Updated: Feb 6
Wow! I didn’t know if this day would ever come! The day that I would tell my story openly, or more importantly, my little brother’s story. A story that would change our lives forever. As painful or awkward as it may be for me, I have decided that if sharing our story can help others, then it needs to be shared! So, I will be sharing with you how I dealt with my brothers suicide & how to overcome the many questions, the guilt, & the judging that come along with grieving a loss from suicide.
I said it, yes, I AM a suicide survivor. As I write this to you, I can already feel the emotions filling my soul as it has been something I don’t tell many people about. The tears automatically flow as this is something very private, & something I am very protective of. But as we all know, the suicide rate is increasing & is something we all need to discuss. So I am willing to share my story with the hope that it will help someone else who is grieving.
I want to start by saying this is MY STORY, no one else’s. I am not telling it to hurt anyone, offend anyone, or say that my side is the only side of the story. We all know that is not ever true. But, this is my story, the way that I remember my past with my brother.
My Brother’s Story:
I was 13 & my older brother was 16 when my little brother Kurt was born. It was like a dream had come true for me, as I loved babies & couldn’t get enough of him. I loved every second that I got to help take care of him. He was my little guy & I cherished him with everything I had.
When he was born, he literally came out running! He was so excited about life, mischievous as all get out, & had a zest about him that nobody could deny! His cute little smile saved his life many times…as he was a stinker!
As he grew up, he was always going 100 mph! Riding motorcycles, bikes, skateboards, getting into everything & always getting hurt! That is who he was from the beginning…he loved life & lived it to the fullest each & every day! We couldn’t keep up with him, & we couldn’t help but love that ornery, adorable, witty, little boy with ALL of our hearts!
He kept us ALL on our toes…so it is probably a good thing that he had so many people looking out for him!
Kurt had been injured many times, but when he was 10 he got into a terrible motorcycle accident in Baja California. He jumped his dirt bike, which ended up landing on him. The kickstand when through his back, just missing his spine, & kidneys, but went through his liver, & ruptured his spleen. Thank goodness that my older brother was riding with him, as he saved his life. He was able to take the kick stand off of his bike, leaving it inside his body, so they could transport him.
There were many angels with Kurt that day. My family was there for an off-road race, so their were many helicopters that were chasing the trucks that were racing. Luckily, they happened to hear about the accident over the radio, & air-lifted Kurt to Children’s hospital in San Diego, Ca.
This was our first near death experience with this kiddo. Children’s Hospital called him the miracle child. The doctors did not have any explanation to why he survived, but he did. He was a fighter.
That incident didn’t keep him down long. Soon after, he was up & running. It seemed that he was almost more daring than he was before the accident! He took to wake boarding, more motorcycle riding, anything that kept him going 100 mph, & he was good at everything he did!
Of course, when you’re doing those things, pushing the envelope, you are most likely to get injured, which he did. But that was OK with him, & we seemed to get used to it!
My 3 boys LOVED him. Kurt was their hero. They looked up to him every day & of course wanted to be just like him. He was happy-go-lucky & had a smile & laugh that could brighten anyone’s day. He was a bright light for everyone!
My husband & Kurt coached the boys’ baseball teams, & we all spent as much time as we could together. We had something that every family wants: a close tight-knit, fun-loving, family. WE had that & we couldn’t be more lucky!
My parents & brothers were amazing, & I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood or family. My life was perfect, as we all enjoyed one another, went on vacations together & spent as much time as we could together. I honestly couldn’t say I had anything to complain about at that time.
Things Started to Change in 2005…
Many events occurred that year, but some were life changing for all of us. Kurt had injured his knee on Labor Day weekend while wake boarding. We suggested a sports doctor for him to go to, which he did. This is when things got more serious.
Kurt ended having to have surgery, which he did. Within the several months following surgery, we started noticing that something had changed within his soul. His personality was changing, he didn’t seem to be his normal happy-go-lucky self at all. Something was terribly wrong & we all knew it.
Once the holidays were over, he asked my parents for help. He had gotten addicted to the Oxycontin that he had been taking & could not get off of them. If you know anything about that drug, it is terrifying. We all were so scared, but obviously, we were willing to do whatever we needed to help him get through this.
My parents were amazing & immediately got him the help that he needed. Unfortunately, this journey was long & so hard for Kurt. It was tremendously hard for all of us. Watching someone go through that much pain, knowing you can’t fix them or make them better is agonizing.
You want to take the pain from them, snap your fingers & have them be back to normal, but that is not how it works.
