Dealing with death and grief – I miss my friends.

Let me begin by saying, this is a very emotional post. It’s not properly written, there are probably grammatical errors and it may bounce topics. It’s not so much for you as it is for me. I feel like I’ve lost so much.

July 4th started just like any other day. We hung out at home for most of the day until we headed downtown to stake claim of a cozy spot to hang out and watch the fireworks. Justin and I were getting on each other’s nerves; not purposefully but we both were feeling easily agitated. Justin didn’t talk much but I carried a smile with ease. Charlee and William were hanging out with my parents and our friends who live down the street. Justin’s mood lightened a bit and we ended up having a decent time. Around 7:30 pm, I leaned over and asked Justin if he had talked to our friend Nick lately. He replied that he had text him last week with little to no reply (I can’t recall exactly what he said). He then asked if I had talked to Ashley, his wife and our friend. I replied that I had text her a little while back with no reply. I also told him that I didn’t hear from her on my birthday and that it was odd that she didn’t send a card – she always sent a happy birthday card. I then told him that I didn’t receive a text wishing us a happy 4th either. Ashley loved holidays and always made sure to send a “Happy Mother’s Day!”, “Happy Easter!”, “Merry Christmas!” text first thing in the morning. Justin and I both agreed that we should reach out to them. I sent my text at 8:07pm:

Hey Ashley! Happy 4th! I hope you all are doing wonderful! We miss you and love you! Hope to see you soon!

Little did I know that my text would never be received.

The next morning, I was hurrying to get ready to take Charlee on a “mommy daughter day” that we had been planning for a week or so. I had been wanting to take her to the Wilmington Children’s Museum, swing by Surfberry and then make a stop at Trader Joe’s on our way out of town. I was rushing things along because we had an hour and a half drive and Charlee was wanting to get there in time for the blueberry smoothie making event. Just as I was getting my shoes on and making sure I had my wallet in my purse, I received a text from my mom…

Oh my god, that is so sad about Nick and Ashley.

I quickly read it and my heart dropped. I looked at Justin, who was sitting on the couch holding William, and said “Have you heard from Nick and Ashley?? Did something happen??” He replied, “No! Why??

I quickly called my mom and I could hear in her voice that something was wrong. She asked if I had seen the news and I remember yelling at her “JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED!

Nick killed Ashley and then shot himself. I’m so sorry.

Justin said he will never forget the look on my face. I fell to my knees, hung up on my mom and had to tell my husband that his best friend murdered our other best friend, his wife and mother of his two beautiful boys, and then took his own life.

Justin put down William and immediately ran to his computer to pull up Raleigh news. We saw a beautiful photo of them, their neighborhood in bold and the words murder and suicide. Just as he will forever remember the look on my face, I will never forget his reaction and words:

No f*cking way. WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?? Why in the hell would he do that???” He repeated this at least 10 times.

He stared at the computer screen and we read the report together, sobbing. Our sobs turned to screams. Charlee ran in Justin’s office screaming and crying because she was scared of our reactions. My heart was pumping and I felt faint. We couldn’t believe how quickly everyone’s lives changed.

Charlee knew something was wrong. She asked us, “What happened to Uncle Nick and Aunt Ashley?”. Justin and I couldn’t keep our composure but we were able to tell her that “they went to heaven.” She quickly burst into tears and said, “What about my cousins – Angelo and Dominic??? Where are they going to live??? They can live with us but I don’t know what they like to eat for breakfast!

She made me smile and shattered my heart at the very same time.

Another friend of ours, Lindsey, called to see if we had heard and as I spoke to her, it felt like a dream. It felt like a sick and twisted horror filled nightmare that I couldn’t wake from.

I forced myself to pull it together and I told Justin that he and William were going to go to Wilmington with Charlee and I. It may seem weird to still continue on with our plans for the day but I knew that if we stayed at home, we would fall into a deep, dark place. We still had to be parents and our children didn’t quite understand what was going on. Getting out of the house and trying to keep our mind off of things seemed like a good idea but little did I know, it wouldn’t work.

