When I was a freshman in high school, my best friend at the time went through a very traumatic experience. She had this abusive boyfriend who was steadily declining both in his treatment of her and his own mental state. I remember that she would come to school with cuts and bruises on her arms and tell me what had taken place the night before and how she had gotten them. At one point, this boy– we’ll call him Alex, though that wasn’t his real name–had climbed in through my friend’s bedroom window and waited for her to return home… he threatened to kill her if she told anyone what he was doing to her. I remember being constantly worried about my friend and what would happen next, and I can only imagine what she was feeling; after all, we were only high school students!
Looking back, it feels like we should have told someone. But my friend was too afraid, and determined to handle the situation herself. And beyond that, even after everything Alex had done to her, she still loved him. He wasn’t always like this, she would say. He’s just sick. He needs help. One night the situation finally came finally came to a head. My friend had gathered up the the strength to break up with Alex. She called me afterwards, sounding tired but relieved.
The next morning, when I saw her at school, she was crying. He had killed himself the night before.
How do you cope when someone close to you takes their own life? I can’t begin to imagine. For my friend, though, I remember it being very difficult. Though he was abusive and cruel at times, there were also occasions where he seemed to really care for her, and times where she loved him back. My friend felt at fault for what had happened. She was relieved to finally be safe from his harm. But it was hard for her to adjust to his absence. When a loved one commits suicide you not only have to deal with the absence of them in your life; you have to deal with the knowledge that they chose death. It’s hard to picture something more painful. Time heals all wounds, and ultimately my friend was able to let it go. But I am certain she will never forget. My heart goes out to all those experiencing such a loss–you are some of the strongest people out there.