My name is John. I like cats sometimes and used to be a teacher. My oldest & coolest friend died by suicide 8 years, 3 months and 24 days ago. I am also a volunteer with LOSS.

Learning to live with a suicide loss is a continual process. Here are some things me and my friends did that helped us cope.

We reunited for the funeral and stayed that way; some of us to this day. Her ex and I get together at every opportunity, despite living 2200 miles apart.

It seemed like we were beating the same ground up, but it worked. So we talked – A LOT. What helped more was we were all in similar enough positions; complete empathy!

We learned that you’ll never have the perfect thought to tidy up even a conversation. We got familiar with not understanding.

Retelling stories about her kept our memories vivid and taught us each others’ stories. We kept her in our hearts.

We worked hard for each other, partly because she knew a lot of great and likeable people, partly to honor her.

A’s sister got her laptop, I pulled the files of her writing, and her ex put a book together from it.

Her ex scheduled weekly visits to her house to steal her gossip magazines til her subscription ran out. This might have been the first thing that made us smile.

A’s dad got her tired old truck and rebuilt it to show car quality, including an LS swap (they used to drag race together) and absolutely the best paint job you’ll ever see on a 1998 Chevy S-10.

8+ years later here’s where we are:

We’re still the humans we used to be. Our relationships, our minds, and in most cases, our jobs, are in tact. We have survived.

Our bearings are in place and we experience a reasonable emotional existence again. That is, we can feel good or bad about the rest of our lives again. It’s possible to care beyond the fog. We can summon the reserves of strength we had before, or more.

We think this is what a New Normal means

Our conversations about her are now as grateful and conscious grieving people. And we share what she gave us. We tell people funny stories about her without dousing the room in gray.

I always know I care about someone now when I realize I’m gutted they never get to meet her.

8+years later here’s where we are NOT:

We haven’t forgot her: One day, I couldn’t remember her voice and almost screamed in horror. It came right back to me after just catching my breath and letting my unconscious mind search. I was terrified she’d eventually fade from my mind, but there was really no danger of that.

We haven’t got over it: I could pick right up with a heavy conversation with anyone close to her, and we would writhe while poking the raw patches on our souls. I’ll always be within a few beers of slapping the table and looking miles away, thinking about the sum of sorrows. However, I’ll only do that for a few seconds now, instead of going ghastly silent. It’s familiar, and we can handle thoughts like that when we have them. I know for damn sure we’ll never be okay with what happened, or feel not-deprived of her. Case in point: I can’t think of more to say now, but I’m not sure I should end it here.

If you or someone you care about are struggling with suicidal thoughts please get help. 911 | 1-800-273-8255 | text “4hope” to 741741