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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:



11/03/2015 at 6:09 PM
My little brother 47 years old took his life labor day 2015 no signs no reason known! He planned it down to putting a gas generator in the car. I feel lost!
10/01/2015 at 7:36 PM
Mark's Sister
I'm rather repulsed by nearly everyone who writes about suicide going right to the one-size-fits-all 'mental health' explanation. My brother was the sanest, steadiest, most responsible person anyone knew. He had a situational depression and was given an Rx. He did send us all a very cogent, apologetic group email. Later I discovered the anti-depressant that he'd been prescribed had a LISTED SIDE-EFFECT OF SUICIDE!! Gloria Vanderbilt and her son, newsman, Anderson Cooper, also blame the anti-depressants with a LISTED side-effect of suicide for their son/brother's tragic death. I read a piece by a therapist who'd worked with thousands of people hospitalized with depression, which included a certain percentage who eventually committed suicide. He said suicide is the result of a "soul-ache"...That makes a lot of sense to me. And why are prescriptions written for medications with a "side-effect" for suicide. That is truly criminal and insane.
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