Just as we thought he may be getting better, that there was hope, he was injured again. Memorial Day weekend he had another wake boarding injury to his knee. That same doctor that he had been seeing, the doctor we had told that Kurt could no longer take pain killers, etc, prescribed more pills for him. That might not be what killed him, but definitely sent him in the wrong direction.
June 19, 2006 became a day that I will never forget. Late that night, I got the call from Kurt’s girlfriend saying that his journey here on earth was done.
That call changed our lives forever.
It couldn’t be true. This couldn’t be happening. How did this happen? Why? The questions were endless & this is where the long, painful journey of trying to understand began.
Why grieving the loss from suicide is different:
Unless, you have personally experienced the grieving process that takes place after the death of a loved one from suicide, you will never understand the amount questions that you are left with. It is impossible to even try to imagine them & even more impossible to get them answered.
The questions range from: Why? What could I have done to stop this from happening? Was it my fault? Did he really mean for that to happen? How do we move on? What did I do wrong? What was he thinking?
The list is ENDLESS! You are left with is so many questions & whats even more frustrating, there ARE no answers.
You have to figure out how to have peace within yourself, which is extremely hard. I found myself staying awake for hours, sometimes it seemed like days, going over each scenario, rethinking every conversation, every last moment that we had together, just everything. Each time I came up with the same answers….nothing.
This just overlaps the questions. When your questions can’t be answered, you have no way of stopping your thoughts from reeling. Most of the time they are taking you in the wrong direction, which leads to having so much guilt.
I remember how overwhelming the feeling of guilt is. It smothers you like a heavy blanket. This feeling is paralyzing to the point where you literally just can’t move.
The Judging. The Stigma Related to Suicide.
Honestly, I don’t know what is worse? The questions, the feeling of guilt, or getting judged by everyone whom you thought you knew, & the stigma that suicide brings with it.
I remember the first time I personally knew someone who committed suicide. It was a feeling I had never felt before, one of disbelief, shock, & it left me wondering what had happened to that family. Honestly, at 14 yrs of age, I remember judging this family for their daughter committing suicide. Unfortunately, I know both sides.
This is exactly what happened to me & my family. We went from the great, fun-loving, all-American family to “that family” of suicide. “That family” that must have more skeletons in their closet that no one knew about.
The looks, the whispering behind your back, that intense feeling when people don’t know how to deal with “your situation”. As uncomfortable as you are in dealing with the overwhelming amount of grief that you are already experiencing, you now have to hear all of the stigmas that come with someone taking their own life.
From trying to find a pastor to do your memorial service, to printing your pamphlets, having a service, & people having the nerve to say that only cowards commit suicide. It IS different & it IS hard.
This is why I want to give you some tools that will help you to overcome the many questions, the immense guilt, & the judging that all pertain to grieving a loss from suicide.
How to overcome the many questions, the guilt, & the judging when grieving a loss from suicide:
1. Questions. STOP asking them!
As we just talked about, there are so many questions. In order to overcome the overwhelming frustration & grief from not being able to answer them, you have to STOP asking yourselves those questions! Just stop!
The conversations that you want to have with your loved one, & the questions you want to ask them, cannot happen in this life time. As hard as this may be, you have to understand this & let them go.
One of the most important things that helped me the most through this step was writing! Every day, I would write about my feelings, my thoughts, & the many questions that I had for my brother.
I even wrote many letters to Kurt, asking him questions that I knew could not be answered. I shared with him my feelings, my love for him, my sadness, as if he would read it. This was a tremendous help to me as I was able to release my emotions. It is such an important step in the healing process.
Write as many letters as you need, I promise it will help you in the healing process.
2. Guilt. You have to release it.
The guilt can be so heavy, I know.
However, I want you all to know that when someone takes their own life they are not in the right state of mind. As much as we all would have loved to be able to stop time, keep them safe from their own harm, we all know that is not reality.
Unfortunately, we have to live with the reality of that situation & we cannot let that heavy blanket of guilt ruin our lives. That is not what your loved ones would want for us. They would want us to remember them at their very best, carry those memories with us daily, & live out our lives to the fullest.
Nothing good can come from carrying that burden of guilt, I know, as I have carried it. The most amazing feeling is when you let that guilt go & you remove that heavy blanket. At that point you are free to start living again! Please don’t carry that burden of guilt for too long, as it can be so damaging to you, & that is not what your loved one would have wanted!
3. Judging. You have to spend time with people you trust.
I will be honest with you, this topic was very challenging for me! In times of change or loss, we find out who truly cares for us, & who will be in our lives long-term. This can be hurtful, especially when you need to have their support. However, I have learned that it is a blessing in disguise.
I believe that it is better to have a handful of great, positive, & supportive people in your life, then to have whole bunch of people who only care a little.
