Some time ago, I was invited to write a guest post regarding surviving a suicide. A friend of mine who helps me with my posting from time to time, made me promise that I would publish it here. Mudgie, this one is for you.
I have just passed the eighth anniversary of that day. The day the world stopped the first time. When who I was ceased to exist. When the future I saw in my minds eye faded to black like a television screen. When I was no longer capable of believing that everything would be okay. A single shot gun shell ripped my life apart just as it tore thru my beloved brother’s chest.
Truthfully, the first 24 hours are more than foggy in my recollection. I quite simply don’t know much of what happened. I have bits and pieces of a shattered picture. I remember hearing a sound that was absolutely gut wrenching and thinking “Holy God, someone should help who ever that is.” Then I took a breath and it stopped. That howl of agony was coming from me. I couldn’t make it stop. Gradually it moved from an audible sound to my soul screaming to the heavens. There were police officers holding a letter and telling me I couldn’t touch it and they would read it to me. As they read I told my husband to call my relatives and to find my parents. Someone offered me water and a friend gave me a big cup of coffee and lit a cigarette for me.
Rich said “Your Mom is there. You have to talk to her.” I took the phone and told her to sit down. She questioned me. She was so happy. Laughing. I said “Sit down Mom. Now.” I was three hours from home with the worst news a mother can ever hear. I couldn’t find gentle words. I couldn’t form them in my mouth that would make this easier. “Mom, John shot himself in my backyard. He’s dead.”
She had a hundred questions and I had no answers. I simply hung up without another word. The police continued to read. I began to shake. They gave me drugs. Everything simply faded into noise as I searched my memory for a hint, a sign, a clue. There was nothing. I was simply empty.
The circumstances and what caused this cataclysmic event in my life at that point were really not even within my scope of thinking. What I knew was the letter to the family was type written 13 days before hand.. He wrote to me in longhand on the back of their letter that day. He could not find a way to say goodbye to me. He simply said “It is finished.” Three days later, before they closed the book on his life forever, I stood in a funeral home alone with him for the last time. I told him, “Rest now brother dear, I will take it from here.”
When I returned home, the silence was deafening. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn't eat. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t function. There was no rest. I was hollow as I said polite words and accepted condolences. The world went on like it never happened. As though he never existed. I had a husband and a son who needed me. My brother’s son needed me. All I needed was what I couldn’t have. I needed to hear John laugh. I needed to see him smile.
I was so angry with God. It was a seething, black, empty anger. How dare he take him from me. How dare he take my best friend and closest confidant. How dare he. One night as I drove home from work it began to audibly spill out of me in the car. I screamed. I yelled. I cried. I had to pull over because I almost had an accident. Then there was a lock that clicked and released in my head. My anger turned to gratitude.
People look a lifetime for an unconditional love. For a heart that will love you regardless of what you have done. It can’t divorce you or leave you. It doesn’t judge or condemn you or your choices. It supports you. Makes you secure. I had that. He and I had not even had so much as a disagreement in more than 12 years. We held an unedited conversation in writing for the last year or so of his life. We poured out the secrets of our hearts. For 35 years I knew this love. Why must I focus on the 35 years or so I will spend without him when I can remember the 35 years I had with him?
I would never tell you that I was then, or am now over the loss of my brother to a completed suicide. What I will say is that you can survive it. There will come a time when you can let the anger go. When you stop making excuses for their decision. When you can look at your loved ones realistically, When you will stop hiding the flaws that you saw in fear of disgracing their memory. The tears will not stop, but they will change as they lessen. When you might not understand the choice they made, but you will come to accept the experience it created.
Once the fog of grief has lifted, something wonderful will give you tears of a different sort. Some time after John’s death, I was sitting in the kitchen talking to my son. He laughed. I heard John. I could think of nothing but to make it happen again. I noticed his hands. John was there. The same long fingers. Later, I helped him get ready for Prom and he looked so handsome in his tux. He smiled at me. Laughing welsh eyes and there was John. I see him in his son as well. In his measured countenance. In his sense of humor. In his reasoning. In his quietness. In his caring manner. John lives on in our boys. He’s there in bits and flashes. When I looked beyond my grief, I could actually see. He has not left me.