Letter to Brian: November 8, 2014

Dear Brian,

I’ve held off on writing about something for a while now… but each time I see the story pop up on Facebook or in the news it triggers a reaction in me that I just feel the need to talk to you about.

The first time I saw the headline it read, “29-Year-Old Woman: Why I’m Taking My Own Life.”  I really didn’t know what to expect upon clicking on the story but it turned out she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and does not have long to live.  She chose to leave her home in California and relocate in Oregon where they support the “Die With Dignity” cause and it is legal to take your own life with medications in instances of terminal illnesses.

It was a little triggering for me to read the story but more so to read the comments from readers around the world. People had so many horribly judgmental and cruel things to say about this young woman’s choice. For as long as I can remember, and from as early an age as one can possibly understand what this choice means, I have supported it.  I know that if I were given a death-sentence such as this young woman that I too would want to choose how and when.  If I reach the point at which I can no longer move or care for myself and pain continues to grow and snuff out any quality of life I would want to be allowed the freedom to decide how much longer to prolong, or not prolong, the inevitable.

While it’s a completely different situation entirely, I have similar (and very controversial) feelings towards suicide.  The important difference being that I absolutely don’t advocate for suicide but yet I do understand why some people choose it.  I think that’s precisely the reason that I’m not angry at your choice, Brian; I truly understand it and while I would never have supported you in it or helped you with it… I understand.  The thing is, you were in so much pain.  Anyone that has been in the position of feeling like a “prisoner in your own body” due to a crippling depression that leaves you praying to the stars each night that you just don’t wake up in the morning will understand.  It’s not a matter of simply “having a bad day” or “losing your job” or “going through a breakup” anymore than it was just a “minor illness” for the woman who chose euthanasia for herself in the end.

In response to her story another woman posted, “My Mom has the same brain cancer diagnosis Brittany Maynard had.  She’s fighting to live as long as she can.” The thing is… she very well may have the same diagnosis but not everyone who has that same cancer will be the exactly same; some might respond better to treatments than others… some might be further along in their illness… some might have been diagnosed more quickly… some might have other factors contributing to their physiological deterioration; it’s not fair to judge another person for what they believe to be a “weakness” in giving up hope.  In my opinion the same applies to mental illness and suicides.  The are people out there who might believe someone is weak for taking their own life and would say, “I get depressed all the time and I don’t run out and kill myself… I keep trying.”  Or, “I’ve survived way worse than that guy has and look, I haven’t given up.”  There’s just no possible way to know absolutely what it is like to be in another person’s shoes so judgement in these situations… well, there just shouldn’t BE any judgement in these situations.

Brittany Maynard made her choice and on November 2, 2014 she left this world surrounded in peace and the love of her husband and family and I wouldn’t dream of judging her for making that choice.  I wish her family comfort and appreciate the difficult feelings that must have come up for them in supporting Brittany’s decision.

I’ve said it so many times before, Brian.  I understand why you couldn’t stay.  But I still wish you had.

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.

10 thoughts on “Letter to Brian: November 8, 2014”

  1. Today would have been my precious nephew’s 38th birthday and while looking for lyrics to a song I happened to stumble across your blog. We lost our Jody when he was 25 and miss him terribly. He too left a sister, two years older. Thank you for your words that seemed to come to me for a reason: “I understand why you couldn’t stay. But I still wish you had.”
    Thank you so much.
    Jodee B.

    1. Jodee, thank you for taking the time to write. I’m so sorry for the loss of your nephew and my thoughts go out to his sister, as well. Thinking of you and your family!! <3

  2. I agree with everything you wrote in this post – I also love the last line … This is exactly how I feel about my brother … I see signs often, and there are no words to explain how much I miss him …

    1. Kristine, I’m glad you connected with this post. And keep looking for the signs, I know they are there and I believe they are real. 🙂 <3

  3. It’s sad to be in a situation that we have to learn to respect the decision a loved one made to die by suicide, but it’s fortunate when, in our journey of sorrow, we get to this point of understanding. I lost my son Flávio to suicide in 2009 and I feel the same way you feel about this lady’s decision and about my son’s decision. I don’t judge my son, I respect his decision but I still miss him dearly.

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Teresa. I think we are lucky to have reached a point where we can understand… for me, it has made this process a little easier. It still hurts so deeply… but we understand. Thinking of you!! <3

  4. Thank you Laura, well written. This letter gave me some food for thought. My son, Aaron killed himself over 6 years ago. It caught us off guard and left so many questions unanswered.

    My firm beliefs on suicide before Aaron died were pretty straight forward. It was selfish and murder.

    To say the least I have radically changed my stance. Six years was more than enough time to see the other side of the coin.

    Also I have categorized suicide and euthanasia as two separate forms of death but your letter to Brian made me think.

    Is it much different. Aren’t those who take their life suffering from depression or any form of mental illness so badly that they think there is no way out other than taking their own life.

    I know Aaron had dreams, he was only 28, he had a long life ahead of him. He loved his family, sports, friends and all the things ‘normal’ people enjoyed.

    But his disease within was obviously unbearable so much so that he gave up altogether.

    So is someone taking their own life because they know they are going to die and have had enough of the pain who decides on euthanasia any different than one who decides on outright suicide.

    I think both need our open minds and compassion.

    Sorry for the long post

  5. Sammy, thank you SO very much for this thoughtful post. Writing these letters to Brian have helped me so much but it is always so rewarding to know that others are reading them and taking something away from them, too. I’m so sorry for the loss of Aaron. Ours is a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m glad you are also writing about your journey and look forward to continuing to follow your blog, as well. 🙂

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