How To Get Ready For Your Best Friend's Funeral

Ad failed to load

These days, when I sit on my couch and try to sink into the pleasure of doing nothing, my eyes often drift to a certain spot on my staircase.

As much as I try to focus on whatever I'm doing, I'm gradually tugged to those dull, gray stairs. At first, the pull is gentle — like the lightening-flash thought you have when go on vacation and think you forgot something, but can't place just what. But then that tiny thought gradually becomes something bigger, more insidious, bubbling and churning to a dull panic in your gut. It is the feeling of wondering if you left a candle burning turning into the panic of being utterly convinced you did. It is imagining your house burning down, everything you once knew going up in flames. Except in this case, there is no eventual realization that everything is fine — that the candle is blown out, that my house is safe. There is only the realization that everything did burn down, once. There is only the memory that on a Friday in November, that staircase shifted from being any old place to the place I was when I lost my best friend.

Since childhood, I have had three best friends; there were never favorites. Individually, they were each my best friend. As a whole, they made up my best friend, too. We were as much one entity as we were separate people. So it made sense that one of us would be the person to tell the others if one of us was suddenly killed in a car accident on a Friday afternoon. It made sense that we would sit in our separate corners of the world, me on my staircase in Manhattan, them in Philadelphia and Atlanta, wailing to each other on a three-way call, hardly speaking at all. It made sense that I would have to call my mom as I rocked on the floor, screaming, "What do I do?" into the receiver. What I learned very quickly, though, is that the practicalities of death spare no one.

Ad failed to load

In the hours and days that followed, that practicality — the knowledge that I still had to live life — felt mocking and cruel. That first night, I hung up the phone with my mom and went to take a shower, only to stop and think, "How do I do this now?" To do something so mundane seemed absurd, like eating an ice cream cone in the middle of nuclear fall-out.

I tried to ignore the absurdities and focus on what was helpful after that — putting together photos, playlists, writing a eulogy I knew would never be good enough. Re-writing it. Telling her ex-girlfriend what had happened. Getting plane tickets back to Florida. Letting our high school classmates know about the funeral. I laser-focused on the things that had to happen, until I suddenly got to a certain practicality that stopped me in my tracks: I had to find something to wear to the funeral.

Ad failed to load

When Ashleigh died, part of me disappeared. I thought that this missing part would mean everything was different, that me-before would be unrecognizable to me-after. In some ways, that was true (and still is). So, when I realized I had nothing black, nothing right to wear to the funeral and I cared, I started to panic in a way that had nothing to do with the clothes at all. That I still was thinking about what I put on my body horrified me. I was prepared for a new me, one that moved through the world differently. I wasn't prepared for realizing that me-after was, at the core, still me.

When I shopped online for something that would make me feel comfortable and confident enough in to deliver a eulogy that would do Ashleigh justice — one that old classmates, my family, her family, and strangers would hear, I felt sick. I found myself pushing away thoughts of what was actually happening and, instead, researching if fake eyelashes or waterproof mascara were better for heavy crying. I bought both just in case. I bought black flats because I didn't have the right shoes. Black tights because the dress I chose felt too short. And throughout all of this was the voice in the back of my mind that said firmly, "How dare you." I felt narcissistic, selfish — ill with self-loathing. Still, every second I spent hating myself was one less second I had to feel the weight of what was happening.

Ad failed to load

On the morning of the funeral I started getting ready four hours before I had to leave, spending triple the time on my hair and makeup than I normally would. I still ended up being ready an hour early, pacing the length of my parent's house — the house Ashleigh and I had spent thousands of hours in, doing everything and, more often, nothing at all. I was impatient. I re-checked my lipstick, I re-did my eyelashes. I performed every beauty and fashion habit and hack I knew of — not yet realizing that what I was really doing was calming myself down a way that I often do, with the beauty rituals I know and love.

The truth is that there is no amount of anything that can prepare you for walking in a church and seeing your best friend laying in a coffin. For watching your best friends openly weep. For referring to someone in past tense. It is the type of pain that makes you feel like you are burning up, like the hurt is crawling out from your chest, fighting the whole way as if even it knows it shouldn't be there in the first place. People survive loss all the time, but in the moment, even that doesn't ever convince you that you will. In the same moments you are actively surviving, it often feels like you're just inching toward exploding from the pain and disintegrating into nothing at all. The pain knocks you down, drags you some place you've never been before, and leaves you there to die. But you don't. All that matters about surviving is that you do it.

My time spent obsessing over the perfect outfit and makeup was an easy, familiar way to distract myself from and get through a type of pain I didn't recognize, couldn't categorize, wasn't able to diagnose and treat. There's not a guidebook on the exact things to do directly after you lose someone — no step-by-step day planner on how to live correctly. There is only you, the pain, and the next second.

Ad failed to load

Even though I can now recognize the ways in which I've started to heal (both big and small), the guilt of focusing on myself instead of my friend envelopes me every moment. "How dare you?" that same voice still whispers in the back of my head.

How dare you care about clothes and makeup?

How dare you write about yourself?

Ad failed to load

How dare you feel better?

How dare you be alive when she isn't?

I think about these questions often. When I go to work, book a trip, pet my dog, get my nails done, call my parents. When I look at that staircase and replay that night, the pain. But, these days, what often comes to my mind next is one of the very last things Ashleigh ever sent me, something I included in her eulogy. It was a quote from a book and what it said is, "...you are not meant to just survive, to stay stagnant, to settle; you are meant to keep growing and thrive. Just like the tree that sucks up nutrients, water, and sun grows to its tallest, mightiest height and drops stuff all over our yards that will then spawn the next generation of trees...you too are meant to reach your fullest expression of the you that is you, to inspire and birth awesomeness in others, and to use whatever resources you need along the way."

