Letter To Brian: March 11, 2013

Dear Brian,

Yesterday I attended FACES OF AUSTIN–a short film exhibition showcasing the work of Austin filmmakers. The final film, of twelve, was called “Helmets for Heath”; it documented the story of a 16 year old boy who died following a skateboarding accident which resulted in a traumatic head injury. It also spoke of his family who has made it their mission to promote the use of helmets in skateboard safety. And, most importantly, it told a beautiful story about the amazing gifts of life he gave to others through the donation of his organs.

Five lives were saved because of Heath. We were allowed to witness the meeting of his mother with the recipient of Heath’s heart. I was immobile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful than the sight of his mother placing her ear against the chest of the woman who now carried her son’s heart. She could hear it beating steadily and could even feel it against her cheek! A part of him had literally continued to live while also saving the life of another.

So many things were going through my head. It was such a tragic loss yet in the gift of donating Heath’s organs she also received gifts in return– not only knowing that parts of her son were very much alive yet but that they also brought life back to five people who desperately needed it. I found myself wishing for that chance– to have tangible proof of your physical existence. I have no videos showing you alive and moving; I only have still photographs and inanimate things you once held. But to have the opportunity to hear the beating of your heart again would have been such an amazing gift.

You were a registered organ donor, but your organs could not be donated. It reminded me once again that I didn’t get to see you for myself. You had been dead for a week when you were found and I’m told had decomposed to such a degree that you were unrecognizable and to have been allowed to see you for myself would have resulted in significant trauma. Well, it has been nearly 2-1/2 years and I still struggle often with the thought of which, for me, would have been more traumatic– the memory of having seen you in that condition or the pain I suffer so often because there is that small part of my brain that has failed me miserably and can’t quite seem to grasp the reality of your death because I never had something tangible to prove your death to me?

I was told in person by the funeral directors (who also happen to be very close family friends) that they were not in support of me being allowed to see you. I am fully aware that they had my best interest at heart and I will always love them for that. Although seeing how resistant I was to accept their advice they did, however, discuss an alternative solution for me should I decide in time that I really need that physical proof. They advised me that they could take a few photographs. If I ever decided I absolutely needed them to find some closure, the pictures would be there. Just to be able to see even your hand, to know it was really you.

I know there are plenty of people who will find this upsetting, gruesome or macabre. But when I started writing you these letters, and subsequently decided to share them with the world, I told myself I wouldn’t filter my thoughts to make them easier to tolerate… grief is going to do what grief is going to do. And I have made a promise to myself to always honor that grief within me regardless of how it makes me appear to others.

I haven’t ruled out viewing a picture of your hand… or your tattoo… or even your face. I do know that I’m not yet at a place where I feel it is my only option, though. But for me, having the choice right now means everything.

Thanks for listening, dude.

Love,
Laura

Letter To Brian: February 24, 2013

vikings blanket

Dear Brian,

For your birthday 3 years ago I gave you this blanket I crocheted for you– in purple and gold for the Vikings, your favorite team! I had no idea that would be your last birthday and I’m so grateful that I chose to make you something myself. I spent so many hours working on it and I can’t tell you how excited I was for you to open it. It made me feel so good when I saw you had posted a picture of it and bragged it up a bit on Facebook. It meant so much to me to know you appreciated it and that you were proud of it because though I wasn’t always great with words it was a way for me to show you how much you really meant to me.

I had no idea at the time how important that blanket was to you or how important it would become to me.

When you were found in your home on October 13, 2010 the police reported that you had passed away in your recliner with the blanket I made for you draped over your lap and your legs.

I’ve tormented myself over and over and over with thoughts of how lonely you must have felt as you took your last few breaths. But I’ve chosen to believe that you choosing that blanket to keep you warm as you drifted away from the world that brought you so much pain was your way of having me close to you and that perhaps I was in your thoughts.

I got the blanket back. I made that blanket for you, Brian! I had no idea that only a year after I’d made it that I’d have it back and the importance it would hold for me. While I still have been unable to convince myself that I did enough to try and save you, it does bring me hope to think that perhaps you had that blanket with you in your last moments because you DID know just how much I loved you and that it brought you some comfort.

I’ll go to sleep tonight, like I do every night, with that blanket by my side. While I can never be certain that it brought you the comfort I wished for you, I can tell you it brings me so much comfort to have that piece of you with me still.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter To Brian: February 19, 2013

Dear Brian,

I’m feeling extra lonely and your absence is hurting far more than usual these days. I have attempted to be out in the “dating world” again for a brief period here recently and quickly determined that it is not the easiest place for me to be right now.

