It would not be an exaggeration to say that I really didn’t hear from anyone in the extended family after you died– I realize people don’t always know what to say and I’ve just had to come to terms with that. But it’s a lonely place to be sometimes.
However, the other day I reached out to a family member to ask a question about something… unrelated to you… and yesterday I got a response which included the words, “I hope you are doing well and loving life!!”
I know that is a nice thought and even a nice thing to say… but it stings a bit when coming from someone close to you who never really addressed, or addresses that you died. It’s one of those things that unless you’ve lost someone so significant in your life it’s just harder to understand. I’m doing better and all… and finding myself laughing more, enjoying the company of others more and just smiling more. But “loving life” may be a stretch as I still think about you every single day which means I miss you every single day.
I was talking with another sibling survivor of suicide yesterday who, upon the impending 1 year anniversary of her brother’s suicide, was told by a friend, “Hey, I’m sure next year will be better for you!!” Again, on it’s own… a very nice sentiment. However, imagine it were your own brother who had taken his own life and you were about to realize that while you’ve just made it through the 1st year without him, you have to face another 40 of them without him. How could this next year, without him, be better?
Gosh, it has just become so glaringly obvious to me in the nearly 4 years since you died that words and phrases that are intended to bring comfort can bring so much sadness and pain, regardless of how they are intended. I don’t know what I’d have done without the support of all the kind people who have come into my life because they too lost someone special to suicide… and in that circle, I’m not so strange– I’m quite normal.
In fact, that’s what they kept telling us in our support group meetings… that we need to learn to live in our “new normal.” It’s so true… because with someone so important missing, it absolutely changes who you are as a human being and it affects how you see the world each and every day that follows. I still think the best analogy I’ve heard of that even comes close is one that relates to a physical loss– the loss of a limb. There are “phantom pains” that follow where though the arm is gone you still feel the pain though it isn’t there anymore. And you need to adapt to a way of life that includes learning to new ways to survive without that arm. Obviously, it can be done and you can exist quite successfully without the arm… but if you could get that arm back and go back to the way things were before… you probably would. And I can’t imagine someone saying to that person, “Hey, could have been worse… you still have that other arm, right?” While it is true, sometimes people just need to have their pain acknowledged and that can make all the difference.
Can’t even believe it has been nearly 4 whole years since you died, Brian. There are times it feels like yesterday as I still relive that night that I found out over and over again… but then there are also times when it feels like an eternity ago because it’s been so long since I saw you smile or heard your voice and you just seem so…. far away.
I don’t know… guess I’m out of things to say for now. But I will say that losing you has, in some small ways, made me a better person. I’m more self-aware, I’m more compassionate and I’m getting better at protecting my heart. But as much as I’ve improved as I’ve grieved your loss I’m still not a whole person anymore and the more days that pass the more people seem to think I’m “over it” and don’t deserve a little extra special care now and then… and to have family members forget and pretend we don’t exist just makes your death all the more alienating.
Missing you so much today, dude.