I didn’t know what depression felt like before my brother died by suicide. I knew what heartbreak was, but I didn’t know heartACHE—the kind of heartache that can truly consume your entire body. Before my brother died, I knew what it was like to work hard, but not to work hard just to get out of bed.
My brother was extraordinary.
Scott was the life of the party. He couldn’t help himself. His personality filled every room, every time. He had such a big, bold, and wild energy.
Without him, I have felt no desire to party, no life left in me to celebrate—no energy to fulfill everyday tasks, let alone to party. Grieving him, someone I loved so much, is exhausting. It has felt like my life has barely any life left in it.
My brother was the kind of man who brought presents on a Tuesday for no reason and spent car rides thinking of ways to prank his little sister (even as an adult). He was trustworthy and unwaveringly loyal. He was creative and intelligent. He turned pizza toppings into a game and whiskey tastings into an art. He dropped the turkey on Thanksgiving, was in touch with the daily agenda of every faraway family member, and made up aliases just to pick up the take-out order for dinner. Scott never failed to make me laugh. He never failed to make everyone in his company laugh. He was a brother, a son, a father, a best friend, and one of the first people I ever admired.
Still, I didn’t know he was in pain.
My brother was extraordinary.
When he died, so suddenly and without warning, I felt that nothing would be extraordinary again. Except for my pain.
I know now that the survival instincts of a person can manifest in many ways. Surviving pain like this, and choosing to do so daily, requires energy. I miss his energy and pushing past the pain without him to lean into feels daunting.
I know now that depression is sneaky and tricky and manipulative and surprising and ever-changing and consuming. I know now that my brother was in turmoil.
I know now that this is a heartache that I will never be able to heal but can only hope to make peace with. I know now that surviving his death is something I’ll always have to work at.
But it’s hard work that I can do. I know that now.
My brother loved me. His love was big. He would have done anything for his little sister. That love is the greatest comfort that I can give my broken heart. That love is what makes me laugh through tears when I remember the way he’d enter a room—already halfway through the exaggerated story he was animatedly telling. That love is the greatest reminder that I can offer his children when they ask what his spirit was like. I know now, that I have to tell his story, and that the love we had for one another will give me the energy I need in order to survive without him.
Because I am surviving. I know now that I am a survivor.
And for that, I am extraordinary.
Saturday, November 23 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. If you or someone you know has lost a friend or loved one to suicide, there is support available. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is hope, there is help, and you are deserving of both.