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Moving On

“I lost someone to suicide and I need help”

A story by Jacqueline Holmes about how she finally reached out for bereavement help years after the death of her brother. A brilliantly written, raw piece which everyone should read.

I just reread an article I saw in a local newspaper about a Suicide Survivors Bereavement group.

I have put the washing on, emptied the tumble dryer and made myself another cup of tea. Right, I can’t put it off any longer. I paste the email address into the blank email in front of me. What I then write seems almost blunt on reading it again.

I edit it a couple of times but decide it contains the important facts. I lost someone to suicide and I need help from people that have been through it. Seems to get to the point.

I go to hit send and quickly save it as a draft. I need the toilet and I need to check if we have had any post or junk mail today, we get too much junk mail…wow…we have a discount voucher for Dominos, I must hide that before the girls get home.

A few deep breaths later and I’m sat in front of my laptop.

I hit send.

I feel sick.

The tears begin to flow, I can’t breathe. It is real, it really happened. Oh god, what have I started? Denial suddenly feels like a much better option.

In what seems like a split second I see a new email with “that” email address sitting in my Inbox.

I do the only thing that makes any sense, I go and make another cup of tea. I wonder if there is any washing under my daughter’s bed….

Ok, get a grip, I tell myself. I open the email and read a note of kindness and already sense empathy. The author tells me about her own experience and how talking to others who shared the same trauma was the only thing that got her through. Is this what I’ve been missing all this time?

It has been a few days since my contact with the Group and I am going to their next meeting next week. I have told two of my three daughters (the 20 & 15 year olds), my husband and one of my closest friends that I have made contact and that I am going to go to a meeting. I felt I had to share it quickly to make sure I didn’t change my mind.

A few days pass and I feel nervous and slightly sick every time I think about the email I received.

He really is dead and is not coming back. How can this feel like news? It has been 19 years.

Tuesday arrives and I feel brave, I tell my Mum where I’m going. She says it’s good if it’s what I need and if it will help. I see the tears glistening in her eyes and am reminded that I can’t imagine how she feels. She is the strongest person I know and I should have asked for her help long before now. It was me that needed protecting all this time not her. I suddenly feel stronger and get out of the car and go in.

It turned out that I was the only attendee at the meeting. I spent two hours with two ladies I have never met before and heard them telling me things I never considered that anyone else might feel or think.

Our circumstances are all very different but we share the same pain, the same loss and the same need for answers.

I hear myself saying to them that I don’t need to know why anymore because it won’t bring my brother back.

We talk, each offering comfort when needed and sitting quietly and listening, when needed.

I have done it, I have taken the first step. I feel exhausted but a bit lighter. I get a much needed hug from my husband when I get into the car. As we drive home I recount some of the things we talked about, that I actually talked about. I know I have only scratched the surface but it is a start and it is a relief.

I dream about my brother that night: he was alive, annoying me, making me laugh, not attached to a life support machine….that noise, I just can’t shake it even now.

I call my Mum today to tell her how I got on and found myself asking her things about how she had coped and found out some details surrounding my brother’s death that I didn’t know. They don’t change anything but maybe a few more pieces of the jigsaw mean I am a few steps closer – closer to what?

Closure…? I can’t see that, but acceptance maybe. The speed with which my feelings have evolved over the last few days is shocking to me.

It seems that all my spiel to my daughters that it is better to talk about things than bottle them up might actually be true after all. I never was very good at taking my own advice.

Physically I feel exhausted, the same kind of “everything hurts” pain that I remember feeling as I left the hospital the day my brother died.

As I talked about what actually happened to him and the hours surrounding his death, I felt both physically and emotionally that it could have happened yesterday. It felt that raw but as I’m writing this, for the first time ever, I can think about it, I can breathe. I don’t feel like someone is ripping my heart out. Don’t get me wrong the pain in indescribable but it has faded a little or maybe its just changing.

Fading. I don’t like that description as soon as I have written it, it scares me as it makes me think I’m forgetting him.

I read something recently about how isolating grief is. I also heard someone say that depression is very isolating – maybe the two mould into one for a while.

