Content Warning: Suicide; Raw, emotional, painful & real situations.
I’ve been MIA for a while – between a global pandemic, the story I’m about to tell and pouring myself into my work.. well, you’ll understand.
I’ll never forget that day – I was cleaning our bathroom and my phone rang which interrupted whatever song I was listening to and I saw that it was my dad – he didn’t call often (not a bad thing, it was just that we usually texted to BS and this time, he was calling). I answered the phone and he asked what I was doing, I told him how much I hated cleaning the bathroom and laughed, but he didn’t laugh… and then he said “I need you to sit down.” Immediately, I knew something was wrong.
I took off my scrubbing glove and pulled out the chair at the end of our kitchen table and then he said it.. “Your brother is gone.” I knew what he meant. I have two little brothers, but somehow, I knew. All I remember from that moment on was the unbearable pain I felt in my stomach. I couldn’t breathe – I couldn’t stop shaking – I couldn’t stop crying and I don’t remember hanging up the phone. I know I asked questions and I know I got the answers I didn’t want. I also know that mid-sob I immediately called Ryan who because I could hear him on the other end, literally ran from the football dinner he was at and drove home as fast as he could. I called my mom next, who also dropped everything to be with me and showed up to just sit with me in silence and held me. Without my mom and my incredible husband, I would have never survived what I was going through.
The next week was a blur – An endless cycle of crying, prying myself from bed well after I should have been up, then drinking because I thought it would make me feel less, and realizing that it simply amplified everything instead. Depression and grief do not require showering, brushing your hair or eating – BUT, I will tell you that coping with these feelings is a lot easier if you force yourself to do those things. The week drug on and I worked a little, tried to distract myself but overall, I just felt a constant cloud of pain over me and thankfully, the people around me understood.
I’ve never been one for funerals, truly I avoid them at all cost because they make me extremely uncomfortable but obviously this one, well this was happening. I was terrified to even show up. I knew that there would be an open casket which terrified me even more, but I knew my family needed me. We got to the funeral home before everyone else to have a private “viewing,” if you will. I was the last one to walk in while my parents, sister-in-law and youngest brother were up placing the pins on Nick’s uniform. As they were moving around, from the back of the room I saw him and I felt the pain all over again – I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see and I was shaking so badly I almost passed out. That was the hardest moment I think I’ve ever been through… but that night, my brother showed me just how many people truly love me and will always support me. Some of my closest friends showed up for me, they came to his viewing and they hadn’t even met him – Driving from all over the state, coming directly from work, coming to be there even if we hadn’t talked for a while. My best friend who had been stationed in and living in England since just after our wedding in 2016 sent her mom to the viewing, simply to give me a hug because she couldn’t get there fast enough – I will never forget the moment that so many people I love, showed me that they loved me back. I will take those moments with me for the rest of my life.
I was told that my brother sold his truck to someone in Kentucky.. But the strangest thing happened after he passed – Ryan went to go get food to you know, force me to eat because eating was a thing of rarity those days – Wouldn’t you know it, that truck with that big stupid thing on the top and those stickers that couldn’t be duplicated was at the drive through McDonald’s right by our house the morning of your funeral. I cannot make this up.. Ryan texted me like… “Is this?” and I lost it – it was you. There you were, letting us know that you’re always there. I have never been one for “signs,” but I look for them constantly these days.
PTSD is real, even if you didn’t actually experience something. NO – you’re not crazy, you’re GOING THROUGH IT and this is hard. Sometimes I hear things, see things, dream about things and it is truly haunting – but without it, I’m not sure I would feel like this is real. Have you ever been to a funeral where they play “Taps?” I don’t know that that’s something I could ever hear again without bursting into tears. And the 21 gun salute? I can’t even watch movies with funerals right now – my mind cannot differentiate the pain and I just cry… but I suppose this is all part of the healing process.
From mid-September to December 31st of 2020, I tried to drink until I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. I worked, I busted my ass to make sure my clients had everything they needed and made sure that my work was NEVER effected by my grief – But when it came time to unwind, I let myself feel everything, and I cannot thank whatever higher power there may be enough for giving me a husband that no matter how bad it hurt, he picked me up off the floor – he pulled from this black hole I couldn’t get out of – and he made sure that I was there for the next day, to try to heal all over again. On January 1st of 2021, I made a commitment to myself (and to my poor husband who I know I had put through hell) that I was going to work on a new way of coping and I would not use alcohol to do so from that point forward. At this point in 2021, I have about 150 “dry” days and I’m extremely proud of changing my relationship with alcohol.
