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The Suicide of a Brother

Brian and Josie

By Jeff Orgill, film director, “Grief, A Family Healing”

It's 2011. My brother hung himself in 1990. Twenty-one years have passed. Much has changed. I have a nine-month-old baby daughter now. She’s healthy, happy and laughs a’ plenty. Before baby Josephine my appreciation of life was much simpler, lesser. I was not awed by life. Took it for granted in a way.  My little brother Brian had invited death to live with us and death had come to stay, reached inside us, jabbed its finger inside our hearts. Maybe this stunted my ability to appreciate life. The part of me that could've grown more in love with life got distracted by death, looming large and close in memory. 

But babies have lots of life. Baby Josephine has claimed the spotlight back from death. Death up and left without making a sound. We nurtured Josie, watched her kick and cry her way into the world, so bold and alive. And this snapped me back into focus– life is a struggle and living creatures fight very hard to stay living. It's hard to die.  Even harder to take your own life. It's built into our cells to live. 

When someone takes their own life they have to override all the cells of their body, each one hardwired over millions of years of evolution to fight to live. It must be a disease, a short circuiting of core functions, overriding such primary and primal drives. I know that at the American Association of Suicide it’s looked at in this way– something treatable, preventable. This is hopeful. Suicide may be reduced or eliminated someday if we look deep enough, learn how to spot its signs, and intervene sooner. We’re growing out of an era where suicide was a stigma, “don’t get close to it or talk about it, it’s contagious,” into an era where suicide is something to talk about and not hide from.

What have I learned becoming a father? Life is a tree which keeps branching out with each generation. It’s a cliché, but having a baby really brings this concept home like you wouldn’t believe. Family gatherings now have a completely new meaning that I never understood: They are a unique celebration of life. Our collective cells are celebrating “hooray the DNA will live for another seventy-seven years!” I'm now a bridge connecting my daughter and my parents. It's like seeing into the future, looking at a vine or shoot growing out of you just as you grew out of your parents and they out of theirs. I never understood the big deal about family gatherings before I became a father. Now I feel my place in the tree and it’s a very real feeling. I’m a branch in the Tree of Life.

Brian was a shoot that grew for seventeen years then stopped. We don't know why, might never know. But now that I have a child of my own I know how much I really have and how much my family really lost.

“Grief, A Family Healing” is available on YouTube:



01/21/2016 at 5:16 AM
Sorry to hear of your losses. Some of your stories are touching and to some degree have saved me again. Again it does not bother me if I go (at this moment) but the pain you are going through I don't want to inflict on my mum. Just get through this (I keep telling myself this, cause it isn't so bad...I still have food on table and shelter).....life can be good again, just need to control my thoughts....
01/18/2016 at 6:57 PM
Holly Hodges
I really wish I could give you some kind of hope and comfort in your hard times, but there is nothing I can say or do to take your pain away. My brother was in the Navy and shot and killed himself March 2015. The pain was overwhelming and I physically stayed sick for months. I didn't sleep, due to nightmares and I couldn't eat. My speech was slurred and I felt like a zombie. I blamed myself for not doing more and not being a good enough sister to know it was coming. The one thing that made me start to feel a little better was writing letters to my brother. Every time I would start to cry and my mind would start to go crazy, I'd pick up a pen and paper and go to writing him. It didn't matter what I said or how I felt, I told him what was on my mind. As hard as this was, it was such a release of emotion. The best thing I can say to you is to cry when you need to cry, be angry when you feel it and never hold any emotion inside. I will forever miss my brother and will always have hard days without him but I'm learning to embrace his memories and feel his spirit with me every single day. What has happened to you will change everything in your life...you won't trust people like you did and you'll question everything that was once normal for you. Just know that you are not alone. Siblings are often called the forgotten mourners...but we know who we are and we support each other. Stay strong for your angel sibling and know they will be with you every step you take along life's journey.
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