Letter to Brian: August 8, 2014

Dear Brian,

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I really didn’t hear from anyone in the extended family after you died– I realize people don’t always know what to say and I’ve just had to come to terms with that. But it’s a lonely place to be sometimes.

However, the other day I reached out to a family member to ask a question about something… unrelated to you… and yesterday I got a response which included the words, “I hope you are doing well and loving life!!”

I know that is a nice thought and even a nice thing to say… but it stings a bit when coming from someone close to you who never really addressed, or addresses that you died. It’s one of those things that unless you’ve lost someone so significant in your life it’s just harder to understand. I’m doing better and all… and finding myself laughing more, enjoying the company of others more and just smiling more. But “loving life” may be a stretch as I still think about you every single day which means I miss you every single day.

I was talking with another sibling survivor of suicide yesterday who, upon the impending 1 year anniversary of her brother’s suicide, was told by a friend, “Hey, I’m sure next year will be better for you!!” Again, on it’s own… a very nice sentiment. However, imagine it were your own brother who had taken his own life and you were about to realize that while you’ve just made it through the 1st year without him, you have to face another 40 of them without him. How could this next year, without him, be better?

Gosh, it has just become so glaringly obvious to me in the nearly 4 years since you died that words and phrases that are intended to bring comfort can bring so much sadness and pain, regardless of how they are intended. I don’t know what I’d have done without the support of all the kind people who have come into my life because they too lost someone special to suicide… and in that circle, I’m not so strange– I’m quite normal.

In fact, that’s what they kept telling us in our support group meetings… that we need to learn to live in our “new normal.” It’s so true… because with someone so important missing, it absolutely changes who you are as a human being and it affects how you see the world each and every day that follows. I still think the best analogy I’ve heard of that even comes close is one that relates to a physical loss– the loss of a limb. There are “phantom pains” that follow where though the arm is gone you still feel the pain though it isn’t there anymore. And you need to adapt to a way of life that includes learning to new ways to survive without that arm. Obviously, it can be done and you can exist quite successfully without the arm… but if you could get that arm back and go back to the way things were before… you probably would. And I can’t imagine someone saying to that person, “Hey, could have been worse… you still have that other arm, right?” While it is true, sometimes people just need to have their pain acknowledged and that can make all the difference.

Can’t even believe it has been nearly 4 whole years since you died, Brian. There are times it feels like yesterday as I still relive that night that I found out over and over again… but then there are also times when it feels like an eternity ago because it’s been so long since I saw you smile or heard your voice and you just seem so…. far away.

I don’t know… guess I’m out of things to say for now. But I will say that losing you has, in some small ways, made me a better person. I’m more self-aware, I’m more compassionate and I’m getting better at protecting my heart. But as much as I’ve improved as I’ve grieved your loss I’m still not a whole person anymore and the more days that pass the more people seem to think I’m “over it” and don’t deserve a little extra special care now and then… and to have family members forget and pretend we don’t exist just makes your death all the more alienating.

Missing you so much today, dude.

Love Always,

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I lost my brother Brian, my only sibling, to suicide on October 13, 2010. I write about dealing with the loss as well as my own life-long struggle with depression and suicidal ideation.

13 thoughts on “Letter to Brian: August 8, 2014”

  1. Laura, I understand your pain. I don’t even know how long it took me until I felt like it didn’t happen yesterday. I think in December, 2013, when I began my first blog. That was 32 years after my brothers suicide. I would like to say, again, I understand. People have expectations for us. Move on, live in the now, your new reality. They probably can’t understand you haven’t learned what that is. And if they experienced the same loss as you but have been able to move on, then it just means we all have to get there in our own time, our own way. I have become a more aware person, too. I wish peace and continued healing.

