Dear Brian,

It’s about to become the year 2014.  This is my 3rd New Year’s Eve without you and each time the world continues to move on to the next calendar year I have an immense pain in my heart.

I know many people who read this won’t understand… but also know that anyone who has lost someone as close as you were to me will know exactly what I’m talking about.  I remember so vividly clinging to the year 2010 because you were here with us for the majority of that year and I desperately did not want to move into 2011 without you.  I think of that each New Year’s Eve– that I have endured yet another (and am about to endure one more) year without you.  And each time I find a penny you leave for me I immediately look at what year it is; as silly as it seems, I find myself feeling heartbroken if it’s a penny from 2011 or later– I only want pennies from the years you were with me.

So many things have happened since you gave up, Brian.  So many things I wish I could have shared with you– both good and bad.  My marriage had been struggling long, long before we moved away to Texas and deep down I always knew you never truly connected with Mark and knew that he wasn’t the man for me.  We decided to separate only 8 months after you died and were officially divorced shortly after the one-year anniversary of your death.  To some a divorce might be a traumatic event but for me it was such a wonderful blessing as I was unhappy for so long and finally felt some relief; I knew I was free to find the person with whom I was really meant to be with forever.  I then went through a confusing and tumultuous year-long relationship… again, the end of a relationship that turned out to be a beautiful blessing to me as it brought me to the place where I met Frank.  He has graciously let me into his life with all my quirks and complexity and has allowed you to remain a part of my life with him.  He’s there to provide hugs and a shoulder to cry on… and he’s been so willing to participate in the little “ceremonial” things I do to remember you– watching your favorite movies with me, listening to my stories about you and asking to know more about you.  I know without a doubt that you would think he is a wonderful partner for me.

Then there is my amazing friend, Leashya.  I’m so grateful to have met her, Brian.  She has been the most constant and consistently supportive and trustworthy person in my life here in Austin.  We understand each other in a way that only convinces me further that we are kindred spirits and I was undoubtedly supposed to meet her– she has become my family, my sister.  Though she feels that she knows you already (from how much I speak about you) she really wishes she could have met you and I wish you’d have had the opportunity to know her, too.

There are so many others whom I’ve met as a direct result of your suicide. Through seeking help and having others reach out to me for help, I’ve met some beautiful people.  It’s so bittersweet; while I’m heartbroken for the reason we came together, I’m also grateful that we did.  I met people early on who were further along in their grief process who were able to offer up a truly understanding ear and heartfelt advice.  And now, 3 years later, I’m finding I’ve been given the opportunity to turn around and offer that same kind of guidance to others.  It’s a devastating but loving community I’ve found and I’m grateful for both the opportunity to learn from others and to also be able to teach some of what I’ve learned about life and myself in this process.

I began this blog in 2013– it has been nearly a year since my very first public post.  While I’ve received so much wonderful feedback from others who are grieving, I’ve found that it has been immeasurably helpful to me, personally.  First, for the opportunity to get out so many thoughts and feelings I have inside… but also to be able to go back and read previous posts.  I am amazed at how raw some of them are! I’m proud of the resilience I never knew I had and also of my own willingness to be so open with the world… it has brought many wonderful people into my life as a result.

This coming February I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. as I was selected by the Central Texas Chapter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to receive a scholarship to attend their Annual Advocacy Forum on Capital Hill.  I’ll be able to meet with lawmakers about issues surrounding mental health and suicide awareness and prevention.  I know you’ll be there beside me giving me the strength to share your story and mine.  I’m determined to make changes where I can this coming year, Brian, and I know you’ll be supporting me all the way.

Love Always,

Dear Brian,

In the checkout line of the grocery store the other day a cover of a magazine jumped out at me… a picture of a beautiful, young woman, a former contestant on “The Bachelor,” who recently took her own life.  I did actually watch that season of the show and remember her well– she was stunningly beautiful and had one of the most engaging smiles I’d ever seen.  The people close to her seemed to be so shocked that this happened.  It’s not that uncommon, really.  Though I knew how badly you were suffering and expected your death to come, I heard so many people say to me, “I had no idea he was depressed… was it a total shock to you?  I never would have seen this coming.”  I felt ashamed to say, “Yes, I did see this coming.”

