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  • Writer's pictureWrenAves

Dear Friend.. A Letter To An Amalgamation Of Online Friends Who Died By Suicide

Dear Friend,

How are you? It’s been a little while now since you replied to any of my messages. They stack up, filled with things I still want to say to you, things I didn’t realise we would never talk about again. Stupid things. Turns out stupid things are actually really important. Who knew, right? When I stop sending you messages, you drop out of sight in my inbox, so I realise it is up to me to keep our friendship going. I can do that for us, for you. I know you would do the same. I hope one day, you will reply, and we will just pick back up where we were. I hope that a lot.

I spoke to my GP today (sigh, huff, yes I know, yours is great - I actually met her at your inquest. How weird is that? She sent me a Christmas card last year. I think she misses you too.) He wasn’t very nice, but when is he ever? I tried to explain how difficult things have been, how hard it is now you have gone, how unthinkable it is that you have been taken from me over and over again. He didn’t understand. I always thought grief was this universal experience, something that will eventually touch us all, unite us all. Initially I thought maybe he has just never lost someone. But I realised, it wasn’t that he did not understand grief, but that he did not understand you, me.. Us. He asked where you lived, which I thought was weird. He said it was so he could gauge how big a loss it was. “She was someone you knew online, right?” he said, “she wasn’t like a real friend”.. A real friend. That’s what he said: I shouldn’t be sad, because you are just pixels, data, and an avatar. As if you weren’t a person. I shouldn’t be grieving, because you and I never lived in the same postcode. As if proximity is the measure of all that is important.

If our meeting had been in person, we probably wouldn’t have become friends. You might laugh now, but seriously, I would not have gone to the group, or kept up with the meetings, or coped with the talking. I would have been that weirdo sat in the corner, trying not to die. Maybe you would too. Perhaps there would have been a mutual exchange of awkwardness from one corner to another, before we both looked back at our hands. I would never have heard how brilliant you were at describing your life, at sharing your pain, at raging at the world. I wouldn’t have noticed how that vulnerability which frightened me, was actually your strength. I wouldn’t have thought to myself, what a cool, brave person, I wish they were my friend. Because that is what I thought, and that is how we met. Do you remember? Haha, I was super awkward, sliding into your DMs to tell you that I liked the things you said, extending my virtual hand to shake yours. I probably wouldn’t have done that, if you lived on my street. I avoid everyone who lives on my street. 

I’m thinking about all the things we talked about, all the things we lived through together. You in your home, me in mine. You talked me through some massive life choices, and I through some of yours. My life wouldn’t be heading in the direction it is now if I had never known you. There are people I would not know; people I would have never loved; people I would have never grieved, if we hadn’t met. I remember that time I virtually sat with you all night on your first ever trip to A&E for self-harm. I was so proud of you for taking yourself there, and so fucking relieved that they were nice to you. I remember that feeling of protection radiating off me, hoping it would shoot through your phone screen and surround you, so all the staff would know you were special, and you would feel safe. Do you remember that? I sent you pictures of badgers to make you smile and then when you didn’t immediately reply, I worried maybe you didn’t like badgers and I had somehow horribly misjudged the situation and upset you. Not that I ever overthink things.

I think about “real” people in my life, people who have lived next to me, people who have been around me when I have needed help. I can see a whole montage of faces, telling me no. You never told me no. You were always so encouraging. One time, when I was so poorly, you and others sent me messages all day, every day, encouraging me to drink. I had lost all hope and was fading away into nothing. I had stopped eating and drinking, but you didn’t stop loving me. I am only here now because of that hope you held for me, that friendship you showed me. From behind your screen. 

And yes, it feels really incredibly unfair that I have nowhere now to put this love and this pain. I have nowhere to direct it, nowhere to sit and remember you. But, simultaneously, I also have everywhere. Because, while you were never physically in my life, you couldn’t have more of a presence here if you tried. You have sat with me on my sofa as we have laughed together about things which were so terribly unfunny. You have laid next to me in bed, when I have been too sad to get up. You have encouraged me as I sat perched on the edge of the loo, debating whether or not to have a shower. You have stood beside me in my kitchen, giving me baking instructions from your cookbook. I have a wall of cards and handmade presents, including the last one I was making for you, which I never got the chance to send. 

I wonder if my GP has friends who have so deeply touched his life that he can see the ridges they have left behind them, trailing into the distance? I wonder if my GP ever considers himself a lesser version of other GPs, because we have never had a face to face appointment, only ever communicating by phone and email? I wonder, do my GP’s friends cease to exist in his world if he goes for a little while without seeing them in person?

I wonder a lot of things about people who would so easily dismiss you as not real. Because you ARE real. Not just real to me, like the voices in my head. You are a real person who existed, who had friendships and loved people so hard. You are a real person who felt so much pain, and joy, and rage. You are a real person who chose to be my friend, and you were more than just words on a screen. You existed, you breathed, you were my friend every day. Years and years of love and support and closeness. Why is that somehow less, because we shared ourselves by typing words, instead of speaking them? No friendship is a measure of how far you have to reach before you can touch the person, but of how you have touched that person. 

I miss you. I really miss you. And I am clinging to this grief right now, holding on to this pain, wishing it could manifest into something physical I could throw at my GP, because this pain is how I know you are real. If you weren’t a real friend, I could just replace you with the next username. If you weren’t a real friend, there would be no sharp knife in my throat. If you were not real, you could not have touched so much of my world. If you weren’t real, what were these years of friendship?

If you weren’t real…

…why do I miss you?


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