Half My Life Ago

Half my life ago today, 31 years ago to be exact, my younger brother died. He had set himself on fire and lived for 43 days.
Tomorrow he will be gone more than half my life. It is odd to ponder this milestone. Like all of you here, I did not think I could survive those early years. I had to will myself to take one breath and then the next. Everyone else’s lives were going forward, and I was lost in this unfamiliar and crushingly sad place.
For those new to this awful experience, I want to let you know what it is like to be half my life in this place. I have a full life. I can be happy. My brother’s suicide is still the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But over time this life is my familiar life. His suicide has been woven into the fabric of that life. I am no longer raw with emotion. I have learned to see what gifts have come from this. I can be a voice for others. I can share my experience, strength and hope. While his death was a catastrophic event, it colors who am today. I am in a healing profession and I know the good I do is colored by goods times and bad.
Here are some of the things that helped me long the way: writing in a journal gave me a 24/7 outlet, therapy (both with other survivors and individually), learning about better physical health, eating better, waiting (when the awful moments happen, just wait; they will stop), leaning into the sadness instead of running from it. Find someone who can listen. Make a list of what is comforting to you. Keep it close by. Use it. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe, until you can breathe without thinking about it.
A therapist once asked me what I thought my brother wanted for me. Without thinking the answer came out, “Peace. He wants me to be at peace.”
I still believe that. Keep coming back here. We know. We understand. We care.

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4 Responses to Half My Life Ago

  1. Bridgette says:

    Thank you for this! Having a bad day crying for hours. I lost my beloved brother just over a year ago but today it feels like yesterday and really painful. My heart is so broken. I am fighting to keep going. I work lots and on my days off i break down. My relationships with my family are broken too. Nobody talks about him. That really bothers me. I feel alone and sad. 😔😓 so sad today!! 💔

  2. Colleen says:

    Thank you for giving hope I desperately need. After 7 years i have forgotten what “joy” felt like.

  3. ALO says:

    thank you. It’s been 3 months since I lost my only sister. She was 27. It’s hard to imagine my life without her. I don’t want to. So much anger, sadness, excruciating pain every minute of every day. I miss her so much. Half of me went with her that day. I don’t know how to move forward sometimes. Your post was comforting and helpful. Thank you 🙏🏼

  4. Maya says:

    We just reached the 6 year point for my younger brothers death. This year was different, I’ve opened up more and am able to feel more.
    You are right. We can have a happy life. Their deaths become woven into our deep inner workings. Sometimes I can talk about him and not cry, other times it brings it all out. Remembering to breathe is important.

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