I never thought losing a friend would be this hard.
Last Friday (March 8th), a friend from high school passed away after being in coma for more than a week. Her name was Fanny. She was diagnosed with meningitis, but the diagnosis came too late for her to be treated properly. I visited her in the hospital twice and the last time was only approximately 13,5 hours before her death.
Fanny was really kind to everyone, name it classmates, roommates, seniors, juniors, teachers, security guards — everyone. She had excellent communications skill since she put a lot of empathy in her interpersonal relationships. While sometimes fights occurred (we were hot-blooded teenagers, after all), we all admit that she was a very sweet, fun, and lovable person.
(God, I still can’t believe that I have to write all the verbs in sentences about her in past tense. I can’t.)
I dare to consider our relationship as quite close. Fanny was the first friend I made in high school since we were in the same school orientation group. Although we were never in the same class (she was placed in X-1 while I was placed in X-3, then she went to XI & XII IPA 1 while I went to XI & XII IPS), we remained very cordial since we were both in the school choir, were often placed in the same committee division for school events, and eventually worked together in the same division of Students Body (OSIS). We traveled together to my mom’s hometown in West Sumatra during summer vacation 2011. Our friendship continued even after graduation as we visited each other’s house and hung out together often when she was in town (she went to uni in Palembang). She even trusted me to do her make up for her Apothecary Oath ceremony just last year. My parents knew her well and vice versa.
As I write this post, it has only been three days after her passing. It has not been smooth sailing both for me and my girl friends who knew Fanny well too. We lived under the same roof for three years, after all, since our high school was a boarding school. We still can’t believe that she’s gone forever; no more “Hey, let’s hang out, I’m bored” texts from her, no more car ride offers to our friends’ weddings, no more trashtalking together, no more karaoke, no more going to the cinema together. No more her.
I introduced my friends to Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler’s Five Stages of Grief theory to perhaps help us cope with Fanny’s death. Denial was the first stage we have to pass, and it’s been going roughly. Fanny is gone too soon, too young, after all. If feels very surreal since only months ago we were laughing together in a friend’s wedding. What makes it worse, she passed away only two days before her 25th birthday. She could have done so much more if she only had time.
Anger is the next phase where we directed differently. I directed it to her former employers who overworked her and might very possibly contribute directly to her illness. A friend directed it to the doctors who misdiagnosed her earlier. Another friend even directed it to God who took our friend too early to our comprehension. We all searched for anyone to blame in our loss. A step which is normal, but has to be eventually passed.
Bargaining is the phase that hurts a lot. Imagining all the possibilities that could have happened pains me so much. Maybe she would have been saved if she didn’t work at that particular hospital. Maybe she would have been saved if she was diagnosed earlier. Maybe we would have more time together if only I visited her in her earlier stages of illness. Maybe if I was not so busy, if only I was not so selfish, if only she could be saved… all the maybe, perhaps, regrets, impossible wishes screaming in my mind, flooding my waking thoughts and at the same time, flooding my eyes with tears.
Depression is definitely the hardest phase for me. As someone who has been battling clinical depression for years, it is very easy for my mind to dive directly into this phase, even before completely passing the other stages. I woke up on Saturday feeling like I just want to bury myself under the sheets and never wake up to see the sun again. I only want to wake up in a world where I can meet Fanny again. Look — I tried. I filled my weekend with things which I hoped can distract my mind and maybe make me feel better, but at the end of the day, when I’m all by myself, depression once again holds and suffocates me like a very familiar blanket of darkness.
Acceptance, the last step, is the final step that we all should eventually reach. Ikhlas, they said in a more familiar language for us. It’s still a long way from there, at least for me. It’s only been three days, after all. We’re all trying, we’re all coping with the ways we only know how since everyone has their own coping mechanism. Accepting that my friend is forever gone is hard, even though I know damn well that death is a natural part of life. Even though I know from the first time I stepped into the ICU room that she wouldn’t make it, no matter what. But I have to get there. We all have to get there.
I’m still crying for her. Some friends still do, too. Saturday night, Fanny visited a friend in her dream, telling her that she should smile. Maybe she told all of us to smile, not to dwell too long in mourning her. She is very loved in life, as she is in death. And as we eventually accept her departure, she will remain forever in our hearts as a dear friend, sister, and family.