It’s so strange how suicides attract so much attention in the media.  People want to know all the “gory details.”  How did they do it?  Who found them?  What did they look like?  Was there a note?  What did it say?  Did they blame anyone?  Did anyone see it coming?  But for a death that creates so much interest and curiosity, it sure is lonely and alienating as a family member; people are afraid of us, it would seem.  They are uncomfortable with our presence because they don’t know what to say to us or because our pain is hard for them to be around or possibly because we remind them of the pain that exists in their own life.  I had a long-lost friend recently resurface to tell me, “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you– I didn’t know how to help you so I just stayed away.”  While I can understand her feelings, it does still hurt because the alienation adds another layer of pain to your death.

There were details about your death that I needed to talk about and process but absolutely could not share with those around me– they were too intense and too difficult for others to hear.  That’s where the support group at The Christi Center was so helpful– there I could talk about those “gory details” that no one wanted (or was equipped) to hear and not be judged or ashamed for needing to talk about and work through.  I remember discussing one event that was really hard for me after your death.  It was August of 2011– 10 months after you died.  I was in my office at work and noticed an awful, awful smell.  The smell was coming from an animal that had died in the rafters above my office and was decomposing in the Texas heat.  I had a full-blown panic attack and had to leave for a bit because that smell was not unfamiliar to me– it was not unlike the faint smell which still remained at your home when we went to collect your belongings.  You had been dead for a week when you were found and I was told had decomposed at an unusually rapid rate for having been indoors in a moderate temperature– being October in Minnesota and all.  Once you smell that scent, you never forget it.  It’s strange to me how those kinds of details would make for a juicy story in a tabloid but when it comes down to relating to a real person, no one wants to hear that stuff!  I wish they wouldn’t print those kinds of details because it feels like an exploitation of the grief the family is experiencing– and it must feel like such a violation.  While it was so helpful to me to be able to talk about it with other suicide survivors who understood the need to share those kinds of details, I can’t imagine the pain of having had your picture plastered on the front cover of a magazine along with a headline speculating how/why you did it.  And to have millions of strangers reading about your life and your pain and your ultimate death… would just be so painful because so many people are afraid to talk directly TO me about it.

My heart goes out to this young woman’s family as they begin the process of restructuring their life without her in it.  It is a process I continue to work on every single day and wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.


Dear Brian,

Three years ago last night, on the Fourth of July, we were together as a family for the last time and we watched the movie “Up.”  I spent last night watching that movie again… for the first time since I saw it with you that night in 2010.  I really loved it the first time but watching it again last night there were so many things that stood out to me and seemed more fitting to my life now than I could have ever possibly imagined when I first watched it with you just 3 months before your death.

Carl was heartbroken after Ellie, the love of his life, died.  He was hanging on to pictures, their house and their belongings so tightly as if letting them go meant letting go of her as well.  When Carl and Ellie met as children, Ellie had shown him her “Adventure Book.”  It contained pictures of things that excited her and places which she planned on visiting.  Following the page that said “Stuff I’m Going to Do” was nothing but empty pages she had saved for documenting all the adventures she was going to have.  Upon getting married, Carl and Ellie had planned on visiting those places together and finishing her book; but things (and life) got in the way.  They continually had to dip in to their adventure money to fix the car, fix the house, etc… things always seemed to come up and push their trip off further and further.  Carl had always wondered if he let Ellie down by not getting her to South America for their adventure and helping her fill those empty pages.  That is, until he took a look at her book one more time and saw that after the “Stuff I’m Going to Do” page she had added pictures of their life together; pictures of their wedding, shared birthdays, shared laughter, them holding hands in the park and of them sitting side by side in their comfy chairs in their living room.  No adventure to South America but yet she didn’t regret a single thing because she had loved Carl and she had so treasured her life with him.  Knowing her time was coming to an end, she had written him one last note and ended the book by signing, “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one!  Love, Ellie.”  It was that note that seemed to finally allow him to see that he hadn’t let her down at all and that it really was OK for him to let go.   As he looked around the house you could intensely feel him coming to the realization that it was now only a shell of what it used to be… after all, they were just things. He’d been hanging on to something that was holding him back.  The pictures and furniture and house he shared with Ellie were not Ellie herself; she now lived in his heart and his memory and by letting go of those things he was free to continue living his life without her.

