One Of Eight-my perspective on our brother's suicide is a dynamic story of inner struggle, peaceful resolve and a demonstration that tragedy can turn to hope. Uniquely written, the book is a narrative preceding personal journal entries that delve into the events following the suicidal death. Journal entries give the readers an avenue to explore how journaling became a vehicle for expression, enabling the author to walk into forbidden emotions and find healing. This is a tale that reaches beyond suicide to survival.
Did you ever have “one of those days,” a day you will never forget? For me, Friday, September 22, 1989 lays etched in my mind. That was the day my eldest brother Ronald, took a final bow and made his exit performance, leaving a heavy, dark curtain touching the floor forever. He took his own life, although I feel his life was taken away long before he physically departed. Recovering from his departure has been a long ordeal that has affected me on many levels. Initially, I wondered if I would ever get over it. Presently, I search for understanding as I recognize how pieces of his life and his death influence my daily life.
For years, I felt guilty for thinking of him more after his death than when he was alive. But, in time, I learned to be grateful for thoughts of him regardless of the circumstances.
Losing someone to suicide is a unique experience. On a certain level, I know no one or nothing is to blame, yet I blamed everything and everyone.
My brother’s death was not a surprise, it was a shock. The residuals of that shock have sent waves of angst into my life, leaving me to explore its impact. As each day rolls by, the shock diminishes and, hopefully, someday will fade away.
In the past, I thought if I didn’t constantly grieve for Ronald that I was a bad person. Presently, I look to him for love and guidance, just as I did in life, allowing my grief to come and go as it pleases. Remaining present with my grief as it passes through me is extremely valuable.
I was twenty-six years old when my brother died; he was thirty-four. The grieving process wasn’t foreign to me prior to Ronald’s death, but his method of dying was new. Suicide intermingles with waves of guilt unlike accidental or natural death occurrences. Everyone I encountered, family, friends, associates, etcetera, felt some type of guilt which they carry with them like extra baggage weighing down their shirt sleeves. The guilt is as individual as each person and, in a suicidal death, it is a common theme.
In Ronald’s case, questioning if there was enough done to possibly save him coursed through the veins of everyone who knew him. Although guilt is common, everyone dealt with their feelings in different ways. Being one of eight children and maintaining an individual outlook has been challenging. From my perspective, it is important to honor whatever others feel—whatever will get them through the day.
In my family, our unique personalities became apparent to me after we buried my brother and attended a support group. As I sat with my remaining siblings and witnessed their experience through their eyes, I discovered that although we shared a similar loss, all of us felt very different about it. Each of us held onto certain aspects or parts of Ronald and we grieved for him individually. My naiveté led me to believe we would all deal with this situation similarly; after all, we’d all lost a brother. I quickly discovered our grief was as unique as our memories. Each of us had to unravel the threads of this experience for ourselves as we continue to do each and every day. Collectively, we have found a way to live with this tragedy, although it has changed us forever. My desire is to learn from what life paints on our individual canvasses.
My journaling began just after Ronald’s death and continues to this day. It has been a true gift and is important to my healing process. Releasing my emotions and not getting tangled in the web continues to be a challenge. Turning inward to discover what is blocking the way and delivering it to the outside world is imperative. In my view, the subject of suicide needs to be expressed outwardly and understood so we can go on living each and every day. Perhaps talking and listening to others will prevent them from taking themselves permanently out of the picture, leaving a blank screen to stare at the rest of our lives.