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Surviving Suicide

After You Lose Someone You Love...

My brother Blair and I at his 24th birthday gathering.   

So it has been precisely one year, three months, and sixteen days since my younger brother hung himself in his apartment on a sunny day in late July. Right now as I start writing this, I am listening to a cover of "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. I do wish you were here. I think about you every single day. The depression and PTSD I have developed since your death make sure I remember you in the most painful of ways. I remember your voice as I hear it in my head, but it feels like it hits my eardrums like actual sound, I turn to my friend who looks at me questioningly because no one has said anything as I ask "Yah, what?" 

The saying "Had I known then what I know now" never rings truer than it does in reference to the guilt of surviving the suicide of someone you love. I remember my brother being so lonely and wanting company, to which I would always reply, "Why don't we get out into the sun and do something?" or "Why don't you come over to my place?" Never fully understanding how his depression made it impossible for him to leave the house. I had never experienced depression in my life and I had no idea the extent to which it affected him. Now, since his death, I have been diagnosed with clinical depression, and it's only too late I comprehend what it is he was going through: the crippling weight of your own mind turning on itself as your previous sense of self-worth deteriorates to nothing, and you can barely bring yourself to get out of bed let alone the house. 

Grief therapy has taught me that the pain of losing my brother will never go away. It's true, I just find newer and more interesting ways of hiding or coping with the pain. I feel robbed. I felt like half a person for at least a year after he died. We were a duo. My mom's kids, he was the Sammy to my Dean. Now I have to deal with the fact that I am now an only child. For a month straight, I had chronic nightmares where I would be frantically looking for my brother or looking for my brother's possessions in my dreams hoping to find something, anything to hang onto, and as I woke, it all slipped through my fingers as it always did, leaving me feeling even emptier than I had before I had fallen asleep.

Blair and I, Halloween 2015.

I now live in my brother's apartment (yes, where it happened), and every day I wonder how hard it will be for me to leave this place. To allow another human being to invade a space that was once his. Even if he hated the place. I smell his cologne in the most random and impossible places, and it's the only thing I have that makes me question my cynicism in regards to the afterlife. I don't believe he hangs around; he hated to be here alive. I don't imagine he would want to linger for my benefit after death. My more optimistic friends and family like to tell me that he is around, if not in person then in spirit, as if it should comfort me to think so. I don't know if I find comfort in thinking that my brother is around watching me cry so hard I can't catch my breath as I hug his jacket with the cologne he wore on it.  

People like to try to avoid discussing Blair around me like it will set me off or cause a mental breakdown when really all I want to do is talk about him like he's still here. It's one of my coping mechanisms, never referring to him in the past tense. It may be an unhealthy way to cope, but I really don't care. I think my mom put it pretty well when she said that I am afraid of forgetting him. I know I won't ever forget him, but I fear forgetting the exact sound of his voice or his laugh or the weird quirky ways he carried himself. So when I have flashbacks or nightmares, I submerge myself as much as I can for as long as I can in order to suck up all the details my mind can put out for me. This is definitely an unhealthy coping mechanism, but again, I don't really care. 

I am at a point in my recovery where I am doing much better, fewer breakdowns in public. I have the odd day where I can't stop crying and refuse to leave the house, but it slowly gets less and less. The incidents, not the pain. That remains the same. The only positive advice I can give to anyone who may be going through a similar situation is that the pain doesn't get easier to deal with, but the more you have to deal with, the stronger you get. So for now, I will continue to live with the memories of my brother (and sometimes the happy ones hurt more than the sad ones). I am doing my best to carry on because I know he would expect it of me. 

I feel like I'm still living in the past with my dead brother because a future without him is too painful to accept, but as I start to deal with everything on my plate in regards to the issue, I can feel my grip on the past slowly letting go. Even if I'm not ready to completely let go now, I know the day will come, and I hope the people around me, and especially myself, will have the patience to see it through.

Until then I can only hope that my brother has found the peace in death he so eagerly wanted in life and that I will see him again and look back on all of this like a lesson and not a curse. 

Life asked Death, "Why do people love me but hate you?" to which Death replied, "Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth."

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