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The 'New Normal' I Found After My Brother’s Suicide

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

My world has been rocked. Hard. A little more than six months ago, I received a late phone call from my grandma. There was panic in her voice as she told me two servicemen were at her door looking for me concerning my brother, Bradley.

My heart immediately sank. They couldn’t tell her anything, but as soon as she handed the phone over to one of the men and he introduced himself as a chaplain, I knew. Something horrible had happened.

Several scenes played out in my head in those few short minutes as I gave directions to the chaplain. Hours later, my mother’s number came across my phone and another dark cloud filled my entire body. I didn’t need her to say the words. The silence and quiet sobs were deafening.

My eyes filled with tears, and my mind became a black hole, sucking in everything it could take without an ounce coming out. Bradley was gone. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The mental image was sickening, and the guilt that crept over me was even more so.

I’ve dealt with the loss of my dad and my papaw but neither compared to what I felt now: blame. Immediately, I went through everything I did wrong. How could I have missed this? Was I too self-absorbed?

My mind could barely process any words being thrown at me, and my heart raced so quickly it felt like it was bubbling up my throat. My aunt answered my grandma’s phone, and it was only a matter of seconds before she matched my sobs. As she repeated what I said out loud, I could hear my grandma scream in the background. It was all a terrible nightmare that quickly sunk in as reality over just a few hours.

I went back to my texts and clicked on his name from a message he had sent me the Friday before. “I love you sis.” I frantically pressed the call button over and over, as I wept on the couch in my living room clutching my cell phone. Denial had set in.

The next several hours, days and even weeks were a blur. The bad days were terrible and outweighed the few good days in the weeks after. Eventually, the weeks turned into months, and life started to slowly go back to normal. A new normal.

A new normal where I will never hear Bradley sing in his off-pitched voice that matched mine. One where I will never hear him laugh at me when I scream while we watch late night horror movies. One where I think back to all of our memories, good and bad, because that’s what I have to hold on to. One where I smile at the little reminders of Bradley and keep them close to my heart. A new normal where darkness has been slowly replaced by light. A new normal where I relive that awful night in May all over again.

This past Friday, my husband took me out to eat to celebrate my birthday. While we were waiting for our entrees, I looked at my husband about to tell him what I was thinking, when tears started filling my eyes. I haven’t heard from Bradley yet. The panic, the fear, the dread and guilt all came rumbling through my body in a matter of seconds.

I’ve found coping mechanisms, but I still struggle. Some days, I lie in bed all day completely heartbroken with absolutely no motivation, but most days, I manage to find the good. I have to find the good. There has to be balance. I have to allow myself to do what’s best for me that day.

I can’t go every day living a completely happy life because it isn’t completely happy. I can’t deny my emotions because it’s part of my healing process. I know have to give myself those bad days. I also know when it starts to get too bad I need to reach out because sometimes you can’t do it alone and that’s OK. That’s more than OK.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from all the loss in my life, then it’s that you have to allow yourself to listen to your mind and body. For anyone out there struggling with their own battles, whatever they may be, know you are not alone.

“There is a storm in all of us, some may never get to see it but we all feel it. Let the lightning strike down those that fought against you, let the thunder bring you home.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via contributor.

Originally published: November 19, 2016
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