It is very important to get into a support group of some sort. There are many types of services that can help you in every city & state. Most of them are free & accessible via phone, so please make sure to utilize those services! That is what they are there for!
Being able to connect with others that are going through the same situation is comforting because you know that you are no longer alone in your grieving! They share the same stories, they are dealing with the same judgments that you are. It is best to lean on one another & heal together.
I remember going to a suicide survivor group for the first time, I was so embarrassed to tell my story, until I heard their stories. All of the sudden, I knew that there was a sense of brotherhood that we all shared. It was another weight that was lifted off of my shoulders.
There is no shame in getting help. It is VERY important & everyone should do it.
Here are more very important tips that will help you in your grieving process:
I know I have mentioned it before, but writing is an incredible tool to help in the healing process!
Write your loved one a letter. Explain how you are feeling. Ask every question that you have for him/her. Make sure you are clear on how YOU feel & how this has changed your life. Let them know if you are hurt, angry, or just plain lost. Make sure to put every ounce of emotion into this letter as you would if you could see them one last time. Write them several times, as many times as you need.
I still write to my brother & it has been 11 years. I post on his Facebook page when I am feeling the need to connect with him. It is one of the MOST effective ways for us to heal, so please make sure to take the time to write. I promise you will be happy that you did!
2. Have Gratitude.
I KNOW what you are thinking! How can you have gratitude for ANYTHING when your entire life has just been pitched out the window. I KNOW, I have been there & can remember it like it was yesterday. I promise you there is a method to my madness…
Once in a while I was able to disconnect from the pain & despair, usually it was when I was with my children who were 12, 9, & 3. Those boys were grieving just like I was & I could see it in their precious faces. It was tragic, & I knew I had to help them overcome this. I was so grateful for them, the love that we shared, their smiles, & laughter.
When I focused on how grateful I was for things like my children, my husband, (how amazing & strong he was for us), my older brother, my parents, the memories I was able to share with Kurt, I became myself again. Gratitude was the magic power that was able to break me out of my cocoon & start living again.
YES, it is that powerful if you are able to access it. We ALL have things to be grateful. Our health, every breath we take, family, friends, our homes, laughter, freedom, love, memories, the list goes on & on.
PLEASE take the time to think about what you are grateful for several times a day! It will help you tremendously, I promise! Please read my post about gratitude here, if you want to learn more. Using gratitude has CHANGED my life!
3. Stay BUSY.
This is crucial! The worst thing that you can possibly do is have idle time to obsess on questions, the guilt, the judging, & your sadness.
Thank goodness for my husband, because he really kept me grounded & he kept me so busy during that time. I really wanted to stay in bed, but he knew that was not going to help me, it would only stop my healing in its tracks. As hard as it is, keep going, go back to work, you have to continue on with your life. It is a must!
Try & do things that you love to do, things that inspire you, calm you, spark that creative energy inside of you, & things that make you LAUGH! Laughing is medically known to be one of the most powerful tools to combat sadness & depression! Take some to read more here about the benefits of laughing here.
4. GET HELP!
Dealing with any type of grief can be tremendously hard, but suicide is its own beast.
Make sure that you get help from a grief counselor, suicide survivor group, you name it, get help! The sooner the better!
Again, my husband saved our family by arranging for us to see a grief counselor immediately after my brothers’ passing. The service was paid for through a local church & it was able to start the healing process right away. The longer you wait the more you have to deal with, trust me & get help as soon as possible!
You’re not weak when you ask for help, you actually showing your strength, as suicide is different, it is complicated, so please get the help you need!
There are so many ways to get help that are absolutely FREE! Please take the time to look it up in your city or state.
It will make a difference in your time of recovery, I promise!
Here are some national websites & numbers for suicide survivor’s to get help & to help others that may be having thoughts of suicide:
Suicide Survivor Help Site: www.suicidesurvivor.org
The National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).’
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Suicide.org
Thank you for taking the time to listen my story. My hope is that this will help you get through this process of grieving. I understand it all to well & my purpose is to help you get through it as well as I can.
I want you all to remember after every major storm there is a beautiful rainbow. This is how it was for me. There was so much to be learned through enduring my storm. Strength, love, hope & beauty have all persevered through this storm.
Now, I am able to enjoy the beautiful rainbow of gratitude, love, positivity, & I have a new zest for life that I didn’t have before. I enjoy every moment & see the beauty in the little things I did not see before, I don’t take moments for granted, as I know they can be taken from me in a mere second.
These were beautiful lessons that were learned through my journey of healing. I hope that you will all find that beautiful rainbow at the end of your storm. There is always a rainbow you just have to take the time to find it.
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