I want to hear about YOU!

January 27, 2014

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Hey Everyone!

Today’s entry is a bit different.  I’d like to open up a discussion about YOUR grief and how it has affected your life and particularly how it has affected how you relate to others.  For example, as a result of your loss:

  • Do you experience any fear of abandonment or have attachment issues?
  • Has it changed your personality?
  • Has it made relationships more difficult?
  • Has it changed what you look for and/or need from your relationships?
  • How has it changed your outlook on life?
  • Do you experience any irrational fears as a result of a sudden or traumatic loss?

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!  If you’d prefer, you can share your thoughts anonymously.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to sharing a dialogue with you!

Laura

brian55

Dear Brian,

Well, tomorrow I turn 40 years old.  I’ll be honest and say there have been many days in my past when I truly didn’t believe I would still be alive at this age.  I struggled so hard against my depression for the majority my life and 3 years after your death I’m still shocked that you are the one that didn’t make it and I’m still here.  I often wonder if things would have been different if you and I had talked about our depression to one another much earlier in life (I didn’t know about yours until 5 months before you died.)  Would it have made a difference if all those years we had been sharing our experiences? Would it have made us stronger?  Or would it have been like two people who didn’t know how to swim trying to save the other from drowning and not have made any difference at all?  I realize I’ll never have the answers I need… and someday I hope I can stop asking myself those haunting questions.

I feel guilty for continuing to have birthdays while you will forever remain at the age of 35.  The gap between us will only continue to grow– not just in our ages but in all things, I fear.  I worry with each passing day that I’ll forget your face, your voice, your laugh and so many other things.  I don’t ever want to forget.  I need you to know that I still think of you every hour of every single day.  I don’t cry like I used to and I have learned to laugh and have fun again.  But because of that, a huge part of me feels as though I’ve betrayed you– please know that you are still in my thoughts wherever I go, whatever I’m doing.

I will always remember you just as you are in this picture above.  You had such a glow and a light in your eyes… a light which I could see had so obviously disappeared in recent years.  I often find myself staring into your eyes in this picture because there seems to be such a tenderness and kindness in them… and I know that to be true because I had the honor of being your sister for 35 years.  About 10 years ago you told me you were thinking of going to nursing school and I was so supportive of that idea– I truly wish you had done that.  You were so kind and caring and showed great concern for other people that I know you’d have made an amazing nurse and I think you’d have made a difference in so many lives had you decided to pursue that line of work.  I think the world missed out in so many ways by losing you.

I know if you could talk to me from wherever you are now that you’d probably be teasing me about getting “so old” while you will never age; in my head I can still hear your infectious giggle!  I wonder what hilarious birthday card you’d pick out for me that undoubtedly would poke fun at me approaching the proverbial “hill” at mid-life.  I wish you were here to give me a hard time… you had such a wonderful gleam in your eye when you were up to something or were teasing… I really miss that, too.

So here I am… the very last night of my 30’s.  I have your candle lit, I’m on my couch sipping on a glass of wine under the blanket I made for you for your last birthday (the same blanket they found on your lap when you died) and I’m wondering how I managed to make it this far.  I have no idea– I’m glad I did, though.  But I really, really, REALLY wish you were here to share it with me.

Thinking of you today and always,

Laura

Dear Brian,

There is a 3 block stretch of William Cannon Drive that I avoid when at all possible. That neighborhood contains a number of places that continue to haunt me even 3 years after your death.  It contains the bus stop where I got off the bus after work on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 and ran all the way home to check my email; you still hadn’t responded to any of my calls or texts… I needed to see if you had responded to any of my emails to you.  (If you hadn’t, that meant we needed to send the police to your house for a wellness check.) It is also the location of the apartment in which I was living at that time; and if I look towards that building as I drive by, I have a clear view of the window that looks into the very room I was in when I got the call from Mom later that evening telling me the police had found you dead in your home.  And it also is home to the bus stop bench where, 4 months later, I sat one morning talking to Mom while I waited for the bus– she was revealing to me the long-awaited details she’d received from the Medical Examiner about the findings resulting from your autopsy.  There are so many uncomfortable things that happen to me when I’m near these places.  I know well that the feeling of my heart racing, feeling short of breath, reliving the events, the overwhelming urge to vomit and the all over “fight or flight” panic are all classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as “PTSD.”

It causes an understandable yet unnecessary worry in my daily life.  When I can’t reach someone because for whatever reason they aren’t answering their phone I still have a feeling of dread and panic that washes over me.  I know it isn’t a rational fear because in my heart I know that there are many reasons someone isn’t picking up– every time I can’t reach someone I begin to fear that something terrible has happened.  It seems on a daily basis something happens from which I have to “talk myself down.”  Sometimes it is my feelings of survivor’s guilt.  Sometimes it is my fear of abandonment and general anxiety over those closest to me leaving–either by way of their untimely demise or a conscious choice to leave me.  Other times it means planning my driving routes so as to avoid any places that will remind me of October 13, 2010.  Some nights it means recurring nightmares about the entire last 5 months of your life and my not being able to stop you from taking your own life.  Sometimes it is reliving our last phone conversation– every single thing I suggested to try and help you was shot down and I was growing so frustrated because I so desperately wanted to help but it was becoming more and more obvious that I just couldn’t. I rolled my eyes at you as we spoke on the phone that night, Brian.  You would not believe how I’ve tortured myself over that fact these past 3 years.  I remember lying on my bed talking with you for an hour listening to everything and trying so hard to help and when you couldn’t seem to really “hear” me I grew frustrated… and I ROLLED MY EYES.  I have been punishing myself for that and (until now) have told very few people about it because I’m horribly ashamed that the very last time we talked I actually rolled my eyes at you!  I know you couldn’t have known that I was doing that but I sure knew and haven’t let myself forget it.  I’ve had a very hard time letting go of that night.

I have been getting more involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and am struggling greatly with one thing the past month or two.  That “thing” is that there is still a part of me that truly believes that, no matter how hard we try, suicide may never be completely preventable.  I know that will upset a lot of people… it upsets me too and makes me feel like a complete hypocrite for trying to help spread the word about suicide prevention.  But I heard something recently that made me feel less angry at myself for feeling that way.  Someone said she felt her brother’s depression was like a cancer;  he sought treatment, was on medication, was seeing a therapist and was really, really trying to get better… but it just didn’t go away.  She said just as with cancer, there are all kinds of wonderful treatments out there and while they work for some people, for some people it just isn’t enough and we lose them despite the efforts of the sick and of those in the medical profession trying their very best to save them.

I will still continue do my part to keep working hard to educate people about depression and suicide in the hopes that we can greatly reduce the number of suicides occurring each year.  It is absolutely unacceptable that 38,000 people are dying each year at their own hands.  One of the ways I can help is to help the AFSP focus on laws surrounding mental health care issues and I intend to do just that because more people need to at least have ACCESS to mental health care to give it a shot.  And we really need to increase awareness and understanding because they shouldn’t be ashamed to seek that help.

I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you, Brian.  I hope you’re proud of what I’m trying to do now in your absence.

Love,
Laura

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