Category Archives: Guest Post

My Brother Killed Himself

On May 20, 2017 I woke up to a knock on the door. I looked out my bedroom window to see a Sheriff driving away. I went downstairs and saw that my parents had left in one of their cars. I decided to prepare breakfast for my little brother. While making eggs I felt the Lord tell me to drop to my knees and pray for my older brother’s soul, not a common occurrence I assure you. I fed my brother and put on the television. Some time later my parents came home and were visibly distraught. My father called a family meeting and had us all sit down. He said “Boys, at 5am this morning your brother Michael shot himself with his pistol.” He took his own life with a Sig Sauer p227 that I had used before for target practice. The Sheriff had asked my mother to identify his corpse in his own backyard. I could feel my soul shatter like glass into a million pieces. I could feel the Lord crying in heaven. I could feel the earth crying as his blood sank into the soil. I could feel my family’s countenance evaporate into nothing. Now I have stomach aches and head aches every day. I went from the Dean’s list in college to failing classes. Michael was 26 years old and in a few years I will be older than he ever was. I don’t really care about anything anymore. I adjusted my expectations of life to zero and now I only hope for the pain in my heart to be a little less tomorrow and the day after that. I thought I would get better but I now realize that the person I once was is no more. I’m an empty shell and my family will forever have a crimson stain.

My little brother

It hasn’t hit the 2 year mark just yet since my younger brother killed himself by strangulation in our shed 3 days after his 18th birthday. Some days it’s easier than others. I often wonder how long is someone supposed to grieve? Can it leave sometimes, but then come back? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve felt immense guilt since then. He and I were like best buds when we were younger. I used to pretend to be his dog and we played with building blocks and all sorts of other fun things. But as we grew older, things got more complicated. He and I are (were?) 5 1/2 to 6 years apart, so when I was a teenager he was still only 7-12 or so. We started fighting a lot more and we slowly stopped hanging out. I was going through my own set of struggles at the time so we grew farther and farther apart.

By the time he was a teenager it was like the only time we interacted was when we had to. We would tear each other down over so many different things that really don’t matter now. There are so many times I yelled back at him that I wish I hadn’t. As he grew into an older teen he fought more with everyone in the house, especially my parents. He would yell until he was hoarse and then go to his room and just sob. I was often in our basement and I could hear him, but our relationship felt so broken at that point that I felt I couldn’t say anything to him that would help, that he would just push me away.

I always nag myself for that, wishing I had just at least tried! This silence between us, besides bickering over dumb things, was all that our relationship was the last few years of his life. I kept telling myself that this was a phase, that as an adult his moods would level out. I knew he wasn’t a bad person, being a teenager just sucked. I thought that’s all this was. The last time I saw him I was curled up in a chair and he had come home from work. I said hi to him and he said “Hey.” I feel even worse remembering that I had only recently started greeting him and saying goodbye to him when he would leave again. I thought he hated me so I tried not to get in his way. When I’ve told some of these things to my other siblings, I often get judgement. I still feel very responsible for him killing himself. I also recall feeling like after I found out he killed himself that it should have been me dead, not him. I often still feel very alone with this, even among my own family. I loved my brother… I was just horrible at showing it.

Gordie’s Sister

My little brother killed himself in the early 1980’s. A long time ago, yes, but I still think of him, of the situation, so very often.
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I was in my 3rd year in a very competitive and rigorous university when he came to visit me from our home in the far south of the very large state of California – a place which was the seat, we found out much later, of his schizoid paranoid delusions.
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He came to visit me, and then settled in to a happy and peaceful place on my deck where he talked to people I could not see. I was scared for him – and for me.
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And so I tried, omg how I tried, to get him to see (my) reality. But he would not/could not.
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We clashed about him a getting a job, and I was harsh toward him about it. That job – over which we were SO at odds – is something I know now was nothing he could possibly manage. But back in the 1980’s, before the internet and before any real info about or medication for paranoid schizophrenia, I simply didn’t know – *at all* – how to help him.
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I thought he was malingering and had decided to remain soft, sweet, kind and very strange – and without a job – just as he’d been so long.
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I still (and will always, have always, shall always) feel intensely guilty I could not “fix” him. I was the oldest. The brightest. The most grounded of the four of us children. I was responsible. No matter how little I knew back then or what little there was available to know his illness, somehow I *should* have been able to fix him.
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And so … years. And years. Years. Years. Years. And years and years and years: Guilt remains.
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Guilt abounds and multiplies.
Guilt calls me names when I sleep.
Guilt lives.
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Guilt has been lodged in my soul since then, in the 1980’s, when it wedged itself deeply into my soul, into my identity. Guilt has become a part of who I am today. I never wanted it – but it’s part of who I am nonetheless.
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I am always: The girl who did not save her brother. The girl who cast her little brother away. The girl who did not care enough. The girl who was too selfish.
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The girl who let her little brother die.
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The girl who let her little brother kill himself.
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As much as anything else (good daughter, good mom, good friend, good citizen, fun, bright, big smile, ready laugh, hopeful, optimist, etc, etc, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…
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I am and shall always be the girl who let her little brother kill himself.
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In the years since his suicide, since the time we were both so very young, I have learned these truths:
We are not our brothers/our children.
We did the best we could, with the tools we had.
We did.
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In my head, I know such is is true.
But in my heart, it will ever be true that I am the last one in the family to see him alive and, so, I am the one who didn’t do enough to prevent my little brother from killing himself. I carry the fault and cannot be absolved from the blame.
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In any case, I cannot absolve myself from this blame. Not ever.
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I am so very sorry, my little brother, that I didn’t know how to help you.
And I love you.
Always.
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I hope your way since then has been less tormented.
<3

