It was my brother who introduced me to Linkin Park and Chester Bennington. I remember taking family road trips and between my turns, which revolved around Destiny’s Child and Britney Spears, he would shake things up with Hybrid Theory.
As with many things in life, I was a couple of years behind my brother. However, soon I caught up, and Linkin Park climbed to the top of my playlist.
Hybrid Theory became the anthem to my life.
As time went on and life became darker, Meteora sang to me. “Breaking the Habit” was by my side through every relapse episode, and “Figure.09” and “Hit the Floor” helped me release the emotional storm following relationships defined by emotional abuse.
Later in high school, I met a new side of the band through Collision Course. For once I experienced all sides of myself in a single album. What previously had felt like an identity crisis (battling an inner chaos while attempting to fit into the rap culture around me) became a merging of my two sides of self.
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Then came Minutes to Midnight, which got me through my transition into “adulthood” and the Bush Administration.
And then like an old friend, we slowly drifted apart. Every now and then I’d pull his words out again to help get me through, and then I’d carry on. I went my way, and Chester went his.
I meant to catch-up with you, Chester, to see what you’d been up to, to find a way to reconnect.
I’m not just saying that. Life has a way of getting away from us, though, doesn’t it?
And then in May, my boyfriend sent me a link. “You have to see this,” he said. I watched you sing and mourn the death of your friend, Chris. You reminded us that every light matters. I cried.
Your pain and loss resonated in my chest. Then reality hit: I don’t actually know you. We’re not actually friends; you don’t even know who I am. Yet I felt so connected to your pain, and I wanted to do something, anything.
But I was too late. In what felt like an instant, you were gone.
The news flooded through my entire body with a wave of mixed emotion: pain, regret, fear, and anger.
It didn’t seem real, but I knew all too well that it was. I tried to put it out of my mind, setting my emotions aside. What right did I have to be upset? I wandered the streets of Seattle and life went on as if nothing had changed.
Suddenly there you were, on the screen in front of me. It all came rushing back.
This time I couldn’t get it out of my head. Fast-forward a week and I’m sobbing on the floor, surrounded by questions of “Why?” followed by “Now what?”
Getting up after stars fall…
1. Allow yourself to feel.
If the news of Chester’s death affected you in any way, I want you to know it’s okay. Your feelings are valid and understandable. Death hits everyone differently. We can’t control the things that affect us; we can, however, control our response.
You have full permission to grieve, permission to feel. You can be sad, you can be angry, you can be scared — I was. Holding our feelings inside doesn’t make them go away, it only makes them evolve into something worse.
Let it out. Cry, yell, scream, feel. It’s all part of healing.
It’s also okay to feel guilt; I know I do. What if I’d stayed more connected? Listened to more of his music? Been more supportive? What if we all had? These questions are normal; however, searching for their answers is not productive. We must look forward, not back.
2. It’s okay to make it “about you.”
I know what some people say. They say being affected is “making it about you.” They are right and wrong. True, this is not something that happened to you; however, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you.
Although the story itself isn’t about you, what you are experiencing as a result is. What you are going through, how this impacts you, how you feel, is all about you. And that’s okay. There is no need to feel shame.
3. It’s okay to be triggered.
It is normal for news of suicide to be triggering. What’s important is not whether the news triggers you, it’s what you do about it if it does. Don’t give this trigger any more power than you do others. Acknowledge it, take action, and move forward. Talk to a counsellor, let your community know, call a helpline. Do what you need to do to allow the trigger to exist, learn from it, and then carry on.
Remember, being triggered does not mean you have to fall.
4. It’s okay to be scared.
Each time a life is lost to suicide, a ripple goes through the mental health community. It hits hard and it hits deep. I want you to know it’s okay to be afraid.
It’s frightening when something you experience inside of you–like depression–takes someone else’s life. It can be downright terrifying and I get that. I feel it, too.
I want you to know, though, that although fear is okay, you do not have to be afraid. Someone else’s story does not determine yours. We are all connected, yet we are all unique. Take a deep breath…and now another. You live our your own story.
The ending in this story does not determine yours.
5. Don’t lose hope. Depression is not a fatal diagnosis.
There is hope and there is help. There are many who live out their stories and are able to thrive. You can be one of these people.
Right now, I am here still breathing; my breath proves there is hope. You are also breathing–you are alive–there is hope for you. Stories of hope exist, and there is nothing about you that makes you less likely, able, or worthy of being one of these stories.
Breathe in hope. Breathe out fear.
Your light matters.
You are not alone. Despite how it may feel at times, you are here on earth, part of a bigger whole. There are people in your life–whether you know it or not, whether they know it or not–who need you.
Millions of people are affected right now. There are those whose everyday lives are going to change drastically and there are those whose days may look the same, but something is still missing.
Every time a person is lost, the world changes.
The truth is we need you and would notice if you weren’t here. Some of us would notice it directly, and others indirectly; it affects us either way.
You have a light that no one else has, and that light is a part of something greater. If your light is flickering or fading out, turn to your neighbour and borrow from their flame. Don’t burn out; we need your light.
Who cares if one more light goes out in a sky of a million stars? We all do.
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Image attribution: By Rickard Laurin(Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons; cropped to fit website dimensions.
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