Losing a loved one when they die is a traumatic experience. Death leaves us missing people, longing to hug them, hear their voice, or just be in the same room with them. I remember when my friend Chris overdosed, it was sudden. I used to work with him at the veterinary clinic. He was so good at making everyone laugh with his ridiculous sense of humor. Chris was in his mid-20s, and he wanted to be a professional actor. He was lively and fun and everybody loved him. He could make even the grumpiest person laugh. He was a fixture in my daily life and then one day he was suddenly gone. I couldn’t see him anymore. It seems like it was yesterday that I was drunk on mojitos and almost ready to pass out on his couch. He made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so I could stay awake and not vomit.
A couple of days later he was found dead in his apartment in New York. For weeks I called his phone just to hear his voicemail outgoing message on the other end. Even though he was dead, I needed to feel connected to him and it was the only way I knew how. I looked at his Facebook page and it was weird that it still existed after he was dead.
My friend literally died and I grieved for him in various stages. Death is what we associate with the word “grieve,” however, there are other instances where people don’t actually die but they are gone from your life and you grieve that loss. I once had a friend who was in my life for years. That person and I were close. I supported them through many mental health issues and a suicide attempt. They were sometimes warm, thoughtful and kind to me. They gave me thoughtful birthday presents and they held me while I cried. There were also times when they told me I would be “so pretty if I just wore makeup” and “dressed better.” One time I told them I had hair on my nipples and asked if it was normal. They laughed at me and said it was gross. They told me that I was negative and draining to be around. They said that I dragged people down with my negativity and I wasn’t fun. They told me my boyfriend didn’t love me and he just tolerated me. There were other things, hurtful things, they said that I couldn’t let go of. They wanted to criticize me and I didn’t know why. Years later I realized that this was verbal abuse. But this was my friend, how could they love me if they treated me like garbage? I didn’t have an answer to this question. I tolerated the abuse for years until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then I finally had had enough. I decided to cut them off. It was enough; no matter how much I loved them I knew that they were going to continue to abuse me, and I deserved more. I was worth more as a person, so I let them go.
I grieved the loss of that friendship. I didn’t want to let it go because there were some wonderful memories. I also didn’t want to be abused anymore. It was strange not to talk to them anymore. They still enter my dreams frequently, and I know that is because it will never be resolved. Some things in life don’t have resolutions and that’s just the way it is. There’s no closure and we don’t get the answers that we’d like to have.
Grief can take a long time to process, but it takes what it takes. Each person feels grief differently, and we can be patient with ourselves during the grieving process whether it’s a death or the loss of a friend.