It's been forty days since my cousin passed away. Forty days since he took his own life.
Forty days, and each one is still edged with a sense of sadness, shock and loss. The fortieth day is a lot easier than the first - that first day everyone that knew him lived a nightmare of living without him. Because of him. And it hurts.
I don't know how his parents, his brother and sister are doing it. They are being so strong for us. My aunt repeatedly told me that she didn't know how they managed the first few days. She believes that the love and support from the family and my cousin's friends just kept her up and going. I can only imagine how much it hurts. Parents aren't supposed to bury their children. But this is what happened and we are living through it.
Alan, my cousin, told us to remember him for his life. I know I am doing him no honour because I cannot get over his death. I want to, and for many reasons. I want to do him right. What he thought was right. I want to help myself and not be so sad about it. I want to show my family that I am strong and that they don't have to worry about me. I want to remember the thriving, handsome 24-year old man that was at his prime with the love of his life.
But I am stuck on another level. I keep replaying what I think were the events of the day. I wasn't there, of course, so my mind just plays what I heard happened. Along with that comes the grief - I keep thinking of the grief that I felt over and over again. I think of his smile, his humour and how it now only lives in our memory.
The memories I have of Alan, AJ and Kristin are from when we were kids. Their family lived in our house for a little bit when they moved to Canada from Belize. Then we went to to same elementary school together and my aunt watched me and Mel, my younger sister, after school. Our families drifted apart for a few years after that and as we grew older we saw each other only really at family functions. It sucks that we didn't take advantage of the time we had but I am thankful either way that he had a full roster of friends and a loving girlfriend.
Maybe because I don't have memories of him as an adult is why I am so focused on his life as it ended. I know part of it is that I feel like I can relate - I was depressed, I did want to give up. The difference is that I made some huge cries for help and I got it. It makes me so sad to think of how depressed Alan could have been without anyone knowing. We all have a sense of guilt though it is unnecessary - he hid it on purpose. He made a plan, he didn't tell anyone he was upset. Everyone was shocked. Everyone IS shocked. It makes me want to be a loudspeaker for mental illness and the fact that everyone has someone they can talk to. It doesn't have to feel so bad. You can get help. You WILL get help.
So here we are forty days later. Tonight the family gathers again for a night of prayers and a celebration of Alan's life. I am going to do my best going forward to think of Alan and his life - not Alan and his death, or his illness. I want to start living with his words of encouragement and to do my best to live according to the principles of well-being, kindness and love that he wanted us all to remember.
Rest in peace, dear Alan. You will be missed dearly and will be forever in our hearts. xoxo Love you, cuz.