I have so much trouble letting go of things that belonged to you because some small part of me feels as though by doing so that I’m betraying you or letting you slip further and further away from me.  Unlike Carl, I’m not ready to completely separate Just as Carl had been burdening himself with the thought that he had let Ellie down by never making it to South America, I’ve been burdening myself with the thought that I let you down by not being able to save you. And while I know that you want me to continue living and have new adventures, I’m still finding that I’m holding back yet.  There are times yet when I find myself feeling so guilty for enjoying myself or having a good time or even smiling… because a tiny part of me feels as if it is a betrayal.  I know in my heart that it isn’t, but it feels that way.  I’m getting better… just very slowly.

Want to know something amazing?  When we finished the movie we turned the TV to a channel broadcasting a 4th of July concert in Philadelphia.  Literally a second after we clicked on that channel I we saw Grace Potter on the stage strapping on her acoustic guitar saying, “This is a song for a friend who left us too early.”  I knew immediately that she was about to sing “Stars.”  I had posted that song on this blog a while back because it has been so meaningful to me since losing you.  When she finished the song she said, “That goes out to anyone out there that is missing someone on this 4th of July.”  And I sure am missing you, Brian.


p.s.  A very special thank you to John Tyler and Lindsay for letting me borrow their copy of the movie “Up.”  Meant the WORLD to me to see that movie again! 🙂

Dear Brian,

While I realize that people don’t necessarily always know the right things to say to someone who is grieving a loss like mine I do have to say there has been nothing that stings quite like someone saying, “I know how you feel. I had to put my dog down recently and I think I know now where you are coming from now.”

Don’t get me wrong… you know how very deep my love for animals goes. It borders on the excessive at times! However, I can’t seem to find a piece of my brain that can understand where that comparison comes into play in this case. You and I both know what it was like to finally have to say goodbye to the loving critters we called our friends from our early childhood until we were nearly out of high school. It was so painful! And to lose another pair of dogs way too young when they accidently jumped off of a bridge near our home and did not survive the fall.

On October 2, 2010 I brought my sweet 7 year old cat, Sophie, to the vet knowing something was really wrong. I would find out that day that she was dying– her kidneys were beginning to fail. On October 6th 2010 I received the last e-mail I’d ever receive from you; it was quite short and said simply this: “Any word on Sophie?” She remained in the hospital until after your funeral. Treating her at home was going well and she was feeling better for a few months but I eventually had to do the loving thing and give her a peaceful exit on January 29, 2011 only 3 short months after I’d lost you.

I know what it is like to lose pets from illness, tragic injury and old age. I know what it is like to lose a Grandparent quite suddenly and to lose one because it was simply their time to go. I’ve experienced many kinds of loss in my life but none could begin to hold a candle to the infinite amount of pain left by your death. There isn’t a single part of me that feels I could ever understand someone making a comparison to the loss of their 16 year old dog to the suicide death of my only sibling.

I hope this isn’t interpreted as a lack of compassion for other losses– as I truly can empathize with the pain that goes along with losing a pet. But it is excruciating to have that comparison made because I know, having experienced both kinds of loss (and in such a short period of time), that there absolutely IS no comparison.

I just felt like sharing that with you… thanks for listening.


