Suicide is Not an Ending: A Letter to My Brother

Dear Brother,

The January blues have got me again. From the moment New Year’s Eve is here, I know I will have to face the torment of January. The anniversary of your death by suicide will come quickly. Here it almost is.

Some may question why I’m writing so publicly about something so personal. Well, it took 11 years, so there’s that. Also if anything I write to you helps others grieving those who have died by suicide, I would feel honoured. To reach out to those fighting against it or surviving attempts; may this help them in some way too.

11 Years Ago I Guess You Thought Your Actions Had Brought an End

They didn’t. It was just the beginning; of pain, regret, loss, grief, retrieving memories and learning how to live in a radically altered world.

I don’t blame you for it. I know that life must have been torment for you to consider suicide, particularly on Mum’s birthday. I only hope now, as I have done since that day that somehow you found peace.

I Have Walked in Similar Shoes

Watery broken heart - suicide is not an endingIf I condemn you, I condemn myself.

I know how it is to feel like the only option to ending the relentless agony of living and feeling too much is to find seeming oblivion in death.

I have spent hours in the past contemplating the darkness of suicide. It seemed more preferable than fighting in the harsh light of life.

I know the strife of tussling with life and death, particularly at night when sleep evades you and the monstrous voice of mental illness whispers in your ear that to die would be bliss.

I know the battle between your true self and deceitful depression as you agonise over whether you could do this; to yourself and your loved ones.

I know the tears that splash the ink of a suicide letter as you try to find the words to explain. The words seem futile, crass and basic. How can you ever convince those who inhabit the ‘real’ world that you have been living in horror?

My heart still clenches every time I remember seeing those splashes upon paper. I touched them. I needed to connect with the last part of you even if it was just your watery pain.

You Committed Nothing

I refuse to ever state that you ‘committed’ suicide.

I will not ever render you a criminal for taking your own life. It may sound controversial to others but it was your life, you chose what to do with it.

Do not get me wrong. Every day I wish you had not decided upon suicide. I wish you could have seen that it was a temporary decision made painfully permanent. However, you did not commit a crime.

You were beguiled by the seductive voices that told you it was better this way; that the hurt would end and you were sparing your family and friends from it any further. That bastard, monstrous voice committed the crime, not you.

Life Had to Go On

Hammering a heart - suicide is not an endingWe never thought that it would. I was mystified by how everyone carried on living. Did they not know that my brother had died, by suicide even, and I was holding my breath? Did they not know that I thought by not allowing myself to exhale, I could hold you inside for a little longer?

We all have to breathe though and it was so bloody hard when I did. I could barely function. I had to tell myself how to inhale and exhale. I had to train my brain in how to help me to walk, speak, look people in the eyes and just be a human being. I often failed.

I will not speak entirely for our family as their memories are their own. I will state though what I witnessed: parents needing parenting; siblings trying to pull closer only to unravel apart; your son too young to understand and true friends who loved and were there because no words could ever make it okay.

We went into stasis for a while.

Then one day we had to move.

That is not to say that we moved on and forgot you. We never will. You more than made your mark with your large personality, your cheekiness, your stupid noises, your penchant for designer gear and your charm with the ladies.

Who can forget you if they have ever even remotely been part of your life?

We did, however, have to pick up life, bit by painstaking bit. I know that’s what you wanted. You wrote that. We did but in a whole new, there’s a void, kind of way.

When Suicide is Deemed a Dirty Word

It has never failed to surprise me how often people flinch or change the subject when I mention your mode of death. I am not ashamed and I refuse to allow them to make me ashamed of you.

You are not suicide. It is how you died. It doesn’t define you. I am saddened though that for some their lasting memory will be of you being the bloke who ‘committed’ suicide. That is not you.

I know it sounds like a barbaric act. I will not deny the scariness of the violence of suicide. I cannot to this day witness the act of how you killed yourself on television. I understand how people are horrified by it but the act is the terror, not the person. It is a conduit, albeit shocking, of a choice that they have made.

