“Because of you, I will always have a friend.”
Ten years ago, I lost my only brother Matthew to suicide. He was 41 years old. It is a terrible thing to lose a sibling and most traumatic when it is to suicide. You feel as though part of your identity which has tethered you to someone else has disappeared. Shared memories and childhood antics all go up in smoke. It is also hard because you are not the primary griever. You are not the life partner or parent, and those people seem to be the focus when a child is lost no matter what the age.
So, you feel lost and forgotten.
People forget the importance of siblings in our lives. Listed below are some characteristics of the sibling bond (from Sibling Survivors of Suicide Loss):
- It’s the longest relationship we’ll have in our lives. We are typically only a few years apart when one is born and we become aware of each other. We usually know them longer than our parents, spouses, and children.
- We witness more life events and life changes with our siblings than anyone else.
- We share a sense of genetics, sense of family, belonging, and culture.
- They teach us how to function in society and communicate with others.
- The time spent together in our early years is greater than with our parents.
Some of the things that have helped me on my grief journey and to memorialize my sibling are:
- Writing about my brother and about my loss
- Reading books by sibling suicide loss survivors
- Sharing stories with his friends, his children and my family
- Lightening candles or making toasts to him on holidays
- Attending suicide support groups
- Talking to other siblings who have experienced suicide loss
- Hosting fundraisers and donating to causes he loved
Time is also a good healer. I am at a very different point today after a decade than I was in those first few heartbreaking years. Regular therapy and grief work along with the passage of time help to heal those deep wounds. I found these things to be vital to my own mental health after going through the trauma of losing my brother.
It is important to know that you can find joy again and the memories of your siblings will sustain you.