*for the purpose of this blog post, I've changed the name of the woman to Susan.
Today, the mother of my dead best friend is walking in a 5k about suicide prevention. I haven't had contact with this woman in a little more than 4 years, yet even the mention of her name gives me pause.
I've previously written about the effect that my friend's death had on me, it seemed taboo to talk about his mother. Although it took me a while to come to term my friend's death, it took longer to stomach the hate that came with his death.
When my friend, Ty, died, I hated myself. I was sure that I could've done more, said something, changed the events--it was made easier by the fact that his mother, Susan, openly encouraged others to hate me for his death, too. When Ty took his own life, many people found themselves needing to place blame somewhere. As his girlfriend (and eventual ex) of a year and a half and someone he spoke to almost daily, it seemed easy to pin the blame on me, especially once it came out that I knew of his struggles with depression and mental illness.
Although the hate from our classmates lasted for a few weeks, by the end of a month my Facebook messages no longer contained the hateful words I had come to expect. Instead, vitriolic words and spite came from one major source--Ty's mother, Susan.
Susan became someone who, at 18, I was terrified of. Even though I was 3.5 hours away at college, she still managed to infiltrate my life. Friends and family back in my hometown called me to say that Susan was cornering them and telling them and others in my small-town community that I was to blame for my best friend, her son, taking his own life. She has gone so far as to never tell me where he was buried.
It was a scary time for me, and one where I was filled with self-loathing. All I could think was, "What if she was right."
In the years that followed, I educated myself about mental illness. I learned that it's often those closest to the deceased who find the need to pin some sort of blame on someone. Although I was still nervous and wary of running into Susan on visits to my hometown, I vowed to hold my chin up and not let her words tear me down.
Now, 4 and a half years later, I can say this: I forgive you Susan.
Your family and Ty's closest friends suffered a huge loss when he took his life, one that will impact them forever. I know that the pain of losing someone is unfathomable to those who've never experienced. I know you were filled with sadness, pain, and confusion.
Over the last several years, I've thought about you often. Sometimes it's been with fear, others hate, but mostly, sadness.
The pain you were feeling, I felt too. The year following Ty's death was the most difficult in my life. I was newly 18, and his was the first major death I'd ever experienced.
Although it has taken me years, I forgive you. I forgive what you said, and what you did. I do not believe you were (or are) a bad person, just a sad and hurt one.
Although I truly doubt you and I will ever sit down for coffee together, I do hope that someday you'll realize that no one was to blame for Ty's death. I hope someday you'll realize how hurtful your words were to me, but if you don't, that's ok, too.
Truly, I forgive you. Someday I hope you'll forgive me too, but I don't need it anymore.