I hope this reaches you in time and you stay — even if it couldn't reach her in time.

It was a bright, cool day in the spring when I found out you were gone. I went wedding dress shopping with a friend, then stopped for snow cones afterward. The day was exciting and felt normal and expected until she told me what had happened. I remember just where I was standing and thinking she couldn't be right. My friend and I were at the exact place you had been working at just months before. It was a nightmare, but at the same time felt very real. I was shocked and didn't know what to do but breathe.

Just breathe I told myself — even if every breath hurts.

It floated in and out of my mind that day until it hit me that night and every day after that for a long time. I cried more than I had in a long time. I had questions and no answers. I experienced deep ache, shock and tears with no relief in sight. How could you, my tall, freckle-faced, joy-filled, friend be gone?

Some days I still don't know what to say. Suicide means something different than it ever has before, and the word alone has changed me forever. I still struggle to say it, write it, and even type it some days because I know what it means for me and countless others. I don't see numbers and statistics anymore. I see hearts and eyes broken with pain, wanting relief.

I see bottles of pills dumped out on the counter and a shaking hand grabbing a handful. I see people isolating themselves and doing anything to make the loud thoughts to stop. I see tears streaming down cheeks as people just want someone to understand, care, and be there.

I also see a scene I can't seem to shake — someone finding their loved one has gone and there is nothing they can do.

I see your glowing, gorgeous face now also. Your laughter was contagious, heart genuine and love for others evident. I remember how friendly you were, and how you made me feel welcome when we first met. You immediately made me feel seen, heard, and like I mattered. But your suffering was also more real than most people knew.

Not too long ago, I found an old picture of you and I. We were young, happy and the darkness hadn't left scars yet. Happiness comes to my heart because of the special memories, but also sadness because of what will no longer be.

You left us far too soon, but I want you to know that I will always remember you, your life and the impact you made on everyone that knew you.

It's been nearly a year since you have been gone. I still can't quite wrap my mind around the fact that I didn't get to say goodbye. The unsaid words in my heart still go through my mind and leave me with many unanswered questions. I wonder what was your last thought, and if anything could have made you stay. If there had been something, know that I would have done anything to accomplish that.

With all my heart, I wish that you would have stayed. This didn't reach you in time, and because of that, I will always ache. But I hope and pray that it reaches you in time — maybe someone who is right where she was, caught between staying or leaving.

"Mental illness matters, talking about it matters, warning signs matter, and addressing your darkness matters, because you matter." — Hannah Brencher

The only thing more exhausting than being suicidal and experiencing depression is pretending you are not. Suffering secretly is one of the heaviest burdens to bear. If she could do it over, I know she would want each person to put a semicolon where she put a period. A semicolon means the story isn't over yet; it is hope for those that continue to fight. Suicide doesn't solve your pain and problems, but it passes it to another person that will never get over your loss.

Ignorance is not bliss — the stigma of mental health makes many run the opposite direction of someone hurting.

We are losing precious humans all the time, or even ourselves, and that's not OK. Don't give in to the thought that you should stop fighting for yourself or your friend. The pain of regret is far greater than being uncomfortable as you talk, listen, or get the help that you need.

I'm a big believer that life will get better, but I want you to be here for it. This life is worth living and fighting for, friend. Please keep going, even when you think you can't.

Be that person that doesn't tell someone to get over it, but helps them get through it. No one should go through life or struggles alone. We need each other.

Let's crush ignorance and educate ourselves, along with others.
Let's stop the lies and spread more truth.
Let's stop suffering in secret and bring it into the open. Let's be brave and show true love as we stand with and for someone.
Let's end the stigma that tries to follow us; we are real people with normal problems.

It could make all the difference in the world for one, a hundred or a thousand just like my friend. I don't want anyone to be next. Let me encourage you to not be silent anymore — for yourself or the person next to you. I can't bear to just watch as our generation and others end their stories.

Listen, I want you to know that you are a very special human, encase you haven't heard that today. Remember life is worth fighting for and I am cheering you on. You are not alone in this, OK? Please just stay.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255