This was my first time every dealing with a loss. I am fortunate enough to have my grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles, etc. I never knew that loss could hurt this badly and it makes me scared for the day that I lose another person close to me. It didn’t help that this loss was so unbelievably tragic.

We cried the entire drive to Wilmington and just repetitively asked each other questions.

“Why did he do it?”

“Why did he have to kill her?”

“What was going on that we didn’t know about?”

“Why didn’t we notice any red flags and reach out more?”

“Where were the boys?”

“Who found them?”

“What’s going to happen to the boys?”

“How can we help?”

“How can we get over this?”

We went to the children’s museum, tried to eat lunch and then made a stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home. I had to run to the bathroom multiple times that day to throw up. My nerves were out of control, I felt physical pain and I felt lost and depressed. I started to picture vivid imagery in my head and then once we heard the 911 call, things really started to set in.

Mostly at night, I feel paranoid. I have horrible anxiety. I think about death. I don’t trust anyone. I’m struggling. Justin is struggling. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that the boys are feeling; what their families are feeling. I can’t listen to country music because that was their thing (she took me to a Tim McGraw concert a couple years ago – can’t listen to him at all). Charlee tells me that she hears me crying at night. She tells me that I shouldn’t be sad because Aunt Ashley and Uncle Nick are in heaven with Grandpa Donald and Gaga’s best friend; the pure innocence of a child. 

We attended Ashley’s viewing and I was hoping that it would give me some sort of closure. It didn’t. She didn’t look like herself. Her beautiful hair didn’t look the same. Her features didn’t look right. I wanted to touch her. I didn’t. I didn’t want people to think I was weird. I don’t know how to grieve. This hurts. I hugged her brother and didn’t want to let him go. 

We attended Ashley’s funeral and I felt angry. The entire time, I was angry. I wanted to scream the entire time. My heart was shattering as we sat and watched Ashley’s family grieving. Her mother was staring at her casket and through tears, she kept repeating, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Her funeral took place in the church her boys were baptized in and where her and Nick were married. That made me really uncomfortable for some reason. Her boys weren’t there to say goodbye.

I can’t properly mourn Nick. I feel as though I’ve blocked him out of my memories because I’m so mad at him. Nick was the life of the party, he was the type of good looking that made you nervous, he loved his boys, he treated us like family. How did things get to the point that they did? WHY did he have to take her with him?

These are questions that will never be answered. We don’t know where the boys are. We don’t know how their families are.

After Ashley’s funeral, they passed out a beautiful photo of her holding Angelo when he was a baby; we framed it and hung it on our wall. I look at it with both joy and sadness. I miss her.

Ashley threw the best parties. She was the best mother (seriously – the kind of mom that you looked at with admiration). She gave the best hugs. She always had a smile on her face – always. She had a loud, contagious laugh. She always made sure you were comfortable. She was headstrong and went through hard times with grace. She knew how to put together an awesome charcuterie. She was always willing to help, whether it was a comforting phone call or an “I’m thinking of you!” text. We were pregnant together, her son Angelo is only 2 weeks older than Charlee. We always talked about how amazing it was for our children to grow up together and we couldn’t wait to see what kinds of shenanigans they would get into. Sadly, they will never see their boys or our kids grow up.

I miss her.

I miss him but I’m mad at myself for missing him. I don’t know how to handle it.

I miss the boys.

I don’t know why I’m writing this.  Maybe to “get it all out”? Maybe to let you all know that if I seem “off” or distant or moody, this is why. I just don’t know.

This has put a whole new perspective on life – both in a good and bad way. I know that we will get through this but I also know that we will never get over it.

Reach out to friends and family. Tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t feel silly for showing your emotions. Live every damn day to the fullest. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Take that vacation. Eat the dessert. All you have in life is your health and your family – work hard to keep both positive. Ask for help when you need it.

And just when I think I’m all cried out, the tears appear again.

One comment

  1. Melissa Vera says:

    My heart is breaking for you, my friend. Death is never easy but in time the grief lessens. I lost my sister when she was 27 and I was pregnant with my first daughter Maddie and I still wonder if there was something we could have done. Just know that there are friends here for you that will do anything for you if you let them. It will come in waves but I promise it won’t always be like this.

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