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How I'm Navigating Losing My Brother to Suicide

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This is a story I selfishly wish I never had to tell.

This is a life circumstance I never expected to be in.

This is a pain unlike any other.

I am the loved sister to two amazing brothers. I have an older brother and a younger brother, and part of my identity has always been being smack in the middle of the two. I spent my childhood looking both up to and down to two roles models. Now, however, the puzzle of my family has a missing piece. When we take photos, I do not have a spot in the middle to stand in because there is no one to my left. I now have a brother with me in person and one with me in spirit.

Losing a loved one is always hard. Grief is messy, confusing, painful and hard to navigate. The question of whether it is harder to process an expected loss or an unexpected one has always seemed to circulate but never answered. In the realm of unexpected death, suicide is a category all its own.

I lost my brother to suicide. My brother could have been a poster child for someone who “has it all.” So many people have been left asking the age old question of, “Why?” I am no expert on navigating this. I am new to it and wish it was not something I had to learn. However, I have come across a few potential pearls of wisdom I wanted to share.

  1. Accept that the person was in pain and that regardless of why or how, this was what they chose. Allow them the respect of attempting to accept their choice and still loving and honoring them all the same.
  2. Do not let the way your loved one passed cloud the experiences you had with them. When you laughed and smiled together, those
    were genuine and memorable experiences. Just because that person was holding a deep and unbearable pain does not mean they did not love you or enjoy being with you and others. No one should be defined by one thing. Remember the whole picture of who that person was.
  3. No matter how much or how little guilt you hold for “not saving” them, let it go. There is nothing beneficial or healthy about holding onto survivor’s guilt. Think of all the ways you showed love to that person and helped them in any way you could. No matter the situation, it is highly likely you did the best you could with however much or little knowledge you had.
  4. Take care of yourself. This is going to be a long road. Your emotions may change week-to-week, day-to-day or even hour to
    hour. Check in on yourself regularly. Do anything and everything you need to do to take care of yourself — go to therapy, call those you love when you need to chat, spend a night out, take time off work, go on a vacation to escape, spend time looking at photos, cry, laugh, love.
  5. You do not need to feel guilty about being happy. Whoever you lost likely did not want you to spend the rest of your life in endless mourning. Live your life to the fullest and carry their spirit with
    you. Live your life for both you and them.

In the end, there is no wrong or right way to handle this. I simply
wish you peace along your journey.

Photo credit: AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

Originally published: February 28, 2019
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