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What I’ve Learned From Losing Multiple Friends to Suicide

No matter when or how it happens, we’re all going to die. The time we get to spend with the people we love before they go never quite feels long enough.


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Meredith Kirby

5 months ago | 7 min read
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Lessons from untimely deaths

TRIGGER WARNING- This article contains stories and information about suicide which may be upsetting to some people.

I experienced the death of someone close to me for the first time when I was fifteen. I found out through a MySpace message that my middle-school friend Tristan had taken his own life, shortly after a breakup with his girlfriend.

After finding out about his death, I begged my mom to drive me to the house of a mutual friend, where our friend group usually hung out together.

I remember opening the door to find a group of dejected teenagers slumped on couches in a dark living room. Some bad movie was playing on the TV screen, but no one was really watching it.

I looked around the room and asked, weakly:

“…so you’ve heard?”

“Yes,” sighed an exhausted voice. “We’ve heard.”

Tristan left behind grieving parents, a loyal brother, and a large group of friends who all struggled to understand his sudden absence in our lives.

At that point in time, I didn’t grasp the finality of his death. While I felt sad, cried buckets of tears, and drank to numb my emotions, some part of me didn’t really believe that I was never going to see my friend again.

I didn’t fully understand his death then, and I’m not sure if I do now, but it was an experience which prepared me for other deaths that I would experience later in life. Suicide is something that just doesn’t make sense. 

The feelings of confusion felt by surviving friends and family seem to be pretty much universal.

Less than a year after Tristan died, I met my first serious boyfriend, Logan, in Buena Vista Park in San Francisco. I was a teenage runaway and he was a travelling hippie, who had recently been following the band Furthur on their west-coast tour.

He introduced me to his group of friends, and a couple of days later we all headed off to a music festival together in Santa Rosa.

Logan and I traveled together for some time, and even after we broke up we remained friendly with each other. I’ll always remember him as that quintessential “first love,” a young and naive romance born out of unique circumstances. It all felt like a fairytale to me at the time.

Later on, when we were both living in Berkeley, California, I became concerned about Logan. He had started showing obvious signs of mental illness, and some of our other friends had noticed as well. I tried talking to him about it, but it only made him angry.

He often said and did things that didn’t make sense. Every time I saw him, he seemed to be a little more out of touch with reality.

I ended up contacting Logan’s mom in Michigan and telling her that I was concerned about him, and thought that he might need the help of family.

She offered to send him a bus ticket back to his home state, and another friend of ours made sure that he got on the bus. I heard from his family a couple of weeks later that he was working at a local mechanic shop, and seemed to be doing okay.

A few months later I heard that Logan had killed himself. A friend who had talked to him shortly before his death told me he had said that he felt like he’d “given up his magic.”

Imet Nick while we were both living in the Bean Creek Collective. Bean Creek was small communal farm and traveler way-station, full of young bohemian types, and hidden in the mountains near Santa Cruz, California.

Nick and I had a lot of similar interests, and we became fast friends. We did yoga together and discussed books we were reading and music that we both liked. I have a lot of good memories of the times I had with Nick and the other Bean Creekers.

We went to concerts together, hung out on the beach, and took road trips around the beautiful landscape of central coastal California, camping, hiking, and enjoying life.

In more recent times, I had been living in Washington and Oregon, and Nick had been floating around the Midwest. While I hadn’t seen him face-to-face in a couple of years, Nick and I kept in touch over Facebook and phone.

I had spoken to Nick just a few months prior to his death. He let me know that he was feeling depressed, but he seemed to have a sense of humor about it. While I’d already lost friends to suicide, I didn’t interpret his talking about depression as being a warning sign.

At the time, I felt like almost everybody around me was depressed. It was a state that my generation seemed to have been cursed with. People in my age group, at times, almost seemed to wear their depression, anxiety, and alienation like darkly comic badges of honor.

While Nick had joked with me and had seemed generally good-natured and upbeat, I could tell he was dealing with some serious problems in his life.

Like Tristan, he had just ended a relationship. He was also still recovering from a serious back injury that he had sustained a while before, after falling on ice.

I remember him telling me that he was weaning himself off of the opiates he was prescribed for the pain, but that he had picked up an addiction to alcohol while dating his ex, who was a serious alcoholic.

Nick’s death really bothered me because I felt like I could have prevented it. He had reached out to me, and I hadn’t recognized how much pain he was really in until it was too late. I’ve since come to realize that suicide, and death in general often play out like that.

You don’t always see it coming

Many depressed people are really good at hiding their pain. Someone close to suicide isn’t always crying or screaming or moping around the house. Sometimes they seem very calm and functional, until one day, they aren’t.

Even if they want to reach out for help, sometimes they don’t, because they don’t want to feel like a burden to the people around them.

While you can’t always see it coming, there are some possible warning signs that you can look for if you’re concerned about someone.

These include: withdrawing or isolating themselves, sleeping too much or not enough, increasing their use of alcohol or drugs, talking about “going away,” or saying that they feel hopeless or like they have no purpose.

While exhibiting these signs doesn’t necessarily mean someone is suicidal, and suicidal people don’t always exhibit these signs, now I feel like I have a better idea of what to look for when I’m concerned about someone.

Men are more likely to kill themselves

While women kill themselves, too, men are about 3.5x more likely to kill themselves than women. Women attempt suicide more often, but men are more likely to complete suicide, often choosing a more lethal method.

I’m not completely sure why this is, but I think it might have something to do with our cultural conditioning of men. It’s not traditionally “manly” to talk about your feelings or show emotions.

It seems like men often suppress their feelings and emotions so they can meet the perceived social expectation of appearing “strong.” These might be some of the reasons why many men instead choose to suffer in silence, hiding their pain until it becomes too much to handle.

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help

Even if you can tell someone is in crisis and want to reach out, sometimes they won’t be in a state of mind where they are ready to receive the help you’re offering them.

They might feel embarrassed or like they are imposing, or they might not even realize how much they are suffering. They also might not feel like their suffering matters, or feel guilty because they perceive others as suffering more.

Honestly, sometimes you can’t even help people who do want help. Suicide happens when the amount of pain a person is in exceeds the amount of resources they have to cope with it. Sometimes this happens too suddenly for anyone to do anything.

Reaching out still matters

The efforts that you make to support and comfort those around you are always meaningful and important, no matter what happens afterwards.

Trying to help someone in pain is never a bad thing to do, whether or not it ends up saving their life.

It’s not your fault

If you do everything in your power to support someone in pain, and they still don’t make it, that’s not on you. Many people have blamed themselves after the death of a loved one, including me. But it’s never something that you should feel at fault for.

Suicide happens for many reasons, but it’s never because you didn’t try hard enough to keep the person alive.

Everyone grieves differently

Most people are familiar with the five stages of grief, but real grief doesn’t always look exactly like that. Many people experience the states of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance; but not always all of them and not always in that order.

Some people express their emotions outwardly, and other people keep their grief to themselves. Some people want to spend some time remembering the person, but others have an easier time if they keep themselves busy and focus on other things.

Sometimes other things in life can be harder after a death. You never know how you’re going to feel or how you’re going to react, especially when it comes to a death as complicated and often unexpected as a suicide.

Treasure the time you share

No matter when or how it happens, we’re all going to die. The time we get to spend with the people we love before they go never quite feels long enough.

Sometimes when people die, we regret the the things we never took the time to say to them. Seize the opportunity you have right now to tell your loved ones how you feel.

You might not get another one.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, seek immediate help — call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room.

National suicide prevention lifeline: 1–800–273–8255

Chat with a counselor: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

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