3 1/2 Years

Is the new normal starting to set in? At times it feels like it is. It’s taken 3 years. But then the moments still happen. Moments when I feel alone in the grief. I live 3,000 miles away from my family I’m 36 years old. My brother was 30 when he took his life and I was 32. The pain comes back when I think of new things to come. Life events, family moments that he won’t be there. The irony is my self centered thoughts. I just got out of a 2 1/2 year relationship. Much of my grieving was done while I was with her. But now grief comes back up, and it feels different. How do you meet someone now, date, and share about your life and your family, and reveal this very sad thing that happened. How many siblings do I have? Do I still have two, or do I say just one now but I did have two. I’m not afraid of the stigma. My brother made a decision and I respect it. I’m exhausted at the mental games of how to continue to create my life, meet people, date, and share this very painful part of my life. I’d love to hear how you handled this. I didn’t think I’d have to share this painful part of my life again with a new person….and here I am.

Jake

Jake, it’s been almost six months since you’ve killed yourself. I turned 22 the other day, and every day that passes since you passed is just another slap in the face. Time keeps moving away from a place where you were once in it.
I finally remember the last time I saw you in person. You were being your normal, misbehaving seventeen year old self. You’re one of the funniest people I know. Why didn’t I tell you that when I still could?
I feel like a bad big sister. I was so self interested throughout junior high and high school and didn’t have time for you. I snapped at you often. I was never patient. We got closer after I went to college, but I can’t stop thinking about all the opportunities I had to make you feel loved and I didn’t. You deserved so much more than me as a big sister.
A month before you passed, you helped me move back home- a two day trip- with our dad. I didn’t know it at the time, but everyone thought I might be suicidal because my anxiety was very, very bad. Mom said you told her you were going to help me move. Your boss came out to the house in the days after your passing and said you told her you had to be there for me too.
I don’t know how I could struggle with mental health my whole life and not realize the extent you were too. Jake, I love you. This isn’t fair. I want you back, and that’s never going to happen. I’m so sorry for not doing more. I love you.