While your death was not the reason for my divorce, it was definitely a contributing factor. We’d been having trouble for several years which was why I had such a difficult time with our plan to move from Minnesota to Texas– I was feeling as though we had been on such shaky ground for a long time. My fear was if we didn’t work out, I’d be in a place 22 hours away from all of my family and friends and all I’d ever known yet he’d be in a place where he already had a support system of friends and family in place. But after you died I just was in such a bad place and was virtually inconsolable. While I had no feelings of anger towards you whatsoever, he was quite angry at you. And I don’t blame him for that– it’s quite a natural emotion given the circumstances and everyone is entitled to their own emotions. But it did create another wedge between us to some degree– if I expressed my grief it only heightened his anger towards you and your final act and I didn’t want him to be angry with you. So I retreated within myself to protect you from his anger and to protect him from his feelings of helplessness when I could not be comforted. The more I retreated the further apart we grew and it couldn’t be ignored. And I honestly think I became a different person altogether. Really what your death did for our marriage was to bring all the issues to the forefront where they could no longer be brushed over– they had to be dealt with at last. And quite honestly I was quickly learning that life was too short to spend it where neither of us was feeling happy nor the slightest bit fulfilled. We owed it to each other to part ways and let each other find the happiness we both deserve.

After my divorce I was in one relationship for a year and it started out beautifully. He was aware of what happened to you right from the start– in fact, we began dating very close to the one year anniversary of your death. He was so supportive and caring and wanted to know all he could about you and encouraged me to work through my grief through the support group meetings, my writing and my art. I was so grateful for that because I was so extremely fragile and it would take a very special person to open their heart to not just me, but to you as well.

But what began to happen is what has happened in many of my other relationships whether it be with friends, family or close acquaintances with whom I have daily contact. There comes a point when the support seems to wear off and the caring seems to turn to more of a “discomfort” at the sound of your name. What started out as encouragement turned to frustration that I was still “hung up” on my grief and you were too much of a part of my life yet. That was so unbelievably painful to hear– I’d only lost you a year and a half ago. Of course you are a big part of my life! You always will be. The person with whom I eventually spend my life will need to make room in their heart for you too.

It is hard to know whom to trust– there are people who once were very close friends (or even family members) who seem to now pretend as though we don’t exist. Emails, calls and letters go unanswered. While I do understand that people are uncomfortable with our grief, or possibly their own, but losing people very close to us simply because we lost you is an additional pain that is so hard to accept at times. So how do I find the strength to reach out and try to begin new relationships? It’s always been hard enough for me to truly open up to someone new but the added pressure of being rejected for where I am at in my grief journey makes it so frightening to try.

I’m hopeful that there is someone, somewhere who will accept me with all my quirks and faults and will realize that while you are no longer part of the physical world, you are a massive part of my spiritual world and are still my brother. The question I’ll ultimately need to ask them is, “Do you have room in your heart for both of us?”

Please continue to watch over me– I need it.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter To Brian: February 13, 2013

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 an 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,
Laura

Letter To Brian: January 28, 2013

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.

Love,
Laura

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.

🙂

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0VNL_VpdDo]

Letter To Brian: November 17, 2012

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.

Love,
Laura

Letter To Brian: February 23, 2012

Dear Brian,

I have been thinking about you so much lately. I find myself again obsessing over all the details I wasn’t able to get out of my head right after you died. Things like our last phone conversation, the last e-mail you sent me, the last time I was with you; I keep imagining what you were thinking as you were dying—were you in pain? Were you relieved? Were you thinking of me at all? What is the last thing you saw or thought before you passed? What did you take and how did you get it? What day did you die? I felt cheated that I couldn’t even have a “day” to mourn your death—all I know is it was sometime between October 7th and October 13th. However, based on the medical examiner’s report, it easily could have been a week. I still feel nauseous when I think about that part. You were dead for a week and I had no idea; I feel like I should have known or felt something wasn’t right.

Just before Christmas an acquaintance passed away following a 4 year battle with cancer. As I read her family’s last post on her Caring Bridge website to share the news, I absolutely fell apart. There was so much going through my head, Brian. They spoke of how she gently passed to the other side while surrounded by all those she held dear as they sang to her, prayed with her and held her hands and helped her to let go. It was the most beautiful thing I could ever imagine. It only made it that much more difficult to think of your passing—at your own hand, possibly painful and…absolutely all alone. I hope you had at least some idea of how much you were loved and appreciated and that your last thoughts were not questioning your worth. You were so important to me and your death has left an irreversible void.

It is so strange to think of how for all these years that you and I were so much the same— we both spent nearly all of our lives in and out of deep depressive episodes with recurring thoughts of suicide. I tried to hide it from everyone not only because I didn’t want to worry anyone but because I felt unsafe expressing any feelings or emotions and I know you felt the same way. Not only was there a robust family history of depression in our family, but we weren’t brought up in an environment where the healthy sharing of emotions and feelings was happening and that pattern seems to have run generations deep as well. There were a specific few years of my 20’s that were particularly bad when I thought of suicide every single day. I had a folder full of all sorts of methods I had researched which could implement to bring about my demise should one single day prove to be the one that put me over the edge. Having that folder kept me going—it brought me so much peace to know that I had a plan and I wouldn’t have to endure the pain forever. I tried so hard to talk with you about that towards the end; I shared all of that with you but, in hindsight, I can’t imagine things would have played out any other way.

