It was a Wednesday night in October. I had an economics test the next day so I was busy studying, probably pulling an all-nighter. Texts started coming in from high school friends I hadn’t talked to in a while. They were sending me messages like, “Hope you’re doing okay, praying for you.” I didn’t think anything of the first couple of texts — I thought it was sweet my friends were thinking of me, whatever the reason.

I took a routine study break to check social media. I saw some of your friends tweeting that they were praying for your family. I was so worried someone was hurt, maybe in the hospital, maybe something serious, like cancer. I immediately texted you asking what was wrong and if everything was okay.

Little did I know I was never going to get a response.

I logged onto Facebook, looked at your page, and my heart stopped. It had been flooded with comments: “RIP.” This wasn’t right. There had to be a mistake. My mind  jumped to conclusions. Maybe a car accident, a football accident, or did someone hurt you?

The list went on and on in my head. When I was finally able to contact one of our friends, I heard the words that to this day still don’t seem real.

You killed yourself.

Even typing the words sends a chill through my body.

I spent the next hours, days, months and now years trying to understand what went wrong.

I stood over you at your funeral and held your cold hand. I watched as your family fell to the ground grieving. I threw rose petals on your casket as your body was lowered down. Nothing felt right; nothing could explain the pain, confusion and grief that filled our hearts.

It’s been almost two years since my friend took his own life. I can honestly say from first-hand experience that the realization never gets easier. The pain never goes away. You never stop missing them.

Suicide is a tricky thing and I think a lot of people have a hard time talking about it. I know I do.

My friend was one of the sweetest, friendliest guys I have ever met. He would do absolutely anything for not just his friends and family but for anyone.

I still struggle to understand how such a happy, outgoing guy could have felt so unloved that taking his own life seemed like the only way out.

One of the hardest things when losing a friend to suicide is guilt and blame. It took me a long time to forgive myself for what happened.

Questions played over and over again in my head: “What if I texted you more? What if I had sent you a birthday present instead of a birthday text? What if I would have told you how much I cared about you?”

I could go on forever.

I wish I could say I saw this coming. I wish that when I look back I could find the moments where this puzzle all comes together, but I can’t.

The truth is sometimes the happiest, friendliest people are so good at hiding what is truly going on and they never allow you to help or see the pain they’re hiding inside.

I would give anything to go back and tell you how much you mean to me and all of your friends and family. I would give anything to sit and let you do all talking. I’ll just listen.

Since losing you my life has been changed forever. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can sit down and write about you and how much this really hurts. There are some days where the pain still paralyzes me and I am overcome with grief.

After you passed away, I grew fearful of getting close to the people I loved the most because I didn’t want to lose them. I never wanted to experience that kind of pain again.

My advice to anyone dealing with losing a loved one to suicide is that first and foremost, it’s okay to grieve. It’s also okay to not be okay. But perhaps most importantly, forgive yourself, love yourself and respect your time to heal.

Lastly, remember to tell your friends and family how much you love them. We’re all fighting battles, so hold on close to the people that surround you and thank God for the blessings He gives as well as the blessings He takes.