Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And So Life Went On

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written here. It's not because I haven't been thinking about my brother--he's been on my mind a lot.

I got married last month. For some reason, this felt like much more of a milestone in my recovery from my brother's suicide than the anniversary of his death. I didn't feel like anything changed at the anniversary, but after the wedding, I felt like I had graduated to a new level.

It was hard that he wasn't at the wedding, but we invited him to join us (and my husband's father, who also died of suicide). AK and I learned a tractate of Talmud together in their honor, and celebrated finishing the tractate just before the wedding ceremony. This was an incredibly meaningful part of the wedding for us, and we found out later that it was meaningful to everyone--there weren't many dry eyes in the house.

We also invited my brother's best friend to be one of the witnesses of our marriage, and having him under the chuppah (marriage canopy) with us was really special. It felt like, at least in some small way, my brother was there with us.

I had been terrified in the weeks leading up to the wedding that I would be a total emotional mess. Luckily, my overactive catastrophe-centric brain was way off base. I felt sad a few times, but was able to really whole-heartedly feel joyful and celebrate at the wedding.

My brother will be with me forever, and I'll experience the pain of my loss forever, but I've gotten to that place where I can be happy and live again. I think I've reached the light at the end of the tunnel. And it feels good.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Double Standard

You may have read about the horrific murder of Leiby Kletzky, an 8 year old child living in an Orthodox Jewish community. His murderer is another member of that same community.

Of course, everyone agrees that his murderer must be mentally ill. Leiby's death came about because of mental illness. Thousands of people showed up to bury Leiby, and thousands more have shown their support for his family by writing letters and giving tzedakah (charity) in his name.

The murder of an 8 year old boy is nothing less than shocking, traumatic, and horrible. I don't mean at all to minimize this fact by what I am about to say. But hundreds of people in Orthodox Jewish communities die every year of mental illness. By suicide. Why is there such a media circus around this young boy, but still a dark shroud of silence around suicide in the Orthodox Jewish community?

Both the death of Leiby and the death of my brother came about because of mental illness. But the reactions are polar opposites. People who have never even met Leiby are writing letters in his memory and to his family. Someone set up a gmail account where you can email letters of comfort to the family. Why can't the extended Orthodox Jewish community rally support around families who have lost loved ones to suicide in the same way they have for Leiby's family?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Yahrtzeit & Unveiling

This past weekend, I attended the wedding of my fiance's cousin. It was a beautiful wedding, but afterward it made me incredibly sad that my brother will be glaringly absent from mine.

Sunday night began my brother's yahrtzeit (Hebrew anniversary of death). I went to shul (synagogue) to say the Mourner's Kaddish, a special prayer recited in memoriam of a loved one who has died. It was harder than I thought. We drove up to my parents' house and lit a memorial candle.

A tradition has developed among American Jews to officially "unveil" a headstone. We held the unveiling for my brother's headstone yesterday. Baninu v'achinu ha'yakar. Our precious son and brother. That's what his headstone says. It felt so surreal to be sitting there reading my brother's name on a block of marble. A few of my brothers close friends attended, and his best friend said a few beautiful and heartfelt words about what he missed most about my brother being here with us.

I spent the weekend thinking about time, and how I didn't get enough of it with my brother. How much time we all waste on stupid little things, instead of on the important things, and that you never know how precious time is until it's gone.

I miss him so much.

Monday, June 20, 2011

No Words

Today I woke up feeling like crying. I'm not really sure what it is about the rain, but some days it makes me terribly sad.

A friend reached out to me last week to ask if I would speak to a friend of their's who just lost her brother to suicide. I emailed the person, but after a year I still struggle to find the words that will bring me comfort. Because there are no words.

Nothing can bring back a loved one lost to suicide, and there are truly no words of comfort to offer (at least, none that I have found). Not "it gets better" or "it gets easier" or "you're so strong" or "I'm sure he knew you loved him" or any of the things people think will be comforting but are not. Words can't heal the little hole inside you. I don't know what can.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1 Year

Today is the anniversary of my brother's death.

Sometimes it feels like it happened so long ago, sometimes like it happened yesterday.

I can still remember exactly where I was standing when I got the call from my dad. Feel my heart trying to beat out of my chest, the blood rushing like a windstorm in my ears, the disbelief, the terror, the sadness, the pain.

The details of that day are carved into my soul. I still miss him every day.

I don't think losing someone you love gets easier. You just learn how to cope with it better. You learn to live with the little hole in your heart; it may get smaller over time, but it never goes away. And that's okay. It helps to remind me to be thankful every day for the good things in my life, and to tell those close to me that I love them.

Thank you to all of the wonderful friends who have helped me and supported me through a pretty hellish year. You're a good part of the reason I'm doing okay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This Is Why I Share My Story

Yesterday, a friend reached out to me because they worried their sibling may be suicidal. This friend felt comfortable reaching out to me because I've been blogging and sharing my experience about recovering from my own brother's suicide. I don't know if I offered much, but I hope I offered something.

Last night was the first time I felt like my brother's death was not meaningless. It remains a terrible tragedy, and one that will forever affect me, but if my brother had to die, at least I can use the experience to help someone else.

This is why I share my story.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fighting with Mental Illness

I've been thinking a lot about what kind of desperation would make someone even contemplate suicide. Someone in AK's community back home committed suicide this week.

Have you ever listened to Good Charlotte? Kind of a grungy/rocky style, I discovered them in high school. They have a song called "Hold On," which if you watch the music video is about suicide. I sometimes find myself playing the lyrics in my head and trying to understand what my brother went through.

Living with mental illness can be a fight to survive every day. Millions of people in this world struggle with depression, and too many attempt or complete suicide.

My brother had a lot of fight in him. A lot. Was it too much that he just gave up? Had he fought for so long that there was no more fight in him? I wish I knew. I wish I understood more.

I wish he were still here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When Reason & Logic are Twisted

I had a little bit of a crying jag earlier this week; it had been an incredibly long day at work (13 hours, to be exact), and I was trying to relax by watching CMT (Country Music Television) which was just playing music videos. One came on about servicemen in the military who had been injured in combat. One had lost his leg below the knee, and one had been blinded. Yet in the face of adversity, they figured out how to make it through and thrive again in life.

I burst into tears. How can they find the strength to live and my brother couldn't?

I have to catch myself at this point. I struggle every day to understand what my brother must have felt like, what could have made the world look so black to him. Ironically, it probably was a twisted version of reason and logic that played into my brother's suicide. For someone in the depths of depression, death seems the most logical choice.

I just wish for once he wouldn't have been so logical.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And Life Goes On

Tomorrow will be the seven month anniversary of my brother's suicide.

If there is one thing I have learned since then, it's that however much I miss him, even if I wallow in sadness forever, life just has to go on.

I got engaged just before the new year. It was a wonderful, exciting, happy end to a pretty shitty year. My engagement to a wonderful man has brought back some happiness into our lives, a feeling I thought we'd never find again. It's a different kind of happiness, tinged with the knowledge that my brother won't be at my wedding, but it's still happiness.

A few days after he proposed, AK asked me if I was sad that I couldn't tell my brother about our engagement. I told him the truth--I'm not. I'm sad he won't be at my wedding, my first child's birth, and every other happy event to come. But I'm not sad I can't tell him about my engagement. Because he knows. And life has to go on without him.