“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
Nov. 6, 2018- I vividly remember the day I found out that one of my best friends, Kendall, had died. It’s like an awful movie that replays in my head, often times unprompted. I was in a meeting at work when my cell phone started ringing. And kept ringing. One friend called three times, and then another friend called three more times.
I called my friend back while walking out of work, and that’s how I found out that Kendall had taken her own life.
“Kendall was a light.” This is a phrase I’ve heard people use to portray her over and over again, and it’s the perfect description. When you walked into a room and she saw you, you were always greeted with a scream of delight and the biggest hug you could imagine (which was torture for me, as I am NOT a hugger!). She was beautiful, well-known and well-loved.
I had always suspected Kendall and I were only close because of a mutual friend, but when that mutual friend moved away, Kendall and I actually became closer.
As we grew closer, I began to see a sadness in her. It was hidden deep, masked by superficial day-to-day problems. There were no pretenses with our friendship; she didn’t feel like she had to impress me, and we talked about our lives in ways that weren’t always easy. I think she let me see her struggles more than most.
There is so much that I didn’t understand, about Kendall, about mental well-being, and about suicide. When she died, I needed answers. I needed to understand. So, I began what has now become a nearly four-year long journey.
I wanted to comprehend what she was feeling, and what might have caused this to happen. The answer to that question is a complicated one. I began to read up on what we know about suicide. Searching to find answers about my friend has changed the course of my life.
There is never a single cause when someone dies by suicide, and for suicide loss survivors that can be a complicated reality to accept and understand. Kendall died by suicide due to a number of reasons. She was struggling, and that struggle became overwhelming. She was in pain, and her death was no one’s fault.
About a year after Kendall’s death, the college I was working for received a new grant, and they were seeking to hire a Suicide Prevention Specialist. I applied for the position with great determination: for Kendall, for myself, and for all the people in this world who feel the way Kendall did.
I was fortunate enough to get that job, and to dedicate the last three years of my life to educating others about warning signs, the importance of self-care, the power of therapy, the role we all have in the well-being of others, and most importantly, the understanding that suicide is preventable.
This journey has been difficult, but rewarding as well. The suicide prevention and survivor community is one of great love and support. Alongside the knowledge and support of others who understand this unique type of loss, I’ve been able to continue my personal healing journey as a survivor of suicide loss.
I used to shy away from talking about Kendall, because I felt as if it was her story. I’ve realized, though, that it’s truly my story, too.
I love to remember her smile and the joy she brought to this world. She deserves to be celebrated for the amazing woman she was. I will carry her with me always, and continue to share our story with the hope that more people will feel empowered to express the love of those they lost by suicide openly, to educate themselves on the warning signs, and to know that we can help those who are struggling by reaching out and talking.
It’s my hope that if you’re reading this, you know how important you are to this world. If you are struggling, or if you know someone who is, reach out and have a conversation, free of judgement and with an open heart.
The moment you take to ask someone if they are okay could be the moment you save their life. I know that hope is real, and that we all have the power to instill hope in those around us through simple acts of kindness.
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