Coping With The Death Of 14 Loved Ones In 2016
2016 was a year that all of us want to put behind. The world lost so many of their beloved celebrities like David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, Arnold Palmer, Harper Lee, Jose Fernandez, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Rickman and Alan Ficke; just to name a few, but for me, it was more personal. Throughout the year of 2016, I lost 14 very close people to numerous causes including gun violence/accidental mishap, car accidents, cancer, and suicide. Now I know what you might be thinking; how could you personally have lost 14 people in the year 2016 alone-that is literal insanity. Well as insane as it might seem, it was real and it happened and I’m still being effected by the loses to this day. I've been asked after each of the deaths occurred, how I was able to stay strong and keep going in life and I was always at a loss for words because I didn't know and for the longest time, I was weak.
For the first half of 2016, I was a senior in high school ready to graduate and head off to The University of Missouri. I couldn't have been more excited to end my high school career with a bang. I felt as though nothing in the world could stop me from achieving this milestone in life but then the impossible happened; one of my friends passed away. This January afternoon would soon be known as the start of the waves of deaths in 2016 that would follow. I remember hearing the news and reading about the death online through my local news station. I couldn't process anything. I was stunned, shocked, in utter disbelief. It took me two days to fully realize that he was gone. Once the realization struck, I fell into a deep depression which caused me to not be able to attend school or, if I did go, I wasn't able to for the whole day. That was only the beginning of this dark time. Eight days after the first death, another one of my friends died. The depression trend continued and my inability to get out of bed continued to get worse. Exactly a week after death number two came death number three on the last day in January, I thanked my lucky stars that January ended so that I could regroup and hope for February to be better. I started to mentally get better and was able to get up and go on with my daily routine but everyday, I was hit with the thought of who was going to be next to go. The thought was affirmed when, after a few quiet weeks of nothing happening, death number four hit. I found out about his death right when I landed from a school trip and I couldn't believe it. His death was tragic in my life as well as the lives of all who knew him especially because he was an alum of my high school. Our whole community was rocked and shaken especially those who were close to him like I was. At this point in time, I still wasn't recovered from the previous deaths and once death number five came along, I hit rock bottom. The fifth death occurred four days after the fourth death. When I found out about their death later the day it occurred, I remember locking myself in my room with tears streaming down my face. I threw my phone across the room and knocked down everything from my bed and my desk. I prayed to G-d begging to bring them back and to wake me up from this nightmare. Unfortunately, there was another plan in store and thirteen days later, the sixth death took its toll. He was very special. He always had such a positive outlook on life despite his situation. He and I remained friends from when we met in one of our classes during our freshman year of high school. Sadly, he didn't make it to graduate with our class but he wasn't the only one. While I was in Washington DC for a conference, I received several calls asking if I heard the news and if I was okay and I was super confused because I didn't hear anything from anyone on the news about something gone wrong in DC. To my luck, nothing happened in DC but back home, four of my friends were killed from the same incident. One of them in particular was a girl I became very close to when I transferred English classes my junior year. She made me feel welcome in a new environment so quickly and we became very close to each other until her death. She was the second death my graduating class experienced. From my four friend’s deaths in March to July, it was completely quiet. No personal deaths occurred and I was finally able to get my life back together. I was able to find the energy again to open up and talk about what I was feeling and with all the help and support I received in those two months leading up to graduation, I was able to find my inner strength and I finished out my last semester of high school and graduated, an event that seemed impossible for me in February. During the summer, I worked at the Jewish sleepaway summer camp that I grew up in and I felt myself getting better everyday. My life was going up so rapidly and I thought nothing was going to bring it down until I found out another one of my friends had passed while I was working. His death affected my ability to perform to my fullest and give 110% to my campers. I was able to get out of my funk with the help of my co-counselors and I am forever thankful for that. The day before the counselors were allowed to leave as camp was over, one of the adults in my life who I looked up to for almost everything passed away. For my own mental health and well-being, I wasn't told until the day after when I was driving home. At first, I was extremely upset and angry because I wasn't told right away but a few days later, I realized that it was for the best. Ten days after her death, I moved to Columbia, Missouri to start my first semester of college at Mizzou. I brought tons of material things with me but the most important thing that I brought with me to college was the memories of the lives of the thirteen people I lost. The day after my 19th birthday, one of my first friends that I made in college and who I talked to everyday passed away the day before her 19th birthday. She lived in my residence hall and all of us were shocked and confused. To give us all closure, our hall had a balloon candle light vigil in her memory. This allowed me to cope with her death in a far better and healthier manner than before. In the beginning of 2016 with all the deaths happening at once, I shut myself out from my friends and family and didn't use any of my resources to help me even though I had then readily available. With the last three deaths that I experienced in 2016, I extensively used my resources and took great strides with myself to help cope with the losses I experienced in a much healthier manner that didn't consist of me thinking that I could cope with these losses alone and ultimately deteriorate my mental health.
I’ve been asked on numerious occasions how I was able to survive this mess of loss. If you would've asked me in February, I would've said that I only survived thinking that it couldn't get worse than it already was. If you would've asked me in March, I would've told you that although I was alive and breathing, I felt numb to the point that I felt like I was a walking corpse. At that time of self mental deterioration and utter feelings on lonliness, I did know that death for myself wasn't an option and that I had to keep going no matter how hard it was and how tough the pain felt. This mindset led me to the realization that I was at my lowest point and in order to get back to my normal self and on my feet, I had to reach out and not fight this battle of loss alone. Through reaching out and talking, I was able to quickly gain back my momentum and gain closure; writing being one of them. Writing has always helped me in rough times and writing this has given me access to achieve final closure.
Although they might be physically gone, I will always hold their memories close to my heart and will never forget them for as long as I live. “As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” -Leonardo Davinci.
If you or someone you know are suicidal or suffering from suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or suicide prevention lifeline.org), the Crisis Text Line (crisistextine.org), or The Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org). Your life matters.