Learning about death

February 2004: Ella was at another party, standard weekend for her. She was just 16 years of age at the time, and easily influenced by those around her. Overconsumption of alcohol and illegal drugs were nothing out of the ordinary for her, and this was just another one of these nights for her, another night to forget. She decided to get a ride home from one of the guys that frequented the same parties, and she left with him. And that was it. No more messages, no more phone calls, no more sightings of her. She was gone. The worst year of my family's life begun. A month later, her alleged killer, the man who gave her a ride home, was arrested.

I was only 7 years old at the time, and living far away from Ella and the rest of the family. But she was my favourite cousin. To this day, I don't care about her drug use, or her poor choice in friends. She was a wonderful, loving person and I want her to be here today. I don't want to be writing this, but it's a better alternative than bringing it up to my family, who only talk about her as though she was still alive. I guess it's just their way of coping. She doted on her younger cousins and treated her family and friends with love and respect. So when my parents told me that she'd died (albeit they told me that she died in a car crash; I doubt I would have understood or been able to deal with the real situation), I didn't know what to think. 7 year old me had his ideas about life shattered. Life could not be controlled and life was able to mess you up in the most awful ways, two totally new concepts to me. I didn't really understand the full gravity of what occurred, and just got on with life. What affected me most of all were my parents emotions. Adults were supposed to be strong and know what to do, right? Well, they definitely weren't, and I didn't know what to do. I distinctly remember asking my mother whether people ever smiled again after someone died, and to my relief, she smiled slightly after 3 months of total emotional instability. But life went on. We moved closer to Ella's immediate family and we started living 'normally' again.

2 years later, I found out the truth, by accident. I was talking to friends about how many siblings we had, how many cousins we had and so on. I told them about Ella, mentioning that she had died in a car crash. My friend's older sister was in the room and overheard the conversation. She had known Ella, and immediately asked "wasn't she murdered?". I didn't even realise how tactless she had been in her delivery of the question, but I left immediately and confronted my parents about it. They still refused to tell me the entire story, something I found out later on, nut they confirmed that she had, in fact been murdered and her alleged killer was serving a life sentence. This I found hard to come to terms with. How could anyone mess up so phenomenally? How could anyone get to the point where they were physically able to kill a person, let alone a 16 year old girl who I had always pictured as being an amazing person. I was at a low point for so long, and I asked Ella's sister how to cope with the death. She bluntly told me that there was no way of coping. The hurt we feel are not wounds that will heal, but scars that will fade and never really go away. In a backwards way, this helped massively. I was able to think about other things. One of the hardest things to be able to deal with growing up, life fucks you up.

I miss her. She had so much to look forward to. But whatever God we came from, if any, I think we're all going to the same place. That's what I've had to focus on, and I recommend that if you ever have to deal with sadness like this, don't avoid the mourning process. Let it happen.

Side note: My cousin's real name in this (true) story has been changed.




User Comments

When I was a kid, I had a cousin. He died when I was only 4 or 5, but I remember him kindly. He was killed in a drug-related incident gone bad. A friend of his tried to skate on paying for marijuana while he was around, and the dealer shot my cousin... I don't know if he was ever caught, or if it was intentional, but it tore his family apart. I've had no contact with them in the almost 30 years since. I sympathize with what you went through with "Ella" and I hope that you've been able to move on in life, as she would have wanted.


Murder is a horrible act, arguably one of the worst things we can do as people. I'll never understand what could drive someone to do a thing like this, but I'm glad that this person won't be hurting anybody else anymore. My best wishes to you and to your family. 


"Ella" would want you to move on and find some fresh joy in life. I'm glad that you seem to have such a calm and rational view on things, just know that my thoughts (and those of other readers I'm sure!) are with you.