When I first lost my brother to suicide, I was lost too. But I was determined to dive right in. That’s just what I do- I take action. I had to “fix” whatever I could even if there was really nothing that I could fix. If being a new mom in the new millennium taught me anything, it was to run to the computer to find all of the coping mechanisms that I could. I found Facebook groups. I found amazing organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Awareness (AFSP). I found clinical studies. In the wake of this loss, I seemingly found everything that I could possibly need, aside from my brother back by my side, of course.
In this new technological whirlwind of trying to make sense of it all and put the pieces of my broken life and family back together, I found the term “suicide survivor” was one that kept coming up. Was I a suicide survivor? The term brought about imagery of failed suicide attempts and those with mental health issues who were in recovery. But, how could that describe me? Even the trusty Internet was undecided.
I mean, the very definition of “survivor” is certainly one I could relate to. I have always considered resiliency a great strength of mine (and I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging- I probably have like 5 qualities that I really like). I later attended a “Survivor of Suicide Loss” workshop that the AFSP offered. There is a new shift to adjust the phrasing to “survivor of suicide LOSS”, and it reignited my interest in the old confusing term. I was certainly left here, surviving, after one of the biggest losses I will ever experience. Some days just barely surviving. But every day moving forward.
On February 9th, when I received the call from the detective in Texas, I felt like the lone survivor. That day, as I made phone calls to my mom, my dad, my grandmother, my brother’s best friend, I felt like like a lone child, standing in the rubble and aftermath of a terrible disaster. As time went on, I realized that although my path is different from anyone else’s path, I was not alone. I had friends and family by my side. There are people who I haven’t even met yet that have walked similar paths. But, I now know that although at times it is lonely, I am not alone.
My brother, Erik, and I looked very similar. We were only 13 months apart. Cut my hair and slap a beard on me and we would look like twins. Sometimes, I think our resemblance drove people away in the days following his death. Especially the people who missed him the most. Which were, unfortunately, the people who I felt I needed the most. If I had a huge loss, after my husband, I would go to my parents, or my grandma. But, how can I ask for them to take care of me, when they needed to be taken care of themselves? How could I ask them to help me through a loss that they were going through themselves. I can’t. But, there were still days where I wanted to scream “I AM STILL HERE!”- like they didn’t know. Like they didn’t realize that they can learn from their mistakes. They can come out of this Hell better and stronger than they were before. When my dad says “I should have called Erik more often”, and I want to yell “YOU CAN CALL ME MORE!” Well. I don’t have answers for those feelings of anger and resentment. As selfish as it sounds, I haven’t escaped them yet. But, one day I will move past it. One day I will accept that I can only control myself. Until then, though, I will be here, still surviving.