Every bit of me aches, not a “I’ve done too much exercise” kind of ache, I’d recognise that, it has only happened a handful of times in my lifetime. I think my body feels sad. I feel a bit self indulgent too. I sat with a group of people the other day talking about their own, awful, devastating experiences and I found myself drifting in and out of the conversation. It is an awful thing to admit but I wanted them to listen to me, to help ease my burden, how selfish of me not to want to offer the same in return.

I feel more rested today. Maybe all my aches, pains and little niggles for the last few years have been my body telling my heart to let the pain in so it can heal. Who knew I could be so wise….

A month ago I never imagined I would heal, I didn’t think I could face the truth let alone deal with it. I don’t know if I am misremembering but I feel as if a chunk of thoughts about my brother have just been downloaded back not my brain. Good memories are back, maybe my cold heart is thawing after the longest Winter on record.

Grief impacts the whole of your life because your mood has an impact on those around you. I found that I was seeing my unhappiness reflected back to me by my husband. I drove myself mad trying to do more to help him, taking work off him, worrying our relationship was doomed, had he finally realised that I wasn’t worth all of his love…?

Well not surprisingly things escalated and after a heated argument and some reflection between us the problem reared it’s head. He was unhappy because I was unhappy – could it be that simple ? No one else, no disillusioned affair, no boredom so “it’s over” anyway…how your thoughts can run away with you…

He wants me to be happy, because he loves me. I need to start believing it. Losing my brother rocked my world, he left me so why shouldn’t my husband leave me?….because he loves me, plain and simple. My brother loved me too but was it wasn’t about me. It was about how much pain he was in and the action he took to alleviate that pain. I have to, and do, believe that he truly thought that the action he took was the only solution at that moment.

I’m onto the next step and it is a big one. It is contrived and I’m feeling uncomfortable. I am travelling to London to meet a very good friend. I don’t see her that often these days but as is the way with good friends it doesn’t matter.

The train journey brings back memories of my brother as my friend knew him before she knew me. Maybe I’ll mention him today – maybe not, I really don’t know, I don’t want to upset her, we don’t see each other very often and it would be shame to ruin our lunch.

To all my other friends who wonder why I have never speak to them about this, that is the reason: I treasure our time together and wrongly didn’t want to burden you (that is my code for asking for help :-))

The ridiculousness of this hits me as I write it. She is my friend, and she would help me at the drop of a hat.

We catch up, sharing stories and comparing notes on the challenges of having teenage daughters. We laugh, a lot. She goes to the toilet and I have an overwhelming desire to talk to her about my brother before we leave. Here goes nothing, I tell her that I have been going to a Suicide Bereavement group. My voice crackles and the tears come. She asks if I want to talk about it and a few minutes alter I realise that she didn’t hear me properly, the restaurant is noisy, as she asks me what happened.

As I talk about my brother’s overdose her face tells me this is the first time she is hearing this.

When I returned to work a few weeks after losing my brother apparently I told my friend, and everyone else, that my brother had died from too much insulin. Most people knew he was diabetic and no more questions were asked. This was factually correct but not the whole story and hid a mountain of pain that I couldn’t face.

My friend tells me that it never occurred to her that my brother’s death was intentional. She described the fun loving, popular, clowning around young man she knew and couldn’t get her head around it. We talk and I get a slightly different perspective on things. She is kind and compassionate but helps me see that there isn’t just one way of seeing things.

I tend to bristle when people describe the selfishness of someone who has taken their own life. She helps me see that this is just a reaction from people only seeing the hurt and confusion that is left behind, not necessarily a judgement of the person concerned. I have been trying to protect my brother all these years. He doesn’t need my protection now, he needed my help a long time ago.

All of us that knew and loved him are hurt that he is no longer here – how that happened is almost irrelevant.

The what if’s and if only’s are still there but less dominating. I’m not sure if they will ever go completely, time will tell. I think I am starting to forgive myself for not protecting and saving my little brother.

Did I have the slightest inclination that he felt the way he did? Of course I didn’t. If I had known could I have helped him? Probably, maybe, who knows….. Could I have stopped him, maybe, who knows…?
I can’t turn back the clock and it’s time I looked forward.

I hope you have found some peace little brother, I love you.

For bereavement support take a look at Cruse.


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3 years ago

Great article

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