Hello everyone! Today I am writing this blog post on a JetBlue flight from Boston to San Francisco and we are somewhere over Minnesota at the moment.
For those of you who don’t know me, we need to cover some history in my life for this blog post. For those of you who do know me, just bear with me for a few minutes and maybe you’ll learn some new details.
When I was 18 years old my best friend Reggie passed away in a tragic car accident. About a year and a half later my friend Nick passed away in a car accident as well. Fast forward another thirteen months and my friend Josh passed away on Christmas Eve from a car accident. Fast forward 24 hours and another one of my friends passed away on Christmas night. None of these were from sickness and they were all very very tragic and sudden. By the time I was 22 I had lost four of my friends…which is not something any 22 year old should be able to say. Between those four deaths and others I had dealt with throughout my life due to sickness and/or old age, death was no stranger to me.
I didn’t want to be a 22 year old who knew how death felt and looked like. Death was no longer a stranger but instead was my neighbor.
Some people have asked me if it got easier with each death. First off, how fucked up? I’m not saying it’s not a rational question to ask – but how fucked up is it that I’ve lost so many friends that I can answer that question? To answer it…no. No, it does not get easier each time. You do not become numb or use to death. Experience does not make someone else’s death less tragic and less painful. Each death is also different and unique in its own way because we all love people differently and have different relationships with all of them. Just like your relationship with one friend is totally different than another, dealing with their deaths will be just as different. Neither is easier or harder than the other, they are just different.
Each death ruined me just a little bit more each time, too. Dealing with something that tragic once is awful and scarring enough, but dealing with it four times? Let’s just say that I see and feel things differently now. My situation is unique and rare, and I have accepted that how I feel and think now is also unique. Things like this change you…it’s impossible to explain.
I never questioned by belief in God when going through these things, but as these losses kept happening, I became angry at God. It always starts with me falling to the floor because when your heart shatters that painfully you can’t even stand, crying my eyes out more deeply than I can describe, and eventually on the third and fourth death it turned in to me crying on the floor while also yelling, asking my parents, “why do my friends keep dying!? Why is God doing this!?” It took a lot in my relationship with God to realize that it wasn’t His fault.
These events turned me into someone who went to therapy pretty much weekly, and understandably it really fucked me up in the head for awhile. I couldn’t, (actually still can’t), leave my loved ones without telling them I love them, even if my mom is just running to the market. My friends NEEDED to let me know when they get home safely or some pretty bad anxiety would kick in, me imaging losing them too..and trust me, that thought is crippling. I also became someone who cut off friends. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not, I got rid of so many of my friends because I figured if I have fewer friends then I have a lower chance of having another friend die. Let’s take a minute and talk about how sad that is. Truthfully my heart breaks for “past Melanie” as I’m thinking about all this. Anyways…here’s a kicker about that…the fourth friend of mine that passed away was one of my life long friends and he was one of those friends I faded away from. Did it make it any less painful when he died? Nope, instead I lost out on two more years with him and it was all my fault.
Understandably there were many side affects from what I went through on top of these, too long to list, and I am proud to say that where I am now is as “recovered” as I feel I can be. I will never be 100% again, but I’m content with the progress I’ve made and where I’ve gotten.
So what is the point of this blog post? I made a promise from my first post that I have gone through enough therapy and will never publish a blog post to vent, but instead only to help.
I am here to show you collateral beauty, that even in the darkest times, somewhere, a light is lit. I am here today to let you know that I am not damaged goods, I am not just a damaged and hurt person because of all of this – but instead I am stronger, and better. When your soul dies enough times you become a different person – and that is not always a bad thing.
If any of you have experienced loosing a loved one from death I promise you that there is collateral beauty. I’ll now quote the movie Collateral Beauty, “It won’t bring them back or ever make it okay, but it’s there…Even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.”
Some people may not want to admit it because they might feel that looking at the good that has come from these situations is disrespecting the ones who died, however I am a firm believer that that is NOT the case. I would lay down my own life for my friends to get their lives back, and I would do anything to change what happened – that doesn’t mean that I can’t trust that God has, and will continue to, come and save us and bring light. He doesn’t bring sin and pain in to this world, but He can bring good out of it. Because I loved my friends so much there is collateral beauty and finally I chose to see it. It is what my friends would want.
Let’s talk about the collateral beauty in my situation…
- I have NEVER loved as much, and as deeply as I have since they passed away. Truthfully, I didn’t even know what love was beforehand, which I didn’t even realize at the time.
- I have gained an incredible amount of strength. I am a lot of shitty things, but in no way, shape, or form am I weak. If anyone says otherwise, they don’t know me. Yes, I still have fears and am no where near perfect, but I know I am very strong, even in my dark moments that is the only thing that I don’t doubt about myself.
- As I hit my teenage years I stopped appreciating my parents…that changed when I realized they took all the right steps to make sure I got the help I needed to deal with these deaths. It also changed when I saw how fragile life is and how quickly I could lose them. My heart would stop beating if I lost either of them. It would truly be a death caused by a broken heart.
- I enlisted in the Marine Corps because of Reggie’s death. The military had always been something I was interested in but I never did anything about that. I didn’t even speak up about it because I didn’t think that “some girl with anxiety” was worthy or capable of such things. When Reggie died my life was turned upside-down and shaken to the core. I was 18 and one day my best friend died. I realized that I was living a worthless life and was going no where, wasting my days away. My priorities were going to meet up with my friends every night…pretty sure I missed decorating our family Christmas tree two years in a row, and I had no purpose in life. Reggie’s death snapped me into reality, and I had my papers signed and was sworn into the United States military more quickly than you could read that sentence. To this day enlisting in the Marine Corps the best thing I have ever done with my life.
- Speaking of Reggie’s passing, I owe my friendship with one of my best friends in this whole wide world to Reggie. I met my best friend Alex sitting next to her at the funeral home before we all drove to Reggie’s funeral. It has been 5 and a half years almost to the day and she is still my best friend and now family.
- Knowing what you want in life is really hard, especially at a young age. That all changed for me throughout all this. At some point during this I realized that my purpose in life was to help people, and just be the best version of myself I could possibly be – honoring my friends daily by living my life to the fullest every single day that I am blessed to wake up. Loving deeply and staying strong. Doing all this is the best I can do to honor all of them, and it’s the best I can do for myself and my wellbeing, which I know they all want for me.
- I hug my mom a lot tighter than I use to. No matter how much time passes from those very, very, very dark days where it hurt to even breath, I still hug her as tight as possible every time. Not only do I hug her tighter but I realized that she is the most important person in my life.
- The combination between all these things has helped turn me in to someone that I am proud to be.
I call these things my collateral beauty and I want you all to know that there is collateral beauty in every ounce of pain, if you chose to see it. It may not happen overnight but I promise, it’ll show up, it’ll happen. Wether you start loving more deeply or something else that brings your life light, I promise you with every fiber I have, that the collateral beauty is there. Don’t feel bad about it either, it honors our friends who lost everything for us to gain these things. They want you living a life full of beauty and light. Find it and never forget it my friends.
Better person than I was 5.5 years ago