5 Things You Think After Losing a Sibling to Suicide
1. You immediately start to think of all of the “I will never(s)…”
I will never get to see him get married. I will never get to see him become a father. I will never get to be an aunt to his children, or be the “cool aunt” I had hoped to be. I will never get to see him succeed in his career. I will never get to see him live his life to his full potential. I will never get to grow old with him.
It’s easy to overlook all of the beautiful memories we do have together, and the amazing childhood we shared. Because when you are standing in the waters of grief up to your elbows, you cannot possibly see the beauty in any situation. This is to be expected. Don’t rush your grieving process. It will come and will transform when you least expect it. There will be good days and there will be bad days, and that’s OK.
2. Overpowering fear.
Pure, bull bodied, overwhelming fear. Could this happen to me? Could I wake up one day and decide I’ve had enough? Why did this happen? After all, how could someone who was so popular, handsome, jovial, successful, charming and thoughtful take his life? I think the answer to this is even more complicated than we could comprehend. A lot of sibling survivors ask, “Could this happen to me?” I think the short answer is probably not. And even though there is a link to suicide in families that doesn’t mean you will follow the same path.
3. Will my parents be OK?
My parents are some of the strongest people I know, but after my brother died I wondered how our once 4-legged table of a family would stay upright when one of the legs were missing. There has been some tipping and unwavering moments but we have not fallen. I’m not sure if they will ever be “OK,” but they are slowly learning to live their lives in a “new normal.” Does that mean there aren’t days where they can’t get out of bed because the pain is just too much? No. It means they are doing the best they can with what they have. Everyone handles grief differently, and no two people follow the same path of grief. Be gentle with yourself and with your parents.
4. I don’t have any living siblings. Now what am I supposed to do without my brother?
Does this mean I am an only child? I don’t know but it’s terrifying as all hell. Those words break my heart more than I could ever tell you. My best advice is to build a support network. No one in the world will ever replace your sibling, but people who love you can make your journey through life more graceful. I keep in regular contact with my brother’s best friend and am looking forward to seeing him get married this summer. He wrote me a letter for my birthday last year to tell me he will always be here for me in the absence of my brother. It meant so much to me. My sister-in-law has been nothing short of an amazing blessing for me these past few months. I don’t know what I would do without her. She constantly goes out of her way to support me and show me that she loves me. Having her as my “sibling” has made my dark situation tolerable. Surround yourself with people who love you and you will be surprised what will come of it.
5. The funeral is over, and all of the constant check-ins from friends and family have stopped. Now what?
This is another common topic. When something happens, your community, family and friends flock to you during your time of “need.” What I don’t think people realize is that just because three, six, nine months or even years have passed doesn’t suddenly mean you don’t need support anymore. And in some ways you may need more support now than you did immediately following a tragedy. Shock wears off with time and true grief starts to set in. Try to keep yourself busy and find something that you are passionate about doing. Filling my time with giving back to the community and doing random acts of kindness make me happy. I raised almost $4,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention last year and hope to be involved on a volunteer level this year. Find support groups either online or in person. It’s unbelievably soothing to talk with someone who “knows how you feel.” Healing takes time and grief is never truly over, but taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do.
Follow this journey here.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
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 741741.
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