One year later: friendships, suicide, grief, and acceptance

Exactly one year to the date, my best friend decided to end her journey here on earth. I received the text message two days after the fact, and I didn’t accept it until about 6 months later (and still only partial acceptance). 

One month after her passing, I had a beautiful dream of her. 

A note from my personal journal dated September 26, 2012 reads, 

Last night I had a dream of Alex…I cried a lot today. I cried because I missed her. In my dream, she was really happy and really beautiful. There were colors of blues and whites around. She was wearing all black but she was beautiful. Almost angelic.

Not long after I had this dream, I decided to see an elder about it. During this time, I also started a separate tumblr blog aside from my Kwe Today tumblr to help me write about my grief/loss/feelings. It was much easier to do than to write in a journal which I still do aside from all of this lol I just like writing okay! 😉  

I wrote about what the elder said to me and reading back on it has helped me to accept what has happened along the way. Here is part of that blog post: 

I also saw an elder today. He told me I would see her one more time and that she would tell me she was alright. He told me my dreams were telling me that she was alright. He also gave me some nice teachings on suicide. It is not the end of a journey; rather, it is the start of a new journey. Whatever she had to deal with in her life, it was too much for her too handle and we cannot judge her for her choices. We can only see to understand them as a friend. We must remember her life for who she was as a person. He said blatantly, “It is not suicide…it is the end of a journey.” That feels nice to say that and to have it said to me like that because it takes the hurt and the pain out of the action along with the violence associated with it. He also said I need to do my own memorial for her. (You can read the tumblr post here). 

A lot has happened since I began to slowly accept my friend’s passing. It took me a long and hard time to get here. One of the things that has happened was the local anti-human trafficking coalition was exploiting her suicide as a way to advance their own political, anti-sex work agenda. It was a total disrespect towards her family and her son, since she was not trafficked. I wrote about that BS in this blog post entitled “Caught in human traffic lies.” She was a local dancer, and I worked with her. We met each other in the industry and that is how we became good friends. I remember the day I first met her. It was after a few days when people told me to be careful of Alex and I kept thinking, “Who is this Alex girl?” Then when I needed a locker to place all my things she also happened to be working that day and she said I could use her locker. I said to her, “but it has no lock on it.” Yet, the locker did have her name in big bold, graffiti-like letters that read “Alex.” She pointed to her locker and said, “But it has my name on it and nobody touches my shit.” She was correct because both my stuff and her stuff were never touched when we left our stuff in the unlocked locker. 

When I first received the news of her passing, I was driving to my sister’s house on Manitoulin Island. Today, I am sitting in my sister’s house on the same island and I am at a different place in my life. It has a lot to do with I had done over the past four months. 

This summer I was living and working in a northwestern Alberta community. I had an amazing partner, an amazing community contact, and also made some amazing friends! Oh did I mention they are all amazing 😉 

At the end of the program, I had to share with them that this time last year I was grieving the loss of my friend. This time, however, I will be honoring the memories of my friend’s life and celebrating the lives of all my 20+ friends from the summer. It took me a long time to get to the point of acceptance of her passing and to the acceptance of new friends in my life but all these stupendously awesome people I met over the past four months have help to make it easier. I am grateful for all that I have experienced in this past year and I am excited for the next coming months! 

Remembering my best friend

Lately, I have been thinking of my girlfriend a lot. I think it may be because I will be attending a workshop on suicide and trauma next week. My girlfriend (Michelle) committed suicide last August. So, the one-year memorial of her passing is also coming up. It’s been a hard year for so I can’t even imagine what life is like for her parents and child. With her passing, it has been sort of a wake up call for me and also a learning experience on how I grieve and deal with loss, which has been a huge life lesson for me. When I was younger, I tended to repress my feelings associated grief and loss. These feelings were most often anger and denial. Coincidentally, the stage where individuals experience anger during grief and loss, from what I learned, is where individuals often get stuck, so to speak. I found that this was the case for me. I would get angry with myself, the situation, the person, etc. and then feel guilty about the anger, then feel angry about feeling guilty, and so on. I didn’t think this was normal until someone taught me about the grieving cycle, and realized it is what a lot of people go through with grief and loss. Some people experience it longer than others and some people get over it quicker than others. Whatever pace you take, it’s all normal. I eventually became aware of this pattern and in that awareness made the connection to one of the teachings I received from my mother. Part of that teaching was realizing that depression is unresolved anger.

When I was younger, I had overcome some significant personal challenges that were linked to my suicide attempts. The first time I attempted was when the first time I ended up in the ICU and being monitored 24/7. When I think back to that time, I am thankful that I survived. However, immediately following that attempt and many more, I was angry with myself. I had to work very hard to get over this inner-anger. Counselling, at the time, didn’t seem to help me but today, I have come to terms that counselling is, in fact, very useful. Just accepting that took a long time.

What took even a longer time for me to realize was the pain I was causing my family and friends. Sadly, it took the lost of my best friend this past year to realize how much pain I was causing. The last time I attempted was when I was in my first year of college and I realized that I was experiencing a similar cycle of traumatic events in southern Ontario as to when I lived in Northern Ontario. I knew I had to change and I knew that it had to have been right then and there or continue this cycle over and over again. That evening I decided to change was also the evening I saw another friend in the emergency room for a suicide attempt, and then the news came 3 days later that she had died. It was a shock for me and one of my many wake up calls. That could have been me.

From then on out, I found a good counsellor, even one who could just comfort me if I needed a day to just cry. If there is one thing I was taught about crying and tears (again from my mother), it is even when the tears blur your vision, after all the tears are I cried, you begin to see everything more clearly. Some people are bothered by when others people cry. Some people are uncomfortable when others people cry, and even some people like to bug others when they see them cry. I say, fuck it! Crying is normal and crying is healthy. Most importantly, crying is like an emotional cleanse. Realizing this also took me some time to accept on my own, and what also took some time from when I was younger was realizing that experiencing feelings was normal, and trying to be “normal” is abnormal. Personally, when it comes to suicide, depression, or even mental health, we need to learn to embrace these feelings and learn to grow more comfortable with the uneasiness of some these feelings. Supressing feelings isn’t healthy or good for anyone, child, youth, or adult. Understanding that crying or tears is part of experiencing emotions is especially important for the whole concept of masculinity and femininity but that is a whole other blog post in itself!

And in terms of what was normal or what everyone else thought, this is what I remember most about my girlfriend, she just didn’t give a fuck what everyone else thought of her or if her life didn’t coincide with what was considered “normal.” She was in a league of her own. While we were very close, I only ever saw or heard cry a few times but in those times, I knew it was important for her to do. She was the strong one. Yet, this time she grew tired of being strong. If there is one thing I do know for sure, it’s that I miss her dearly.

Baby gurl.