Dear Brian,

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the last 5 months of your life. Specifically about how much we talked about how hard it is to get accessible and affordable help when you are struggling with depression and suicidality. I’ve run into this issue the majority of my life. By the time I’d reach a point low enough to realize I had no option but to reach out for help it would be a 12-16 week wait to see someone. I recall one occasion where I was feeling low enough to nearly beg the person on the phone, “Are you SURE there isn’t anything sooner?” Her response was, “Well, are you going to kill yourself TODAY? If so, just take yourself to the emergency room. If not, then you need to wait 12 weeks to see Dr. So-and-So.” Great bedside manner. It made me feel so embarrassed and ashamed of myself and I didn’t try calling anyone else for help for another few months as a result.

Getting the appointment wasn’t always the most difficult part– it was PAYING for it. For a year in the early 2000’s I was seeing a fabulous therapist. I had insurance, but they only: (1) allowed 30 visits per calendar year and (2) only had about four therapists from which I could choose that were in my network. I’d been to two of them already and had a bad experience with them both. When I found a therapist that really treated me with respect and said she could help me she turned out to be out of my network. Since she did not accept my insurance her typical policy was to request payment in full ($160 per visit) the day of the appointment and the patient in turn would submit the visits to their insurance company for the allowed reimbursement amount. However, she was very accommodating of my financial situation and allowed me to pay her $114 up front ($45 out of network copay plus 60% of the remaining balance of $115) and she would submit the remaining $46 to the insurance company to pay. This worked fine for the first few months until she had to have the uncomfortable conversation with me that my insurance company was not responding to her claims– at all. She would fax them 3, 4, even 5 times with no response. Each time she’d call they’d inform her they hadn’t received them and they’d require her to resubmit them. This went on for the rest of the year until I finally had to quit seeing her altogether– she couldn’t afford to keep seeing me and not get paid the full amount upfront. When speaking with my HR representative I was advised that they were aware that the insurance company was regularly not holding up their part of the deal where mental health visits (whether in or out of network) were concerned. I was so exasperated– the financial struggle involved with getting the help I so badly needed only accelerated my feelings of hopelessness.

For a number of recent years, once on successful dosages of a cocktail of anti-depressants I had been able to simply obtain refills of my prescriptions at my annual physical from my general practitioner. However, after you died she became concerned that she did not possess the expertise which she felt was required to play around with the meds to get me to a better place. So, she referred me to a psychiatrist for my future visits. I found one I liked, that was in network, and would require a $75 copay per visit and insurance would cover the rest. I could deal with that! However, after a few months I got a bill for $900 stating my insurance company would not cover a diagnosis of “Recurring Major Depressive Disorder” as it was classified as a “major mental illness” which, of course, they do not cover. My only option was to switch to their self-pay option of $130 per visit– and of course, she would need to see me every 4 weeks in order to continue to refill my prescription. With the cost of my prescriptions I was paying about $190 per month– just for medication maintenance– not including any of the sessions with my psychotherapist.

I also need to tell you that I have important letter to write to someone in your defense. You didn’t want me to write this letter while you were alive and, quite frankly, it has been in the intended recipient’s favor that I have chosen to wait a few years to cool off after your death before writing it. A few short months before you took your life you confided in me that the one and only time you had ever sought help for your depression (despite several previous suicide attempts) was about 1-1/2 years before your suicide. You contacted the Employee Assistance Help Line offered by your employer.  I used the help line at my company years ago which put me in touch with that amazing therapist I saw for a year. It’s a wonderful program and completely free of charge. They refer you to someone who can help, and pay for the first six visits. These therapists are enrolled in the program knowing that the first six visits are free to the patient– they are paid directly by the referral service. I was apalled to find out that the man to whom you were referred was completely unethical in how he handled your situation. After opening up to him and sharing things with him which had never been shared before, his response was, “well, your troubles are pretty complex and will take a lot of time and effort to work them out. The referral service you used only pays me $60 an hour to see you for these sessions but my office rates are actually $170 per visit so I’d recommend that you contact my office directly for any future sessions.” Nice. Way to tell someone who is suicidal that they aren’t worth helping out for a measly 60 bucks an hour. Clearly he did not enter the profession for its altruism! You never did go back to see him and I can’t say that I blame you for it. I’d have done the same. All of these issues I mentioned above were contributing factors in me making all those calls on your behalf to try and find you a good therapist. It’s hard enough to get the runaround and hear the tone of condescension in the voice on the other end of the line when you’re in a good place let alone when you’re mustering up shreds of strength every morning just to get out of bed and attempt to live through one more excruciating day.

