World Suicide Prevention Day – Give people flowers while they can still smell them

As today is World Suicide Prevention Day, I will be telling the story of my late friend Julia.

It was very early January 2016, I was in a pub having lunch with a friend, when I received a text message from a former classmate of mine. I read it and then I read it again. I briefly thought that they were joking when they were telling me that my good friend Julia had died by suicide just after Christmas 2015. And then, as another message from another classmate popped up on my screen, I realised that neither of them were joking and I went numb. I told my friend what had happened, but I didn’t cry or sob or tear up, there was nothing. Maybe I was in shock, I don’t know, but I remember finishing my meal and then going home with that sinking feeling slowly creeping its way into m heart. And then I cried, a lot.

I met Julia sometime in 6th grade, I believe I must have been around 12 or 13 at the time. I didn’t have many friends during my school years, I got bullied a lot so I would usually sit somewhere on my own just trying to mind my own business. And I did exactly that at some sport event that our school was hosting. I sat on a bench in the stands just waiting for the whole thing to finish, when Julia came up to me and asked if I wanted to sit with her and her friends. I was surprised at her approaching me. She was from a different town and went to a different class, but she seemed nice, so I accepted her offer and sat down with her and a few other girls. We got talking and even though we went to different classes we’d still sometimes meet up during breaks and chat. When we were going on a student exchange to the US in 2008 we had to prepare little presentations and Julia asked me if I wanted to be her partner and work with her. Of course I agreed. Back then Facebook was just taking off and I remember us spending hours online, sending messages to each other, trying t work out video calls so we could work on our project together. We had so much fun it didn’t feel like a chore at all. When we arrived in America we spend a few days in New York City before going off to our host families. I remember that we were allowed to go and explore the city ourselves as long as we stayed in groups of 3. Julia and I didn’t care much about that rule, as far as we were concerned all the other girls were all super stuck up and so we went off on our own and we had fun. We went shopping for a bit, I remember buying a pair of shoes for 15$. We went to Chinatown, where we got chased out of a restaurant and ended up eating takeaway on a side walk. I remember us buying fudge on Ellis Island, both not knowing what exactly it was, and both absolutely hating it for how sickly sweet it was. The picture below was taken when we spent a day at the Niagara Falls. We crossed the border to Canada, wasted some money in some arcades and then wasted some more money on some burgers that were soggy and awful.

Around 2009 we started taking the same Latin class and I was delighted when I saw her walk into the classroom. Although we both hated the subject we had an awful lot of fun still. We used to spend every lunch break on a Wednesday getting our lunch and then studying words and phrases. Julia would make little cards for us so it was easier to learn and to this day I remember the little inconsistencies in her handwriting, the way certain letters sometimes looked so out of place. I remember us laughing at each others badly translated Latin sentences and I remember Julia downloading videos off Youtube to show me on her mp4-player. Every week she had found a video just as funny as the last one, if not more. Julia had a wonderfully dry sense of humour, her sarcasm matched mine so well, we never got bored. She was always so present, so cheerful. She’d make jokes just for the hell of it. She was bright and she was fearless.

Julia was light.

We both graduated high school in 2012 and whilst I went to Ireland for a year, Julia started studying at one of the biggest Universities in Germany. She was very clever and I knew she’d do so well. We lost contact for a while, maybe messaged each other every now and again but that never changed any of the dynamics of our friendship. When I came back from Ireland and we met with some other friends it was like nothing had changed. We’d laugh and we’d joke about each other just like we always did. I then started nursing school and sometimes I’d send her a message saying how much I was using all those terms in Latin that we used to hate so much during our school years and she’d laugh and sometimes reply with some phrases she still remembered. I remember her inviting me to her birthday party. And I remember making some shit excuse and not going because I was too scared of who else might be there. And I believe that was one of the last times we talked.

And now, here I am, almost 4 years later and truthfully I have never been able to fully come to terms with her being gone. I can rationalise all I want, it doesn’t take away from the immense sadness that I feel when I think about all the pain and torment she must’ve felt to see no other way out. How much she must have hurt, without anyone knowing. And then after all the sadness, there’s so much shame and so much guilt inside of me. So many times where I sit and wonder, why did I not notice? Or if only I had talked to her more. If only I had known how awful she felt. If only I had made more of an effort. So many days that go by where I miss our silly conversations, our little nicknames we had for each other. So many days where I wish her name would pop up on my phone screen one more time. Yet I know there is nothing that I can do, or anyone for that matter, to bring her back. All I can do today is continue to raise awareness, spread the word on mental health and help fight the stigma surrounding it. And maybe that’s what Julia would’ve liked me to do.

I truly hope she rests peacefully now, where ever she may be. She deserves it.

To end this post, I urge you, please look out for those around you. You have no idea how much a person could be going through without them ever saying a word about it. Please, tell someone you love them today. And if someone inspires you, tell them. If someone’s hair looks nice, tell them or if something made you think of them. Spread some fucking kindness today. This world is dark enough, never hesitate to brighten up someone else’s day. You never know how much a few kind words can do for someone who may be in so much pain. It takes a second out of your day to possibly save someone else’s life.

And to you, if you’re not feeling yourself right now. If it seems like all this darkness is just too much and you just want to give up – please hold on. I’ve been there and it’s an awful place to be in and I know you may feel so hopeless right now. But please reach out. Whether it’s online or to a friend or a family member or a crisis line, someone somewhere is going to listen to you. Don’t ever think that you have to carry all this weight by yourself, please speak to someone. You’re not alone, I promise.

Much love,
Kerstin

One thought on “World Suicide Prevention Day – Give people flowers while they can still smell them

  1. Such a moving piece. There is certainly nothing you could’ve done but you can take care of your heart now. Sharing this may save a life. That is a beautiful way to honor someone you love. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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