Dear Brian,

We went to see a comedy show last night. It was a comedian that I have known about and loved for years… but there was a good 5-10 minute section in the middle of the act about suicide.  The thing is, I know this comedian is very open about her own struggles with mental illness so I guess if anyone can joke about it like that it would be someone who “gets it.”  But man, it just hurt so badly.  There is something so surreal about sitting in a room hearing the word “suicide” over and over amidst a few thousand people laughing at it when all I could think about was you and the insurmountable amount of pain that led to you taking your life… and the last thing I felt like doing is laughing.

It never ceases to surprise me as to how often suicide is joked about.  I don’t know if it’s being joked about more often these days or if I just notice it more now that I’ve lost someone so close to me at their own hand; I’d venture to say it’s the latter.  I totally understand that part of the whole deal with comedy is laughing about things that happen to us in life and our ability to share our stories and relate to one another in a lighthearted way; but this is just something that I am not, nor do I think I’ll ever be, ready to laugh at… ever.

It was so strange– I was in a room full of so many people but as soon as that bit came into play I instantly felt all alone in there.  Things became so distorted and foggy. I could barely hear her anymore and the sounds of laughter faded into white noise in the background of my daydream.  I was transported to the last few minutes I ever spent with you– those minutes as we pulled up to the Minneapolis airport on July 5, 2010.  I will never forget the look of… well, there was an immense sadness in your eyes but also a look of complete emptiness; it makes sense to me now as I think your spirit had long departed and the brother I’d known just didn’t exist anymore.  I was suddenly trapped between that dream world existing in my head and the tangible world around me that consisted of strangers effortlessly laughing at something that brought me so much pain.  I desperately wanted to squeeze Frank’s hand hard enough as if to say to him, without words, “Please help me, please hold me, this is just too much for me to take right now.”  But that, again, is admitting to a weakness which I’m not always open to showing; particularly when I know it would take away from someone else’s enjoyment of a moment.  So I sat there, frozen, feeling alone in a crowded room, taking long, deep breaths and fighting the urge to burst out of my seat and run for the door in search of fresh air and the absence of laughter; I forced back the tears– painfully waiting for it all to go away.

I don’t know if this hypersensitivity will ever completely go away but I’m looking forward to a time when it doesn’t paralyze me like it does yet these days.

As always, thanks for listening dude.

Missing you,

Four Sisters poster Austin

Dear Brian,

I’m going to be honest.  I’m a complete and utter disaster today.  I’ve been either sleeping or plowing through the remainder of season one of “Dexter” all day.  It seems when I’m not doing one of those things that I’m crying.  I don’t know what is the  worst, truthfully– crying so hard that I feel a pulsing behind each of my eyes and start to choke because I can’t breathe or avoiding the pain altogether by distracting myself with a blissfully unaware slumber or getting lost in the story of the life of a do-gooder serial killer if there ever was such a thing.

The documentary premier was last night and I was doing OK up until it was time to begin and I even made it all the way through feeling pretty darn great about the whole thing.  But after the adrenaline rush wore off I found myself alone with my thoughts and hardly slept at all last night.  Thoughts of you continued to rush through my head and I just couldn’t slow them down.  I didn’t expect last night to shred up my insides as much as it has.  It doesn’t make any sense, really.  I’d seen the documentary months ago before it was released to the public so I knew what to expect already.  But somehow the events of last night, while an amazing experience, seem to have brought me backwards in the grieving process, a bit.  I guess I shouldn’t say “backwards” because the road to healing is never a straight one… I know that sometimes I just lose ground.  I eventually get it back.

But even being surrounded by so many caring people last night, including Frank, Leashya, Marcy, Joe, Laura, Ann and Suzann, Caley, Laurie, Maria and Lauren, I find myself feeling more alone than ever.  I’m not doing well but I don’t ask for help because… well for the same reasons I’ve always struggled with that.  I don’t want to burden anyone.  I know this subject is very, very heavy and some people just need a break from it.  So in the midst of feeling so alone and helpless I’m finding myself wanting to hide away from everyone so they don’t have to see me like this because I’m trying to protect them.  And, being this needy, is…. well, still terribly embarrassing.  I need now more than ever to feel that I have a solid ground on which to stand and any time it feels the earth beneath me is starting to slip a little I tend to grab on too tightly and that just makes me look a fool.  I hate that losing you has made me so damn fearful that people will continue to leave me until I’m left completely alone.

I’m still so grateful for having been given the opportunity to share my story about you along with the other brave sisters.  I just didn’t expect it to take as much out of me as it has.

I have so much more to say but it’s all just not coming out right so I’m going to start up season two of Dexter and try to drown it out for another few hours.

I miss you so much it hurts, dude.


Four Sisters poster Austinlaura-1four sisters

Four Sisters is a project from writer-director Caley Cook. It was meant not necessarily as a documentary, but as a conversation. Too often, survivors of suicide suffer in silence, unaware of the experiences of those around them. Four Sisters was meant to elicit conversation about suicide, because it’s not a dirty secret. The film includes original music from West Coast artists whose music embodies the emotional struggle of the women in Four Sisters. All profits above the cost of the film will go towards suicide support groups in the Austin, San Diego, and Seattle areas. Director Caley Cook pursued Four Sisters after she lost her own brother in December 2007. Cook pursued the film by herself, filming intimate interviews with the women about their experiences and what they wish others could know about suicide loss. The film will premiere in Austin, Texas, on April 7 and will have a worldwide release May 9.

Dear Brian,

I got a new phone the other day… you’d find it hilarious that I’ve taken a few steps backwards technologically speaking as it is less sophisticated than the one I most recently had and it is also the very same kind of phone you had when you died over 3 years ago so   I like that it looks like yours.  I remember so well sitting in your car that day with you when you got a flat tire after picking me up from the airport my last trip home before you died.  I was trying so hard to figure out how to use it and you had to keep showing me what I was doing wrong.  You’d love to know that I’m still trying to figure it out.

I had to get a new number.  I was really hoping to hang on to my old one and keep my Minneapolis area code but it didn’t end up working that way.  I know this is silly but after all this time there is still a part of me that thinks, “What if he tries to reach me?  My old number won’t work so he’ll have no idea how to get a hold of me if he needs to.”  I’m embarrassed to write that as I know you’re gone… but not having been allowed the closure of seeing your body left a tiny piece of my brain completely unconvinced of your death; it left an opening for my mind to cling to a shred of hope that the past 3-1/2 years have just been a terrible dream.  Logically I know you won’t ever be calling me.  But you know, there is a part of me that mourns the loss of the phone number I had when you were still around to call and text me.  As trivial as that may sound… it’s the truth.

I wore one of your old t-shirts to work yesterday and thought of you all day… and I found that penny you left for me when I went to lunch.  Thanks for letting me know you’re thinking of me, too.

I love you.

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