Surviving my Brother's Suicide
"I can still remember that day, the smells, the way the room felt, the warmth of that summer day at the beginning of August, 3 weeks before my 12th birthday. The day that I say signified the biggest shift in our lives. We said goodbye to our favorite Aunt after a short but devastating battle with cancer. It’s like we were in denial that it was going to end, maybe we thought once summer was over she would just be better and life would continue as it always did. My second oldest brother had a relationship with our aunt that was incredible, he spent most of his summers with her on their ranch, countless hours on the phone with her, she was his role model and true best friend. Six months later we felt the second impact of our loss, that same brother attempted to take his life on the Family Day Long Weekend. Thump……… How? Why? Did we say something wrong? Could he just not bare life without Auntie?
When something like this happens in a small-town, word travels fast. By the time the school break was over and my brother was still in the hospital, we were receiving sympathy cards in the mail, apologizing for our loss, when returning to school kids were hugging me apologizing that I lost my brother. As far I knew, the last time I checked in with my parents he was still alive. It was a tremendously long 10-14 days while he was in the hospital. Thank god for a miraculous neuro team at Foothills and the family that surrounded us. It is true what they say “it takes a village to raise a child” It does also take a village to help in a time of stress and tragedy.
As my brother came home and we worked on our new normal, things slowly went side-ways for him. Our family did seek him counselling and other avenues, although he always seemed to know the right thing to say to them to get himself out of it. He never did welcome this help and thought he was OK. As he got older and worked in the oil patch, met different people and was introduced to new things... These new things weren’t great things, they led him down a path of addictions of drug and alcohol abuse, they began to affect his state of mind, his judgement and his ambitions. He would start with a new life but would alter his ambitions, become angry and lead himself astray. All sorts of things set him off, whether it was the loss of a girlfriend, an animal, a piece of equipment not working properly or an unanswered phone call. These challenges did eventually led him to complete suicide, the Sunday following an amazing visit with us at home. The news was shocking, we thought everything was starting to get better for him. Maybe that was the plan all along, to make the amends he needed to, as a place of peace in his heart.
As a family of 4 kids the loss was significant, you go from feeling like you have so many brothers to rely on, to only having 2… this may not seem like a big deal but it was felt so deeply. The pain that I saw in my parents was like walking around with an open wound, that pain was indescribable, at times almost unbearable. That pain I think for me, may have been the most impactful aspect of losing him. I coped through seeing my parents slowly moving back into regular life, checking the mail, socializing… seeing them smile again. I would not wish that pain on any parent, sibling or extended family member.
My second coping strategy was to surround myself with my amazing networks of friends but that network began to get smaller as I experienced new things myself and wanted to explore new avenues. Finally, I felt that maybe leaving was my best option, following my dreams, traveling the world. I was holding onto the hope that my brother might guide me and lead me into the right direction. After making several mistakes and leading myself astray, I lost that hope and released him from being my “guidance.” It was only then that I felt like I was healing from that loss and somewhat of the burden that was holding me back. The release was so freeing, I was finally able to be independent and make decisions without wondering if this was for me or in hopes that I was doing this to keep his spirit alive, doing things he never got to do.
As a suicide survivor, the grief may always stay with you, but it does not have to own you. You may always have the what ifs and wishing they got to be there with you and continue to experience what life could have brought to them. We will never know what their exact final moments were like. But someone out there knows how people get to the point in their lives where they feel like this is the only option. "
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