hurtandhealer
Dear Brian,

I had a dream last night… and for the first time in a very long time you were in it.

I was at an event for suicide awareness and prevention and had been having a really nice, but emotional, time connecting with some of the lovely women I’ve met through the tragedy of your death. It was time for the guest speakers to present so the crowd shifted towards the stage. As a young woman stood at the podium and shared her story of losing her brother to suicide I began to cry. The last words she spoke were, “I wish you’d thought about how much you’d hurt me.”

Just as she said that, someone reached out and held onto my left hand and gave it a squeeze. As I turned to my left I saw that it was you. You continued to hold my hand and kissed me on the cheek and said, “Laura, I’m so sorry for what this has done to you.”

I like to think that was you checking in with me again… and I thank you for that.

Love always,
Laura

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Dear Brian,

The world is full of confusion and sadness and anger today upon hearing the news of Robin Williams’ suicide yesterday. I’ve been in a weird place since I found out… on one hand I’m so sad for his family and friends to hear that he lost his battle with depression and addiction and on the other hand it is a grave reminder of what I went through in the days following your suicide.

I had 4 very generous souls message me personally to tell me they were thinking of me and that they realized the news must be causing me some emotional turmoil… and they were so right. I’m incredibly grateful to them for recognizing that and for thinking of me, I really needed those words of encouragement and they often come from surprising places… and often don’t come from the people you’d expected or hoped they would.

Today the radio, TV and internet are saturated with the words “suicide” and “depression” and each time I hear the word “suicide” it is like a knife in my heart. When someone so well-known and beloved dies by suicide there is all sorts of chatter going on about why he did it, how he did it, who found him, etc… and then all the opinions start flying. I should have known better than to read any comments because people can be very outspoken about how they feel suicide is the ultimate sin… the most selfish of acts… and the act of a total coward. I believe none of those things are true and each time I hear those things it feels like a piece of your memory is being tarnished and I feel compelled to defend it… and to defend you. I kind of think of myself as having the emotional equivalent to a “weakened immune system” now. Things affect me even more strongly than before and I need to be aware of what I can handle and what I can’t… and today, the internet might be one of those things I can’t handle for a few days.

Depression shouldn’t be an ugly secret and absolutely is not a character flaw… but we all feel the need to hide it because the world can be cruel and judgmental and can perceive a person suffering from a crippling depression as less of a person and a less capable a person.

I keep thinking back to my own bouts of suicidality over the past 27 years and how I was feeling– the powerlessness, the hopelessness, the exhausting, deep sadness… and being terrified that it might never end. I can’t blame anyone for choosing to escape that because unless you’ve experienced a darkness of that depth you can’t possibly understand what it is like. I remember quite some time back that while I desperately wanted to die I was afraid of leaving our family with the pain and agony of a suicide… so I used to think of other ways in which I could die; I used to run a lot… so I often wondered, “what if I were to go for a run late at night in a neighborhood with a lot of gang activity and gunfire? I might get shot– it could work! I would die… but it would appear to be nothing more than a terrible accident.”

Interestingly enough, yesterday was the 18-year anniversary of my car accident in which I broke my spine as well as my jaw in a few places. That accident could have gone several ways but I survived and recovered really well and surprisingly quickly. Why did I survive that? After all those years of wishing for an untimely death I survived a car wreck? And in the years that followed the accident I can’t tell you the number of times that I wondered why I wasn’t granted my wish to leave this world in a way that wouldn’t hurt you or our parents. Somehow the universe decided that I was still supposed to be here to outlive you and experience the agony of living the rest of my life without you, my only sibling, and knowing there wasn’t a darn thing I could do to save you.

Robin Williams starred in one of my absolute favorite movies, “What Dreams May Come.” I won’t spoil the movie for anyone reading who hasn’t yet seen it but I completely recommend it as it puts a beautiful spin on life after loss as well as paints a stunningly beautiful picture of what I imagine the other side will be like when I get to see you again. I’ll leave you with a quote of his from the film:

“A whole human life is just a heartbeat here in heaven, then we’re all together forever.”

I hope that you, and Robin, both find some peace on the other side.

Love Always,
Laura

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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,
Laura

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