Each time I go through these same issues with getting help for myself I feel the pain so much more deeply now as it only reminds me of how trapped you must have felt those last few months before you finally gave up altogether.

If there is anything good to come out of losing you in such a horrific way it will be that I will do my part to see that mental health is given the same consideration as physical health! And there needs to be less “hey, suck-it-up-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” going around out there. Unless someone has been in the deep depths of true despair, they know not of what they speak.

Wish me luck writing the letter to that small, small man. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Love Always,

Happy Birthday, Brian!

February 10, 2013

brian face

Today Brian would have turned 38 years old. My tradition for his birthday is to watch his favorite movie, Gladiator, and eat pizza– his favorite food!

I remember the first time I saw Gladiator. Brian and I were living together in an apartment and were going to be hosting Thanksgiving at our place back in November of 2000. We watched it together as the turkey was cooking and of course I cried like a baby at the end. He loved that movie so much! He even was nuts about the soundtrack which I thought was just so fascinating; he typically was listening to Pantera, White Zombie, Metallica, etc. But he used to put the Gladiator Soundtrack on in his car (a black, Honda Civic hatchback he lovingly named “Blackula”), roll down the windows and just rock out to that stuff. Totally made me smile.

But looking back I can totally see why he really connected with the movie. Maximus was a man of great honor and strong, moral character and so was Brian. Maximus fought for things he felt were right and so did Brian. In fact one of the things that ended up pushing Brian over the edge was having so much trouble, in his own words, “watching the world continue to undo itself.” He was so deeply affected seeing all the hate and unrest in the world and felt powerless to do anything about it.

There is a scene in the movie where just prior to his final battle in the colosseum Commodus stabs him in the back, deeply wounding him. They bandage him up and put on his armor to cover the injury so the crowd would know nothing of this “imbalance” in the fairness of the battle. Maximus spoke of it to no one; he went into the battle and fought the best he could though gravely injured.

While not the same, it reminds me of something that happened to Brian at work. He was working so very hard and was given a great deal of extra work to do to help make up for another member of his team that rarely showed up to work but made a lot more money than Brian did. His manager continuously bombarded Brian with not only his own projects, but the projects of his absent, higher-paid co-worker.

When management caught wind of the work that Brian was doing, they approached him and asked him why he was doing those projects that were not his responsibility. Brian told them his manager asked him to do so. However, when his boss was approached about it, she completely threw him under the bus! She told the management team that she gave “no such instructions” and that Brian took it upon himself to involve himself in those projects all on his own. As a result, he was reprimanded and it was suggested that he “resign.”

While Brian had all the requests from his manager documented and could have presented that to management to defend himself, he chose not to do so. He told me the job didn’t make him very happy to begin with and his manager was a single mom– he didn’t want her to get fired when he knew she had a child to support. He chose to instead give his notice and bow out gracefully without having cleared his own name. That’s just the way Brian was. He often put others before himself even if they didn’t deserve it.

I have often thought that Maximus, like Brian, chose to keep the “back stabbing” to himself because he had nothing more to lose– he had already, in essence, given up. That incident at work was less than one year before he died.

Maximus once said to his comrades, “Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.” I think Brian’s kindness continues to live on!

Tonight I will be joined by my amazing friend Leashya and we will watch Gladiator, enjoy some pizza and toast a glass of wine to the memory of a worthy soul.

In Dreams

February 9, 2013

I’m sharing this note I wrote to myself at 3:00 in the morning on December 1, 2010 just 6 short weeks after Brian died. I had the most amazing dream but to describe it as just a dream feels so inadequate as I am unequivocally certain it was a visit from Brian. While to this day it has been the most beautiful experience of my life, it has left me achingly sad nearly every morning since as I continue to wish for another visit each time my head hits the pillow at night. Here is what I wrote immediately upon waking up that night:

I just woke up from a dream I had about Brian.

