(Warning – this is a sad post.)
A couple weeks ago, my friend died. This is probably the hardest sentence I’ve written – at least in this space.
I am still processing it and it doesn’t feel real. He was in Thailand snorkeling and he drowned. It was a freak thing and I still can’t comprehend how it happened. He hated the ocean so I honestly don’t even know how it happened/why he was even snorkeling.
He was (it still feels weird saying WAS) one of the nicest friends I’ve ever had. The sort of person who always made you happy even just because you were thinking about them – if I looked at my phone and saw that I had a text from him I would immediately smile. Just seeing his name light up my phone made me light up inside. I picture his face in my head and smile just thinking of his smile.
Anytime I saw him I was just so happy. In this particular social circle I am more of the friend of the friend, the “new” one to the group. He always went out of my way to make me feel so welcome and included. He wasn’t a best friend or even one of my closest friends, but I loved him and I never got to tell him how much I loved him. How infectious his smile was; how he made me (but also anyone he talked to) feel like the most important person in the room; also, how happy I was anytime I got a text from him or he RSVP’d yes to a party I was throwing. He was snarky and witty and clever but also just so good at making anyone in his orbit feel great.
I processed it so strangely and it was such a horrible ride from high to low. The night before our friends had celebrated my best friend’s 40th birthday. My other best friend was visiting from Charleston. We had the greatest night and were all so happy.
It’s hard to share this here.
I know I’m going to get a lot of “sorry for your loss,” this and that, which honestly only makes it harder, probably because it makes it more real. I am finally at a point where I haven’t cried about it in a few days (scratch that, I cried again writing this!) and felt comfortable writing about it. And for me, writing is cathartic – always has been. Writing is how I process things, whether or not I actually share the writing.
When someone says “sorry for your loss,” I feel guilty for feeling so sad. Guilt over sadness is a new and weird one. But I do (strangely) feel so guilty about my sadness. It isn’t as if he was my best friend or my sibling. He was a good friend who I loved and someone I would have liked to be closer with. But I think about what his BEST friends are going through and then I just cry even harder. It’s hard to process and I tell myself I am being stupid for being so sad.
Still, I don’t remember the last time I felt so sad. I think the guilt is a trick my brain is playing. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism, telling me I shouldn’t be this sad, like it isn’t a big deal (when in fact it is a huge deal). Does that make sense? So I’ll start to cry and then the little voice in my head will tell me to stop, that I’m being dumb. Maybe that’s a part of the process – it’s all still very hard to even comprehend.
Someone told me that grief feels like a dump truck at first and then becomes more of a clutch. It mauls you at first and then you sort of carry it around.
I’m very lucky in that I’ve never lost someone I’m close to besides a grandparent. I didn’t cope very well with it at all. Grief is so sneaky; and this was pretty terrible especially as it was so sudden and unexpected.
With every blog post I try to think, what’s the lesson, what’s the takeaway?
There isn’t really one. How do you distill the death of such an incredible person into a simple soundbite? UGH. You can’t, and it would be disgusting to even try. All I can do is share my experience with grief and hope that maybe it helps someone going through something similar (because someone always is going through something similar). But I did have two realizations that I want to share.
– In my own life, I want to be more like Khiem. That was his name. Khiem. I am shy and like to stick to just the people I know but I would like to be the person who takes a genuine interest in everyone in the room, who makes every person at the party or dinner or whatever feel loved and important. I want to bring more light and happiness to wherever I am – even if I am feeling insecure or nervous, I want to bring out the best in people. That was what Khiem did… and that is how we will all be remembered in the end. People say this all the time but people aren’t going to remember how good you are at your job, how you stayed up late answering every email… they’ll remember how you made them feel. That’s the thing that really matters.
– The more obvious one and what I hope that you, the reader, takes away is this: Never worry about being too effusive. Always hug your friends and tell them how much you love them. Because you never know when they will be gone and you won’t have the chance. People asay this all the time too, and I’ve always tried to make the people I feel closest with feel loved and important. But you really just never know what will happen. So hug your people tight and do it frequently and don’t hold back.