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Julie Davis

Hi Peter and all,
I miswrote above. I apologize -it was B. J. Speeg who wrote about the experience of seeing his brother after it happened, not Peter. My heart goes out to you and everyone who wrote. We all share that same bond -of losing our sibling way too soon.
I do believe we will see him them again someday though.
Be well, Julie Davis

Julie Davis

Dear Peter (and all commenters).
Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt stories. This is the first time I have been on this page and I can identify with so much of what you all wrote.

My older brother, who just turned 60 yrs old May 8th, ended his life with a gun this past June 7, 2012. I was the closest to him in the family and I tried to help him the most (by telephone, I live on the east coast and he lived on the west coast), however I have blamed myself immensely for what I didnt do or did also. I love what Christine wrote about trying to love ourselves the way our brother would want us to.... And, Peter your words about seeing your brother right after it happened hit home. I am so sorry. My sister and I and 2 family friends had to go out to my brother's apartment to take care of his things after it happened. He shot himself in his room and I still have flashbacks seeing the blood on his bedspread and carpet. It is so painful. I know he would not want me to suffer this way. He was such a good man in so many ways, but had untreated depression and diabetes, had been unempoloyed for 3 1/2 years, no wife, and no children. His Calif unemployment extension had just been cancelled. I know he felt like a failure. He would not come to live with me and my husband, though I know now I should have tried harder to get him to move here. It is all such an emotional roaster coaster and I know it has changed me forever.
I do have a fabulous Grief Counselor and I go to her Bereavement Group weekly which is so comforting, I read some books on the topic, and recently have searched some of the websites like this one.
I do have faith in God. I also know I will never be the same without my big brother here. I miss him terribly. I do have faith and hope in reading your all your comments above, that it will get better and maybe I could even become stronger.

Sincerely, Julie Davis

B.J. Speeg

Dear Peter (and the other commenters too),

I agree with the adjective searing in regard to the pain suffered after a suicide of a loved one.
It took me 12 years to come to a 'better place' regarding my brother's horrific suicide. Horrific.

A psychiatrist I was seeing did absolutely nothing regarding my coping with it after wards. Did not talk about it, unless I tried to, and did not treat me for PTSD. I witnessed my brother carried out of his basement with a gunshot wound through his head. He was still alive, sitting up at that point. The EMT on scene had to kind of 'hogtie' me to quiet me. I work in healthcare. This is an awful paradox to this day for me.

I am here though. I listen to my brother Len's favorite tunes on the radio, and I listen for him, because he's not here. I sometimes write letters to him about his beautiful grown daughter, or just stupid stuff. It gets me through.
Both of our parents died in the months following the shooting. They died 13 days apart.

At the same time my partner of 17 years left me.
I sit here tonight typing and can say "I'm Still Standing", ---Elton John.

Time, Grace, Humor, Spirit has gotten me through.

On the subject of bi-polar. Even if the stigma were raised from it, would it make a different outcome for suicide attempts and of what is called such a deep despair they can't help it but kill themselves? Would awareness be enough to keep people from acting out?

I do wonder this.

The last paragraph of our last entry 7/03/2012 is at the heart of what happens to survivors over time. I run in the same time frame with surviving; no wonder it's taken me so long to be able be freer from its hold on me.

I thank you for your candor, your work on getting better (despite additional loss of a son, so very, very sorry for this), and I trust your work will continue to do well for others.

B. Speeg

Peter Ratcliffe

Dear Joan;

We, as a society, surely need to remove the stigma from mental illness.

I'm absolutely in agreement with your cancer analogy. In my healing journeys I've often referred to anger as a cancer of the soul.

There are many cancers of the mind/soul, some short term and not life threatening, and some indeed fatal to oneself or others.

Yet we have a multitude of lonstanding personal, moral, religious and societal reasons that cause us to repress the open discussions and acknowledgements. Forums like this offer a valuable interaction between those who have experienced trauma that is difficult to discuss in public. Here we're all linked by a commonality of experience which allows for a more comfortable openess without fear of judgement.

I also agree with you thought that death will be digested slowly, especially untimely or wrongful death without advance warning. I believe the subconscious mind captures and retains everything surrounding traumatic events, and over time we allow our conscious mind to glimpse bits and pieces until a some future point we can comprehend the totality of what has happened. Perhaps that's an evolved natural process leading towards acceptance.

