I need to push through this, or I’ll end up marinating in it forever. I’m going to just jump in; please read the first two parts for context.
When my neighbor jumped out of her window and died, I didn’t mourn her or feel much at all. Instead, I just watched everything from across a vast emotional rift. It felt odd, like a ghost being surrounded but not affected by the events of the world. It was a unique chance for me to collect data regarding the manner in which people respond to suicide. For my safety and my future, I needed to capitalize on this event.
So, as I went about my schedule, I observed the changes in others, and I took notes. I needed to know if one person really matters to the world. I needed to know what happens when they die. I needed to know if I mattered and what might happen if I died.
It was important.
My neighbor was not in my classes, so I had never really interacted with her much. This is what I wrote about classes on that first day after her death:
The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.
It was bizarre; I had never seen these people interact with her, and I could not find the hole that marked her absence anywhere. These were not, as far as I could tell, the woman’s friends. They may not have known her name or recognized her face. They didn’t even seem to be connected, and yet, here they were… mourning. How strange!
For a depressed person, this type of experience can easily be a powerful one, for better or ill. I was prepared to learn from it, and so I did. In this horrible, dark time, I learned that everyone makes ripples out from themselves. That everyone connects in some way to a community around them. That life matters.
It’s still hazy to me, honestly. I saw that she was connected, but I never saw how. And just because I saw people grieving, it doesn’t mean that I understood why they did so. Was it because they knew her personally and missed her? Was it because they are opposed to the vague concept of death? Was it because her death upset their perception of what college should be like, or how much time people should have to live, or some other abstract idea?
Why did they mourn? Why didn’t I feel anything? Maybe it’s too complicated for me to nail down after all. They, the crowd of hundreds or thousands of students, staff, faculty, etc., probably had hundreds of thousands of reasons for feeling pain at this young woman’s death. I, likewise, had one or maybe a handful of reasons for not feeling anything for her.
Life is just messy like that.