3/10/15: Dealing with the love, loss and regret
My mom has never been great with breaking bad news.
She’ll dance around it, make me wait or give me the false impression that I was about to receive good news. It could be that I’m her daughter and she never wants to make me upset, but her delivery was never good.
Maybe that’s why she called my boyfriend at the time and had him deliver the news to me.
I was sitting at my kitchen table in Sweethome, preparing to go to an event I had planned with the Chabad. My roommate, my boyfriend and I were chatting. It was about 6 p.m. and I had just picked up In & Out pasta – tortellini with marinara sauce. I hadn’t even taken a bite yet; I was too wrapped up in conversation.
My boyfriend got a Facebook message from my mom, asking him to call her. I didn’t think too much of it – spring break was the next week and he would be staying at my house. Maybe she just wanted to ask him something about our travels or tell him something they were planning, since my birthday was only a couple weeks away.
He got off the phone and pulled me into my room and told me he needed to talk to me about something important. I suddenly panicked – something was wrong. He looked concerned and upset; I immediately worried that something happened to my dad. He sat me down on my bed and took a deep breath, preparing to tell me news that would change my world.
“Spencer passed away last night,” he said. “No one is completely sure what happened yet, but his mother found him this morning.”
The next 24 hours were a blur for me. I went to the event that night, but I don’t really remember being there. I think I skipped most of my classes the next day and I emailed all my teachers explaining I had an emergency and wasn’t going to be in class the rest of the week.
Spencer Harrison Weiss: a guy I had only known for about two years but made such a huge impact on my life. He was the guy I dated my freshman year. He was the guy who showed me what college was really like. He was the guy who constantly pushed me to be better and to work harder. He was the guy that, at the time, I didn’t deserve.
He was always troubled and I knew that things had gotten worse for him when he left school in the fall of 2014. We had spoken a bunch that fall but dwindled to the occasional “How are you” text. I saw him over that winter break and it was wonderful, then I spoke to him a few more times.
The last time I spoke to him was Valentine’s Day, when he told me he felt stuck and that he felt like he’d be home forever. He said it was so lonely at home and he couldn’t wait to go back to school.
I couldn’t help but feel partially responsible. Again, it was unclear what happened for a long time, but somewhere deep down I knew that his death was no accident. I knew he didn’t want to deal with the pain and suffering of everyday life, that he was prescribed a cocktail of medications and that he had few people to turn to at home. I should have been there for him; I should have tried harder in our relationship.
I regretted every time I didn’t pick up his call or declined a FaceTime session. I felt responsible for him leaving school, since it happened only about a month after we officially broke things off.
I felt guilty for not attending his funeral, which was two days after I got the news. I convinced myself it would be impossible for me to get home in time and to change all my plans to be there. It would have been difficult – booking flights, canceling buses and all my other plans – but it definitely wasn’t impossible. But I knew I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t accept that it was real just yet.
I went home and acted like nothing had happened. I went to Delaware first to visit my best friend, then went home, went to New York City a couple of times and came back to Buffalo. It was almost like extended shock – if I pretended it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
The grief came in horrible, overwhelming waves. Once I finally accepted he was gone, I would feel guilty, sad and angry. It still doesn’t feel real some days and I find myself calling his phone just to hear his voice. The guilt and grief still plague me.
Loss is hard to begin with, but Spencer was only 22 when he passed. He was going to go to medical school and be incredibly successful. His smile was a gift and his jokes were spine-splitting. I didn’t know him for as long as some of his other friends – that didn’t matter. I had a special connection with him because he was my significant other for a long while. I had visited him at school multiple times; we spent all winter and summer together. I wasn’t as good to him as I could have been and I wish I had valued our time together so much more.
I will still text him. I know his phone isn’t checked and I know it’s not the same, but I’d like to think he sees them. If I see something that reminds me of him or think of a funny memory, I’ll text him. Perhaps it’s my way of grieving and dealing with the loss, whatever it is, it has helped.
On March 10, 2015, I lost someone who was really important to me. One year later, I have grown significantly as a person. I have learned to appreciate those around me, not to waste time on the petty things but to indulge and enjoy life. I have learned the value of a human life and how the loss of one could impact hundreds.
I will never forget Spencer and everything that he’s done for me – both when he was alive and posthumously. His death and the loss of someone who was so close to me and so close in age will forever change who I am. The experience of grieving is one that I understand as a process – it gets better, over time.
Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.