Truth be told, when I felt like you did, there isn’t a single thing anyone could do or say to make any difference at all. In fact, I’m spending more and more time in that state since you died. I’m actually jealous of you most days! I’m exhausted with life and going through the motions of day to day life. I truly feel as though I’m just getting by when deep in my heart I see no point. Honestly, if Mom and Dad weren’t around I would quite possibly join you tomorrow; but I just can’t bring myself to do that to them as I’m the only family they have left and vice versa. I’m really struggling to get myself to a point where I don’t feel so listless and hopeless and where there is more keeping me alive than just an obligation to others.

I truly hope you are healing on the other side and have found some comfort where you are.

Love,
Laura

Letter To Brian: December 8, 2011

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,
Laura

Letter To Brian: October 4, 2011

Dear Brian,

It’s so hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since you left this world for another… where hopefully you found the peace you weren’t able to find here.

There’s so much I could tell you about this past year—about how much I’ve cried until complete exhaustion, how much I’ve missed you and how often I’ve picked up the phone and started to dial your number to call you only to realize seconds later what I was doing. There are days it is so painful to be around people because I feel so different from them. And I think there is a part of me that is afraid to get close to people because I’m afraid that they too will leave.

I’ve started to come out of my shell a little bit and am beginning to return somewhat to the person I was before. While I’ll never be the same again—I’ve managed to find myself laughing more often and when I think of you there are almost as many smiles as there are tears… so I’m starting to move on a little bit.

After you died I was haunted by the fact that each day that passed was bringing you farther and farther away from me; the last time I saw you, the last time we spoke, the last e-mail I received from you… all of those were becoming farther away as well. Now that feeling seems to have shifted a tiny bit; I find myself beginning to see each day that passes as bringing me one day closer to the day I get to see you again.

Love Always,
Laura

Letter to Brian: March 20, 2011

Dear Brian,

I’ll never forget the last time I saw you. It was July 5th, 2010– you brought me back to the airport after my visit home for Mom’s birthday. The entire ride was so heartbreaking; I could feel it– your profound sadness. I tried to get you to talk about it but you kept changing the subject… so I let it be. I just wanted to spend time with you. I didn’t want the ride to end; the closer we got to the airport the more anxious I grew. I didn’t want to say goodbye to you– something was happening that made my heart ache for you but I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly. You got out to help me with my bags, I gave you a hug and said, “Come visit me soon, OK?? See ya later, dude.” Once inside the airport doors I allowed myself to turn around in time to see you driving away; I started sobbing because in my heart I knew I’d never see you again… and I didn’t.

That part still haunts me– that I was so connected with you that I could sense that but yet I didn’t feel it the moment you died. It will take me a lifetime to get past the fact that an entire week had passed before you were found. I felt like I let you down– that not only did you die alone but you continued to lie there alone for a week while I went about my life. “He’s gone, honey.” Those are the first words I heard from Mom confirming that what we had hoped hadn’t happened really had… and the nightmare began. For weeks I would call your cell phone several times a day just to hear your voicemail message; I worry that I’ll forget the sound of your voice. I was a mess the first time I called your number after it was finally disconnected– it was like you had died all over again and the last remaining connection I had to hearing your voice again was gone.

I keep running through our life together over and over in my head. We were so close in age that we shared everything together– we experienced all stages of life at the same time: childhood… high school… college… jobs… everything. And we even liked each other enough to choose to be roommates as adults! I loved that we were not just brother and sister, but we were friends. We both included each other in our circles of friends and activities. I keep trying to remember those things; our Sundays watching the Simpsons, you “singing” me the X-Files theme song, pizza and football games, and even you trying, very patiently, to teach me how to drive a manual transmission! You had the most amazing, contagious laugh and a very gentle spirit and are going to be missed by so many people– more than you could have ever imagined. It may not make sense but it feels like you have taken that past with you… and it also feels as though you have also taken my future as I never imagined it without you.

I often wonder how long it’ll be before those memories bring me more joy than pain– because right now it hurts to think of them. My heart is broken! I find myself detaching from the world, I’m suffering from frequent panic attacks when the pain is just so strong it takes my breath away. I have become jealous of others who have siblings who are still here– and am hurt when I see them angry with each other. I am not the same person anymore; I feel so isolated, so different from everyone else. I can laugh… but have no true joy right now. I suppose some happiness will come back someday… but for now there’s only a hole in my heart where you used to be.

Please know that I am not angry at you now… nor do I think I ever will be. I have been to that place myself before and fought my way back out. I know it wasn’t a compulsive choice you made but rather the culmination of years and years of battling a crippling depression and you held on as long as you could– for us.

I miss you and think of you every waking moment. Instead of saying goodbye to you, since I know I’ll see you again, I’ll just say what we always said to each other– “See ya later, dude.”

Your loving sister,
Laura