It will be one year on Sunday. One whole year. One year since Shane left this Earth, by his own doing. By his own choice. One year since my life was flipped on its head and thrown about in all directions. It’s still surreal. How could an entire year have gone by already? Sometimes it feels like it happened a couple of months ago; other times it feels like a lifetime ago. There’s no manual for dealing with death, let alone a suicide. I’ve consulted with loved ones on what I’m supposed to do on this day, and they all say the same thing: just do what feels right and take care of yourself.
My sister’s (slightly blunt) response stuck out to me the most though. To summarize: he’s gone, so maybe you should shift the focus of this day to yourself and how far YOU’VE come. A lot has happened in a year, and it wasn’t until really reflecting on this that I realized I have indeed come pretty far. But, of course, certain feelings still remain.
One year later I still have frequent flashbacks. Flashbacks of caution tape; emergency vehicles lined up at the house; dry heaving on the front lawn; neighbors I had never met before comforting me until my family arrived; hearing loved ones cries on the phone; seeing his body brought out in a bag; my dad holding and soothing me; the painful absence felt in the house after finally being allowed back in after 5 hours; my mom force-feeding me and lying in bed with me; and seeing sweet Shu Shu and knowing her best friend was gone.
One year later I’m still processing some things. The night he died we argued and I left the house to stay with a friend. I know I wouldn’t have acted any differently if it happened again, but the guilt remains. I was the last one to see him alive, and our last conversation wasn’t pleasant. I know I’m not the reason for his death, but I was the catalyst; the final person he needed to let go of in order to do what he needed to do. However, I also know that he did this purely for himself, and not because of anyone else. He was in pain. I don’t blame him for what he did.
One year later I still feel his presence. He helped me find and maintain my spirituality and hope. I still think of him daily; I remember him through music, certain places, pictures, Shu Shu, and endless random absurdity. Sometimes it’s with sadness, other times it’s with laughter. It was only two years’ worth of memories, but it’s enough to have left an imprint on me for the rest of my life.
One year later my “family” has grown. I’m reminded of the people who were there in the days and months following, and who still are. Not only did my relationships with my family and close friends become stronger, but I gained new people in my life who I’ve now deemed honorary family members. I also found love again, which wasn’t something I expected to happen, but I’m glad it did. I learned that it’s okay to feel joy and grief at the same time; these emotions are not mutually exclusive because the heart has a lot of space if it remains open. I don’t feel guilty about moving on, because life goes on. I feel happy that I’m still able to live a good life and share that with others, all while allowing Shane’s memory to forever be a part of me.
One year later I’m stronger than I ever thought possible. What I thought was going to be an insurmountable obstacle turned out to be something that I got through. Not with ease, but with persistence and a lot of support. This is simply because, as mentioned earlier, life goes on. I have two choices: 1) allow myself to slip back into depression, dwell on something I can’t change, and try to get through each day with as minimal effort as possible, or 2) accept that tragedy happens to all of us, pick myself up, put on my big-girl pants, and continue living the life that I desire like a total badass. I choose the latter because, clearly, life is short. That’s not to say I haven’t had multiple breakdowns in the process. But the past is the past, and the future is not here yet, so we must focus on today. And today I’m alive and filled with gratitude.