Strike a Chord: Remembering a Friend through a Life of...
We're all touched by life events that help shape who we become. As part of WFUV's Strike a Chord campaign on teen suicide prevention, Jeff Coltin introduces us to a young woman whose career stemmed from the loss of a good friend.
Eight years ago, Hannah Moch lost her friend to suicide.
Malaya Holloway was 13. She and Moch were classmates at a middle school in Lower Manhattan. Moch called her "really funny, and really beautiful." The pair would watch movies together and take goofy pictures on the computer with other friends. But after Malaya's death, Moch said students and school staff struggled with how to remember her friend. She said the school didn't mention Malaya at the graduation ceremony just months after her death.
"And we were NOT going to have it," Moch said with pride. "So somebody wrote a poem about her that didn't make it in the yearbook so I printed like a hundred copies of it and handed it out at graduation. And we wanted to do a moment of silence and they told us we couldn't, and we took the mic and did it anyway."
Moch says she was angry at the time. Now years later, Malaya's death led Moch to work for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). There, she came to realize her middle school teachers and administrators likely didn't know how to handle a suicide.
"Because they didn't have the training, it became this really combative relationship between us and them about remembering her!" And that isn't healthy or helpful for anyone."
That is why Moch says she was excited to work for an organization that trains teachers on the issue.
Eight years on, Moch has found her own way to memorialize Malaya on her own terms. Each year on Malaya's birthday, or the day of her passing, Moch posts a certain picture of Malaya on Facebook, and lyrics of a song to remember her by.
Sitting on a laptop in her Brooklyn Heights apartment, Moch scrolled through her past posts.
"One of her favorite songs was an Eminem song," Moch said. "This first year that I did this, I used that lyric, the 'When I'm gone, just carry on, don't mourn, rejoice' lyric."
After Malaya's death, some friends didn't want to think about suicide at all, Moch said, "because everyone handles their grief differently."
"But for me, and for a handful of us, it became really important to remember her in a proactive way."
That meant joining friends for AFSP's Overnight, a 17-mile suicide prevention walk from dusk to dawn. They still do it - next year, they plan to walk again as Team Malaya.
See our other stories in the Strike a Chord series here:
Thursday: Does Bullying Cause Suicide?
Wednesday: What's a School to Do?