This afternoon my family and I attended my Grandpa’s stone setting at the cemetery where he is buried. The sun was shining down on us, the Rabbi’s speech was beautiful, and all my Grandpa’s family and friends were together. It was the perfect way to honour such an incredible man, especially as it is Father’s Day today – and considering he was the most loving and devoted father and grandfather anyone could ask for.
After the ceremony ended at his grave, we had to make a short walk back through the cemetery. My Grandma wanted to visit my cousin’s grave on the way back, and I wanted to go with her.
My cousin died a few months ago, after years of struggling with ill mental health. She committed suicide when I was in treatment in Boston. She lost her battle at the same time I was receiving help to combat mine. She was one year younger than me, only nineteen years old at the time.
Because I had some weeks left in Boston before I could return to my family, I was unable to attend the funeral or any of the other services and family occasions during this painful time. It was a rather strange and lonely time for me, as well as intensely surreal, specifically because I was so far away from the reality and pain everyone back home in London was going through. I think it meant that I never really got to say a proper goodbye to her, nor cry and break to the extent I felt I needed to, nor mourn her loss in a way I otherwise might have been able.
Today was the first time I visited her grave. Leading up to it, I was relatively stable, although of course appropriately sad thinking about both her and my Grandpa. When we arrived at the plot where she is buried however, I became beyond inconsolable. As soon as I saw her name written above her grave, the reality of the situation hit me like a train. I literally burst into tears and started bawling my eyes out, and it didn’t stop there. I felt myself overheating, hyperventilating, and howling and wailing uncontrollably with pain. I felt people behind me (my dad? my sisters?) trying to hold me, and saw my Aunt and Uncle (my cousin’s parents) besides me. I could not stop, I could hardly breathe, and I felt myself lose my grip on reality. The pain was overwhelming, suffocating and like nothing I have experienced before within the context.
I have never heard myself make such noises of agony and sadness, nor felt so unable to control myself in front of so many people. In that moment however, it didn’t matter, and even if it did, I couldn’t control it anyway. I needed to feel the sadness and the grief, and I needed to be able to express it in the way I did today. It was such a relief to let it all out, especially as I didn’t realise I had had all that within me. It was so raw, and so real, and it came out healthily and uncensored.
Apart for the obvious tragedy of her passing, I think my cousin’s death has another facet to me: She wasn’t able to live with her illness, and here I am, still trudging with (and recovering from) mine. There is definitely an element of survivor’s guilt within me, especially as I could have been in her position, with my parents going through with me what hers are going through now with her. At the same time, however, there is also a ton of gratitude – for the fact that I have been given the opportunity to get better and keep myself alive, which she tragically was not.
It still feels so surreal, but I don’t think any situation with these circumstances ever wouldn’t.
I cannot put into words how I feel to be in the position I am today. Things may still be bloody hard, but I have been given the chance and the choice to live and grow stronger, and this is a choice she did not have.