There are books for everything.. or so you think. Books for grief and losing a child, books for losing a spouse, hell, even books for losing a GRANDCHILD – But you know what there aren’t many books for? Grief and learning how to recover from the suicide of a sibling. I searched for days, weeks even. I found one book that “sortof” resonated with me but after 4 pages, I had to put it down because I was about to vomit. I think a secret goal for myself is to someday write a book on grief recovery when losing a sibling, be we will see – Its crazy though! How do you get past or learn to move on from losing the person who was your first best friend? At almost 5 years old, you vividly remember holding them for the first time and getting to proudly wear a “big sister” button from the hospital. The person who taught you how to love unconditionally, because lets face it – siblings are such a pain in the ass, but they are the people who throughout your entire lives, you can always count on. I have so many memories to hold onto and for that, I am truly blessed… But I also know that stubborn pride and petty things got in the way of what could have made our friendship so much stronger.
We had so many incredible memories – Sleepovers in the Highland basement where we slept on beanbag chairs (holy back pain) and watched Balto until we passed out – I still watch Balto when I miss you, no shame there. Doing flips off the side of the boat at the lake and you made fun of me because I was terrified to swim where I couldn’t see my feet. We laughed about everything, eventually, anyway. I was one of your biggest fans – even if I sucked at showing it. I still have the messages you sent me from when you told me you were enlisting – and the letter you left on mom and dads fridge will forever be special to me. I got your thumbprint tattooed on my arm so you’re always with me, because even when you were here, I know you were there, always.
You were an incredible husband, and an amazing father. Watching you grow from the little turd I tied to a chair when I babysat for the whole summer to the soldier, mechanic and man you had become was a sight. I wish I would have made more of an effort to tell you how proud you made me.
It has been about 10 months since we lost you. I still can’t clean our bathroom without breaking down. I struggle with a LOT of music and I can listen, but I can’t sing along without bursting into tears. I haven’t been by to see your headstone that is finally in place – Because that makes it real and even after this many months, I still don’t believe that you’re gone. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be “okay” from this again.
If you’ve made it this far – I need you to know that you’re not alone.
I need for you to truly know that you’re not the first person who has sat up at night, questioning if people would be better off without you. I need for you to recognize that no matter what your mind or heart are telling you – So many people love you. I love you. I cannot express enough the pain that losing my brother has put our family and friends through – I am begging you to please know that help does exist, no matter how difficult it may seem to find it, and that your place on this earth cannot be replaced. You are 1 of 1 – and the world needs you.
All of this to say that if you feel less than 100% about anything in your life, please reach out for help of some sort. I know that without the help I required, even if sometimes I didn’t ask, I would not be here. I would not have been able to get out of my own head and I would have put the people who love me through the same nightmare that we’re currently living.
To my incredible husband Ryan – You saved me, and you continue to do so every single day. I know I tell you all the time that you saved my life when I met you, but 8 years later and especially that last 10 months, you have saved my life so many times. Every single time that you picked me up off the kitchen floor and held me and never let go when I was screaming and sobbing about how bad all this hurt, about how I thought that if I died that I would feel better and even though I know how bad that hurt you to watch me go through that – you always chose to love me unconditionally until I was okay again. You are the reason that I will never allow those feelings to take over. Every time that I told you some of the most terrifying thoughts I had had – you loved me through it. I could not live this life without you. I hope that I can be that kind of support for you if you ever need that, and I hope that everyone has the kind of support system that I had through this.
To my brother Nick – Losing you to date has been the worst day of my life, but I am so thankful for what we had as siblings. I have so many happy memories and truly, even the not so great memories keep me going. The ups and downs made us human, they made us “normal.” You were one of a kind – the most stubborn and hard headed person I have ever known, but you loved even harder and even on our worst days, I never questioned your love for me. I love you so much and I wish that I could hug you one more time. Thank you for all you taught me – whether you knew it or not, you helped make me who I am today. You made sure I knew that in order to be the best I can for the people I love, I have to learn to love myself too.
I made a playlist to listen to when I need to feel close to you:
“You Should Be Here” – Cole Swindell
“Before You Go” – Lewis Capaldi
“Drink a Beer” – Luke Bryan
“Evermore” – Taylor Swift
“Why” – Rascal Flatts
“Give Heaven Some Hell” – Hardy
“Lead Me Home” – Jamey Johnson
“See You Again (feat. Bea Miller)” – Boyce Avenue
“Crowd My Mind” – Brett Eldredge
“Be Still” – The Fray
“Hold On (Acoustic)” – Chord Overstreet
“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” – Pentatonix
“Drowing” – Chris Young
“Number to Heaven” – Justin Champagne
“Chasing Cars” – Azure Antoinette & Kevin McKidd
“Go On Without Me” – Brett Eldredge
“Marjorie” – Taylor Swift
“Heaven Right Now” – Thomas Rhett
“Lost Without You” – Freya Ridings
“Miss You All The Time” – O.A.R.
“Save Me” – Jellyroll
To everyone who has stuck by me – friends, clients, coworkers, family, all of it. I cannot thank you enough for the words, the hugs, the meals, and simply listening when I needed you most. I’m so blessed to have so many great people in my corner.
If you feel you are in crisis or in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Your call will be connected to the crisis center nearest to you. If you are in an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room – and if you need someone to be there with you, my cell phone is (937) 305-1838 and if at all possible, I will be there for you, too.