Ad failed to load

When everything you know burns down, there is only the option of surviving, and using whatever resources you need along the way to do so. For me, without realizing it, that was focusing on "trivial things" — on beauty rituals that distracted me as I prepared for an event that was unimaginable to me. But then, and still now, there is always the option of lying down and doing nothing, and sometimes I entertain that — giving into the million-pound sadness of it all and letting it swallow me up.

But then I think of that quote, and what my sweet friend might think of me checking out, or using what happened as an excuse to give in and resign from living life like I want to. And what I imagine then is, accompanied with a big laugh, a dramatically deep voice, some version of: "How dare you?"

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

11 Tiny Sunglasses That Will Make You Look Even Cooler Than Kylie Jenner

You know what they say — the tinier the sunglasses, the more stylish the outfit. OK, that's not really a saying, but it seems to be the case these days. Basically every celebrity, model, and It person has been spotted sporting tiny sunglasses as part…
By Sara Tan

9 Ways This Royal Wedding Was Way More Modern Than Past Ones

The newly named Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, made history with their storybook courtship and wedding. What's more, there are myriad ways the royal wedding 2018 was more modern than previous royal weddings. From deciding…
By Brandi Neal

16 Brand New YA Rom-Coms To Add To Your Summer Reading List

Ah, summer. Post-Memorial Day it's all about being outside in the sunshine, lazy pool days and exciting beach trips, warm weather treats, and — most important of all — tote bags packed to the brim with all of the biggest and best summer reads. Whatev…
By Kerri Jarema

10 Little-Known British Traditions Meghan Markle Will Learn When She Marries Prince Harry

As an American woman dating a Brit, I am no stranger to the mishaps that can result from the cultural differences between the U.S. and England. And while I'm sure Meghan Markle has a slew of royal traditions to learn, titles to remember, and fancy ha…
By Kristin Magaldi

I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000

It all became real the summer before my senior year of college. It was 2010, and my home phone still had a cord, which I wrapped around my fingers as I waited not-so-patiently for the apathetic representative on the other end to tell me the bad news …
By Kaitlyn Cawley

12 Personality Quizzes That Will Help You Determine Your Exact Strengths

Learning more about yourself can be tough. It's so easy to observe others to learn what makes them tick, what areas they really excel in, and the things they could be better at. Doing that to yourself, however, is a whole different story. That's exac…
By Jessica Booth

5 Brand New Short Story Collections You Can Finish In One Sitting This Weekend

Since 2013, May has been known by book-lovers by another name: Short Story Month. If you're ready to kick off this year's celebration the right way, make sure to pick up a short story collection to read over the weekend. Modern life moves more than …
By Sadie Trombetta

I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn

When I walked into a New York City Express store on May 2 to get styled by Queer Eye's Tan France, I was ready for anything. And I mean truly anything. I am such a massive fan of the show and Tan that if he had instructed me to wrap myself in tin foi…
By Olivia Muenter

It Isn’t Bad To Have A “Princess Fantasy” — Mine Made Me The Woman I Am Today

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you were anything like me as a kid, at some point, the answer to that question was "a princess." Thanks to good old-fashioned gender stereotypes, most little girls born in the '90s (and even now) grew up in…
By Nicole Pomarico

9 Mother's Day Gifts For Your Mom That Also Give Back

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and unless you’re the type who’s got gift-giving on lock months in advance — and seriously, who is that person? — you might be scrambling a bit for great Mother's day 2018 gift ideas. And while it’s important to cho…
By Carolyn de Lorenzo

Here’s How To Get A FREE 30-Minute Facial At Sephora That Sucks Your Pores Clean

Sephora has long been a mecca for both serious and amateur beauty lovers alike, where they not only have makeup artists that help answer questions about products, but free samples to let you play with new collections. But now they have upped the ante…
By Marlen Komar

Kris Jenner Is FINALLY Launching A Makeup Line With Kylie

Maybe you don't have a favorite sister of the Kar-Jenner clan, and that's perfectly fine. The one thing you can't deny, though, is that when it comes power, no one in that family has more than the world famous momager. Now, Kris Jenner x Kylie Cosmet…
By Shea Simmons

This Kendall Jenner “Diva” Moment Is Really Being Taken Out Of Context

The fashion always takes center stage at the Met Gala, but there's usually a little drama, too. And this time, a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family is involved. People are buzzing about how Kendall Jenner shoved someone at the Met Gala, but after…
By Nicole Pomarico

Feel Like You've Seen Everything On Netflix? Add These Movies To Your Watch List

The weekend may feel too far away, but if you're lacking formal plans, a Netflix marathon session is always a good idea. If you're an avid viewer, however, you probably feel like you've seen everything the streaming platform has to offer already. In …
By Ashley Rey

These 4 Zodiac Signs Are Going To Have The Best Luck In Love This May

Spring fever is here, but not all signs in the zodiac are dealt the same dose of lovin'. Some signs are going to have a better love lives than the rest of us in May, because that's just the way the cookie crumbles. According to astrologer Linda Furia…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Hillary Clinton Says She's Ready To Fight Like A Republican — EXCLUSIVE

Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away Quietly. Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Unlike Losers Before Her, Clinton Is Not Going Gently Into the Night. These headlines, which appeared in various news outlets over the course of the last…
By Catherine Thompson and Jenny Hollander

Here's The Very Best Time To Book Your Summer Vacation If You're Trying To Save Money

Summer is a great time to travel, for obvious reasons. The weather is better. Many offices are more lax about time off. If you have kids, they’re out of school. But there’s one very important element that makes summer not a great time to travel: Cost…
By Emma McGowan
)}