To My Late Brother, Six Months On
November 10th, 2017. Six months without you.
Every day I need you more than the day before. Every day my pain carves deeper inside of me.
You were the life of our family. Jen was the fire and I was the heart, but when life stops, how can the fire keep burning? What is a broken heart? I feel like an empty body. Together we fit, but who can we possibly be now? As Leonard Cohen wrote, “How can I begin anything new, with all of yesterday in me?” Each day I aim to do at least one good thing, so that you are doing one good thing. It is hard to find reasons for some days, but kindness and you are reasons.
I see things that make me think about what you would say if you saw them or the joke you would make, but I can’t say it for you because even though it’s a joke, I’m already crying. I discovered that tears can start and stop as quickly and as often as breaths.
I lost the freedom of being whole. There is always a sadness upon me that cannot be moved. But through the sadness, sometimes there are beautiful moments. I’m thankful for the beautiful moments and for the people who give me them or share them with me. But they’re not instead of the sadness. They’re alongside it. My life without sadness feels like another life. I don’t even feel like I’m looking at me in photos anymore. There are oceans and crashing waves between all the fragments of me.
I didn’t just lose you, I lost bits of me. I lost the future I knew and the world I recognized. I lost so many people who don’t want to be around a broken heart. But what world is it that I need to hide the love in my body to be accepted? Because grief is love, and sadness isn’t anger, nor is it cruelty. It is just my truth. And truth is what I want from anyone around me, too. I want truth, I don’t want judgment. I think often of “The Velveteen Rabbit” and the words, “Once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to those who don’t understand.”
But people are afraid of the reality of deep grief. So are people afraid of me? The irony of that destroys me: looking out at their “strength” while I’m in my weakest hour; at them surrounded by people while I’m alone. Alone even when I’m not alone. I resent their right to feel afraid of me. What control do I have over how they perceive me? What rights do I have left?
Everything changed in a day — the day I lost you — but I’m still here and you’ll be my best brother forever. I knew loss and had experienced loss, but now I’ve learned that there is something bigger than loss that words cannot convey. Life is more fragile than I ever could have understood, but I’ll make sure that your memory is everlasting. I’ll write your name on every beach and play your songs and read your poems and see your face and let your voice echo loudly in my mind.
Every day I lose you again. It might have been six months ago, but it always feels like yesterday that it happened. It’s always new. Each time I have to experience a moment that I should have shared with you is a moment when I lose you all over again. But each time you’re further away. Time is cruel and it plays strange tricks on me. How can you be here and talking to me in the morning and by the afternoon you’re gone? What is the present when, by the time you’ve processed it, it has already passed?
I love you. I will always love you. I am who I am because you let me be. All I want is you back. Come back. I’ll always ask for you back. I feel like I am not allowed to speak these words, but who needs to be protected from them? You deserve them and so do the others who feel like they have to pretend. So long as my truth has to be kept a secret, it suffocates me. So long as I speak my truth; I still exist. Because I feel like I need to scream at the top of my lungs, to former friends or relatives or acquaintances, “I didn’t die too! Why do you need to silence me? I didn’t die too.” That’s what I want to tell them all. Even though deep down lies the secret that I will have to live with forever. That I did.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
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Getty image via Keyshort