This morning, a friend greeted me outside the office looking very serious. We had a smoke together and he told me the awful news. A friend and colleague passed away at the weekend. He wasn’t a lot older than me, and he’s left a wife and two small children behind.
On hearing this, I didn’t feel anything at all. I went numb. I hugged the guy who told me, we held each other tight for a little while. All I could do was take deep breaths and swear occasionally. There just aren’t words for it.
Our office is a tight knit group. Although there are 70 of us, we mostly know each other well and we are close. We care about each other. I’m lucky that I’ve reached this point in my life without really knowing grief; but I do now.
I shared the sad news with a few friends and cuddled them while they cried. I still didn’t feel anything. But I knew there would be an announcement, as lots of people didn’t yet know. I went along, and stood near to my closest friends in case they needed my support.
When our CEO broke the news to the team, I couldn’t believe how awful it was. I have never experienced anything like it. Being with a room full of friends as they heard such devastating news was incredibly painful. The collective sadness was colossal and it got into my bones. I wrapped a friend in a tight hug as the our boss spoke, and she just sobbed into my chest.
As I looked around and saw the tears of love and loss on my friends’ faces, I could suddenly feel. It overcame me and I felt adrenaline run through my blood. Again, I took deep breaths, talked to my colleagues and tried to appear strong for them. But I felt as though I might explode.
Heading for the toilets, I thought I’d just lock myself in a cubicle and get it together. But the minute that door was locked, my legs gave way and I wept. I sat there on the toilet floor and I cried so hard I thought I might throw up. How could something this terrible happen? How could he be dead when I was only chatting with him on Friday? It’s just too much to process, too awful to believe.
Now I’m a fragile shell. I’ve got this hollowed out feeling, a depersonalisation, that has left me in a zombie state. Nothing seems important compared to this news. Nothing matters in comparison. In my throat and chest there is this deep, gnawing sensation that can only be the enormous sadness that comes with grief.
But this sadness isn’t one I’m used to. It is so raw and active. It makes me want to honour my lost friend. It persuades me to go to work tomorrow and carry on with things, even as his absence stabs at all of us. Because we all need each other right now. It’s not a lonely misery, it is one we share. And I believe that closeness will get us through this. We will cry together. We’ll hug each other close with love in our hearts. And we will always, always remember him.