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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.


11/03/2018 at 11:27 AM
My brother John hung himself on September 20th last year. My life is unrecognizable now. My husband and I had gotten married just 4 days earlier and moved to a new city. I tried to push forward with work because at the very least you need to pay the bills. A year later, I feel that I can't even do that. Getting up in the morning is a struggle. I want to honor his life, to live in a new way for him, and I'm stuck in this horrible daily grind that never ends. I feel suffocated and detached from everything. I don't know when this pain will ever lessen, especially if there is never time to grieve. It's all I can do to wake up and work and make food and go to sleep each day. And when I think of him, his face and deep voice and hulking presence in a room, I feel completely gutted. How could this have happened? He hung himself and I will never see him again. It is so surreal. I just need to know if it's normal to feel this horrible a whole year later. I've had moments and even weeks where I felt lighter, but the past month has been agony all over again. I feel myself slowing down. I am so tired and I don't know how to move forward anymore.
10/18/2018 at 9:15 PM
My younger brother (2years younger) killed him self on August 28, 2018 and left 2 young boys here on earth with us. He has a twin that is taking over his fatherly duties and living back with our parents. The pain is so hard that you can feel it down to your bones and into your heart. Your tear ducts won’t stop flooding with tears even if you want it to stop. We had no warning signs he was in pain/despair/depressed. Now I just miss him so much it hurts so bad. We just wanted him to communicate with us. Let us now how he was doing here or there. My only advise to anyone out there: talk. Talk to your loved ones even if you feel like you are an annoyance, just talk. Ask how your loved one is doing. Then sooner or later that barrier will come down. My brother didn’t talk to us. We didn’t talk to him. I mean “talk” like how he is doing what is he doing as much as I should have done. I hope that this helps even just one family. God bless.
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