By Brad Hearst
The morning waking up after my brother’s passing by suicide was one of the most difficult days on which I’ve ever been challenged. I myself, felt like throwing in the towel. I had no drive to get out of bed, no desire to go to work and certainly no desire to face any challenge. It was at this point I had to consciously choose whether my brother’s passing was going to drag me down and limit my potential. All my goals, dreams and desires seemed pointless at this time. My pain seemed greater than anything I could overcome. In my heart I had given up on the world. I had to dig deep in my soul to simply slide the bedsheets off me and put my two feet on the ground. Things appeared overwhelming but there was still a tiny piece in me that knew he wouldn’t want me to quit. Despite what some people may believe about those who pass away by suicide, my brother was indeed a fighter. He would have wanted me to fight. Fortunately, while my heart was aching my mind was not ready to resign. There was only a slight drive in me, but it was enough to jump start my grief process.
The hope that the day may have something still to give got me up the first few days. Getting out of bed was a small achievement, but it was a step in the right direction. It was a sign that I still had strength within me to move forward. I was a father and husband which meant giving up wasn’t an option and I knew I had to set an example for my boys. No matter how small the goal, each day was a chance to show that example to my son, so I continued to get up each morning. He was too young to understand at the time what was happening but that didn’t matter. Both my son and wife deserved and needed my support.
I know in the mental health community we discourage people from “sucking it up” but that is truly what had to happen. I had to suck it up and deal with my grief. At times I would have to completely suppress it to get through a task. The reward was worth it through. Making it through the day meant seeing their smiles full of love for me.
Losing someone to suicide can be debilitating—it consumes your thoughts. The questions of why they would do this, what if I had done something different, along with the blame of letting them down can crush your spirits. It can make the sheets of the bed feel like a thousand pounds making it impossible to get up. The world will however continue to move on without you, so it is important that you find hope in the small achievements as you move through your grief. Find rewards in the small details.
Tasks will feel daunting which is why you should take on one challenge at a time. Try not take on too much. Should the situation get overwhelming always remember you can take breaks. Reward yourself for accomplishing tasks that would ordinarily be second nature. This will continue to give you a reminder that you achieved something today, you had purpose, and all is not lost. As time moves forward the tasks will become easier allowing you to add more to your plate. Creating the opportunity to take another step forward. Grief is a marathon not a sprint. You’re running the full 26.2 miles not the 400-yard dash.
There will obviously be setbacks. You must listen to your body but know that your mind has the power to fight through. Mentally, losing someone to suicide is incapacitating. No matter how hard you try to focus the mind always seems to drift back. Bringing to life memories, both good and bad. I would try to block these memories back in the earlier stages of my grief process. Suppressing them seemed much easier than confronting them because there was a chance it could completely ruin my day. In time you will learn what works best for you but gradually allowing myself to reflect was more therapeutic than suppression.
Music was a big piece of my life prior to my brothers passing. Music allowed me to work out harder, be more creative and express myself emotionally. The emotional damage I experienced after my brother died made listening to music all but impossible. If the right song came on it would create a setback in my grief process. I’d find myself crying at almost the first note. It made going to the gym next to impossible because I hated working out without blasting my headphones and music was almost always playing over the loudspeaker or in various rooms. Losing music was probably one of the biggest setbacks of my grief process.
I share that personal setback because it eventually led to a point of hope. Driving in my car once again that right song came on the radio. The song, my brother, and I had a history that went back to one of the best nights we ever shared together. In fact, I had not heard this song since before he passed away. Preparing for the waterworks to begin I hoped for the best but pretty much expected the worst. Before I knew it, the song had come to an end and I found myself smiling. Remembering the fun my brother and I shared in a positive perspective was incredible. It was almost a feeling of euphoria. I was caught off guard because this was perhaps the first time, I found myself smiling while listening to a song since being impacted by suicide. A level of relief came over me because I knew things were going to be okay.
Moments like this are ones you must sometimes just wait to occur. Grief is different for everyone and unfortunately, I can’t tell you when it will happen. There is no set timeframe where you will just magically feel better. Recognizing these moments will continue to give you hope as your journey through grief continues. I can tell you that life will never be what it used to be. Moments shared with family will be different. Holidays and birthdays will feel strange at first. Experiencing the “firsts” will be some of the most challenging pieces of your recovery. As time goes on you will get stronger. Your perspective will change, and you will find hope. It may come when you least expect it in the strangest of situations.
My own point of hope came when I unexpectantly received a message through Facebook. I had never spoke to my brother’s girlfriend, but she was the last one to see him alive. Connecting with her had always been a goal of mine but I didn’t want to press the issue since we had never met. Nearly three years had passed but I woke up one morning to a long message from her. A level of nervousness rushed over me. I didn’t know what to expect but it turned out to be one the greatest points in my grief recovery. Together we were able to help one another find closure through a common bond for my brother. Had I not been open to that discussion I’m not sure I would be where I am at today. Thanks to her willingness to reach out and share her memories I know my brother was happy. I got to see photos I had never seen before and my brother’s smile in each photo said more than words.
I leave you with this. Everyone experiences a different journey through grief. For some it may be easier and others it will be more challenging. We are all unique and each relationship we have with one another is different. The journey is long but take it step-by-step. Don’t push too hard. Take it one challenge at a time. Find pride in the small achievements. Setbacks are just a chance to move forward again so don’t beat yourself up. You’ll know when you’re there, but no one can tell you the real destination other than you. When all may seem lost remember hope may be just around the corner so never give up.