16:37, 16.Oct 2017
Grief is a known territory for me. I’ve lost two nans, two godmothers, an auntie, three uncles, two great uncles, and a few family friends.
I’m 24 and I’ve been to more funerals than weddings and yet, even though loss has been hard and painful, my life has been so full in knowing these wonderful people that shaped me in more ways than they’ll ever know.
When it comes to relatives, grief is normal. But the person I’m still grieving is someone I barely knew – and that makes me feel uneasy. I feel like I’m almost not allowed to grieve, as if there isn’t enough grief to go around, which is a really strange concept.
When I was seventeen, I met a Welsh guy on a moving train. He had a kind face and I was immediately attracted to him. I was at the bar, getting my mum a drink, when he approached me and asked if he could borrow my phone. He had fallen asleep and his buddies thought it was funny to leave him on the train (they were right).
His phone had died and he needed to ask them where they were. As he handed back my phone he paused and said he’d put his number in my phone. I was young, awkward, and a virgin, so that kind of flirting was all entirely new to me.
A few days later I bit the bullet and text him. We texted for a few months. We spoke about friends and family, our lives, plans for meeting up. In the few months we spoke, the main thing I learned about him was how kind he was and how much he loved to have a laugh. I think we both realised that our future wasn’t meant to be.
Truthfully, I was scared of dating. The thought of meeting up with a relative stranger for a date terrified me. I told him how overwhelmed I felt as this was a first time thing for me and he understood.
Eventually our communication trailed off as I think he knew I couldn’t see a future for us. But I kept an eye on his Facebook page, getting jealous when I saw him tagged in photos with other girls. I knew if it was meant to be, it would happen later on in life. Then he died.
I was in my kitchen in my uni house when I saw it. My voice caught and a lump arrived in my throat. His friend had tagged him in a status. I scrolled through his profile to find another post from another friend, saying how shocked they were to hear that he had taken his own life.
I wish I could have done something. I wanted to write to his sisters as I watched them grieve online. I wanted to tell them how he had a profound effect on me and how the promise of a relationship with him still haunted me.
He was the first man to make me feel desired and I’ll always remember him for that. I wonder if he told them about me. I don’t know why that matters to me. But my grief came tinged with shame. I didn’t feel that grief was something I was allowed to feel.
I only met this man once – so why did I feel such loss? I felt that I wasn’t entitled to the grief his friends and family were. I told the girls I lived with and my mum, who remembered our initial meeting.
Mostly I kept my grief to myself, hiding it away so I wouldn’t seem crazy and obsessive, grieving someone I only met once. I worry that if I share what I’m going through with the people who knew him, they’d deny the grief I feel.
Social media has monumentally changed how we grieve. It makes it harder as there are reminders year upon year showing up on your timeline, but there’s something quite beautiful in what is preserved. Sometimes, I wonder if he was just a figment of my imagination but then I type his name into Facebook and see that he did exist, I did know him, and he is gone.
There’s so much about him I wish I knew or I wish I could ask but the fact that his loved ones have kept his Facebook page as a memorial means that I’ve learnt a few things. He was not ashamed to say that he loved Dirty Dancing, he once ate twelve mars bars in three and a half minutes, and he was so loved by many friends and his family.