Loss and keeping memories alive
A few months ago, I lost a friend in a tragic accident. We were both in second year of college when he died. He was only 19.
Although we had known each other since national school, I would never have thought of him as a very close friend. We didn’t have much in common, and we never hung out after school or at weekend. In fact, in the two years since we had graduated and gone to different colleges, I had only seen him a handful of times.
That’s not to say his death didn’t hit me hard. I can’t explain what I felt when I heard the news – my emotions in the days after revolved around disbelief, sadness, concern for his family and our friends, guilt, shock, anger at the unfairness of the situation…all these feelings bubbled within me constantly, not allowing me to focus on anything else. I felt like I was walking around with cotton wool in my head.
The most difficult thing for me to deal with was guilt. I felt guilty that we had grown apart since we left school. Guilt that I hadn’t spoken to him in months. Guilt that I didn’t value his friendship enough before he died. Guilt that he was ten times the person I was, and yet he was gone. Guilt that I got to continue with my life, grow older and experience new things, and that he would never get that chance.
Guilt would hit me at the oddest times – I would be laughing at a joke my friend was telling and suddenly be hit with a wave of disgust for myself…how on earth could I be laughing, when a life had been so tragically cut short?
It’s now been over six months since the funeral and thoughts of my friend no longer occupy my mind constantly.
Times we shared
How did this change come about? The most important thing was being able to talk. To my family and to my friends- especially those friends who had known him too. It was such a comfort to know that other people were feeling the same as I was. I wasn’t alone, and through talking, we were able to deal with the destructive emotions we were feeling and turn them into something positive.
Instead of lamenting how unjust it was that he had been snatched away, we remembered the great things he had done in his short life. We often talk about the good times we all shared. In this way I think we keep his memory alive- he’s never far from our thoughts.
Every once and awhile I hear a story or read an article that reminds me of him. In the weeks after his death, this was enough to send me spiralling into despair and curse the unfairness of life. It was too painful to look at pictures of him, or think of things we did together. Now, however, when I remember him, I smile. I think of his laugh, his awkwardness, his kindness, and I realise how blessed I was to spend time with such a fantastic person.
What can I do now?
- Try some ways to work through grief
- Watch this video on overcoming grief
- Contact Barnardos Bereavement Counselling for Children and Young People