There’s a lot to be said for surrounding yourself with the support of other people who “get it.” I find so much comfort in being with other women who have also lost their sibling to suicide; more specifically their ONLY sibling to suicide. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand you can’t begin to understand how it feels. There is something so freeing about being with another “sister survivor.” We can openly share details that others would find unsettling, uncomfortable, gruesome and frightening. For example, in the safety of each others’ company we can admit dark secrets such as how during those first few months after the suicide we secretly wish for death as it is the one thing that might allow us to see our brothers just one more time, hopeful as it may be. It’s so interesting to me how that one common thread, the loss of our brothers to suicide, can form an instant friendship and leave us both feeling, after only one visit, more understood than we do by people who have known us for years. I came across this quote from author Brad Meltzer and it sums this sentiment up perfectly:
I’ve had other people try to relate to my situation by comparing their loss of a grandparent… or a spouse… or a parent… or even a sibling who actually died due to an accident or illness or even by suicide but when they still have other remaining siblings upon whom to rely. I would never discount any of those losses, but they are just not the same and to compare losses can be dangerous and hurtful. By far the most devaluing comparison I’ve heard to date was someone comparing having to euthanize their 16 year old dog to losing you, my only sibling, to suicide.
The thing is, even in similar circumstances, not everyone will respond in the same way. Each of us is different and the time required to grieve will vary from person to person. It’s all about resiliency. Consider the set of twins who grow up in the same home experiencing the very same trauma and abuse; one is debilitated because of his past and the other thrives in spite of it. It’s not only our genes and our environment but how we as individuals are wired.
It has been crucial to my survival these past 4 years to surround myself with others who, like me, have lost their one and only sibling. There is something so sad about losing my whole identity as a sister to a brother who took himself away from me; it’s healing to share this with others who are facing the same fears about the future as I am. It was supposed to be the two of us in our old age, Brian; you were supposed to be there to help me care for our parents and help me make important decisions regarding their care when that time comes… and clean out that house of theirs filled and filled with things. The thought of it absolutely overwhelms me.
As I continue to mourn your death I’m grateful for my own resiliency and ever so thankful for the friendships I’ve made which have helped keep me afloat in a sea of people who just want the “old me” back.