By: La-Toya Scott
This past week I discovered that one of my favorite YouTube personalities, Kain Carter, A.K.A “Hot Damn I Rock,” came back to YouTube after 365 days of being MIA. Initially I was excited. This guy became an overnight sensation after releasing spoof of Mario and Luigi in his video “Brotherly Love” in 2011. To date, Carter has gained over 830,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel and continues to gain a loyal following eager to keep up with his life .
Carter posted an explanation of his disappearance for this year and things got real. It wasn’t the recollection of his near death experience from crashing into the back of 16 wheeler that got me. It wasn’t the fact that his beloved dog almost got put to sleep because of kidney complications. It wasn’t even his anomaly of a sickness causing extreme weight loss and excruciating pain that put him in and out of the hospital for several months on end. Don’t get me wrong all were very unfortunate events. However, it was the death of his best friend, Ike, soon after the death of his cousin that really started the water works that were already building up.
Carter was still raw and emotional and you could tell he was in the process of grieving. His best friend did past just only two weeks ago. I don’t know Carter personally however, having been a fan for so many years made me feel like I did. I found myself wanting to hug this guy and tell him, “it’ll be okay.” I wasn’t use to seeing him like this. He usually is someone that makes us laugh and smile with his funny and clever videos. To see this man relive all of what he’s been through was painful. But, what Carter reminded me of was the fact that we can get so comfortable seeing someone a certain way that when things like this happen it’s hard to know what to do as someone from the outside looking in. Carter brought me back to the times I’ve had to figure out how best to be there for a friend who has suffered a close loss or losses.
It’s typical to immediately want to “fix” your friend. They are broken, and you’ve maybe never seen them this way. So you cling to generic things that you don’t even know if it’s going to comfort them but, you feel this is what you’re supposed to say or do. “Sorry for your loss…I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers…My condolences…God’s got you…Stay strong.” These sentiments are well and good but, what about the actions that follow? Are you saying these things more for you to know that you said them? Do you feel like you’ve done good now? Like you did your part? I’m guilty of that too so, no need to feel so ashamed.
When I was younger I felt invincible, and because I was surrounded by people around my age by association they were invincible too. Death just didn’t happen until one day it did. I was 20 years old in college when my friend had just loss both her parents. At the time we were not the closest of people. But we knew each other well enough for me to know how close she was to her parents and how happy she was to speak to them daily, and to see them often. I didn’t know my friend outside of her joy. So when she suffered her loss and disappeared for a while I found myself not really knowing what things I had to say. “Sorry for your loss…My condolences…God's got you…Stay strong" just did not feel like enough. Soon I realized through many evenings spent together in our dorms, and stuffing our faces at the on-campus Denny’s it wasn’t about what I had to say. It was about filling in the gaps and knowing there’s nothing more for me to say, just do. And what I had to do was listen. What I had to do as someone that cared deeply was just be there.
Friends that lose loved ones don’t speak that often at the beginning so when they do it’s important. Oftentimes, we’re afraid to ask questions. Death seems like a silencer, and makes us walk on eggshells however, it’s important to ask, “How do you feel?” That question seems weird, I know. We tend to think the obvious answer is going to be, “horrible.” But, it’s a serious question. Don’t avoid it because you’re scared you may get an answer that makes you uncomfortable. It’s not about you. Ask it because your friend may really be suffering on the inside and may really need someone to confide and talk to.
When I was watching Carter talk about his friend’s death he said something that really opened my eyes. He said:
“I feel like I’m falling off of a cliff right. I feel like I fell of a cliff and the further I fall the darker shit gets. The more quiet shit gets. But it’s like the darkness and the silence isn’t what’s bothering me. It’s not hitting the bottom. Not hitting a bottom is what’s fucking with me. Because at least if I hit a bottom then I can stand up and go ‘okay well that’s how far I have to climb to get back up to the top of the cliff.’ But when you just fall and you just fall and you just fall it’s like when does it end?”
That feeling he described is probably what your friend may also be going through and you wouldn’t even know it if you didn’t ask. That feeling is not something you try to put a Band-Aid over and soothe with words like “stay strong.” Staying strong is not what your friend needs to do right now. Your friend needs to cry, your friend needs to shout, your friend needs to grieve, and most importantly your friend needs you. That, “I sympathize” crap does not cut it. Try to empathize and reassure them that they are not alone.
I think it’s also worth knowing that you and your response don’t have to be perfect. Just stay cognizant. I’m 24 years old, and I’ve had friends that have loss people this year, so trust, I’m still learning how to be a good friend outside of their joy and within the confines of their pain. I caught myself shying away from friends that have had a loss all because I assumed that maybe they just needed time to be alone. Don’t assume. Stay cognizant of your own presence because it’s definitely not a time to withdraw. No, you don’t have to be overbearing. There are going to be times that your friend needs alone time to process. Even then a simple, “I’m here if you need me” means more than you’ll ever know.