Coping with Death, Depression, and Self-Injury: A Personal Story

This post is a reflection on the topic of self-help, inspired by a person who I admire greatly but have never spoken to. In ten days, it will mark the date when I lost my childhood friend to suicide. I was only 17 years old at the time.

This is my friend George, who posed for a spontaneous photo shoot that we did near our homes. We were neighbors and we used to hang out after school, having fun and being teenage boys. This photo captures one of those times.

I lived in the same street as George, my childhood friend. The morning after he died, I went to school late as usual and headed to the class I was failing. I noticed something odd about the atmosphere, but I shrugged it off. I was used to ignoring anything that seemed off, because I had a rebellious and cynical attitude. I walked into the class and everyone greeted me with forced smiles and sad eyes.

I realized something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. One of my friends in class said that what happened to George was “crazy” and that he “couldn’t believe it”. I remember that moment very clearly, as if it was a photograph. In fact, I remember everything so vividly that it still haunts me. If I ever learn how to paint, I will paint this scene: kids standing or sitting on desks around me, like planets orbiting a sun that doesn’t know what’s coming.

I asked him which George he was talking about, and what had happened.

Everyone thought that my indifference was a way of coping with my friend’s death, rather than my normal behavior.

Let me repeat that. My classmates thought that me ignoring them was a coping mechanism, and not my usual way of living.

“George got into an accident.”

-“Oh, like skateboarding?”

He looked nervous and the class was silent. He said:

“No, man. He…uh. He shot himself.

He’s dead.”

As I entered the next class, I experienced a sense of dread and foreboding. The day turned dark, not literally, but metaphorically, and I felt as if a huge cloud was looming over me, casting a permanent shadow. I could not find any words to describe it. I sat in the class and gradually, tears began to stream down my face as the lecture continued. They felt scorching hot, like molten lava. They reminded me of the tears I had shed before, the previous night, and the night before that. But I never cried in public. That was something I reserved for my private space, where I could lock the door, stuff pillows and blankets under it to muffle the sound, and let out my cries for help (or rather, I thought, to avoid bothering anyone with my distress).

What I did then was curl up into a ball and cry. I cried and cried until they had to call my mom. I was mortified by my display of weakness. Everyone seemed to understand, though. I hoped they would forget. My mom arrived and I walked as if I had lost a limb. Tears still falling from my face.

Mom asked “Why am I picking you up?”

I started to cry again.

She asked why.

She repeated the question, more urgently.

I could not speak. It was as if the reaper who had followed me had cut out my tongue and fed it to wolves. To demons, that I felt had been haunting me for a long time.

In response to the pent-up tension, I emitted a primal scream, embraced her, and uttered “my friend’s mother. My friend! He has departed.”

I wept. And I regurgitated. I articulated many more things, but I will omit them for the sake of their vulgarity.

I conjecture, retrospectively, that I harbored a desire to terminate my own existence. (Not conjecture, but affirm, did desire) I was almost resentful of George for preceding me in that act. It sounds peculiar, insincere, indifferent towards my friendship with him. But I felt, perhaps ending my own life would have prevented others from following the same path.

“Would you leap off a bridge if your friend did?”

In this case, no. I just wish I had leaped off first.

I felt as if he outpaced me in the race. For years I indulged, not in self-injury. But a bizarre form of masochistic self-punishment. Not in the “conventional” (is that even the appropriate word? It sounds dreadful as hell) sense (wrists, cutting, eating disorders, etc) I exercised my body rigorously. Excessively. I would perform sit-ups and push-ups until I was immobilized. I would strike myself in the abdomen, and face, to “fortify” myself. I would fracture my wrists from hitting objects. I would urinate blood frequently. I would have contusions the size of grapefruit, that I strategically concealed with loose clothing, my long hair, and other instruments of my rebellious nature. The list, regrettably continues.

That was my distorted version of strength. Me being strong was being able to endure my own version of hell that I felt the world created for me. I wanted to demonstrate to myself (and myself only) that I was stronger than the demons that pursued me.

I never consulted a therapist. Never confided in a friend. Never disclosed anything. Ever. How could I?

In the subsequent year, I witnessed my mother weeping inconsolably. She sobbed as I had never seen her do before. She sobbed as she had seen me do once. I entered the room, indifferent. I feigned strength – like a stoic, unperturbed, with a calm demeanor – and inquired, “What is the matter?” She uttered with difficulty, “He is gone, my father is dead!”

I had never observed such agony in someone’s eyes. So exposed and vulnerable. Kneeling. The carpet revealed that she had probably been shedding tears for hours.

I turned to her and said, “Well, … such is life.” (I regret that).

And I walked away.

I did not shed a single tear. In fact, I still have not mourned my grandfather’s death.

A beautiful moment captured between my cousin Aura Maria and her little girl.

My cousin, who was about the same age as me and had a child, passed away from breast cancer that spread to her lung. She endured a long and difficult fight against the disease. I never expressed how I felt about her death, even though it left a hole in my stomach. No one ever asked me how I was coping. They probably assumed that my silence was a sign of strength and resilience. But death is a very personal thing, and I cannot find any poetic words to describe it. It is not as romantic as some people might think.

I do not blame myself for anything I did in the past. My only regret is that I did not seek help when I needed it. I tried to create my own version of strength, but it was not enough. My regret is that I did not comfort my mother, who was kneeling in grief, and tell her that everything would be okay and that I was there for her. She never recovered from the loss.

My regret is that I did not do the same for myself. Help yourself. Please.


This is a rare family photo of me and my cousins and siblings in Colombia. I am the only boy in the picture, and the one who is taller than me is Aura Maria, my cousin. She passed away from breast cancer a few years ago. I lived in the United States, and most of my family lived in Colombia, so we hardly ever got to see each other. This was the only time we were all together, and I cherish this memory.

Thank you for reading my blog and supporting my work. I appreciate your feedback and encouragement. I know you are looking forward to reading more of my poems, and I have good news for you. I have resumed my regular schedule of posting new poems every week. You can expect to see some fresh and original content from me soon. I hope you will enjoy them and share them with your friends. If you have any suggestions or requests for topics or themes, please let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you. Stay tuned for more updates and poems.

Published by Cristian Leonardo Gajardo

Welcome to Cristian’s Cafe, a website where I showcase my various forms of expression and happiness. Here you can find poetry, podcasts, personal blogging, research articles, open mic, comedy, and art. Whether you are looking for inspiration, entertainment, or information, you will find something that suits your taste and mood. Enjoy browsing through my content and feel free to leave your comments and feedback. Please note that the Wi-Fi connection may be slow or unstable at times, so please be patient and look at the art instead. Thank you for visiting Cristian’s Cafe

2 thoughts on “Coping with Death, Depression, and Self-Injury: A Personal Story

  1. I am blown away. I know how deep that passion lies in you. I just never read your expression of it. Please continue to write, my friend. I love you and your depth!

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