Letter to Brian: September 19, 2014

Dear Brian,

I made the mistake of watching “World’s Greatest Dad” a few weeks ago… it is a movie starring Robin Williams from 2009.

It absolutely broke my heart.

After his son’s apparent suicide, people avoided contact with him… really avoided him altogether.  A woman he’d been dating had even stopped speaking to him for a while– and when she finally found the courage to talk to him when he returned to work all she could say was, “I want to apologize that I haven’t been there more for you lately.  It’s just that I don’t deal with death well.” A co-worker, when talking about his son’s funeral, said to another co-worker, “Hardly anyone came to the funeral.  I felt bad.  I should have gone.”  To which the co-worker responded, “Don’t blame yourself. It was a weekday.”

All of that was so familiar to me.  The averted gazes.  The avoidances.  The absences. The careless words. In fact, when I returned to my job after only just over a week with the family in Minnesota for your funeral, my supervisor just smiled at me as she breezed past my desk and let out a cheery, “Hi Laura! How’s it going??”  As if I was just returning from a vacation at the beach. How am I? How am I?? Well, let’s see. It’s my first day back at work after my brother killed himself and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere right now… nor do I want to. But other than that I’m feeling great, thanks. I just started crying right there at my desk and struggled to catch my breath. Honestly, just a “welcome back” or “I’m sorry for what you are going through right now” would have more than sufficed. Guess that is why most people just looked away… they didn’t know what to say. I wish that more people weren’t so afraid… the alienation was suffocating and only made the grieving process that much lonelier.

Anytime a suicide is reported in the media it is a trigger for me. However, the Robin Williams’ coverage was just so rampant– it was everywhere and it dug up so much for me. While standing in line at the grocery store the other day, I saw a magazine cover with a picture of Robin Williams and underneath it were the following lines: “The truth about the bloody knife! How long it took him to die!” It angered me so much; I fought back the tears as I turned the magazine around so only the back cover was showing. Why on earth would anyone feel entitled to that information? And why would any publication feel it was OK to share it? That kind of journalism isn’t helping to reduce the stigma around suicide and depression– in fact, it only serves to sensationalize it. Sharing the “gory” details isn’t necessary. If the details of your autopsy had been plastered all over Facebook or some other social networking site I’d have been absolutely devastated. Public record or not… I see no reason why anyone would feel they deserve to know those kinds of details. How about we change those conversations and instead start reporting on what can be done to prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else?

I guess that’s all I have to say for today, dude… I just felt like checking in and sharing a few things on my mind.

Love,
Laura

2 thoughts on “Letter to Brian: September 19, 2014”

  1. Hi Laura! I can totally relate with your feelings following your brother’s death. When my Mom had her first suicide attempt, I lied to people at work because I wanted to avoid those awkward work conversations and looks of pity. I said that she had had a seizure (she had epilepsy). I just could not handle other people’s judgment on top of my Mom’s suicide attempt. But, lying to people was also very isolating. I was not able to share my feelings openly because I was always at risk of letting the truth come out. So, when she did commit suicide in June, I started a blog and shared the truth about her death and her previous attempts. I just couldn’t hide the truth any longer and I wanted to speak loudly about the topic of suicide in hopes of making it a less taboo topic. I love the way your blog addresses suicide openly and honestly so thank you!

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