far away you are from it.
I still remember that first day at school on the playground with him sitting there on the wooden bench looking at me, bouncing the basketball like I was Jordan. I remember wondering if I would ever talk to him, waiting for the opportune time to speak and then the ball bounced itself right into his hands, he looked at me and said. “Can I play too?”
When your best friend dies, you will feel like the world is ending, but guess what, you will survive the death of your best friend. I repeat, you will survive the death of your best friend. I know it hurts, I know you don’t believe you can bare it, but look at me I am still standing and so are you.
Carry on my wayward son.
Side note: If you enjoyed this style of this post when your best friend dies, I can make more in the future,. Since I am sure you are wondering, my best friend died from complications stemming from a disease known as sickle-cell anemia. I wont go into much more detail than that at the moment. Also, I want to thank all of my followers for your huge support and response to my previous post. I love you all.