Letter to Brian: August 25, 2014

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

Letter to Brian: October 30, 2013

Dear Brian,

There are still so many days I reach for the phone wishing I could talk to you and hear your voice again.  I no longer have that direct connection to you and it makes me so jealous of those who can just hit “speed dial #1” and their brother is instantly on the other end of the line.  I admittedly took that for granted while you were here.

I know there are many people out there who think it is slightly less-than-sensible to believe that there is something out “there” after we die.  Regardless, I believe there is and have always believed that there is.  I don’t believe in God, but I do believe that something happens to our energy and our spirit after we die.  I believed it long before you were gone but am even more protective of that belief now because it is the only thing that allows me to also believe that there is a chance you can still communicate with me from time to time and that I will, indeed, see you again someday.  Insensible or not… it gives me hope.

I’ve just had to adapt to this new and distant way of communicating with you and I’ve learned to watch for the signs.  While others might get a card in the mail from their brother, I might spot a 2-door Red Saturn with a guy in a purple baseball hat at the stoplight next to me and be reminded of you.  Someone might get a phone call from their brother to say, “Hey, how’s it going?” For me, it is you leaving me a 1975 penny in a place where there was not a penny just moments earlier.  Others have the joy of sitting and looking at a photo album with their brother and reminiscing about happier times… but I have the experience of a photo of you I never knew existed suddenly popping up or a favorite song or movie of ours will immediately come on the radio or TV as you cross my mind.

I know many people can easily dismiss these things as mere coincidences and feel I am naïve and foolish for believing there is any sort of cosmic meaning to them and I can completely understand why.  But for me, these little things are the only ways I have left to relate to you for the rest of my existence– they are all I have. I guess I think of it as I think about any religion, really; as long as it brings me some comfort and I’m not hurting anyone, what’s the harm in believing that you’re still out there somewhere and that you reach out to me, letting me know you miss me and that you are now healing from your painful life on earth?

You are still in my contact list in my phone and I don’t plan on ever taking you out of that list.  The number was long ago disconnected but I still dial it from time to time because for a mere second, after dialing but before the message from the operator comes on, I can hope that this time will be different and that this will all have been a bad dream and you’ll answer the phone.

Missing you more than ever,
Laura

Letter to Brian: July 5, 2013

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.

Love,
Laura

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml7TmC__eDc]

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! 🙂

Letter to Brian: June 3, 2013

Dear Brian,

Something has been on my brain lately after seeing a post on Facebook offering condolences to someone who had recently experienced a death in their family.  The reason it has continued to hang around in my thoughts is that the very same comment was said to me at one point after you died and it felt like one of the most hurtful things I could imagine at the time.  That comment was, “It was god’s will.”

Seriously?  It hurt me so very badly to hear someone say in response to your death that it was supposed to happen; that god had a “plan” for you and that plan somehow included you killing yourself at age 35.  I wish people would be more careful with those kinds of words because they may not know what kind of belief system the other person holds and comments like that can be far more hurtful than helpful.  I personally am not a christian and I do not believe in god; but I was not ever offended when someone would say, “I am praying for you and your family.”  Whether they are praying to god, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Buddha, Jim Jones or The Great Pumpkin… I don’t really care.  The intentions behind the prayers are kind and loving.  However, I received absolutely no comfort whatsoever from hearing someone tell me that god planned for you to suffer for so long and die so young.  I guess I wish more people understood that it would be far more appreciated to keep the sympathetic sentiments simple like, “I’m really sorry your brother passed away.  I’m here to listen if you need it… please know you are in my thoughts.”

I am not a fan of anyone pushing their religious beliefs on anyone else at any time… but following the death of a loved one is an especially unsettling time for that to occur.  It baffles me that there are people that would find nothing wrong with telling me that you are spending an eternity in hell for your act of suicide.  Nothing about that is OK.  If someone out there believes that in their heart, fine… they are entitled to it just as I am equally as entitled to NOT believe that.  But keep it to yourself, people!  What good can possibly come from telling someone whose brother has died that not only are they experiencing a crippling grief at the loss but that their departed loved one is now going to be suffering at the hands of “Beelzebub” for the next 100,000 years?  It would never occur to me to say to a devout christian who lost a loved one, “Hey, that whole ‘heaven thing’ you’ve been talking about for years doesn’t exist so don’t get your hopes up that they ended up there.  Just trying to be honest with you because I care, buddy.”