Remembering Brennen S

It was a normal Sunday morning for me. Slight headache from the night before celebrating my cousins wedding. Getting ready to go to work at the call center I worked at. Remember looking at Brennen’s snapchat story from last night. He was living in Oregon/Washington with my mom. Told myself I need to message him about it and tell him it made me LOL. Get to work and start doing my normal Sunday duties. I think it was around 12-12:30pm when I got a call from my older brother, he lived in Sioux Falls. I looked at my phone and thought, “huh, what’s he need”. From the moment he uttered the words “Brennen’s dead, he killed himself” My world turned upside down, got the most gut-wrenching feeling, my heart dropped then started beating fast. He told me to go tell Brennen’s little brother. I said ok love you, hung up and went to tell my boss. I couldn’t feel my legs and wanted to throw up. I broke down telling her, she hugged me and told me to go, now. I left and immediately called my mom. Honestly thinking it was a cruel, cruel “joke”. Mom picked up and was understandably uncontrollably crying. I don’t remember what I told her or what she said. On my way to his brother’s house I called my dad’s sister, my aunt. Then I arrived at his brother’s house, I burst into his place. He was sleeping I told him to get up now, something happened. He was getting ready, I was shaking trying to text my girlfriend. I looked at his brother and uttered the same words my brother just told me 10 mins ago. “Brennen’s dead, he killed himself” His brother and I stared at each other tears in our eyes. He came outside and I hugged him, at the moment his gf Rainy pulled up. I think my brother had called her. As we are standing there my friend of 10 years  just happened to drive by, I flagged her down and told her the news.
After I had left his brother’s I had called my brother and said, “what the **** do we do?” He had been talking to my grandma and aunt, who live in Oregon and had went to get mom. He said gma is buying us plane tickets and we are leaving for Oregon tomorrow morning. I went home started laundry, with so many emotions going on. My mom called me and said, “get here, I need you boys” The next few hours were somewhat of a blur. I had to go to my dads and get a piece of luggage. I remember the look on my dad’s face, my step mom hugged me. I saw my half-sister in the kitchen. She hugged me, then I saw my half little brother. Something in me broke, I had just lost one little brother and seeing him brought back a flood of memories. I left and went home, left town and headed to Sioux Falls. My great uncle said the brothers and I could stay the night. When I got there everyone was around the table, my uncle hugged me. Anyone got a hug count yet? A few hours later we were on the deck of my uncle’s and I looked to the east and saw a bar! I said let’s go have a beer for Brennen, everyone was on board. When we got there, I ordered a Budweiser. Brennen’s favorite beer, not sure why! My step sister meet us there, then my Aunt and another family member. We laughed, cried and drank. We went back to my uncle’s, my brother went to bed. His brother’s turned on the movie TED. I don’t know about anyone else, but I got maybe 2 hours of sleep that night. I had called mom, she couldn’t sleep either. Just talked, cried. I was the first one ready in the morning. My uncle dropped us of at the SF airport that morning. We flew from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis. From Minneapolis to Portland, OR.
I don’t remember what time we got to Portland, but when we walked through the doors, I saw mom. She was standing there crying, anxiously waiting to hug her 3 boys. I remember her nails digging into my neck, the wailing of her cry. My cousins and a cousin’s wife were there. We got in the car and went to gmas. First of all, forget Portland, OR traffic! As if I didn’t want to throw up already, the constant stop, go didn’t help. We got to grandmas, I saw my aunt and gma.
My brother is a funeral director, he had worked at a funeral home in Aloha, OR. They had gone to get Brennen and prepared him. Tuesday was the day. The day that will live with me for the rest of my life. When we arrived at the funeral home, they allowed Mom and us brother’s first go to see Brennen. He looked amazing, at peace and I kid you not. That s*** eating grin Brennen always had. “I love you Brennen” is the first thing I said to him. Don’t know long we were there. Had a nice little vigil, listened to some songs. Then had to say goodbye to Brennen. My little brother, “I love you Brennen” I said to him as the funeral directors took him back to be cremated. Some of you won’t get why we did this, some might. My brother said we were able to go back want to watch the process. I know what your thinking, “NO WAY!” that’s what I thought too. But other brothers said they wanted to do so I did too. As weird as it may sound, it helped a little with closure.
That was the first night I slept well. I had asked mom if we could go to the ocean. So, we all piled into her car. OH mom’s dog had to come too! Was a nice drive, arrived at Seaside Beach. Then drove over to Haystack Rock. That was a beautiful day. We laughed, cried hugged. I went back to South Dakota Thursday, I just needed to get home. Get back to a “normal” routine. But nothing would ever be normal again. My employer was nothing but understanding. As the days, cards and hugs came. I was remined that a lot of people were there for me in my time of need.
Mom had planned on moving back before Brennen passed away. She arrived in town early October 2017. Brennen was cremated and my brother had picked out a beautiful blue urn. We had “Brennen, Fly High, 203” engraved on it. Brother all also got pocket knives with Brennen’s thumb print on it. We had a funeral October 15th at 2pm. Same church us boys were all confirmed in. I didn’t want to go, I never thought I’d be getting ready for my little brother’s funeral. Tons of the twin’s friends came, middle school teachers. Aunts and uncles were there, it was beyond heartwarming. Flowers from friends, more hugs. Mom had a video tribute put together, was amazing. After the funeral we had cake, which made me laugh because Brennen loved his sweets!
Now the question you’re probably all wondering, how did he do it? Well, Brennen hung himself in his closet at his and mom’s apartment. Mom found him, a thing I wish she never had to do.
It’s been 494 days since Brennen completed suicide. If you had a family member complete suicide, I give you a hug. If you are a person of failed suicide, I give you a hug. People are here for you, no matter what side of the street your on. The point of this is to tell you a family members side of suicide.
Thank you for reading.
Brennen, I miss you, I love you.

