Friday, April 9, 2021

A Heartfelt Tribute To My Brother

 

10 years ago today, my brother Steve decided to leave this world behind. For the majority of his adult years, he secretly struggled with his mental health. On April 9 in 2011, his sense of hopelessness became unbearable, and it led to his suicide. Losing him, especially in this manner, was the most profoundly difficult period of my life. Death of a loved one is always painful, but when someone dies by suicide, the grief you experience is like no other. It is complex and traumatic and so intense that you can barely stand it. You’re left with unanswered questions and struggle with guilt that threatens to suffocate you. “How could I have prevented this?” you ask yourself. In time, I accepted that my questions would never be answered and that there is truly no way to have stopped this from happening. He was in too much pain and also doubly challenged. On one hand, he struggled with his disease and on the other with stigma. He suffered in silence, ashamed to admit he was ill in a society that judges, mistreats and blames individuals struggling with mental health. There are stereotypes and prejudices surrounding mental illness that oftentimes discourage those who suffer from not only reaching out for help and getting the necessary treatment, but from even admitting they have a problem. Consequently, they suffer in silence, and for some, it leads to suicide. I feel stabs of pain whenever people make insensitive jokes about mental illness or callous remarks about suicide. I don’t believe everyone who behaves this way is intentionally being insensitive or thoughtless. Sometimes it’s just unawareness or lack of understanding.

Today, I honour my brother’s memory. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. Not a day goes by that I don't miss him. Introverted and unpretentious, my brother never thought he was very special. But he couldn’t have been more wrong. If only he could see just how much he meant to so many people. I miss his smile, his voice, his hearty laugh, his way of thinking, his wacky sense of humour, his unique outlook on life, his generosity, his kindness, his honesty and everything else that made him remarkable. Most of all, I miss his presence. He didn’t put on airs to impress others and he never pretended to be someone he wasn’t. He was raw and unapologetic. What you saw is what you got with him. Steve had a huge influence in my life. He was only 11 months old when I arrived into the world and, as Irish twins, we were inseparable as children. From morning to night, we were always together; practically joined at the hip. We ate together, slept at the same time, woke up at the same time, played together, shared everything we had with one another, and never fought. We went so far as mimicking each other’s actions. If he left three peas on his plate, I did, too. If I drank only half my glass of milk, so did he. If he didn’t want to put on a scarf, neither did I. We were two peas in a pod. And my childhood was that much more amazing with my brother - my first best friend - in my corner. He was bold and daring and fun and full of energy, and he dragged me along on all his crazy and wonderful and impulsive adventures. We created an abundance of heartwarming memories.

I will not allow his death to be in vain. His death left behind a vital message to the world. It is a reminder of the importance of continuing the dialogue surrounding mental health. I hope that in time, with enough information, with enough education, people will gain a deeper understanding, take it more seriously and eliminate the stigma. If you notice someone struggling, reach out to them. Many suffer in silence, feel isolated and even ashamed. One small act of kindness or support from someone can help alleviate some of the anguish and possibly save a life. There is a fine line between hope and hopelessness. Build a bridge with love and compassion that may encourage someone to cross over to the side of hope and hang on for a little bit longer. Someone contemplating suicide has mixed feelings about it. They don’t really want death; they just want the unbearable pain to stop. Help to alleviate that suffering. Be part of the solution and not the problem. Educate yourself and stop propagating the damaging stereotypes and stigmas that are very harmful to people struggling with their mental health, so that no other life is cut short and you never experience this level of grief.

Steve left much too early and the world became a sadder place without him in it. But I am forever grateful to have been given the time I had with him. It was an honour and a blessing. Wherever he may be, I hope he is finally at peace.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. Let’s keep the conversation going and remove the barriers that discourage people from seeking the help that will turn their life around.

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(My dear blogging friends, I realize I've been gone a long time. I've been dealing with many personal things in the past year and trying to overcome the emotions that go with them. The most amazing man in the world and I are doing well, otherwise, and I hope to be returning to my blog very soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share this tribute, which is important for me. It is the first time in 10 years that I've gone public with the cause of my brother's death. I feel a tremendous sense of relief, like a weight has been lifted. I hope you are all keeping well and I will visit your blogs as soon as I'm able to. Take care, and thank you for reading this tribute. Sending you all love. ~ Martha ~)


42 comments:

  1. Dear Martha I am so sorry for your incredible loss. At the same time, it is good to hear from you. Stay safe and well.

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    1. Thank you, Christine! I've missed you all very much. I'll be visiting soon.