I don’t know if I ever told you this but I was referred to a therapist by a friend a number of years ago when you and I were still living together, actually.  Turned out she was a christian therapist.  I don’t know that words exist to describe the level of crazy I experienced during that 2 hour session.  The primary focus was asking Jesus to “speak to me” and take me back to the first time I self-injured as a child… and asking Jesus to command the departure of the “evil spirits” which had obviously inhabited my body.  She all but performed an exorcism that day.  Again… seriously??  About a dozen times she asked Jesus to relay a message to me and she’d watch me as I blankly stared back at her and report that no, Jesus had not just whispered something in my ear.  And no, I did not feel any different now that she’d ordered those pesky “demons” to hit the road.  And to think I walked in that day thinking I was seeking help for my depression; I left having been told that my problem was far more severe… not only was I clinically depressed, but it was because I was possessed by a handful of evil spirits which apparently refused to leave and that Jesus wasn’t talking to me.  Way to kick a gal when she’s down.  Needless to say, that was intentionally the ONLY session I endured with her.

Guess I got off on a tangent here… it’s just been bothering me and I felt like talking to you about it.  I have never believed that “god planned for this to happen.”  I also don’t believe, nor have I ever believed, that you are burning in hell right now.  In fact, I believe quite the opposite.  Every single day I feel you around me, watching over me and I distinctly sense the freedom I believe you feel now that you are no longer bound to the earth that brought you so much pain.

As always, thanks for the talk dude.

Love you!

Laura

Letter to Brian: May 12, 2013

Dear Brian,

Today is Mother’s Day.  Three times this week I tried picking out a Mother’s Day card for Mom only to leave the store crying with no card in hand.  I mean… try finding a card that fits how she has felt since you died.  I mean she obviously is still a Mom– to both of us– but to outlive your own child… well I just can’t imagine the grief she feels now and has for the past 2-1/2 years.

I know how hard it is when I meet new people to hear the question, “so how about you, do you have any siblings?”  The obvious answer is “yes” because I do, I have you– you’re just not here anymore.  But it spurs that awkward silence when I tell them I do have one brother but that he passed away.  I know she also must feel a horrible pit in her stomach when asked how many children she has because it reminds her how much she has lost and just doesn’t know how to answer that question anymore… because our answers are, like I’ve mentioned before, instant conversation stoppers.  While I whole-heartedly believe your choice to end your life was not a selfish one but rather one you deemed your ONLY choice… I don’t know that you could have predicted how you would change our mother’s life.  You have altered the very fiber of her being– her sense of motherhood.  She misses you with every ounce of her soul and this holiday, set aside to honor and recognize mothers, is a painful reminder that she’s lost a vital part of what made her a mother in the first place.

Mom is one of the few people in the world now who I feel I can relate to because we lost the very same person and we still want to talk about you and not have your existence on this plane be forgotten.  When I had that AMAZING dream in which you came to visit me shortly after you died, Mom was so moved by that and was so very grateful that you chose to come to me to try and take a little of my pain away by letting me know that you were alright and that you were no longer hurting; but I know, deep down, that her heart was jealously aching so badly for the same kind of connection with you too.  The very best present she could ever receive today would be a sign or visit from you.  I’d like to ask you to reach out to her in some special way that she’d know it could only be you– if not today, then soon.  I think she really needs that from you now.

Please know that Mom also loves you more than any of my words would ever represent and she misses you every waking moment.

We love you, Brian.

Laura

p.s. For anyone reading who may know a mother who has lost a child–  either before they were ever born, when they were too young or even if that child lived a long life I offer these words from www.sheknows.com: “Acknowledge the loss and recognize that she is a mom. Even though the child is no longer with her physically, she will always be a mother. Don’t think that she doesn’t want to talk about her child. Many moms who have experienced the death of a child would love people to acknowledge their children and talk about fond memories with them.”  So please reach out to those Moms today and help them honor the children they have lost.

Thanks for reading!

Letter to Brian: April 30, 2013

Dear Brian,

Back in November of 2011,  shortly after the one year anniversary of your death, I was put in touch with a filmmaker who also lost a brother to suicide.  She was about to begin making a documentary about sibling survivors of suicide and she interviewd me to see if I might be a good fit for the project… she ended up coming to Austin in January of 2012 to film me.