Mom and I were somewhere… I believe it was supposed to be his place although everything looked different. I heard his voice– very groggy, as though he was just waking up– he was calling my name saying, “Laura…. Laura…. it’s Brian.” I was frantically looking around thinking there is no way I could have just heard what I thought I heard.

I ran down the stairs and as I approached the last few steps I saw him coming towards me– he had some tubes hooked up to him, like an breathing tube going to his nose. I sat on the bottom few steps with Mom sitting next to me a step above as he stood on the floor next to the staircase and took both of my hands in his– again, I thought there is no way this is happening– could he really be here with us now?

I glanced at Mom and cried as I asked her, “Mommy, what is happening?” I needed to see if she was hearing and seeing what I was– and she assured me that she was; however, I sensed from her that it didn’t mean he was alive. I looked at Brian again– he looked really good. He looked so peaceful and rested and happy; he had that pink glow in his cheeks and his eyes told me he was OK. I asked him how he was– he said, “I’m alright now. I was cured the moment I passed away. I love you very much and miss you.” I told him I loved him and missed him… and hugged him and cried. Again, I kept looking at Mom to see if she was hearing it– and she was. But she stayed there quietly next to me and watched and listened… like she knew this moment with Brian was meant just for me.

Mom and I were then saying our goodbyes downstairs to him as if we were leaving his place like any other time before; Mom asked, “Are you going to be OK? What are you going to do now?” He said, “I’m good. I’m going to just run out for a bit;” he had a cup of coffee and reached for his keys– as if he was truly only going to hop in in his red Saturn and go for a drive.

That’s the last I remember before waking up… and I woke up feeling so peaceful and grateful that I’d had this dream. I have been hoping to dream about him like this– and I hope it is a gift from Brian– I hope it was really him telling me he is OK now.

I’ve had other dreams about him since but none remotely like this– and anyone who has lost someone dear to them has had a dream such as this knows exactly what I’m talking about. There was something so profoundly peaceful and heavenly about that dream that no one could ever convince me that my brother did not come to me that night to bring me a little comfort.

Dear Brian,

I haven’t written you in a while. Certainly not for a lack of things to say, I assure you. I know need to write more often; these letters seem to help me put together my thoughts more easily than just talking out loud to you when I’m alone.

My birthday was last week and I experienced so many mixed emotions about it. The most prominent thought being I should feel guilty for ‘celebrating’ another birthday without you. You won’t have any more birthdays so I just can’t shake the lack of desire to acknowledge my own.

I also find myself, at age 39, comparing myself to others and where they are at in life and am seeing my own accomplishments—or lack thereof—as supremely inferior. I didn’t finish college. I’m divorced. No children to brag about. Barely make enough money to sustain myself let alone provide any excitement. I’m merely in a survival mode—fighting each and every day to not succumb to the same fate as you. We were so similar that I feel even if I were to achieve the same academic success you had… where would it land me? All that knowledge and experience didn’t bring you any more hope for your future so would it be any different for me?

My biggest hurdle is finding my way out of the depression. I had it before I lost you, as you knew very well. However it has only grown in the past 2 years. It makes seeking out new relationships so very hard! On one hand I very much would like to find a special person with whom I can share my life, but on the other hand I feel as though I don’t deserve that happiness until I “fix” myself first. I explained it to my therapist this way. If you’ve ever been to an animal shelter you know there are pets of all shapes, sizes and ages. The dog whose description reads: “still not housebroken, some behavioral issues, health issues, history of biting, etc.” will likely have less luck finding a home than the perfect-looking pet in the next cage who has already learned to pee outside and has yet to bite anyone. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t believe they won’t find a home; in fact, they would be the kind of dog I would be most likely to take home myself. But I do recognize that it takes an extremely special kind of person to open their home and their heart to a special needs animal. I feel like the 3-legged, diabetic 12-year old black lab who requires insulin and much patience while he learns to trust people enough to not bite. I’m sure my “person” is out there somewhere… but I am questioning whether or not I deserve them yet? Do I need to wait until I have fewer days where I can’t stop thinking about losing you and cry myself to sleep? Do I need to first get to a place where I’m less of an emotional burden? Every time I meet someone new, whether a new friend or potential date, I immediately begin to dread the time when some important things will be revealed: the smattering of scars on my arms, legs and chest are from decades of a crippling depression that resulted in (and sometimes continues to result in) self-inflicted wounds, I see a therapist every week and am on a cocktail of antidepressants oh, and by the way—I’m still mourning the loss of my brother who killed himself 2 years ago. Not a ringing endorsement of me I fear some would say.

