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A Sister's Grief

Excerpted from I am Not Myself: A Year Grieving Suicide

By Julie Gray, is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. She directs the Just Effing Entertain Me Screenwriting Competition and The Golden Age of Television Competition.


On movie screens around the world right now, people are dying dramatically. Memorable deaths. Breathy, sad, ironic deaths. Spectacularly violent, torturous deaths. We are drenched in and numbed by video game make-believe, stuntmen, prop guns and fake blood.

But in real life, people die every day, according to the newspaper. In riots and protests and freak accidents. Of old age, of starvation, of horrible diseases. In Gaza, in France, in Russia and in India. In train accidents and mine collapses and of cancer. It is horrible. We put the paper down and turn off the news.  

And then it happens to you. In your family. And it's surreal. It's the mother of all record scratches. It is the mother of all unchangeable facts. It has ripples that will be felt down the years. Your birthday. His birthday. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mother's Day. Father's Day.

Suicide is the mother of all woulda-shoulda-couldas.

I am busying myself trying to get back to normal in an attempt to blunt the excruciating pain of the loss of my brother four weeks ago. Four whole weeks. Four weeks and one day since he was on this planet. And now he is not. It's still unbelievable to me. Unthinkable. But more and more the fact that my brother is dead– such an ugly word– is becoming a fact, not a mind-bending impossibility.

Suicide is the howl that sucks out your breath and hollows out your insides in one jagged pull.

Dealing with a person in the throes of serious clinical depression is like paddling madly on the starboard side of the Titanic, trying to get that huge ship to avoid the looming iceberg. You just can't slow down that kind of momentum. Paddle ceaselessly toward the green light as you might. And with each dip of the paddle this can't happen this can't happen this happens this can't happen. And then it does. And the icy water gushes in and the ship is fatally wounded. And you watch it go down, panting and exhausted. And furious. And helpless. And guilty. I could have paddled harder.

I look at the picture on his memorial pamphlet and my heart clenches up hard. This can't happen. But it did. Gone. Dead

Grief is a strange, many-faceted thing. It creeps up on you at odd moments, on little pig feet, and takes you by surprise like an undertow. Other times, when one is, say, having a laugh, one realizes one should be grieving and not laughing and one reminds oneself of the horror at hand and simmers down guiltily.

I exclaimed at the dozens of floral arrangements that filled my home with their uniformly white, sickly sweet smell, and the cards that kept coming every day. How loved I felt! How special! Until I remembered that this is the result of the immovable fact that my brother is dead. He's dead. Gone.  

I have learned that one should never shop grieving or one is liable to come home with three pounds of organic gumdrops and two bottles of Belgian beer. One should never drink Ouzo grieving, and I think that is self-evident.

One step forward, two steps back. The bizarre begins to take on a hint of normalcy. The unthinkable has come to pass. It's over, despite my constant imaginings in which I roll back the tape and try to change the ending. Paddling ceaselessly.


01/09/2018 at 7:56 PM
My brother took his life almost 10 months ago on my birthday! Still today , I have the most excruciating pain in my heart! I never knew what it was like when people are so depressed that sitting on the couch and watching the day go by it a tough day! Well, that’s me! Many days I can even believe he is gone! His pain was circumstantial! He can to live with me and my family to get back on his feet after the break up of his wife! Yes, he was extremely sad, but.... I really thought as his sister that in time he would , with help, get trough this! I never ever imagined that he would take his life in my barn! And on my birthday! With the upcoming event in March, how Can I even celebrate when I can’t even stop crying! I feel like I let him down , my other brother but most of all my parents! Watching my parents grieve the loss of their 33 year old son is as bad as grieving the loss of my sweet younger brother! Sad... life will never be the same again
12/13/2017 at 8:35 PM
Tiffany Thrasher
My brother committed suicide on 3/25/17 but was found on 3/26/17 which is when he was officially pronounced dead. He was 36 and died 2 weeks before his 37th birthday. My parents were/are distraught. I remember signing the death certificate, signing for him to be creamated, paying for everything, working with a friend to design the funeral pamphlet and speaking at his funeral per my parents wishes. I still haven't wrapped my head around it. I only know how to drown myself in work, school, life in order to not deal with it and to be strong for my parents. The first time I visited his grave was Thanksgiving day with my mom. I held back my feelings so she had support and could feel the feelings she felt. I don't know how to grieve or let go. I still have the receipts from paying for everything in my wallet along with the ME's card and the funeral director's card. It hurts. We weren't that close but we made amends about 7 months before he left us but what hurts most of all is the hope is gone. I still think that he'll be walking down the street to my parents house from work and that he's not in the ground. The last time I spoke to him I didn't want to talk to him. He was on drugs and it was the same over and over. The last time my parents talked to him they were fighting with him over pizza. My father is basically grieving himself to death. I can't fix this. I'm the fixer in the family and I can't fix this and it kills me inside. I remember seeing my mom's face after I was told over the phone that my brother was dead adn driving 45 minutes to their house. The shock, hurt, grief on her face. She doesn't remember the funeral. I lie in bed at night and just pray he's in a better place and watching over us. I don't talk about it much. I don't want my parents to feel they have to be there for me while I grieve when they need somebody to lean on. Does the loss get easier in time? Does the pain go away? How do you get through the pain, hurt, anger? How do you get through the sense of loss and going from having an older sibling to basically being the only child?
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