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  2. I've missed you, Martha, and I'm concerned about whatever is going on with you. This tribute to your brother is beautiful. It would help a lot if mental and emotional problems were treated as many health issues are--as something we can't help having. I've found that people who know about my history of depression at best don't know what to do, and at worst, think it's my fault or even that it's something I do to seek attention. I understand Steve's unwillingness to reveal what was going on with him.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie! I've missed you, too. Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm okay. It's been an emotional year but I'm still standing! Sadly, there is still so much misinformation and stigma surrounding mental health. Just remember that it's not your fault. There is no fault. We get sick and we need treatment. It's really that simple. Sending you love. xo

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  3. This was a beautiful and emotional tribute to your brother. Mental health affects so many families. I am hoping that the stigma becomes less and less. Thank you for taking this brave step, Martha. You never know how posts like this can help someone out there. Take care. -Jenn

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    1. Thank you, Jenn. Yes, a lot of families are affected. We don't hear about many of them because there's still shame and stigma surrounding mental illness. Every story told is an open door for others to cross through and seek help. I do hope that my post does reach someone who feels alone or desperate.

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  4. Good to see you post again. Suicides make no sense to us. But if we look back we can sort of see why. If we look back we blame ourselves. However, it's a great tribute to your brother . My brother and I are Irish twins . We were very active and daring.

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    1. Yes, we tend to blame ourselves. It's one of the hardest things to overcome but with time, we move on. I bet you have amazing memories with your brother!

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  5. A beautiful tribute to your brother, Martha, and a moving account of the painful realities of suicide. You're right that we should all be much more open about this. Thank you for your courage and openness in sharing your story of Steve's struggle with us. Hugs to you today and every day, my friend.

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    1. Thank you so much, Debra! I've been waiting a long time to share this story. This year I was finally able to and the fact that it's the ten year anniversary was very fitting. Thank you for the hugs! Much needed and much appreciated. xo

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  6. Heartfelt condolences to you. I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. What a nice tribute to your dear brother!

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    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I really appreciate your lovely comment and the condolences.

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  7. Martha - so sorry to read this. I love how you described him - he sounds like he was so genuine and i like reading how he was just himself and non apologetic for who he was. I know the pain and...not trying to eclipse your post or its' meaning... but I, too lost a brother by suicide back in 1998. I know what you speak of when you talk about the feelings when someone dies by their own hand. I hope this anniversary leaves with you more good loving memories than painful ones. My brother always said to everybody who would listen that he wouldn't live past 40. He took his life at 39...I really believe they are still around in spirit and send us love whenever we think of them.

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    1. I remember you sharing your brother's story, Sandy, so I know you really understand the emotions involved! It's a very complicated grief. By being able to finally share my brother's story, I feel like I've really put his soul to rest. I wasn't able to do that before - not because I didn't want to, but because of someone else. I'm going to explain in my next post when I return to blogging, hopefully soon. And yes, they are still around sending us love!

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    2. good to know you feel a release in some way. it took me awhile also. i even went to a few mediums and one was incredible. She gave me evidence no one else could have known. I hope u feel his love - i'm sure you do.

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    3. I do, Sandy. Very much so!

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  8. 10 years ago? My question is, how are YOU doing? That's a long time to hold onto something. Do you need help? Have you gotten help? Most of the time your spouse doesn't count. People will open up to more to a phycologist than family. I don't mean to be raw and unapologetic, wait, yes I do. Pretend your brother moved away and you can only talk to him on a private blog and he can't answer back. Hang in there!

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    1. Thanks, Mike, but I'm perfectly okay. I went for help a long time ago. I even attended a support group, which helped tremendously. I just couldn't share this story before for a few reasons. But this year, I was finally able to make it public. Thank you for your raw and unapologetic comment! HAHA It made me smile.

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  9. This is a very powerful and moving post. I wish your brother could have seen it. You are so right about the prejudice and stigma which can inhibit people from seeking help with mental problems (I think this is especially true with men), even though they would never hesitate to go to a doctor for a physical illness. It's a prejudice that costs lives.

    Someone contemplating suicide has mixed feelings about it. They don’t really want death; they just want the unbearable pain to stop.

    Having been in that position, I know this is true. But when you're in that position, it can really feel like death is the only way out.

    I hope everyone who reads this will take the message to heart. If it helps motivate even one person to seek help or offer it, you'll have done a great good.

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    1. Absolutely right! Men are even less inclined to go for help because they have additional social pressure. They're expected to be "manly" and "strong". Despite how far we've come, we haven't gone far enough with changing this mentality. We must keep working on this.