  2. My name is Sarah. I stumbled across your blog just googling sibling suicide. I am so glad I found it! As I read every letter to Brian, tears falling… It’s so brave of you to share these words and feelings. It has not even been 4 months since I lost my brother Andrew to suicide. He was my best friend, my hero, my older brother by 4 years, my everything. Life is continuing but holds no meaning. I’m withdrawn, suffering, in constant pain, and turmoil. He was the only family member that truly “got” me. We had a great relationship as we both are middle children and kinda the “black sheep” of the family, we stuck together. I don’t have a lot of support through this as my family, divorced parents and all, is somewhat broken up. My parents truly only care about my younger brother, and my older sister. That’s how it’s always been and always will be. So now, I stand alone. No more Andrew beside me to understand being invisible. I really can’t stand the thought of continuing without him. But, I know I have to keep trying. I’m glad to see someone that talks about it. I feel so isolated during this being such a stigma. It shouldn’t be that way. I’m not weird or diseased just because my brother took his life!! I deserve love and compassion too! I feel like people think I’m a failure that it is somehow my fault for not preventing it, since we had such a strong relationship. But honestly, I would have done everything within my power to prevent it but I had no control. I plan on watching the Four Sisters documentary. I did watch the trailer and it was touching. It made me cry. I’m just so fragile right now. Thank you for sharing your experience as it brings me hope. Just knowing someone on this earth understands is comforting. I may start writing letters to Andrew, but I will probably just use a journal and a pen. Again, thank you! πŸ™‚

    1. Sarah, I’m so very sorry for your loss! I can totally identify with your feelings of constant pain and turmoil and of withdrawing… I was exactly the same way. I truly didn’t think I’d ever laugh again, I didn’t want to be around people at all, rarely answered my phone and didn’t see a future at all… and quite honestly, didn’t want to be alive anymore myself.

      I know it doesn’t feel like it today but you’ll be OK. πŸ™‚ I hope you do write him! Art, music and writing have helped me SO much… the one thing that has assured that I keep continuing to heal is to allow myself to feel everything that comes along, the feelings are there for a reason. πŸ™‚

      So tell me about Andrew, what was he like? <3

      1. Thanks Laura! Your words are encouraging and give me hope! Thanks for wanting to know what Andrew was like as it feels good to talk about him because in my eyes he was pretty awesome! He was married and blessed with one son named Cody who is 21. He was 39 when he passed away. Andrew was the coolest brother ever! He was a hard worker and even managed to have his own business working on heat pumps. He and his son Cody both went to heat pump school and received degrees and ran the business together. Andrew was very proud of his business and successful. He was doing so well. He was always sweet and generous. He was loving and devoted. He was a friendly guy. He absolutely loved the beach! He was also talented because he would write songs and sing them while playing his guitar. He was the life of the party, the most funny guy ever! Anytime we were together we would joke and laugh the entire time until our bellies would hurt. He had a little dog named Pixie. She’s a pug that he adored. He was kind to animals and even grumpy old people. He was an awesome uncle to both my daughters and was known to hug them and love them and pinch their cheeks! Lol! My daughters loved him very much. He was my hero and will be greatly missed!

        1. Sarah, he sounds like a wonderful, wonderful guy and I can see so many similarities between Andrew and Brian. (And Brian’s middle name was Andrew!) πŸ™‚

          The sweetness, the generosity and devotion and sense of humor were also qualities I loved in Brian– and I’ve heard from a lot of sibling suicide survivors over the past few years that their siblings were the same way. I think perhaps our brothers were just to gentle for this world.

          Does Cody live near you where you can see him often? That is one regret that I have… that Brian never had any children, it would be nice to have a part of him still living and growing. πŸ™‚

          I’m so glad you found the blog and that I can get to know you and learn more about Andrew!! <3

          1. That’s cool that Brian’s middle name was Andrew!!! πŸ™‚ Cody does live pretty close to me so I do get to see him often. He’s taking it pretty hard and I can’t stand to watch him suffer. πŸ™

  3. Hi Laura, I just want to say that your amazing way of living with the pain you experience is incredible and truly inspiring even to people who can’t relate to your specific story (me). Everybody understands hardship and the way that you face it and see it and find meaning in it I think the most beautiful thing a person can do in life. Thank you <3

  4. Hi Laura! I just wanted to let you know how wonderful it has been to be a witness to your blog. My Mom committed suicide two months ago after several unsuccessful attempts. I feel like I have been grieving her loss since the first attempt. Losing someone to suicide can be so lonely and isolating. It is comforting to read another person’s feelings that feel like my own. Your blog is a wonderful honor to the life of your brother πŸ™‚ I have just started my own blog to honor my Mom so I hope to use your blog as a guidepost. Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Kerry! I’m so sorry about your Mom. I hope that writing will bring you some peace, too. <3

      Send me the link to your blog, I'd love to read it.


      1. Hi Laura!Β  I am still trying to figure the whole blogging thing out, but here is what I’ve got so far.Β  I’d love for you to take a look and tell me what you think…any suggestions would be welcome.Β  Thanks! Kerry68waystorememberyou.wordpress.com/

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