85: David

85: David

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery


Though the sun is gone, I have a light.

~Kurt Cobain

I was supposed to have gone to a Halloween party the night before in Indianapolis, an hour away from where I lived. But a childhood friend had died in a car accident earlier in the week, and I wasn’t in the mood to be around a bunch of people I didn’t know. If I had gone to Indianapolis I wouldn’t have been checking LiveJournal so early on a Sunday morning, and I wouldn’t have stumbled upon a friend of a friend’s entry informing me of my cousin’s death. I wouldn’t have driven across town to my mother’s to check her answering machine, and I wouldn’t have found out that my aunt had called and left a message that simply said, “Something has happened, and I need to talk to you as soon as possible,” her voice cracking throughout. Had I gone to that party I would have had an entire day of normalcy before my life came crashing down around me, stranding me in an impenetrable bubble of grief and anger.

I cried for days, barely able to make it through a single class or shift at work without breaking down. My mother and I helped my aunt plan the service and make phone calls, alerting everyone of my cousin’s death. The service was a blur, as was most of the first month after.

The fact that David’s death was a suicide made it even more difficult. No one knew what to say because suicide is such a taboo, and the fact that I wanted, needed to talk about what I was feeling, made me realize how few friends I truly had. I worried that I was partly to blame, having made the decision that, since I was tired of being the only person putting any effort into our relationship, I would wait for him to call me. He never did.

When he died, it had been almost three months since our last conversation, and I hated that my stubbornness had kept me from possibly helping him work through whatever it was that led him to make that last decision. I was also mad at him. I was mad that he had done something so selfish. I was mad he had left a six-year-old son without a father. I was mad that I had spent 20 years defending his actions to the rest of the family, and now he had proven them right. I was also mad because I worried that I was overreacting; he was only my cousin, after all, and I hadn’t even talked to him in months.

I spent a long time fluctuating between despair and anger. There was not a single day that went by when something didn’t trigger a thought of him; sometimes it was a Nirvana song on the radio or my stumbling upon an old letter or picture. I remember when Saddam Hussein was hanged, and my friend’s boyfriend tried to show me a clip on YouTube. I broke down, locking myself in the bathroom. After a while though, I could listen to the same songs and read the same letters without focusing solely on the grief; I was able to start viewing them as links to David, things that I could positively associate with him. I realized that although his death was a terrible thing, my memories of him weren’t, and I shouldn’t let the tragedy of what had happened change my entire relationship with him. It’s been over three years, and now I can go days without directly thinking about him, and when I do think of him, it rarely brings me to tears.

However, there are still those days when something will trigger my need to wallow, my need to surround myself with thoughts of him. When that happens, I go to the bottom drawer of my desk and pull out a knotted plastic bag that contains two shirts, both of which still smell like him. I open the bag and breathe.

~Amy Victoria Austin Hert

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