I learned something entirely new this week. I learn what it was to be grieving someone who chose to go. Loosing a friend is always heartbreaking. But facing sadness and hopelessness like you do when you deal with someone’s decision to take their own life brings a whole new perspective to grief. A perspective I had never had to deal with before this week. A perspective that opened new meanings to my relationships.
Jean-Jacques and I went back almost 20 years. When he was my manager, before becoming my friend. He’s the one friend whom visited me most when I lived in Philadelphia. Kate and I considered him the third roommate. He’d sleep on the couch and live his life, off to New York City to shoot amazing pictures and back to Philly, where him and Kate would spend hours, on the roof deck, drinking wine and talking about relationships.
He was a gifted photographer. He was a gifted writer. And, let’s be honest, he had too much wits for his own good and a certain talent to stir drama sometimes. But that’s how I loved him then, and that’s how I want to keep loving him now. Even though it took me several days to process my feelings and find a place to grieve.
First came the shock of his disappearance and the incredulity about his last life decision. I couldn’t really be sad until I found a way to stop questioning the why and the how. Then came hints of anger and disbelief in front of the selfishness I felt like someone would need to show to not think of the consequences and the people left behind. And the realisation that one can be depressed to the point of thinking that their life simply doesn’t matter to others.
Disbelief made room for empathy. To me, grieving is also a matter of facing death through the eyes of someone else. I had the exact same reaction when Carole passed away about a year and half ago. I couldn’t stop thinking about her last moments. That moment when you know it’s the end of the road. And strangely, it’s learning that most of the time, people who chose to take their own life are suddenly feeling a lot better once their decision is made, that helped me the most. I want to think he left with peace in his heart, not torment. This is what allowed me to let go of the thinking and make room for the feeling. And the tears.
It’s also what allowed to look for the silver lining. Something good must come out of that. That something is love. Old friends, new friends, romantic partners, family members, there are so many people we know and love. Love is something we can choose to give, and I’m choosing to be more generous with mine.
I will keep on loving Jean-Jacques, I will cherish the memories of the moments we spent together. I will also try to remember that there is no better time than now to tell people how much their matter to you, and when they hurt you or disappoint you, to take a deep breath, let it go and love them anyway.