People always talk about their best friends. For me there is no distinction between a friend and a best friend. I believe to truly consider someone a friend you should be able to trust them completely and talk to them about anything. You should also want to spend time with them, if you don’t, you should be able to tell them to their face. Friends always respect the wishes of their pals, even if they seem sometimes ridiculous. Your friends should always be generous, and reciprocate any generosity in kind. If you disagree with something your friend has said or done you should be able to tell them without fear of causing offence, if anything they should be grateful for having whatever error of judgment they made pointed out to them.
I have been lucky enough to enjoy the company of an extremely close-knit group of friends for over 15 years. We have shared the ups and downs of childhood, teenage rebellion, falling in love, breaking up, fighting with one another, raucous nights out, getting back together, various scandals, a small amount of crime, hours of laughter, sun soaked holidays and fantastic meals to mention a few things. There is little from the group of lads and the group of girls, when organising a party it was always “Have you invited the girls?” Or vice versa. These sub groups would go through their own ordeals, dramas and silliness but these events would always become shared with the group as a whole. Gossip and hearsay would become commonplace but it would always be known as such. Everyone would always have too much respect for whoever was the focus of such chatter to take it too seriously.
One such friend of mine was my mate Alan, a tall, magnificent, ginger-haired man who shared my passion for fun, computer games and fried breakfasts. He and I would become solid chums from our GCSE years onwards. I could trust him completely and we could always count on one another to be honest and fair all the time. We shared so many excellent experiences together, and also persevered through some awful ones. We became incapable of lying to each other. This brought about a level of dependency when it came to the bigger issues. We would speak every few days and wind each other up for a laugh, there was never any malice in our jokes. They say, “Many a true word is spoken in jest.” That was our way of communicating the more serious issues sometimes. It was easier than being direct with each other, but I think we had the ability to differentiate between just a joke and a joke with a serious subtext. When the time was right we would get to the root of the problem and solve it, and often have a laugh in the process. Of course we did have serious conversations openly, but we were guilty of hiding our true thoughts and emotions behind layers of indifference and apathy. We used this to shield others from our true regrets and concerns and in this way prevented discourse on difficult subjects with those we felt would not understand. This was to avoid the awkwardness of telling such a person that we did not wish to discuss whatever it was with them. Alan and I were true friends, in some ways he was the only one who could see through my good-natured deception, and as he told me once I was the only one who could see through his. Up until November 2012 I was happy and content with this arrangement and extremely lucky to have excellent friends, and one in particular who assuredly had my back.
Imagine then, my insurmountable grief, when I received a call from Alan’s phone, only it was his Mum on the line who then told me that he had killed himself. I was completely devastated. I’d rather not share the details out of respect for his privacy, however I will say he showed no signs at all of being seriously depressed. Not one of our friends suspected or believed that he would do this. I handled the job of breaking the news to the rest of my friends, some already knew and some had no idea. That was a miserable job but not one I wanted to leave to Alan’s Family. What followed was a long difficult struggle against absolute bewilderment, devastating sadness and, bizarrely, joyous reminiscence. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever really find closure as sometimes I still can’t believe he’s really gone.
A year on from that tragic evening, I would say I feel no less bereft, but I feel like I am a lucky man to have shared the time I had with my pal. I wish things had been different, I wish he had been straight with me about his struggle with issues he could not conquer by himself. However, wishing for the past to be different is a fruitless endeavor. I can only offer advice to those who know me and those who do not. Be straight with your friends. If you can’t, for whatever reason, talk to someone at CALM. If you can’t do that, know that you are not alone and that more people care about you than you realise. I would offer this advice to those who are lucky enough to have real friends. Take the time to learn when they need your support, see through their attempts to feign indifference and be determined to help them out. Don’t ever assume someone else will do it or that it isn’t your business. If they are truly your friends, in the long run they’ll appreciate it.If you have been bereaved by suicide, CALM have a short information document called ‘After A Suicide’ listing organisations and websites who can help support you practically and emotionally. You can download the pdf file HERE The Dept of Health and NHS have produced a handbook on bereavement by suicide and sudden traumatic death. There’s information in there about grief by suicide, what you can expect to feel, coping mechanisms, and a contact list of useful addresses at the back. You can download the pdf file HERE CALM have recently launched a private online forum for those bereaved by suicide. This is a safe and anonymous place to get information, find support and talk to others who have been through such a painful loss. If you would like access please email [email protected]