Updated: May 9, 2019
If you’re reading this, your grief matters.
A couple of weeks ago I met a lady who had lost her brother to suicide about 20 years ago, and she told me that on her brother’s funeral nobody would talk to her. And IF they did, they certainly did not mention any good memories of him. Everybody was so focused on the cause of his death. As we talked, I could tell she was still traumatized by the funeral itself. She said: Years later, when my mom passed away, everybody treated me so nicely. They would tell me stories about my mom and how wonderful of a person she was, and they even offered me help with anything. I remember I was thinking to myself, “this is so easy, why is everybody making such a big deal out of it? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mom and I know this might sound crazy to some, but my mom’s funeral was like “the Disneyland of deaths”, compared to my brother’s.
Her story certainly makes one think.
As a recent survivor of suicide loss, I’ve been given advice from a lot of people. While most comments are made with good intentions, some are more hurtful than helpful. And that’s why it’s so hard to talk about this type of loss. I’m always scared that somebody’s going to say something and it’ll make me feel ten times worse. When I tell people that my brother took his own life the first thing they say is either: “Yeah I know exactly how you feel. When my grandma died…..” etc., etc., or “Death is part of life, and think about your mom and dad. It must be so much harder for them.”
Take out grandma and replace it with mom (or whatever you like), but these are the two most common things that people will say. Most survivors seem to agree on the fact that the pain never goes away, BUT you will get better at “hiding” it. It’s usually the ones who has absolutely NO idea what it’s like to lose someone to suicide that has the most to say about it.
First of all, these comments are not just ignorant, but also a punch in the face! You lost your grandma when she was 90 years old and it was of a natural cause! Also, she was 90 years old!!!!! Yes, I understand that it hurts, and it probably hurts really bad. I’ve lost my grandma too. I’m not trying to diminish your pain in any way, but the fact that your grandma was 90 years old and my brother had just turned 35 makes the comparison a bit laughable. It’s irrelevant to my story and it doesn’t help me at all.
35 years old and had his whole life (at least more than half of it) ahead of him. He left a 7-year old son behind. Suicide is not natural and it will never be. It’s an act of desperation. An act that leaves question marks. Your old mom or grandma’s death is not the same thing. I’m not saying your pain is less than mine, all I’m saying is don't tell me that you know how I feel! Because you don’t. And I don’t know how you feel.
When people tell me that my parents are suffering more than me, I tell them that they probably do and that my heart is in pieces- for them alone. What they don’t know is that I think about my parents 24/7, and I worry about them a lot more than I worry about myself. Just like I worried about my brother before he died... But does it really matter? Does my parent’s suffering make my suffering less valid? Should I apologize for grieving? Am I supposed to be happy and thank the universe that I was “just his sister”? How does one qualify to grieve? And since when did grief become a competition?
Just like me, the lady I mentioned before was confronted with comments about grief and how to deal with the loss of her brother… She said, personally, I think it’s harder for me as a sibling, because suddenly I had to recreate my whole vision of the future. You grow up knowing that your parents won’t be here forever, but nobody prepared me to lose my brother way too early...
I thought it was beautifully narrated and she made a good point, although, I can’t agree and say that it's harder on anyone. I believe that grief is individual and nobody knows how another person is feeling, EVER. While it is true that no one should ever have to lose a brother or a sister that young, a parent should never have to survive a child either.
Eventually, we’re all going to die... but until then, let’s be careful with one another. Think before you speak. <3