If there is one thing I’ve learned since your death it is that people are not comfortable with grief, sadness or depression. All of which I have experienced in spades since you left us. That leaves me with a few options: I can hide away by myself where I am free to express my feelings as openly (and as often) as I want. Or I can try and force myself into the company of others where I am painfully aware of myself and filter what I do or say so as to not make anyone uncomfortable. I talk about you often—about YOU, not your death. I very much need you to continue to be a part of my daily life in this new form you have taken but I can see the look of discomfort appear in others’ eyes when I mention your name. It’s a look that seems to say, “Wow, still talking about this, huh? Isn’t it about time you moved on to something new?” Those looks are the reason it is far easier to stay home some days.

I will continue to go to my weekly therapy sessions and I always diligently take my medications and I am becoming better about expressing myself and about setting healthy social boundaries for myself as well. So while reading this might give the impression I am about to fall apart, I would like to clarify that it is a testament to my continued efforts to hold myself together.

I miss you, Brian.


p.s. this song from the TV show “smash’ keeps sticking with me.  most days, i feel just like the piano in this story– i might be “missing a few keys” and often be a little “out of tune” but i am looking for that one special person who sees past that and will take the time to find out that i still have something beautiful to give.


Dear Brian,

Today I attended a conference for International Survivors of Suicide Awareness Day. It was the second one I’ve attended– the first being in November of 2010 only a few short weeks after your death. I thought that this one may be different for me being two full years since you orchestrated your untimely exit… but that really wasn’t the case. I was just as affected by the stories and tears of others today as I was two years ago.

It is always so rewarding and reassuring to hear the words and stories coming out of the other survivors’ mouths– for those few hours I don’t feel quite so crazy. In those meetings I can share things about your death that my friends would find all but impossible to endure and not feel ashamed or as though I’m imposing upon them an irrational need to talk about the gruesome details. They reminded me today, more than once, that not only am I OK, but I’m extremely normal in where I find myself these days.

The first year was in no way easy to get through but the second year proved to be far more difficult; it felt like had just run a painful marathon only to reach the “finish line” and find it wasn’t a stopping point at all but another starting line and I had to repeat the whole thing over again and again and again. Another survivor said they think the subsequent years are more difficult because the shock and numbness you experience that first year have begun to wear off and you’re left with the reality of what’s happened and have to deal with it and learn how to live in your “new normal.”

I continue to be surprised at when and where and just how often I’m struck with a crippling grief. Another sibling survivor mentioned today how even 4 years after the suicide of her brother she can be going about her day and she’ll hear a song, see a place she used to visit with him or see a face that resembled his and be immediately transported back to the day he died and find herself in the middle of a gut-wrenching pain complicated with feelings of guilt, and devastating sadness. We all acknowledge that the memories are always there just barely below the surface and some days it takes merely a split-second to bring them to life again.

One thing I’ve struggled with lately is the grief of alienation by what little family I have left. It is virtually only Mom and Dad now. I have begun to appreciate more and more each day the presence of the amazing friends I have in my life– aside from our parents they are my family now. They are the ones who are there to hug me, to listen to me and to check in with me from time to time to see how I am doing. Those moments mean more to me than they could ever imagine. There are days I mourn not just your death but my future with you; when our parents are gone I won’t have you there to lean on and share stories about our lives when we grew old. You took that future away from me.

