Honestly, I don’t really know where to begin or why I’m even writing this post, but it’s been four months… Four months since my last post. Four months since a very familiar pattern ended. Four months since one of the brightest lights I have ever known went out.

The last time I really felt the need or desire to sit down and write was after Rick died on September 21, 2017. I always preached that writing was the best therapy. I consistently encouraged my friends to get things off their mind and onto a piece of paper or the screen in front of them. Yet here I am, struggling to break my silence after four months of an internal battle I am still grappling to understand.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again not because I’m looking for sympathy, but simply because it’s true. I have had to deal with loss since I was a little girl. From elderly grandparents, adults close to me, friends my own age, and even baby siblings, it’s something I have had to embrace because well, that’s just life.

However, being completely transparent, this is different. This isn’t something I’ve been able to just let go of or move on from. This is something I still question. This was truly the hardest goodbye I was ever forced to say.

For weeks after Ricky’s death, I would call his phone. It never rang, but that was okay because I could still hear him on his voicemail. One day though, it did ring, and I was terrified. I immediately hung up. I didn’t know who had his phone or why it was on, but I most definitely did not want people knowing that I was still struggling despite watching his family soar with God’s strength and everlasting love. As I continued to try to reach out to Rick in hopes of having one final conversation with the kid who saved me so many times before, I found myself pushing away those who tried to help. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to explain the pain, anger and guilt that was bombarding my brain. I didn’t want people knowing just how broken I was.

Now, after four months, you would think I would have come to terms with all of this, and in a way, I have. I have teamed up with Ricky’s little sister, Melissa, and one of his dear high school friends, Alexandra, to start Ricky’s Compass, a community project and event in his honor. It gives me peace and joy watching Melissa turn her brother’s story into a living legacy that so many incredible people want to be a part of. I am truly honored every time we meet with organizations like Atlantic Health and the Morris County Stigma Free Committee as we work our tails off to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Unfortunately though, I have a bad habit of letting loss bring me down. Since I’m finally taking my own advice and writing this to get my bottled up feelings out, I know I need to be completely honest. Sitting at a candlelight vigil for another childhood friend on Rick’s birthday ripped me apart. So many cold and lonely Friday nights consist of me taking the long way home just to listen to “I’ll Find You” by Lecrae and Tori Kelly on repeat as I scream into my steering wheel. Those forty minute showers involve me trying, but often failing, to wash away my grief as I am flooded by my own tears. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t listening to “One More Light” by Linkin Park as I wrote this post. Truth be told, that was the most played song of 2017 on my Spotify, yet the first time I heard it was the day after Ricky died.

I know, I sound pathetic. Lex, when will you realize you can’t change the past? When will you learn that life is full of goodbyes? When will you figure out how to control your emotions and move on?

Although I may never be able to answer those questions, this awful and unexpected chapter has truly taught me a lot. One thing I’m learning as I try my best to cope IN MY OWN WAY is that it’s okay to feel, and it’s okay to let others know how you feel. In fact, it’s essential to talk it out. Last weekend, I visited Rick’s grave with Alexandra, a complete angel, for the first time since his burial. As we sat there reflecting on the many lessons Rick imparted to us, she made me realize that the emotions I am still enduring are normal. It is okay for me to feel the way I feel because of the experiences Rick and I faced together. The anger, confusion, guilt and devastation are all part of MY grieving process.

I think the real reason behind this post was a bit selfish. I say I write to try to help others, and usually I do, but honestly, I wrote this for me. Sometimes, when we see something written, it is easier for us to believe. I needed to let myself know that this is okay. I am allowed to be upset. I am allowed to have my moments of sadness even after four long months.

According to Russell Friedman, a co-developer of the Grief Recovery Method Support Group, “Grief is is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.”

He also stated that, “We’re all individuals and we will each experience and express our grief uniquely and in our own time.”

As I grieve in my own way, maybe you, too, can take something from this. Ending a familiar pattern can be extremely difficult, but it’s something all too common in this journey we call life. Just know that it’s okay to have good days and bad days. It’s okay to get emotional. Most importantly, it’s okay to be raw and real. You never have to go through anything alone even if you face it differently than the person beside you.