It’s impossible for me not to think of my sister every July 10, September 10 and November 10. My sister committed suicide when I was 23 on a balmy Northeastern July 10 night, World Suicide Prevention day is September 10 and her birthday is November 10.
I remember every single detail of the night she died as though it just happened. I just received my dream job in NYC, and was just coming off a euphoric dream date in Soho, when I received a text from my mom: “Urgent. Call me.” My world was forever changed. In an instant, I knew that I would never, ever be able to look at life the same again.
World Suicide Prevention Day is vital to educating the world on how suicide can be prevented, but it’s also an important day for survivors to speak up about what suicide does to those left behind.
Here are five of the most helpful pieces of advice that have gotten me through the past four years without my sister:
It Was Their Decision
A few hours after I received the news, I curled up in the fetal position on my bed, and felt my sister embrace me. She said, “This is what I wanted. Don’t be sad. This was my decision.” I remember this anytime I begin the millions of questions that come when a loved one commits suicide: Was there something I could have done? Did I not say the right things? Was I not enough for her to stay? At the end of the day, it was her decision to make, and a decision that I am left to accept.
It’s Okay To Be Angry
I was the first member of my family to hit the ‘anger’ stage, and I was incredibly chastised for being mad at someone who tragically died. I was angry that I had just started my new job and now was facing a horrible tragedy, I was mad that my parents were so upset they didn’t even know how to communicate with me, I was mad that my sister followed through on my mom’s greatest fear that she clearly communicated to all of us, which was to lose a child. I was mad for a long time, but, here’s the thing, in my own time the anger transformed into understanding and four years later I have made my way through the grief cycle and am in a place of better acceptance and understanding. I needed to process my anger, and it’s unhealthy for anyone to tell you not to.
One catch here, though, is that with anger, oftentimes comes guilt for being angry at the person. Don’t feel guilty. You have a right to be angry, and need to be angry, in order to move through the next stage of grief.
Your Friends Care, Even If They Don’t Show It
When I flew back to my hometown after the news broke, my friends treated me as if nothing had happened. They were all smiles and energy around me, taking me to my favorite places and showing me that there was still life to be lived amidst tragedy.
I was stunned by their reaction. Didn’t they care that my sister just died? When I brought it up to my Christian therapist, he quickly defended my friends. He explained that suicide is an incredibly hard topic for people to bring up in conversation, and, due to the nature of my sister’s death, my friends were just waiting for me to approach the subject before I did to ensure I was comfortable.
Looking back, they did the best thing they could have for me by keeping a positive mindset. I was able to get strength from theirs.
Take Your Time
I literally could not date after my sister died. I hated every time the first-date question came up, “How many siblings do you have?” Or if someone asked, “What have you been doing lately?” The days after my sister passed away were filled with grief and trying to navigate my new world without her, and that isn’t necessarily first date conversation.
Take your time healing. Don’t rush first dates, or meeting new people, or feeling one hundred percent again. There’s a wonderful quote out there about the fact that we do not ever “get over” a death, we rather create a new life living with that scar. You need to take some time to figure out what the new life looks for you, and don’t be concerned about trying to fit into your old life again. You need to change your perception of what you feeling one hundred percent means, because it is naturally going to be different than what it looked like before you lost someone.
Turn It Into Something Meaningful
After my anger subsided, I decided that in order to cope with the tragic suicide of my sister I had to turn it into something meaningful in my life. For me, this meant following through on my writing because it’s something she always encouraged me to do. I wrote this blog post about her impact on my writing recently, as she is still with me every time I look at a blank page → One Life For Another.
I make a point of writing about my experience, my grief, her decision, in order to educate others. I also live my life everyday for her, because I know that she never gets to see another day. Whenever I feel down or upset, I remember that at least I have today, which is more than she has now.
Figure out what you’re good at, and how you can turn your experience with losing someone to suicide into something that positively impacts and changes the world.
I read an interesting tweet today that survivors also need to be thought of because they are the ones left with the pain in the end. It’s so true. Suicide hits families, relationships, careers like a bomb, completely destroying any previous perceptions you had of life. It’s essential to find the strength to rebuild your life into something beautiful from the remnants, it’s essential to survive.
– Marji J. Sherman
I’m so sorry you have to deal with this excruciating pain. I honestly don’t know what it feel like to lose a sibling (or even a close family member, for that matter)…. but I can’t imagine having to.
I appreciate your sharing this story. I am hoping I won’t be needing to lean on it for comfort, well, ever.
Warm hugs, my fellow twitter friend!
Marji – your post is beautiful. I lost my only brother to homicide and live my life in gratitude because I have another day to live. Losing a sibling sucks – and when the loss is sudden and steeped in trauma – it just makes it darn near impossible. Survivors survive – and we often thrive once we find that balance between yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I always take comfort with Khalil Gibran:When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Marji J. Sherman
So sorry to hear about your brother, Janet. You can definitely relate then. I love the quote you shared. Khalil Gibran has an amazing way with healing words. Xo.
Thank you for sharing from your heart Margi. So many emotions to deal with, to get to the point where you are able to collect your thoughts and write such a powerful post. I am sincerely sorry for your loss.
My uncle committed suicide going back 50 years ago. I was just a small boy at the time, and was very close to him. There was such a stigma in those days, people just did not talk about it. Everything possession of my Uncle Lloyd disappeared, even pictures of him on the wall were removed. It was almost as if he never existed.
Still affects me 50 years later. Am trying to raise awareness myself in my little corner.
God bless you so much. Thank you for sharing.
I started think2change 4 years ago raising awareness for abuse, depression, bullying, and suicide. All 4 are part of my life story. God’ s opened a lot of doors as I’ve been blessed to have spoken in over 100 schools so far. That led to being awarded the champion award from the state of Alabama for bringing postive change to middle and high schools. It took 38 years for me to be comfortable enough to share my story with anyone. I say all this to let you know this is the number one question I get asked and I never really know how to answer. I tried to take my life years ago, so I talk about “what” led to that, so I never have an answer for the “how” do I deal with this. I’ve spent all morning reading your articles and it has been a true blessing. I knew we followed one another but goodness I have like 3000 teenagers following so I never really get time to just sit and see who else is following. God pointed me your way and I’m so glad He. Did:)