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.