Friday, April 2, 2010

A letter for D, from a mother who lost a son to suicide

To D- if she should find my blog again,

This came from a reader of mine who lost a son to suicide, and wrote this letter for her children. She thought it would give you comfort on the loss of your brother during this time..


I started writing you something and this is what happened. If you want to use it to write something, you can, you can edit it anyway you want, or your can just post it as it is....

When I attempted to write an essay for you on siblings of suicide, I found that I knew NOTHING about siblings of suicide. I am a parent of suicide, I have four children who are sibilings of suicide and I thought I was some expert... This is what I ended up with instead - a letter to my children about the suicide of their brother:

To K, M, E and D (no names to protect their privacy);

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who writes a blog on her life, her cat, mental illness, the use of pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of mental illness, feeling suicidal, about friends that she lost through suicide, had a woman who's brother died by suicide write her for some help. She was finding difficulty in finding the words to write. I told her I would help out and write something for her to use. When I did write it - I wrote what I knew, from the perspective of a parent. When I was finished, I realized that this would probably not do the young woman any good, because she was not a parent but a young woman who lost her brother. I personally don't have the experience of being a woman who lost her brother.

I attempted to rewrite the essay as a sibling, and did some research. What I found has completely changed the way that I look at my life, and Caleb's life, Dad's life and YOUR life. What I found has humbled me considerably, has made me understand that I owe you all not only an apology but my gratitude to surviving as you have, for you have wandered in a wilderness your parents did not imagine. You have been delegated to the position of forgotten mourners.

In our society (and this is no excuse for my not seeing your pain) children are considered to be resilient, we don't recognize the uniqueness of the sibling bond, we forget about the importance of siblings as our own siblings are have grown into their own lives, moved away or we moved away many years ago. I wondered if when people stopped you after Caleb's death, they asked how Dad and I were doing, did they think to ask how YOU were doing?

Did anyone acknowledge your pain or your grief?

I did write the essay (although I ended up not sending it to my friend) - I wrote it from how I imagined you would have felt. I didn't know the depth or the truth of your feelings - anger, hurt, pain, love or the impact of what you have lost these last 6 years as your parents have grieved for the son they lost. I know that Dad has been much more connected to you during this time, and has tried to do what he could to help you recover. I can only speak for myself. I may have gotten it completely wrong, and I'm very sorry for that. At some time when you feel like you want to, I will let you read what I wrote, and hopefully, you can help me understand what you really felt or still feel. Hopefully we can help each out finally recover from the tsunami that shook our family to it's very foundation, sent us all flying in different directions and essential stole your mother from you.

I can understand if you feel you don't need this, but I know that it is very important to my finding my way home, and I can only hope that you will find it in your hearts to help me.

Aunt Suzi knew something when she sent us books just days after Caleb's death. She sent me "My son, my son" by Iris Bolton and she sent you "Do they have bad days in heaven? surviving the suicide loss of a sibling" by Michelle Linn-Gust. I can not remember if I passed it on!!! I think M saw it, and maybe read it. In hindsight, I did try to address your pain, but insisting everyone go to at least one counseling session. I have a feeling that this was not really helpful, what we should have done was some family counseling so we could have talked and heard each other - but instead I disappeared in to my pain, and Dad disappeared into his work. My hope is that in the very least, you were able to rely on each other, to talk to each other and find some way forward, and my hope is that it isn't too late to do the same together.

I love you all,


Where I found some information: Rocky Roads: The Journey of Families through Suicide Grief

Please take the study and help research, you each have a unique view that can help others who experience the loss of a sibling -

For those who have lost a sibling to suicide - this is what I can bring to you - something Michelle Linn-Gust has written extensively about:

People forget the importance of siblings in our lives.

- It's the longest relationship we'll every have in our lives. We are typically only a few years apart in age. We usually know them longer than our parents, spouses and children.

- We witness more life events and life changes with our siblings than anyone else.

- We share a sense of family, belonging and culture.

- Time spent together in our early years is greater than with our parents.

- They teach us how to function in society and communicate with others.

- Through the life span, losing our siblings to suicide sets up complicated grief. Typically, siblings will carry this loss through a large portion of life. We might want a way to memorialize the sibling. If we had a difficult relationship with the sibling, there might be unresolved issues we will never find closure for. We might be angry and jealous of our parents and the attention given to them as we are pushed aside. We might be angry at our sibling for being complicit in what we feel as the loss of our parents during their grief. We experience anger that our sibling is not there for important life events, like graduations, marriages, and the births of our children.

No one every gets over a death, it becomes a part of us and we take it with us throughout life.

The links above may be helpful in connecting with others who know what we are experiencing, or we might find getting involved in suicide prevention, or making memorial websites for our siblings help us in our grief. There are many possibilities and each of us will come up with what we want to do when we are ready. Grief and mourning take time - there is not timeline, each will have their own journey, but be assured it does get softer, color will return to our lives and we will find some ways to continue on, continuing to love and remember our sibling for the remainder of our life.


Mike Golch said...

Great posting.

Syd said...

Susan, thanks for posting the letter. I cannot imagine the pain of those who commit suicide or the ones left behind. It seems to be such a difficult situation to process.

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