Becoming Someone Else


After losing her best friend, Shanna May had to find herself again.

I lost my best friend to cancer in 2022. We’d been friends for nearly forty-two years, ever since the third grade. I remember, growing up, the teachers didn’t like that we were inseparable.

They were concerned that I might be a bad influence on my much quieter friend. Whereas, I was “the troublemaker”, always looking for new adventures and fun. Teachers tried to keep us apart—they even complained to my parents! But it didn’t work. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We sneaked around to meet, and called each other every day.

We stayed close even after we graduated and started our adult lives. I helped her through her grief when her mom passed away, then her dad a few years later, and her sister after that. She saved me from drowning, and another time stuck around to protect me when a stranger tried to attack me outside a theater after dark. Risking her own life, she had a chance to run away, but she didn’t. I asked her why, and she said, “How could I leave you?”

We went through so much together over the years. So when she passed away, I just didn’t know what to do. There was such a void. I fell into a deep depression, turning into a person I didn’t, nor did my family or friends, recognize.

Outside Reality

It didn’t help that her passing was so sudden. My friend had cancer, and she found out about it too late. She tried some chemotherapy, but it didn’t help. She went downhill very quickly.

During all this, she didn’t want me to come over; she knew it would break my heart to see her like that. As much as I wanted to be with her, I had to respect her wishes. But we still spoke on the phone for hours every day, up until she was no longer well enough to talk.

Her sister was the one who told me she passed away. It all happened so fast, and for the first couple of days, I was in shock. I kept wondering, “Is this real?”

When it finally sank in, when I finally realized that my best friend was gone, I couldn’t figure out what to do. I wanted to leave this life so I could be with her. Thankfully, my son held me back from doing anything drastic. He had to take over many of the day chores, asking me questions like, “How do I make this meal?” Or “What do I need to do for this or that?” It helped distract me from my dark thoughts.

But, still, the only places I went for weeks were the bathroom and my bed. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty—I knew I needed to eat, but I couldn’t. I had nightmares, which made it hard to sleep. I wasn’t taking care of my son, which was weird, because he means everything to me.

Eventually, my husband convinced me to talk about it. He gave me space, but he knew this couldn’t go on. He took me for a walk several times, but it was never enjoyable for me and I was reluctant to open up. I felt like I was sleepwalking.

I remember going to the grocery store because my husband suggested getting out of the house. I stood looking at the shelf of cereal boxes, and it seemed that the boxes were shifting around. I looked up at the ceiling, which seemed to be shifting. Then, back at the house, our living room felt tiny. I felt like I was trapped in a box. I asked my husband, “Has it ever happened to you where you don’t know which world you’re living in, whether you’re dreaming or in reality?”

He had no idea what I was talking about.

Coming Back

My grief went on for so long that my friends and the rest of my family started to seriously worry about me too. People would call to check on me, but I wouldn’t talk to them. I have many friends and love to socialize, so it was very unlike me to shut people out. I just stayed in bed and cried.

Finally, one of my church friends wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. She showed up at my house and came inside, even though I told my husband not to let her in. We sat together and cried. Then she asked how long I planned to stay in bed. I didn’t know.

She had recently gone through her own period of grief, and offered advice on what worked for her, including the need for nutritional nervous system support. She explained how the combination of ashwagandha and magnesium helped her cope with her loss.

I thought about it that night, and the next day I ordered a bottle. It arrived and for a week it sat on a shelf in my kitchen. Finally, I said to myself… “what am I waiting for”. My friend would not want me to suffer, she would want me to go ahead and live my life. Little did I know that opening that bottle of AshwaMag that day would change everything.

I started to feel better… a little more each week. Yes, some days I slipped back, but with every passing week the old me was coming back. Most importantly, I was calmer and less anxious, which helped me sleep easier. Sleeping better gave me more energy. I began to add in other things to help make me emotionally stronger.

It was all coming together, I was finding my way back to the real world, the present. Life was dark and cloudy and suddenly it became clearer. I looked around and realized that I’d completely forgotten about my husband and son. I needed to see how they were doing. I also needed to wash my clothes, go to the salon and get back to work! 

I was still grieving the loss, but I was able to go back to work and even started taking dance and yoga classes again. Exercise had been part of my routine before my friend passed away, so it felt good to get back to my favorite classes. Today I go to a fitness class nearly every day—I can’t live without it.

Eventually, I was back to doing all the things that bring me joy: helping my son with school work, socializing with friends, working, and exercising. My family watched me transform back into the strong, happy person they once knew. My son, who’s 21, said, “My supermom is back!”

The Way Forward

I still miss my friend dearly. We shared everything, both good and bad. I want to call her about my day, but then I remember she’s gone. The hardest part is knowing I can’t talk to her anymore.

When I get sad, I remind myself what a blessing it is to have had a friend like her. I doubt I’ll ever have that again; that type of friendship only happens once in a lifetime, if ever.

Sadness and grief rob you of who you are, replacing you with someone else. I can’t undo my loss, but I can try to live as the person my friend knew me to be. Staying true to yourself is the best way forward.