Dealing at the office with a friend and ex-coworker’s death

“It’s just so hard being here while I’m struggling with Friend’s death.  I was so close to her when she made the decision to leave,” I confided to Second Boss in Command after he asked if everything was ok.

“You have to move on,” he said, not two whole weeks after the fateful monday morning that we all learned of her suicide.

Then he leaned back in his chair, his body language showing comfort, confidence, and indifference.  “I think that was a horrible decision she made.  But it was her decision,” he said.

How dare you judge her? I thought.  How dare you sit there, passing judgment on her decisions without knowing anything about her life, what she struggled with, or how much you yourself and your coworkers had to do with her making that decision? Thoughts raced through my mind as I sat there, crying, and thinking about how I cannot say this to him, for he doesn’t really care and doesn’t understand what it really means to be sick.

“Well I think we can all tell that she eventually realized that too,” I said, sobbing, frustrated, angry at his carelessness and insensitivity in judging her decision, one which was a poor choice but was recently surpassed by the worst decision she would ever make, could ever make – the one to take her own life.

No you fool, I thought, It wasn’t her decision. She wasn’t in her right mind when she made it.  She wasn’t an idiot or careless.  She wasn’t healthy!  She was sick, and it was with her manic mind that she decided to leave this job, trusting that the beautiful universe which she loved so much would take care of her, if only she sent positive energy to it.

A decision made from the depths of mental illness isn’t really one’s own.

She had been spouting far-fetched ideas for weeks.  How she was going to be general manager for a new dance group that her friend was going to start, and how he was going to pay her with investment he would get from his home country of Turkey.

How she was going to one day own an entire condo building in Manhattan, with which she would create a supportive, creative, cultural community – creating not only housing but homes, with space to meet and play, dance, read, talk, you name it.How she was going to make an entrepreneurial living with working with the organic chocolate startup and the mommy and me bike company.

You might say she was dreaming, but she really believed it.  I tried to tell her to hope and strive for the best but to plan for the worst, but she wouldn’t listen.  She couldn’t.  She’d become unreachable, even by me, even as she and I had grown so close and told each other about deep-seated fears and emotions, our childhoods, our hopes for the future, all the things, big and little, that were happening in our young adult lives.

And as she became unreachable, not returning phone calls or following through on simple tasks like picking her things up from the office she had left, I withdrew as well.  We had shared frustration with the office, with the people there, with their petty lives and their snap judgments.  We had dreamed together of a workplace where there was a true team, where people worked together to achieve the collective good, drawing out and supporting each others’ strengths.  We had supported each other when one of us could no longer take the cruelty of a coworker or the futility of our efforts.  And now she was leaving, confident that she had the support she would need to survive without this salary, and I felt left behind.  I felt alone, and I was still in so much turmoil about showing up to this job every day.

And so, even as I saw that she was manic, even as I knew that while she was high as a kite now, she would inevitably crash, and crash hard, I let her go.  It was too painful to watch her go on from the office, when I wanted to so badly for the day when I could walk in and give Big Boss #1 the same speech, the one that says I’m leaving.  When she didn’t call me for weeks, I didn’t call her either.  But I missed her terribly, and I knew when I did finally speak with her, that she missed and loved me as much as I her.


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