Love and Grief

Monday, November 30, 2020

When I recently learned that my friend Drake died by suicide, I went looking for concrete traces as if to touch him again, one last time, in physical form. I could only find a small ceramic cup we bought together at an art fair, no real comfort but an artifact to say yes he was here, I was there.

Being relatively new to the grief that follows death, and newer still to the grief that follows a suicide, I was struck by how, even in the absence of most tangible reminders of our friendship, Drake came rushing back to me. Instead of photos and letters, which I’d discarded in some fit of minimalism no doubt, I found the thousand invisible threads that connected our lives when we were both in heavy transition, Drake heading across the country from Gainesville to a new home and community in San Francisco, me across the messy relational terrain of my late twenties.

In the last several years before he died, Drake and I had drifted apart and fallen out of touch, so that I wasn’t aware he’d been through a number of psychological crises and hospitalizations prior to his death. I don’t know how someone so intent on healing others could find himself on a tall bridge beyond all imaginable repair, but I know that he had a direct hand in my own healing too, and I wish the hundreds of people who mourn him over the world could hold him and his pain as dearly as he held ours. Perhaps that’s what suicide does–disperse someone’s impossible, unbearable pain across all those who survive to grieve.

But it’s not just pain that Drake left; he also left a fierce encouragement to create, to speak, to move, to take risks, to care about and listen to and find a way to serve essence.

Our lives intersected when I needed a soul ally, someone to say, “You don’t have to betray yourself to be close to another,” and someone to listen tenderly over the phone, in letters, in poems and paintings, when I said, “I did it again.”

I sit on my couch now in a lamplit living room in a life Drake would have found far too conventional, my husband reading news on his phone, the Christmas tree twinkling, our little boy asleep upstairs (yes we have an upstairs) in his crib, and I think about how my trend towards minimalism has also led me to trash physical reminders of people I’ve loved and people I’ve been. I’ve prided myself on my lack of sentimentality, yet this loss has me wondering why I thought I needed to put people from the past out of my heart. Somewhere I learned that the way to grieve was to move on, and moving on meant boxing up the memorabilia and discarding it.

The truth is I still care about most of the people who have hurt me and most of those whom I have hurt, and the great lie I thought I needed to believe was that I didn’t care anymore and wasn’t supposed to.

I am embarrassed that it took me 40 years to begin to understand that love and grief will always live side by side, and letters between soul friends are worth the cost of whatever real estate they claim in the closet.

3 comments :

  • Lisa Wysocki

    Oh Sara, I am so so sorry to hear of the suicide of your friend. Saying his name, talking directly about his suicide, and about the pain and love that remains — is a gift to all who read your notes.

    I hope that this path makes you feel the healing that is happening, and restores your sense of safety.

    With sympathy and love,
    Lisa

  • Nelle

    Beautifully and poignantly written. I am sorry for your loss.

  • john

    I wish I were less familiar with death, suicide and grief, Sara Nash.

    You sound strong within yourself.

    All my best as always,

    john

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