Suicide affects so many people, both in urban and rural Ireland. It feels like everyone knows someone affected by it in some form. My older brother Phillip, aged 28, on October 8th 2005 sadly took his own life and it left so many questions unanswered to all of us. It seemed to us to have come out of the blue. We, as a close family, felt emotionally devastated at the time.
Nearly nine years this year and I have only just begun the journey to heal and accept that I could not change the situation. When my brother died by suicide I was left reeling and the grief was overwhelming, wondering if I could have done something to prevent this. As we faced life after our loved one’s suicide we remembered that we don’t have to go it alone.
All my emotions such as shock, anger, guilt and despair went up and down over the next weeks and months. I was still in 4th year in school at the time. I had difficultly concentrating and had a loss of usual activities. It felt physically and emotionally exhausting to me. Understanding your emotions, as well as learning something to help others may ease your grief.
My advice to anyone dealing with this loss or anyone feeling down, depressed or suicidal would be:
- Reach out to loved ones, friends and family. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen. I spoke to the local school chaplain who assured me that with time your pain will heal.
- Grieve in your own way. Not what someone else is going through. I found it extremely difficult to visit my brother’s gravesite until I was ready.
- Know that there will be painful reminders of our brother including, birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. And we include them in our celebrations, reminding ourselves that they are always remembered.
- Healing must occur at your own pace and don’t rush it. Take one day at a time, some days will be better than others, even years after suicide. It takes time to heal.
- We also, as a family, spoke to a counselor who came into our home and spoke about the way we felt about that day. And to talk openly about how we feel, not to bottle it up inside and let it consume you. Many great charities offer help including, Pieta house, Sosad, and many others.
While we may be living in the 21st century there is, unfortunately, still a great deal of stigma attached to suicide. If you are in a very emotional and vulnerable place right now don’t be afraid to speak up. Communities now need educating when it comes to suicide prevention, and together we can help each other through those difficult times. Take care of yourselves and others.