If I'm honest, I don't even know how to begin a post like this. There is so much to say and yet no words are coming to mind so please bear with me. Recently a good friend of mine passed away after a long battle with depression. Today as I write this her friends and family are getting ready to farewell her in a memorial service in my hometown, a service I could not be there for. To say I'm broken up over this is an understatement. I feel rotten. I feel like I'm letting her down by not being there. But more than that I just want to be with my friends and be able to grieve together.
Two weeks ago, she was still here on this earth. She still breathed the air we all breathe. She walked on the ground we walked on. She was alive. I still can't wrap my head around the fact she is gone. But as I thought over how I could grieve and begin the process of moving on I felt I needed to write a letter. A letter to her telling her all the things I wanted to tell her. All the pain I felt at her departure. All the hurt. But more than that I wanted to let her know how much she meant to me. How she affected my life. How she made a difference.
If you are reading this and thinking it isn't relevant to you, I encourage you to please read it anyway. This is a letter on behalf of the people who are left behind after a suicide. It is a plea to those who are lost and hurting to not give up. A reminder that your life is so incredibly special and unique and your impact on this earth is greater than you can ever imagine.
I sit here 7 floors up in an Auckland apartment building feeling out of place and overwhelmed. Life is hard and stressful and I’m trying hard to keep my mind busy and occupied, but right now I can’t get past the fact that you are gone and I won’t get the chance to say goodbye to you.
What happened to the Rachel I knew? The girl who always had something to say. Who was passionate about God and theology. Who was an incredible speaker, woman and friend to everyone. Where has she gone? Why did she leave us?
Truth is, I will never know the answers to these questions. I have searched through my memories of my last interactions with you, I have looked at recent photos and videos just trying to see any sign of the depression that led you to take your own life, but I see nothing. No one saw it coming, and no one wants to really believe you have left us.
Rachel, I wish you could’ve seen the incredible person you were. You were driven, passionate and intelligent. Being around you was a joy. You had an incredible sense of humour, and people felt included and accepted around you. From early on in high school, people were drawn to you because you seemed so sure of yourself, you seemed to know who you were and were happy just being yourself. You were a truly unique and special person, a light among the darkness.
But in the end the darkness snuffed you out.
Three weeks ago, you told me you thought you might be depressed and that, because of my experience with depression and anxiety, we should meet for coffee and chat about it. That never ended up happening and I can’t help but wonder ‘what if?’ What if I had tried harder to get in contact with you? What if I had done more? Would you still be here now?
Sadly I don’t think you would be.
Because depression isn’t biased. It doesn’t go easy on you because you’re young, or a woman or even a Christian. It takes no prisoners. It overwhelms your mind until you can’t see anything except the hopelessness and blackness in front of you. It is a disease. It swallows the light from your life and isolates you from the ones you love.
I can’t help but wonder whether you felt you needed to keep your depression a secret, because you felt if people found out, they would think less of you. They wouldn’t understand what you were going through and just tell you to get over it. Or maybe you didn't want to burden others with your pain as you felt they couldn't, or didn't want to, handle it. So you kept it inside, you let it grab hold of your heart and your mind until you couldn’t take it anymore. In your mind, death was the only answer.
Oh Rachel, I wish you had reached out!
I know how alone you must’ve felt, I have been there. And I understand the darkness and the hopelessness you felt. Believe me, I get it. I too was at the point where I didn’t want to be on this earth anymore, life was overwhelming and from my point of view no one understood me or cared about me. Only now that I have got help and am in the process of recovery do I see that death is not the only option. There is help and support available. There is medication that can help ease the burden. There are people who care about you.
There is HOPE.
Of all the things I wanted to tell you that is the most important. No matter what you are facing, no matter the hell you are in, there is always hope. There is always something good around the corner. Sometimes you just have to hold on and have faith. It’s not easy and it’s not a walk in the park but it’s worth it. You become stronger through it, discover important things about yourself and develop techniques that help carry you through the rest of your life.
I grieve the fact that I never got to tell you this. I so desperately wish I could’ve helped you. I never want anyone to go through what I went through alone. And yet, you did. You battled, you fought and in the end you lost. The only solace I have right now is knowing that you are in heaven. You are free from the pain. Free from the darkness. You are home.
Rachel, I am grateful for the time we were able to spend together and I will treasure the memories and great times we shared. Your life was an inspiration to me, in so many ways. While I cannot understand why you would deprive the world of your life I thank you for being the benchmark to which I strived to reach, both personally and academically. Thank you for always sharing your views. Thank you for being a loving and wonderful friend. Thank you for the memories. And most of all, thank you for being Rachel Smith.
All my love,