“I want to remember my brother’s life, not his death”

“Jim used to play defense in hockey. I remember he would check the guys on the other team, and after they’d fallen he’d go over and help them up. He would apologize, and make sure they were okay. That’s just who he was—kind, caring, compassionate. That was my brother.

“At 19, he went through a breakup. That was the trigger. He took a rubber hose from our parents’ garage, got in his car with a bottle of Tylenol, and drove out of the city. A police officer noticed his red car in a wooded area. When they found him, he was unconscious.

“He underwent several blood transfusions to reduce the extreme levels of carbon monoxide in his body. I remember going to visit him in the hospital. His hands and feet were tied, restraining him, wrapping him tightly to the bed. I think he knew who I was. He couldn’t speak, but he recognized me.

“Two months later, Jim was released. Our family never really talked about it. Things seemed more normal, but the memory was always there. I never really felt like he was safe.

“Then, after he got married and he had kids, I thought he was past it. I thought we were in the clear. He loved his kids more than anything.

“We lost contact after my father’s death. About a year and a half later, he reached out and we started to reconnect. He was in a bad place. He and his wife had separated, he couldn’t see his kids every day, and he was living out of a motel.

“He used to call me on Sundays and we would chat. Things were starting to look up. He seemed more stable. He was allowed supervised visits with his kids.

“My husband and I went away for the weekend. When we got back on the Sunday evening, I checked for any missed calls. There were two.

“One was a voicemail from Jim’s brother-in-law: ‘I need you to call me.’ I knew something was wrong. Really wrong. He said, ‘They found your brother’s body. He passed away yesterday, and was found today.’

“The second missed call was from Friday evening. It was from Jim.

“He called me that night and I wasn’t home. I felt like I could have stopped it if I’d been home. It haunted me for years. I know now that there’s nothing I could have done, but there’s always the idea that I could have changed things.

“I love my brother for what he was. I love him for the things he brought to life, including his children. But at different times in my life, I’ve thought more about how his life ended than what it actually consisted of.

“After his first suicide attempt, we knew we weren’t supposed to talk about it. It was glossed over. People knew that something happened, but didn’t know exactly what. That’s how things were in those days, swept under the rug. That’s the problem. We don’t want to have the conversation.

“There was a lot to my brother. He was more than his death. He was a father, a husband, and a business owner. I want him to be remembered for those things, not just his suicide. I want to remember his life, not his death. I want his kids to know who he was, not just how he died.

“People don’t want to say the word ‘suicide.’ We cover it up. We make things up instead of acknowledging what’s really happening. It stops important conversations from being had. If we talk about it, maybe we can save lives.

“He’s already gone. But not talking about suicide hurts the survivors. We feel helpless, horrified that we couldn’t save somebody we love. Being open about it can save people years of pain.

“Talking about it creates a network of support that we otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. It’s only by talking about it that I realized there was nothing I could have done. Talking about things, even difficult things, helps us all heal.”

 

– 56, Female, Calgary, Alberta.

 

 

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