I never expected to be grieving again so soon. It has been a little over 4 years since my son died by suicide. Just a few days ago, my brother took his life.
He had been suffering from poor mental health for 5-6 years, maybe even longer. I think it really started when he was laid off from his long-time job. He would be turning 60 and told me that he was having a hard time finding another job. He said nobody wanted him at his age. His self-esteem and self-confidence plummeted.
My brother and I have not been close over the years. Some of it is our age difference, family priorities, physical distance, and health challenges – both mental and physical. We weren’t tight knit like my sister and I were. When she died nearly 15 years ago, I lost my best friend. She was my confident and we did life together. I miss her and find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call her. The loss of my sister impacted me deeply.
My son’s death crushed me the most. I had no idea he was struggling and that was one thing that really hurt. As his mother, even though he was 24, I was supposed to protect him. I felt like I let him down. He was young and, I had hopes and dream for him. The lost future was horrible. I suffered immensely. However, it was his death that propelled me into my mission of helping other mothers survive the loss of a child, especially to suicide.
With my brother, my grief is very different. I feel a hole in my heart because I know I will never speak to him in the earthly realm again. I don’t have the deep yearning as with my sister and son. This is difficult for me to say as I initially felt others will judge me for the way I reacted to his death and how I am grieving him. I almost feel ashamed that I don’t feel more the pain. I wonder, what is wrong with me? It is ,my brother, living flesh that has passed away and I am not crying. I “should” be grieving differently.
If I were working with a client who is reacting to their loss in the same way I am now, I would be asking if they were experiencing inhibited grief, a type of grief where there is no outward expression of feelings. Or could it possibly be absent grief with little to no feelings?
I ask this because it is important to grieve, not stuff emotions and feelings. People who do not grieve can be healthy. However, it is important to be on the lookout for changes in emotions: anger, sadness, lack of compassion, isolation, new disease, or illness. These can surface as signs of avoiding grief.
My friends and family are so kind to check in with me. I really appreciate their connection. They are somewhat surprised when I tell them that I am okay. I am honestly okay. I’ve come to accept that my brother is gone. As children we were much closer than as adults. I have been going back to our childhood and remembering the fun things we did together. Doing his has brought a smile to my face.
Having gone through the suicide of my son, I am so much better equipped to walk the path as a suicide loss survivor. I pooled together the resources I have been using with the other family losses to navigate my son’s death. I am grateful that I have them now to get through my brothers’ death. I know that the books I wrote, (Life After Child Loss and Survive Your Child’s Suicide), the podcasts I have been on as a guest, the weekly blog I publish, and the conferences I’ve spoken at have helped me tremendously. Talking about my experience and writing are therapeutic. I also have the opportunity to help other mothers who are going through the same thing.
I feel very deeply for my sister-in-law and two nieces. They have lost their husband and father. This is a difficult time to understand what has happened. I pray for peace and comfort for them as they travel this journey. I too have walked the suicide loss path and am grateful that I am able to help them.