On July 31st your lives, our lives, changed forever. As a community, we lost a friend, a son, a brother and a kind-hearted stranger. We as a community grieve his sudden loss and bittersweetly reminisce on all of our memories with him. Alex, we miss you.

I am so sorry. I know those four small words feel like a broken record that has been on repeat nonstop. I'm sorry that you probably can't count the amount of empty apologies you've received because no apology will fix this, and no apology will bring him back. I know it feels like this song of sadness has been replayed and has become your mantra, your anthem and it's becoming, permanently, a part of you. I know the feeling all too well.

I know you are hurting. I know your hearts are heavy.

But I want you, whoever you may be, to know I am here. Even if you don't know me, I know in grief sometimes all you need is someone to listen. You will need someone to bring you Taco Bell because you honestly don't feel like cooking. You will need someone to call at 3 am when you tried to text him like you always did when you couldn't sleep. I promise to be that person because I know what it’s like to not have that person. I promise to listen. I promise.

The thing about unforeseen death is that it never comes in a perfectly wrapped box. It comes mangled and torn and affects so many people. It comes without warning and shatters all that you know and love. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It robs you of someone you love and leaves behind a pile of shock and grief and unanswered questions. Somewhere in between googling “how to cope with grief” and staying up late just trying to work your way through the maze of unsolved, unanswered questions you will find yourself so deep in grief that you feel encompassed by darkness. Let this be your light:

Your life is precious. You are loved beyond belief, by people from your freshman homeroom to your very best friend and even by people you never knew that you knew. You can have hope that with time, what seems like unsurpassable grief will fade. It will never fully be gone, but you will learn to cope with it and it will become natural. I'm not saying you will ever miss him less but I'm saying you will learn to cherish the memories. You will begin to remember the little things, not all at once but slowly. You will hear your loved one's favorite song and remember your crazy car dance parties. You’ll remember events and days and minutes of time that will become so precious to you.

As you begin to live out your grief story, I ask one thing. Tell your story. This, although it seems like it happened for no reason, this tragedy must have a greater purpose. Each and every day choose to live your life in love. Choose to be the person that reaches out to strangers. Choose to honor Alex’s life by joyfully stepping into each and every tomorrow with unwavering confidence. Choose to have an unsurpassable joy that radiates from your soul. Choose to be more and to do more that you ever thought possible. Choose joy. Don't let grief win. Don't let suicide win. Don't let this tragedy define Alex or you or me, choose to take his story, your story and our story and make it one that empowers, inspires and changes lives.

Don't blame yourself. If you know someone who needs help, be there. Choose to make a positive impact on your community. If you know someone struggling with depression or anxiety educate yourself and reach out to them or get them the help they need. Lastly, please know that you are loved. You are adored. You can overcome this. Instead of ending your story with a period, pause, reflect and use a semicolon; your story is not finished.