I will never condone suicide as my desire is that no one will ever feel the need to do it, but I live in the real world. I am about prevention rather than casting aspersions upon those that attempt or see through the action of suicide.

I don’t want that to be the lasting memory of you. I sometimes dream of you both living and in the process of dying. I am glad to say that the living dreams are more prevalent now. That’s you; living on in memory, not as a suicide casualty.

It hurt when you died and people crossed the street because they didn’t know what to say to the family. We don’t know if it’s because people don’t know what to say to those whose brother and son has died, or that they felt awkward about it being a suicide. All I do know is that we didn’t need it. Just a simple nod, a kind smile, or a few basic words would have done.

It has been difficult to negotiate since your death the cruel estimations some make of those who take their own lives. I have equally bitten my tongue and railed against them.

May they never know a loved one who genuinely believes that suicide is the only answer. Let them judge then where they will spend eternity or the apparent selfishness of their actions.

Suicide is Not a Cowardly Act

Another thing I have hated is hearing people condemning those that have died as a result of suicide for being cowardly. That is so easy to say when you have never felt it or seen it first-hand. I cannot speak for you brother, but I can speak for me.

Black and white mask - suicide is not an endingFighting suicidal ideation is a feat of gargantuan proportions.

Fighting against death is exhausting. Getting through that battle without giving in to the impulse should make you feel like the winner that you are. Instead you feel like a failure.

You believe the lies that the desire to die is your own, rather than an illness or situation that is trying to lead you down a dark path of suicide.

You despise yourself for thinking of it. You believe that it all comes from a badness buried inside of you.

The guilt eats you up. You cannot look at your loved ones. You feel like you have failed them just thinking about it.

You may make suicide attempts as did you and I, brother.

You survive. You wish you hadn’t when you see the pain in your family’s eyes. You feel smothered and caught out. You feel the guilt and anger; at them and you. You are placed upon constant ‘death watch’.

I am guilty of this. I have wished so many times in the last 11 years that I could have done something to stop this final curtain from falling upon you. I have beaten myself up for not spotting the signs well enough as someone who has been there.

I now know that there was nothing I could have done to intercede. I may have had some knowledge of suicide but I was not you. I did not know how far you would go and when.

You fought a good fight brother. I admire your bravery. You wrestled and then reconciled with death. I could say that I know that if you had held on longer, better days could have come, but that helps no one now.

I feel tearful every time I consider how lonely and heartbroken you must have been on that night. That is bravery not cowardice.

Your Suicide is Not an Ending

Girl with balloon by Banksy - suicide is not an endingYou’re still here in my heart and mind.

I look at photographs of you and smile at that wide toothy grin.

I feel sad when I reflect upon what you have missed in our family’s lives.

Unannounced feelings of desperately missing you occasionally blindside me.

I’ll say your name and remember that it’s one of the best sounds I want to hear.

I’ll acknowledge your faults and foibles and not cast you as a saint just because you’re deceased.

I look at your son and marvel at what a great young man he is now, and how proud I’m sure you would have been of him.

The day you died wasn’t the ending you thought it would be. I guess you thought it was. That was the point. However you live on.

11 years later and we are still linked. The cord has not been severed because of suicide. I still count you in my number of siblings when I’m asked by strangers how many I have. You didn’t stop being my brother just because you died. That will never end.

Your death was never the end.

From the Duchess (I will allow this mocking nickname you had of me just this once, you git). x

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

26 comments on “Suicide is Not an Ending: A Letter to My Brother

  1. Thank you for sharing your feelings. It doesn’t matter how long it took you to do it. The fact is that you did it. So sorry for the loss of your brother. But in your courage to share this very personal part of your life, I hope that your wish is granted, that someone else can gain something from your experience. I know that I did, I had the honor of being part of the public your shared with. Thank you!

    1. I truly believe that nothing is ever wasted. His life wasn’t, most certainly. His death doesn’t have to be either. I’d rather it had never happened of course but if we can take something from this and help others, it was never wasted. I’d rather have him here but that’s not the real world. Therefore we carry on and hope other families don’t have to go through this.