Then there is the guilt… few suicide survivors are spared the feelings of guilt. I told the group today that I feel that because I saw it coming I had played a part in your death as I wasn’t able to prevent it from happening. I realize there would have been guilt even if it had come as a complete shock– I likely would have then blamed myself for missing the possible signs. But somehow the fact that I knew it was coming makes me feel as though I failed you in the worst way. I struggle so when going over our last several conversations in my mind. We spoke about my own history of depression and how I battled my own thoughts of suicide for the overwhelming majority of my life. I feel that because I knew what it was truly like to be in that deep darkness I didn’t have the right words for you… and I myself was having trouble coming up with reasons why life was worth it other than my own selfish reasons for wanting you to stay alive if only for me. And that reason turned out to be not quite enough for you to overcome your pain.

Not a day goes by that I don’t go to sleep at night and wake in the morning thinking of you. You’re on my mind nearly every moment of every single day; I’m learning to incorporate you into my new life knowing you are still with me. Watching over me, protecting me, loving me. I want those around me who never got to meet you to know you as you are still such a huge part of me. My true friends are those who allow room for you in my life and are not uncomfortable with me sharing stories about you to ensure that you live on inside of me.

I miss you so much, Brian.


Dear Brian,

I’m finding myself in a strange place these days. The grief over losing you seems to come and go in vicious waves. The part that hurts the most right now is that I’m in very awkward territory; it’s been over a year now so people seem to thing I should “be over with being sad” by now.

I’ve ventured out into the world of the living again and spend a lot of time with people—but there are so many days I deeply regret it. I miss the shelter of being home alone all the time where I could cry all day and all night without judgment. And if I did cry in front of others they understood—after all, it had only been a few weeks… then a few months… but as time continues to pass there has been a growing sense from the world around me that I should be over it by now. Somehow it feels more isolating now than at the beginning because I don’t feel as safe allowing my hurt to come out anymore—if not for the pressure of not bothering those around me with it then for the pressure I put on myself to move past it.

The best way I can describe what I’m feeling is this… Remember in the movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks how, after several years on that island alone, he was finally prepared to get off the island and get home or die trying? He worked so very hard to get his raft over the waves that threatened to push him back towards the island; he knew once he was past rough waters he’d have conquered the hard part and just might make it home again. Well once he reached calmer waters he alternated glances between the vast space in front of him and the shores of the island where he’d spent the past several years. You could see the concern in his face– the torment of wanting to get home but being afraid of the unknown and longing for the comfort of the island where he had come to feel safe. I know my own “island” wasn’t the best place for me to be, but I’m afraid to be out in the open and I find myself missing the days when it was OK for me to wall myself off for days at a time and not feel guilty for doing so.  This first year was terrible but I fear the next few years will be even worse. I spent this year just talking myself through each holiday, anniversary and special occasion. Now the true reality of the situation has begun to set in—it wasn’t a one time thing getting through those days; it was just the first of many more to come and my heart aches overwhelmingly at the thought of it.

I miss you more than you could possibly imagine. I see and hear so many things that remind me of you and I wish I could pick up the phone to call you and share it with you. I think about that dream I had about 6 weeks after you left us—I think of it everyday and am still convinced it was a gift from you letting me know you were OK. Do you hear me before bed at night when I beg you to come visit me again? It’s been over a year since that dream and I just want to have the connection again that I felt upon waking up that night.

You know what else I think about a lot? After I moved to Texas I kept on pestering you to come for a visit and possibly even move here to be closer to me and get a fresh start. You always responded with something along the lines of, “yeah, I’ll have to plan that soon,” but it never happened. In hindsight I am grateful—because I think on some level you were sparing me from the pain of creating memories with you here in Austin and being reminded of them everyday. There are days I’m so grateful to have the distance from where we grew up because I don’t know how I would handle all the daily reminders of the people we knew and the places we’ve been. I don’t have any of those places here to haunt me and for that I am often grateful; and I think you knew what you were doing.

I guess I’m all out of words now… please just know I miss you so very much.

With Love,

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