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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9 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.

  5. Cynthia says:

    Thank you… My brother took his life 3 months ago. He left behind devastated parents, twin boys, sister, brother and many more that loved him unconditionally. We are forever broken but I do beleive that somehow, some way with the power of our lord, faith and people like you (helping) that there is hope for us to mend our broken hearts and live a normal life! God bless you and everyone whom are experiencing pain & heart break brought on by the loss of a loved one.

  6. Kirsten says:

    Thanks for the comments above. They remind me that good things can come from something horrible. And finding goodness from this loss helps it be something besides just terrible.
    Keep breathing.

  7. Lisa says:

    Keep posting. I’m so glad I read this today as I’m having a crappy one. I needed to hear from someone who has dealt with their pain and grief and life after.

  8. Linda Power says:

    I can’t imagine myself ever being happy again. Today it just doesn’t seem possible. My younger brother and only sibling took his own life on Feb 26th, almost 6 weeks ago. I had no idea this was coming. We spoke the day before and he seemed fine. He had no history of depression. The sense of betrayal and loneliness is overwhelming.I have such a pain in my chest. I don’t think I’ve been breathing properly for weeks. I go through the motions of eating, sleeping and working but it’s all fake. I’m just a ghost. I’m not really in this world. The pain is horrendous. My brother was 37 and I turned 40 a few days before he died. I feel lost. Like my life is over. I feel so bad for my husband. He’s a good man and he doesn’t deserve to be stuck with a shell of a woman. Stuck with someone who will never be happy again. My parents and I thought we had such a great life. And we did. And now it’s destroyed. Irreparable. I can’t be angry with my brother as I love him too much. Whatever he was feeling must have meant he was not able to see how much pain he would cause. He loved us. But this is our reality now. A horrible, bleak nightmare that we now have to recognise as our ‘new’ life.

    • Kirsten says:

      You are not in this world. You are right. Everything has changed for you. Nothing is familiar yet everyone else’s life goes on. We each must learn to live in this new place. It comes with time. Journal, join a support, keep coming to this site. Fake it til you make it. You are on a new path. It does become less intense.

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