It is years since you died there, and now I find not just the courage and strength, but the actual need to visit the bridge; that enormous structure with pain reflected in its concrete, its struts and steel ropes. The sun glistens on the turquoise painted barriers, which, from my vantage point, appear surprisingly and irritatingly low. Why are they so low, so easy to climb for those determined and distressed enough to do so? Surely a net underneath the bridge would be such a simple step to take in helping to prevent more tragedies? Or a higher barrier at the sides of the bridge? All these practical things occur to me as I look out on it, I think to help me to get used to the shock of being there, to distract me from my feelings.
My first feelings are of intimidation, then vile hatred – here is the thing that took you away from me. Here I can see just how high it is, how fast running and deep the water below. I notice its starkness, its unwavering presence stretching across the water. Initially I feel like the bridge is giving me the finger – ‘yes this is me, this is what I do. Bring it’ – but, undeterred, I walk on never taking my eyes off of it. I stare it down to size, I rise to meet its challenge. I fill my heart with love and I wait for my feelings to change. And they do.
To me it is a sacred place, a place of grief, horror and almost reverence. It was the last place you breathed a breath in this world and yet these cars, vans and lorries continue in their ignorance, intruding and trespassing of the space. Part of me wants to scream at them to stop, I want to go and stand in the middle of that damn bridge and stop any movement, stop time, just for a while, just so I can acknowledge the importance of that place. But I cannot do these things. I would be escorted from the bridge by the police, probably because they’d be concerned I was suicidal myself. As tempting as it is to bring it to a standstill, I also don’t want to draw attention to what happened there. It’s a private matter that took place in the most public of places. And that’s a contradiction I find very hard to reconcile.
So I touch the bridge to make friends with it, and then I sit underneath it, where the struts start on land and before they reach out across the water. I sit there and contemplate what happened running through my mind – how you must have felt, what you must have seen – and I acknowledge the overwhelming pain you must have experienced even to contemplate that a better situation to be in, the only solution, was to be dead.
I remember the description of your injuries as the police told them to me, callously, matter-of-factly given. I remember small details that are meaningless to everyone else but make a huge difference to me. I acknowledge my own pain and shock at being told what had happened, I re-live it for what must be the millionth time. But this time, here in this place I have hated and feared for so long, I start to make peace with it. I acknowledge and accept it. I feel my heart relaxing, my mind freeing, I feel relief start to creep into my bones. I came here, I did it, and I am not dead. The sword of Damocles didn’t strike me as soon as I set eyes on the bridge. There was no cataclysmic event, the bridge did not divide in two at the point you jumped, creating some kind of Hollywood-esque cars-disappearing-over-the-edge type moment. I was not so overwhelmed I could not stay there for a while and think, be quiet and just observe my sad thoughts.
As I sit there, almost in meditation staring out across the water, things start to lift – pain from my heart starts to dissipate as I realise I can be free of the grief finally. Free of the clamp around my lungs that has crushed me for so long. Free to feel love again in the world, to be love again. I begin to make peace with the bridge, it’s just a bridge after all. And faced with its enormity and its sheer brute strength of presence I am reminded how small and vulnerable we are. I’m reminded that no one, not you nor I, could ever have fallen from there and survived. And I am filled with renewed compassion for you and for the pain you went through, whilst realising it was your pain, not mine. I have no right or need to continue to carry that with me, it does not serve me well and it does not serve your memory well. And I can feel you smiling at me. “At last,” you are saying, “at last. “This is what I have wanted for you all along, to go to that bridge, to recognise its strength and physical beauty…” (you said it was architecturally beautiful – bear with me, I’m still working on how I feel about actually acknowledging it as a ‘beautiful’ place) “…and see it for what it is, not for what happened there”.
It’s a journey for me, it will forever be so I expect. And I’m ok with that. I am currently on many journeys, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Yesterday was the birth of a new me in many senses. There is much still to be worked on, of course there is. I, like everyone, am ‘in progress’, a TBC in many ways, but that is part of the experience of it all. I now feel ready for the challenge, for the growth it will bring and most importantly for the renewed sense of purpose, compassion and love I feel. Thank you for being my teacher while you were here and since you have been gone. In many (if sometimes brutal) ways, you have taught me so much; about myself, about you and about the world around us. But most of all I have become my own teacher in really feeling and living my emotions and experiences over the past few years. And every single thing, every emotion, is something to which I needed to have my eyes and heart fully opened.
If you’ve been bereaved or affected by suicide, you can access support here; if you’re worried about someone, there’s information to help here; if you need to talk to someone, call the helpline on 0800 585858.
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