You know how camera shy I’ve always been– getting me to sit still for a nice picture was never easy, but getting me on video camera was far more challenging.  It was definitely a stretch for me as sitting in front of a camera being interviewed was so far out of my comfort zone.  But a few things helped me through the process:  first of all, Caley also had lost her brother to suicide so the feelings we were talking about I knew she could understand first hand so it felt more like we were having a conversation rather than me being on “display.”   Secondly, she has such a calm, warm  and encouraging demeanor about her that I found myself thinking about the camera less and less.

She spent about 3 hours filming at my home one evening and we covered a lot of territory!  We spoke so much about you, what it was like growing up together and what my life has been like since your suicide.  While being on camera was hard, it meant so much to me to have someone sitting there asking me about you and genuinely wanting to hear what I had to say, no matter how difficult some of it was.  A year had already passed since you died so the caring thoughts and sympathies had long dwindled away… the rest of the world had moved on but I still had so much to work through yet.  Furthermore, the topic of suicide is so taboo that when people learn how you died the conversation stops.  People are afraid of it and don’t know what to say, so… they just stop talking.  Can’t say I blame them… it’s an uncomfortable place to be– and they have a choice of whether or not to be around the subject; I however, do not.  She also walked with me to my special tree to film me placing some of your ashes beneath it.  Since you were cremated, I don’t have a gravesite to visit.  And home is so far away that I can’t go visit places or people that remind me of you when I need it.  That tree has become very special to me.  Though I’ve loved it since I first saw it (a year before you died) I somehow feel your presence more intensely there now.  I remember so clearly the first time I went to see the tree after you died.  It’s strange… before your death I didn’t make any connection between you and that tree.  But on the one year anniversary of losing you I decided to go visit the tree.  As I got closer and closer to it I found myself walking faster and faster… by the time it nearly came into view I was almost running.  I could feel my heart rising up into my throat and the moment I saw it, I buckled.  I fell at the foot of the tree and just started sobbing.  The last time I’d seen that tree you were still alive… and I wanted to go back to that time so badly.  But there was something so powerful about that day– it felt like you were right there with me; and as if maybe, in some way, you were part of that tree now and were there again in physical form sheltering me as I sat there and sobbed at your feet.

Caley emailed me a few days ago to let me know the project is coming along and that the trailer should be released within the next few weeks.  She has set up a website and a Facebook page for the documentary and wanted the subjects of the film to be the first to view it.  It hit me really hard, for some reason.  One obvious trigger is the pressure of seeing myself on film… it makes me very uncomfortable.  But I think the larger part of my apprehension is watching it and being transported right back to where I was a year and a half ago.  While I’m still a bit of a walking disaster, I’ve managed to work through a lot of feelings and am far more put together than I was back then.  But I’m afraid to be triggered by the intensity of the emotions and the depth of the despair I was feeling… and now it will be out there for the world to see.  Don’t get me wrong… I’m so glad I participated because I think her work will help a lot of people.  Siblings tend to be so overlooked in the wake of a suicide; Caley and I spoke of how few resources there are out there for siblings and she’s going to help change that.  It still baffles me to this day how someone could look me in the eye and say, “Oh, I heard about your brother.  Please tell your Mom and Dad how sorry I am.”  Part of me wanted to jump up and down and scream, “I’m here too!  He was my brother and I’m hurting, too!!” And it happened many times.  I’m so glad she’s given a few of us the opportunity to share our stories and let the world know about our brothers and how their deaths have affected us and changed our lives… I feel very lucky that she chose me!

I hope you’re proud of what I’m doing… It is so mportant to me to continue to find ways to keep your memory alive!

Love Always,

Laura

p.s. for those reading… the documentary’s websites are here:  http://foursistersdoc.com/  and  https://www.facebook.com/foursistersdoc  please spread the word if you can!

Song: “To Where You Are” sung by Josh Groban

There are many days when words fail me… songs like this help me along.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTdqdOC2DtI]

“To Where You Are”

Songwriter(s): Richard Marx, Linda  Thompson

Who can say for certain
Maybe you’re still here
I feel you all around me
Your memories so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You’re still an inspiration
Can it be
That you are mine
Forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn’t faith believing
All power can’t be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
‘Cause you are mine
Forever love
Watching me from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up
To where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile
To know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

I know you’re there
A breath away’s not far to where you are

In Dreams

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.

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