      Like you, I've also been in that position, therefore I totally understand my brother's journey. I sincerely hope that this message does indeed reach someone who is in pain and motivates them to seek help. Or it reaches someone who will offer help that may even save a life.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  10. wile reading about your brother i felt as my heart will burst out with grief with unbearable pain dear Martha!

    i can only imagine how deep is this wound for you my friend! i know sorry is not enough for such great loss .specially when you remember times spent with him.when i lost my brother i was little like four or five still i have strong and powerful memories though they are not as clear as memories of later life .after forty five years i still remember him and secretly wish that may he appear from somewhere with his big intelligent eyes and smile .
    i never wrote about him as i think i will not do justice with feelings and memories i had as a little girl.i know once you share your pain you feel lot better and relived .
    thank you for sharing this with us.
    i agree that such people are not treated appropriately by all round them.i have witnessed some worst sights regarding such situation and they made my heart heavy always!
    how nice that you will be back soon Martha ,i am missing you and so all other friends i believe !
    stay strong and best of luck for all you up to !

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    1. Thank you so much, Baili! Even though you lost your brother when you were very young, it had an impact in your life. You would have noticed the grief that surrounded you with the older people that truly understood what was going on. My brother's story is shared, so that others can be encourage to speak about this important topic, to reach out for help and to help others. The more we talk about these things, the closer we will get to getting rid of stigma and discrimination. It will take a long time but I have faith that we will get there, especially with future generations who are much more accepting and open-minded.

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  11. Thank you sharing this, Martha. I am certain your brother would be proud. How could he not? He has a sister that truly loves and cares for him. Please take care.

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    1. Thank you, Jim. The sharing of his story has been such a cleansing experience. And I hope it reaches someone who needs help.

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  12. This is a beautiful tribute. I am sorry for the pain of loss to you and your family and others who knew your brother. I hope writing this brings you some measure of peace and I hope that whatever private issues you are dealing with can be resolved. Be safe and well.

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm doing okay and I'll be back very soon. I've missed all my blogging pals. I hope you are doing well!

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  13. A wonderful tribute to your brother.

    My good wishes.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you, Jan! I'll be visiting your blog soon.

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  14. It is so very good to hear from you Martha. This is a beautiful tribute to the sweet love of a brother and sister and to the emptiness left by someone so very special.
    I am sorry Steve suffered so much and hope that everyone that reads this will be willing to open a conversation with another who may be struggling.

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    1. Thank you, Linda! I do hope this message does some good. I've missed all you blogging friends and I will be visiting your blogs soon. I hope you are keeping well!

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  15. Dear Martha,
    It is hard to say what I want to say here...I know that your brother would be proud of your words and your love not just for him but for everyone! There, I told you I might not make much sense. I am thinking that he would be very proud of you and your efforts to make people to understand those who suffer in silence from "the black dog", I think they call it. God bless you, dear Martha. xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Kay. I do hope that my small effort helps shed some light on this important topic and opens the door to dialogue. xo

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  16. That's a lovely tribute to your brother.

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  17. What a beautiful tribute Martha. This is a subject near and dear to my heart as well. ♥♥♥

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    1. Thanks, Rain. This story had to be told. And the time was right. 💖

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  18. I’m sorry to hear that happened to your brother, I can only imagine that was immense pain even so many years.


    You have opened me up to reveal my darkest moments.

    Last year, in the spring I fell in love with someone way too early and way too fast than I should have. I was the best boyfriend I could be for her, but there were other factors including other people make her decisions for her, I think.

    So she dumped me really hard and I could never understand it for months. That sent me into a deep depression with hopelessness. I always thought I had a will to live, but during that moment I did not.

    I had not made a serious attempt on my life during last summer, and by July I was OK. But the temptation of it was unreal, and I was terrified of actually doing it.

    I had to accept that she was a terrible person for doing what she did.

    But in October I found the one with the purest heart I have ever known. I was definitely over the last one when I met her, and she is vastly superior to my ex and almost every way I can imagine.

    I’m just glad I survived and to anyone who happens to read this message, don’t give in.

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    1. Thank you, Adam, for sharing your story with me. I'm so glad you decided to hang on. I wish many would. Just one more day, I would tell them. And then one more. Being in a dark place like that is frightening. Feeling hopeless to that level is extremely difficult. Wishing you well on your new journey. May you always keep hope in your heart. 💖

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  19. Thank you for this post. I’m so sorry for your huge loss. I’m not a blogger, I’m not sure this will get posted ......but I do wish you the best and hope you know folks who read this will be saying a silent prayer for you. xo, V

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    1. Thank you for visiting and leaving this lovely comment. I really appreciate it. 💖

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