      Thanks for your beautiful comment.

  2. Although I consider myself a writer (ha) having read the heart wrenching words in your letter I have none. I am not religous but close my eyes in silent prayer for you and your much loved brother.

  3. Sending you and your family kind thoughts and hugs, Lisa. Thank you for sharing this letter. I hope that it will help others and become the legacy that your brother deserves. *hugs*

  4. This is so incredibly powerful. I wish that I could write more, but words escape me. I am just sitting here, soaking it all in. It is so important that you have shared this story. I am sorry that you went through this and that your brother decided to end his pain in such a way. The topic of suicide is still a taboo and its victims are often shamed or ignored. What a great thing you are doing for your brother, by sharing this out in the open, educating people and allowing others to find some comfort in it. You are an amazing sister. Love. xx

    1. Thanks Luna. I’m feeling humbled by this to be honest. I owe it to him so that people will know that behind every shocking suicide story is a person who once had a life and a family left behind.

      I hope this post will help those who need it. That’s more than enough. Your comment has moved me. Thank you.

  5. This brought me to tears. I’ve never heard anyone talk about the language we use when speaking of suicide. You’ve honored your brother with your eloquent words, and by insisting that he committed no crime. This is a powerful piece for people to read when they’re struggling, thank you.

    1. It has become such a well-used phrase, ‘committed suicide’ that for years I used it without considering the implications. Thank you for showing understanding as to why it’s not the right phrase to use.

      Sorry for making you cry! I hope you’re okay and this piece has moved you in a positive way.

      Thanks, as always, for your support Kirstie.

  6. This is heartbreaking to read, I can’t imagine how to lose someone so close by committing suicide. It is very strange for me to think that someone can possibly do it and that it is a very serious illness and for that reason, I will never fully understand it. I know how it is to have those thoughts, but it can be very hard for many think that you can get out of a very deep depression. Thank you so much for sharing this <3 I wish you and your close ones all the best. <3

    1. Thank you Vibeke. It is hard to make sense of and hard to explain. I think that’s why stigmas still exist. I’m thankful for people like you who are honest in declaring you find it hard to understand but still give compassion. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Thank you for sharing! This is such an important message for people to hear! I lost my father to suicide many years ago. I am so sorry for your loss. You are so brave for sharing! I am honored to have read it.

    1. Brittany, I’m genuinely sad that your father died this way. It’s so hard dealing with the aftermath. It may be years ago but it leaves scars.

      I am also honoured to have shared this with a fellow survivor. Thank you for commenting.

  8. This post has touched me in so many ways. Thank you, thank you for sharing. 2 Years ago I love my best friend and last year, I lost another good friend all to suicide. It’s so true when you say this that the route they choose “made painfully permanent. ” I cry as I read this, as I remember friends that I called sisters! It is tough and life does go on. But it hurts all the time.

    I am so sorry for your loss. and I know how it feels. As I read this, all the memories come flooding!

    1. I hope this has helped you in some way and not triggered anything bad for you,Divine.

      I’m so sad to hear that two if your friends died by suicide. That’s so hard.

      I hope you’re comforted by the memories you made with them. Take care of yourself and thank you for sharing with me.

  9. A very moving account of you, your family and brother. It’s never easy to deal with the death of someone we love and I can’t begin to imagine how you deal with it when suicide is involved. And it’s made so much harder by our society that sees it as such a taboo subject. Thank you for writing about this I’m sure it will be of a great help others dealing with this. Your strength in moving on with your life and living in well are an inspiration.

    1. Thank you Amanda. It is a difficult subject for people to talk about. I understand why but the problem is that when something becomes taboo it creates such shame and guilt. The bereaved don’t need that on top of everything else they are dealing with.

      Thank you for reading this with an open and compassionate heart. It means so much to me.

  10. I am truly sorry for the loss of your brother. This was a beautiful letter to explain the pain that comes from it and how difficult it is to think more about life. More people need to understand and be grateful for all they have.

  11. This post has made me feel like im not alone in the emotions im feeling and i thank you for that!

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