An Avalanch of Fear

This post is for anyone who, since losing a sibling to suicide, has felt overwhelming fear and anxiety. In me, it manifested as a hyper-vigilance towards my own mental well-being. It gets better with time as long as you do not fight the fear and let it come in and out.
I was 24 when my sister took her life at 27 years old. This was a year and a half ago. Before then I’d lived relatively worry-free. I was a shy kid, and I hated oral presentations, and I wasn’t great at parties, but I took comfort in my silence. I liked being by myself. I would consider myself “normally” anxious for someone who preferred to watch movies, go to art shows or create things at home.
My sister struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder most of her life. She hid it from most of us very well. I was very sheltered, being her brother. My mother and father, and my sister herself, did not want me seeing her in any bad states. That made things a lot worse, in hindsight.
I was numb for over a year, but the anxiety & grief manifested in ways I didn’t notice. I’d become obsessed with my work, obsessed with perfection. I would become irritated over very small things, and I noticed it getting worse. Finally, I had my first panic attack a year out. After that attack the waves of grief began hitting me. I’d go from depressed to terrified, back and forth, for a few weeks. What made it worse, and what I hope someone reading this can see, is since I had been numb for a year I thought I had gotten “over it”. Thus, for a while, I was convinced I’d gone crazy, that I had suddenly developed some disorder that couldn’t be cured.
I sought therapy almost immediately. My fears manifested as overwhelming worry over my mental stability (something I never worried about before). I would ruminate, trying to convince myself I was ok, trying to find “reasons” for why I wouldn’t take my own life like she did. Finding explanations for my existence, for my being okay, and eventually poking holes in those ideas. Sensations of panic would hit me for “no reason” (I’ve since learned there’s always a reason), sounds were very loud, and I rarely had an appetite.
Therapy, and talking about my fears, was my salvation. Externalizing how I felt forced me to structure my emotions, and in order to structure them I had to feel them. Since then I’ve been able to not react to the fear (still hard at times). Grief can manifest very similarly to generalized anxiety. You can get a pit in your stomach for “no reason”, a bout of dizziness, a beating and racing heart, a shortness of breath. During my worst days my mind would wake me up as I slept, out of a fear of the unknown.
I really want to shed light on how suicide-bereaving siblings should never accept diagnoses of “disorder”. Disorder is an ugly word. I can’t think of anything more befitting of sensations of fear and anxiety than losing a part of yourself to such a sudden and scary act. The only way to get through those moments is just that, to go through them. Adding fear to the fear, by being scared of the arising negative emotions, even if they aren’t even tied to the sibling you lost, compounds things.
Be strong and accept the negative emotions. Know when to reach out. Fear and anxiety aren’t scary monsters. They are our brains’ ways of telling us something is wrong. And indeed, when we lose someone so close to us to suicide, something is wrong. But it doesn’t always have to be wrong. Sit with things being wrong, eventually wrong will not “feel” wrong and become another dimension of your human experience. Your emotions, negative or positive, are there to guide you. By respecting your emotions there’s a possibility of building trust within yourself. And in the end, nobody can go into your mind but you, so it’s kinda great to trust yourself.

Something I’ll never forget

I was house sitting five days prior to my brother’s death. My mom and i don’t get along, so i stayed at my aunts house to get away. The day he was supposed to come over and swim was the day i woke up to 49 missed calls from my mom. I can’t even remember the last thing I said to him. If I had been home, I would have noticed something was wrong. I could have stopped him, but I wasn’t.

Losing my Brother and Best Friend

Even though it has been several years since I lost my brother to a self inflicted gunshot, it still feels like yesterday. We were extremely close. After my father passed, he took the role of father figure but he was also my mentor, and best friend. He was a jokester and liked to play pranks on me. I could talk to him about anything. He moved to Florida and soon after I joined him and I moved there with my best girlfriend. He had a business where he did auto body and I ended up taking a job there with him. I noticed that he was changing a bit. I found out he had started using drugs and drinking heavily. He was so good at his job and several large car dealerships used his services. Even though he was extremely busy, he seemed to never have money or able to pay his bills. One day we were hanging out and he didn’t work that day. He was drinking a lot. He told me that he had a gun to sell but he had it hidden at my mother’s house in a safe. He asked me to go get it for him and he waited in the car. I went in, got the gun and all the ammunition for him. He said he wanted to go to the pawn shop to sell it but needed to stop at his house first. One of his friends was driving, he was in the passenger seat, and I was in the backseat. He turned around and looked at me with a sadness I have never seen, a tear was rolling down his cheek. He turned back around and I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say and had no idea that this day was going to be the last time I ever got to talk to him or try to comfort him. We went to his house, his friend was going to the store and coming back. My brother walked into his house and 5 minutes later came back out. I had my back to him when he came out but heard the screen door slam behind him and then I turned around. In that moment I turned toward him, I saw the gun go up to his temple and he pulled the trigger. I just started screaming for help. I went to him trying to give him CPR and saw the tears rolling down his face. I was just screaming for help when 6 cruisers pulled up with guns drawn on me. They pushed me down into the grown and handcuffed me and told me not to move. I was paralyzed at that moment from the fear and shock and lifted my head to scream again but nothing came out. I watched my brother take his last breaths alone – they wouldn’t let me go to him. The next time I saw him was on a gurney in the hospital with a plastic tube in his mouth. I broke down and all I remember is the hospital staff yelling at me to be quiet because of the other patients could hear me.