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The Sibling Connection


Someone asked me how I ever survived the death of my brother by suicide. My reply is that "You survive because you have no choice. You have to go on, even if you wish you didn't have to. There is no other option."

My youngest brother and I were always very close. We had this unspoken bond. We didn't have to talk to each other every day or even every week. I always knew he would be there for me if I ever needed him. If something would ever happen to my husband and me, it gave me great comfort to know that Terry would be there for my three children. He loved my children almost as much as his own. Because of our own financial limitations, Terry even offered to help get my children through college. That was just the kind of person he was.

I last saw Terry at Easter of 1999, approximately six weeks before his death. We had a great visit. Every year, everyone came to my house for an Easter Egg hunt. I remember Terry out there with the children. His youngest child was nine months old. He carried Kyle around and helped him gather eggs. Everything seemed fine. Terry was laughing and having fun and enjoying the day. All of the guys had their regular basketball game. Little did we know that this would be the last holiday we would ever have with Terry.

A few weeks later, I was off work due to back problems. I was scheduled to have back surgery on May 17. On May 15 Terry called me to wish me luck with my surgery. I realized that something was terribly wrong with him. He was totally stressed out about a job promotion and move that was about to occur. Instead of being happy and excited about it, he was in a total state of panic. He would be a corporate vice president of a large insurance firm. He didn't think he could handle the responsibility. It ended up that we were both crying on the phone and I didn't know what to do. He lived 5 hours away and I was flat on my back in bed. I called my other two brothers and cried to them. I don't think they understood my terror. I had this horrible feeling that something really bad was going to happen, only I didn't know how bad it would get.

Two days later I had my surgery. Terry was in the back of my mind, but I was consumed with my own problems at the moment. He never called to see how my surgery went. How could he not call and check on me? His wife did call to see how I was and told me that Terry was going to see a psychiatrist and had been put on an antidepressant. She didn't seem all that worried and I just had to hope that she was watching over him, because I couldn't get to him.

On May 23, I called Terry. He didn't seem any better to me. He was totally stressed out. I begged him to drive home and spend time with me. I was off work and couldn't drive. I told him I needed company. He told me he couldn't come down because he had to go to work the next day. I kept asking myself how this could be happening. How could Terry go from being this wonderful, successful person to a person who could barely function? What was happening to him? I will never know.

On May 26, 1999 my brother drove to a bridge one hour from his home and jumped off onto a highway. My sister-in-law called me and told me, I somehow thought it was all a bad dream. This could never happen to my family. This could only happen to some other mentally crazed person I would read about in the newspaper.

I remember screaming and feeling as though my feet were going to give out from under me. I remember screaming into the phone at my sister-in-law, "Why didn't you help him?" Then the line went dead. I kept thinking it wasn't true. I was going to wake up and this was all going to be an awful dream.

My parents were elderly and not in good health. How could their youngest child be dead by suicide? How had they failed him? We had this perfect childhood. We weren't abused; we weren't drug addicts or alcoholics, what went wrong?

I remember asking myself, "How could things be any worse?" As horrible as this sounds, I feel jealousy when I hear someone talk of losing someone to cancer, or a car accident or even murder. I want to be able to be angry with someone or something or a disease. I want to blame someone other than my brother. I loved him so much, how can I be angry with him for what he did to our family?

There is still such a stigma with suicide. I still cringe when I have to tell people what happened to Terry. I don't want to be ashamed of how he died, and I have to remind myself that it was the depression that killed Terry. When you mention the word suicide, though people just want to turn around and run the other way. The other thing with suicide is that you do want someone to blame. This blame and finger pointing has ripped my family apart. It will never be the warm, loving family that it once was. Terry's suicide has taken that away from us.

Suicide grief has got to be the worse. When you think you are moving forward, the what ifs come back to haunt you. If only I had called Terry on his cell phone that morning instead of at his office, if only I didn't have my back surgery when I did-- those sort of things. There have been many days when I am just waking up, still half-asleep and I say, "Please God, let me wake up and this is all a bad dream." Then of course you wake up and the reality hits you once again. I made the mistake of putting myself on a time schedule. I thought, just give me a year and I will "get over" this. It took me two years to realize that I will never get over it, just learn to incorporate the pain into my life. There will always be this big empty spot in my heart that I learn to live with.

Many days I am still angry with Terry for putting us through this. He should be around to help with our parents. My dad is fighting a horrible disease, Parkinson's. He fights every day just to get out of bed and move around. Mom had knee surgery two months ago, and still has extreme pain. I see them fighting to live, why could he have fought to live?

I will never be the same person I was. Some things for the better, I guess. I am a much more compassionate, caring person. Part of me is much more cynical though, which I don't like. I have realized just how unfair life is sometimes...

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