Devastated by the sudden loss of a friend
MIND MOVES:It takes time to come to terms with grief
NEARLY EIGHT months ago I got news that would change me forever – a very good friend of mine had fallen down stairs and died. This news was heartbreaking enough but as the day went by I learned that it hadn’t been an accident, he had been pushed by another young man. I was numb. I didn’t believe it to be true until the day of the funeral when I could no longer ignore the truth.
My friend’s death has left me in a very dark place; all my thoughts have been on how such a thing could have happened. The past couple of months I have lived behind a dark cloud, anything that could have gone wrong has, and I have found myself struggling in terms of my mental health. Finding the strength to get out of bed every day is sometimes just too much.
I sometimes feel like Humpty Dumpty: one more thing and no one will be able to put me together again. Most of the time, looking at me, you’d never fully know. People around me who know and care for me have some idea, but can never know what thoughts are going through my mind.
I have always been independent and find it difficult to draw on others for strength. Despite my awareness of existing services and the benefits of engaging with them, I feel that my grief is mine and only I can work through it. I chose to take this journey on my own.
The journey hasn’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination and honestly I’m still on my way back to normality. One day I can be fine, able to think of my friend and smile. The next day, even the mention of his name can bring tears to my eyes.
I have tried at times to let others help me work through my pain. Sometimes it has helped, but ultimately the only way I feel I can come to terms with what happened is to work through it myself. Everyone and their dog can tell me that grief takes time and that one day it will start to get easier, but until I believe that myself there is no way I can start to enjoy life again.
As I go along it seems that the entire world wants to push me to my limits; everywhere I look I see young people losing their lives far too early. Take the recent tragedy in Donegal for instance, where seven young men between the ages of 19 and 23 were killed in a car crash. If one death can cause me so much pain, I can only imagine what the young people in Donegal must be going through.
It is incredible how often young people these days have to deal with losing a friend at a young age. The sad fact is that nearly every young person in Ireland has experienced losing a friend, be it from suicide, car accidents or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Death is a natural part of life; it’s unavoidable really, but when people are taken before their time it makes coming to terms with it even more difficult. Learning to deal with loss is just one of life’s lessons; unfortunately knowing this doesn’t make it easier.
I feel that my grief is so raw and new to me that I can’t distance myself from the pain and find any kind of perspective. Every day can be a step forward or two steps back.
Luckily for me I have very supportive people around me who understand that although I don’t necessarily talk to them about what I’m going through their presence alone is sometimes enough.
It’s clear that I’m still very much grieving for my friend, but if I could offer any advice to someone who has lost someone dear to them, it would be that it’s okay to be sad.
Grief takes time; there is no right amount of time for you to come to terms with it. Some days it will seem like you are finally ready to move on and then something will trigger a memory and it feels like you’ll never be the same again.
But all I can say is to take every day as it comes. Don’t ever feel guilty for being happy, the best way to honour your lost friend is to enjoy life enough for the both of you. I know my friend would be the first one to drag me out of bed or try to make me smile if he was still here.
Daire Ní Bhraoin is a youth adviser to Headstrong – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health (headstrong.ie). Tony Bates is on leave.