It's hard to see a possible lesson the moment you get the phone call. It's difficult to find a meaning when you're attending the funeral and hugging their anguished mother and consoling their devastated friends.
It's challenging to feel like you've somehow been educated in all matters of life and death and the moments in between, when you're re-reading text messages and re-listening to voicemails and holding onto whatever lingering piece of them you have left.
But after time has pushed you forward and the pain becomes a second skin and the longing becomes commonplace, you realize a death like this -- a death that is self-inflicted and self-decided and self-manufactured -- is a death with a lot of lessons.
When my friend ended his own life, I learned that I cannot blame myself. While there were moments I could have intervened and things I could have said, the complexity of people's decisions and the way in which those choices manifest are too layered and mosaic to possibly understand. We use our hindsight against us, but even when it is 20/20, it is a filtered view. It is colored in guilt and agony and while it seems clear, it is nothing if not blurry.
I learned that what one person considers selfish, another considers selfless. For some, they believe themselves such a strenuous burden on others that their absence from this world is considered a gift. And to others, that very absence is seen as a egocentric answer to problems usually unseen.
I learned that we rank death and, in turn, the level of mourning or heartache we should feel about it. While the result is the same, the manner in which a person dies somehow determines the manner in which the people left behind, should mourn. It's strange, how we quantify death in order to fit our morals or beliefs or feelings of justice and vengeance.
I learned that death, itself, is strange.
I learned that while strangers react differently to the death of another stranger, depending on how they died, loved ones do not. Regardless of who or when or why or how, a loss is a loss to those who loved you most. The pain is the same. The sense of endless longing is the same. The forever wishes to see them one more time, are the same.
I learned that if silence wasn't considered a strength and vulnerability wasn't considered a weakness, there would be far less funerals attended and memorials visited.
I learned that there are moments in life, and in death, that do not come with answers. That while we so desperately need to understand the reasons why people do what they do or say what they say or believe what they believe, some things are not meant for understanding. That while it would calm our minds and hearts to know that our questions have conclusions, sometimes, it isn't about our peace of mind. It is about theirs.
I learned that those left behind are not alone in their pain, nor are they particularly set apart because of it. Others have felt what you've felt and have tasted the tears you have tasted and have struggled to adequately describe it all. Just like you.
I learned that there is no single, foolproof path towards healing. While some need to talk, others desperately require the comfort of silence. While some seek solitude, others feel safe in a sea of strangers. While some need to saturate themselves with memories, others need distance and time before thinking about the one they lost. No way is right or wrong.
And I learned that, yes, there is a lesson to be learned at the end of every life, regardless of how that life was lost. That when the pain becomes a second skin and the longing becomes commonplace, you will be changed in a way that is both hurtful and helpful.
At a price you didn't want to pay, you will have learned something.
And it is that knowledge that, perhaps, can help someone else.
Before it is too late.