Be well and find peace.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts today,
Best regards,
Peter Ratcliffe

Joan Kaneshiro

Dear Peter,

First of all, thank you for coming to this forum to share your journey, hope and encouragement with us all.

Today, as I was writing someone I love very much, actually someone who was closer to my brother than I was (his daughter), this thought occurred to me:

I believe death can be dealt with and digested, in very small pieces, when the person who dies does not ‘choose’ to die. When a so-called healthy* person chooses death and executes it, somehow the mind does not appear to process it even many years later, if ever, to the suicide survivor.

Yet, as I was writing my niece today, this thought occurred to me: What about dying from cancer of the soul or a cancer of the psyche if that makes sense to more people? Mental illness remains a stigma in our society. The psyche holds many diseases and broken mental bones that no one ever sees. Therapists/psychiatrists have many scientific names for all of them, but I am speaking from the simplest of layman’s terms. Yet the disease of the mind/soul can be aggressive, is hard to measure and is oftentimes incorrectly treated. Or perhaps trials of treatment are so laborious one dies in the midst of their physician “practicing medicine.” To be diagnosed, as being bipolar is something I think everyone wants to cover up except high profile individuals trying to bring clarity and balance to mental illness. (Yet, let me emphasize, I am NOT saying everyone who commits suicide is bipolar).

So, I say all of this to say this (and I am not into mental trickery). My brother decided to end his life in January of this year in a very horrific way. Oh there were many warning signs, unlike many who had no idea. He talked about if often but none of us believed he would really do it; but he did. So maybe… instead of saying or believing my brother died at his own hand, without regard to anyone else around him, what if I mentally shifted a bit, and attributed his death to emotional/mental/cancer of the soul? Actually, many die of cancer within weeks of being diagnosed having no symptoms whatsoever.

*Those who are mentally ill are mentally compromised and are not healthy people.


Peter Ratcliffe

39 years is a long journey, I'm only 12 years. I'm sure the societal response to suicide has changed a lot in 39 years, but even today we're still too silent, too often shamed and self-blaming.

It's important for new survivors to know that we can live, be happy and even accept what has happened without having it destroy our own futures too.

Your "trick" works for you and is a good reminder that each of us must find effective ways to somehow remove our focus from the last act and last few minutes of a life that ended in suicide.

For me that involved forgiving my brother for what was in effect one very wrong and very final turn in what was a outwardly very good and successful life.

Instead, we somehow need to focus on the good memories of the years we shared love with that person and all the positives in their lives.

Most often we can come to the conclusion that the victim was a good and loving person who would not intentionally bring pain and confusion into our lives, and then extend that to the conclusion that they would not want us to suffer but would want us healed and whole again.

Be well and at peace,

Christine Owens

Thank you for sharing your story of hope, Peter. Your story led me to reflect on my own journey since my brother’s death from suicide 39 years ago. I’ve found one trick that has helped me begin to live with more peace in my heart. I call it a “trick” because it sidesteps the whole fiction versus truth battle that plays out in my head as I still try to accept reality.

Step one of the trick is to replay the “different” scenario, i.e., something miraculous happened and my brother didn’t die. I give myself permission to feel loving toward the person-that-is-me who wants with all her heart for this different scenario to be true. I take a deep breath and love that person-who-is-me for wanting this different ending for my brother, myself, and my family and friends. It is a loving thing that I want, after all, to have my brother be alive. Loving and healing.

Step 2 of the trick is to replay the scenario that actually happened and let myself feel loving toward the person-who-is-me, the person who is experiencing all of this horrible, gut-wrenching pain, the person that part of me blames, that part of me claims is responsible for my brother’s death because of something that I did or didn’t do, that feels my brother’s death as a failure on my part. I ask myself what it would feel like to be as loving toward that person-who-is-also-me as my brother would want me to feel? It took awhile, and I still practice this, but it has helped me over the hurdle of totally hating part of myself and hating the truth. It has shown me that if I can love and accept myself and the truth as part of an experiment, even if only for a moment, then it’s probably possible for me to do that in “real” life. I managed to trick myself into love and acceptance, little by little.

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