I have found unlike my mothers passing my brothers has become a slight awkward subject amongst people who I know, not my awkwardness but other peoples. Families and survivors according to Feigelman called it a “wall of silence” by family friends and the surrounding community. Often they are unable to call it by its name instead referring to it as the thing that he did, my Brother took his own life, its not a “thing” that he did, he took the biggest decision that morning, walked out of the house and ended his own life. Suicide is shrouded in taboos still sadly frowned upon by people as the “cowardly” way out. The act of killing ones self use to be illegal in some countries, Holy scriptures see it as a sin, you’ll never get into heaven, the word itself to “commit” suicide, the phrase its self is deemed as an act of self murder, I have noticed the reaction to be often uncaring and disinterest or, conversely, an unwelcome shower of unhelpful and awkward advice.
Personally being a witness to the aftermath I tend to strongly disagree, to set things in place for your family, leave letters, sort accounts and then make that earth shattering decision to complete suicide takes a lot of balls and determination. Believe me I am not praising my brother or supporting him his actions but often these people that hold these views haven’t had to deal with the aftermath or negative / suicidal thoughts.
I wanted to write a little something because I feel there is so much shame attached to a loved one taking their own life, that last action taints them from that moment on. People will shirt around the death, I’ve realised that people asking me about it are doing it out of morbid curiosity but when I am open about the circumstances they can’t face knowing, or I get the response but he seemed so happy, well he was like anything we have good and bad days and only show the world what we wish to, we control how we come across. Like I said often the memory of the person is tainted by their last actions, they dont remember my brother for the person he was before the OCD and depression took hold. I would like people to recognise that mental health is just as valid as an illness. If it was more physically visible maybe more people would take notice, talk more and challenge the stigma.
I myself have been prone to Lessing my brothers death, I don’t talk about it too much on my social media for fear of losing followers (highly ridiculous) or making people feel uncomfortable which in itself is perpetuating this stigma. self-stigmatization, its a thing and I have been known to do it, keeping my thoughts to myself for fear of the consequences, not for of me being judge but for my brother for being judged. For him being seen as selfish, uncaring and attention seeking. But that in itself is perpetually the “wall of silence.”
Research suggests that those bereaved by suicide report higher levels of rejection, shame and blame than other bereaved people. Misinformed reactions to suicide can result in avoidance and uncertainty about how to approach someone about their grief and loss. Many people bereaved by suicide find themselves avoiding the disclosure of the cause of death as a result of the anticipated stigmatised responses, which contributes to a lack of awareness in the community.
I can’t help my brother now, but I wish for people to take the time to talk to their loved ones especially men, suicide is the leading cause of death amongst men under 50, my brother was 24 when he took his own life. Imagine all the amazing things he could of accomplished, now I feel guilt it creeps in occasionally, I worry that people often think of me as a bad sister for not spotting the signs. How can she give advice about being more open and approachable if her own brother took his own life? I’m not taking her advice but please realise, I was very close to my brother, after the loss of Mum we would talk, but he slowly internalised it more and more. I asked questions, I would sit and draw with him in the evenings, we chatted, we went out together we did things. But you have to remember that he didn’t wish to burden anyone, I asked all the questions. I kept an eye on the signs I know sometimes negative thoughts put the strongest constraints on your logically thinking, I haven’t shared why my brother took his own life and when explained to people they realise the pressure and upset he was facing so don’t judge until you know the facts, be more empathetic, be more open, listen without judgement.
There has been studies that show the stigma in support and talking about suicide is lessoning, there are more people talking about suicide prevention, we have days dedicated In the calendar to talk about suicide prevention, drawing attention to numbers we can call, emails and contacts. I don’t condone suicide, I don’t support the act of suicide but I support the need to openly talk about it. There needs to be more resources, conversation and dialogue so that people in danger or at risk feel less judgement and fear about approaching and talking about the subject which subsequently will save far more lives. People with suicidal thoughts need to be made to feel less abnormal, more included and less alone.
I myself since losing Saul on a number of occasions have felt very close myself to not wanting to be here anymore, not wanting to die but not wanting to feel so much pain and grief, often the bereaved left behind by suicide struggle more then if their loved ones died in “normal” circumstances, the belief for this is the ability to process the loss. Personally I have dealt with my Mother having a sudden asthma attack and dying in my arms, that in my brain had a natural process she was stressed and smoked, her lungs failed her I can process that. I can process my brothers but thinking about him, dealing with the inquest and the pain of that on top of grief is unbelievably painful.I might self can’t be near trees, I can’t sleep as I am haunted by what I witnessed that morning and my PTSD is one of the hardest parts to deal with. I am in therapy, I am talking but logically I know those images will never leave me. The hole left behind by suicide is a very large and very open wound one I fear so many others will have to face.
I will be running Brighton Marathon in memory of my brother and supporting the Calm zone alone the way, they have advice and contact details for anyone struggling and to anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one to suicide please have a read of the pdf support after suicide there is also a really handy Pdf to help anyone wanting to talk and support someone affected by suicide
If you need someone to talk to the Samaritans are free to call on 116 123, or call CALM on 0800 58 58 58.
I wont ever stop talking about my brother, I will do all I can to lessen the stigma attached to mental health and help where ever I can. I am personally helping myself power through the grief with my 356project and giving 30% of each postcard sale to the calm zone you can purchase your postcards in my Ella Masters Studio store.