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I recently lost one of my best friends due to a long fight against cancer, and I wanted to share what I learnt here so that it might help someone else.
It doesn't always hurt instantly.
I went quite a few days before the pain really hit. Before that it was just a numb feeling, almost like it wasn't real. A gap where I went about my day to day life as if nothing had happened. That's ok, it doesn't mean you don't care about what happens, it's just a coping mechanism that many people experience.
Sometimes you forget.
Sometimes I would go about my day as if nothing had happened, I would go to write her name or call her because I forgot she was gone. Don't be embarrassed, it doesn't mean you think any less of the person who is gone, sometimes you need to forget so you can smile for that one moment.
People don't talk about it.
Everyone was too afraid, too nervous, to ask me. To ask how I was feeling, to ask what happened, even to ask about her. At first I thought it was because they forgot, or they just didn't care. It's not. People just don't know what to say, what to do. Don't be nervous to start the conversation, your true friends will be there to listen, even if they don't know what to say.
The first time I cried was a good few days after I was told. I spent so much energy holding it in. Focusing on studying, on my friends, on going to lectures, that I just didn't have time to feel. It wasn't until a mutual friend and I FaceTimed that I let it all out, and trust me it felt good. It felt good to admit how I felt, and to release all the buildup from those few days.
Writing also helps.
I'm writing this now almost 7 months after it happened. But before this, maybe a month or two after, I wrote a letter to her. I poured my heart out; I wrote my fears, my thoughts, my hopes. And after, when my tears had dried and the letter was done, I felt like the hole in my chest was not so dark, I felt closer to her and it helped me heal.
Visiting certain places is hard.
It took my a long time to visit the book group in which I always saw my friend, I think subconsciously I was expecting her to be there, so in a way it kept her alive. While it's ok to feel this way for a while, holding on can make things a lot harder. When I finally went it was difficult, but at the end I felt stronger and more at ease - it really marked a turning point.
It comes in waves.
I would find myself, months later, bawling my eyes out alone in my room because I had been thinking about her, and about what happened. All the thoughts and feelings would overwhelm me in that moment and I felt like I was back at the beginning. Most people don't understand this, death is often given a timeline for when you should be 'over it'. I want you to know this isn't true, everyone has a unique timeline and it's ok to still be mourning months, or years, later.
Little things upset you.
The other day I couldn't find the book she gave me for my birthday the year before and I just broke, it felt like walking smack into a wall of guilt. Rationally I knew I hadn't lost it, but I just felt so careless. Remember these items aren't the person, and you misplacing them doesn't signify you forgetting the lost one.
You don't 'get over it'.
I had a lot of people tell me I needed to move on, or get over it, but that's not what happens. The hole in your heart, in your life, isn't filled - you just learn to live with it. To embrace it. It becomes a part of you, just like your lost one. In the future you will move on, the pain won't be so consuming and it won't plague your thoughts 24/7. But the memory, the feeling, will always linger to remind you of that person, and to keep them with you. And that's ok, because loss is a journey that lasts a lifetime.