In 2013, Matthew Greene went missing while climbing in California. In researching the story of his disappearance, Jason Nark attempts to come to terms with his own grief over a dear friend’s suicide. This is a moving and ruminative piece on what it feels like to mourn after an event you’re powerless to prevent, and what it feels like as you give yourself permission to begin healing.

He didn’t tell anyone where he was going that day and never returned.

Anthony died on September 23, 2013, a few months after Matthew Greene disappeared.

Grief, we’re told, has distinct stages. We expect to pass through each one, like a doorway, from denial all the way to acceptance. I expected that too. As the months wore on, a sense of guilt metastasized inside me. Friends and family said I tried my best with him. I had no special power, they said, to keep him alive. I rejected those words and turned inward. Grief warped my ability to love, and to accept it, too. I spent a lot of time in bed, barely present with my kids. I sobbed in my car during commutes.

The flower I took from the Minaret trail was wilting on my hat. The colors still blazed burnt orange but it would never be this bright, this beautiful, again. So I left it there, draping it over the post at Matthew Greene’s campsite, and said goodbye.