Lisa Michaels

"I came home one day from work surprised to see my brother. His car was not in the driveway. 

When I asked where his car was, he told me it was still at the hospital. I asked why he was at the hospital and he told me he hadn't felt well. Knowing that, lately, he just hadn't seemed happy--but afraid to press further--I simply asked: 'Is it your guts or your head?'

He told me it was his head and that was the end of the conversation. 

Six weeks later, the doorbell rings. It's late, so I'm afraid to answer it, but finally I do. A woman from the coroner's office and a man from the local police are there to tell me that David is dead. 

For about twenty minutes, I sit on my couch, the only one in my family knowing this. The young officer gets me water from my kitchen. I have to call my dad and tell him. He refuses to wake my sister and tell her. She's sleeping and he doesn't see why he shouldn't let her have a few more hours without this heartbreak. My dad and I tell each other 'I love you,' and say we'll be ok.

In the morning, when my sister calls, we say 'I love you,' and that we'll be ok.

It feels like lying to say you'll be ok. Only five-and-a-half short years earlier, we each sat with my mom individually as she was dying and told her the same thing. It was something we were told to say. That assuring her of this would make it easier for her to let go. I was twenty then, and I didn't see how being ok would ever be possible again. 

It took a couple of years, and it's not something that occurs every part of every day anymore. 

Grieving and loss is one of the loneliest activities I've ever been a part of. It feels like you shouldn't be alone. I was one of three children who lost a mother. But we didn't lose the same person. 

I worried about everyone and how they were dealing with it, and I especially felt even worse for my brother. Our mom wasn't even there to see him graduate high school. I was angry for only getting 20 years with her. David had even less time. 

And I don't think he ever got through it.

With suicide, the grief process is so different. It's so unfathomable I think an extra step gets added to the healing: the search for why.

A week after David died, my sister, her husband, and I went to his house. I guess, for me, I was searching for a notebook titled 'This Is What I Was Thinking,' and somewhere within that notebook he'd say that he knew that we loved him and that he loved us, too. 

I didn't find such a notebook. I found plenty of journals and they were all nearly empty. He had notebooks for jokes. He was even an improv teacher at one point. But we didn't find answers that night. More and more questions just started to build. We went through his phone, his iPad, his email, his car, and all we had were more questions. 

My sister, dad, and I went to a few grief therapy appointments together but it was too hard for my dad. He left after a couple of sessions, my sister left to fly home before another session, and after that, I was alone. 

During one session, my counselor lays it out to me in a way I was afraid to admit to myself: I had an especially hard time losing David because I knew it could have easily been me. 

In the waves of anger that followed his death, one of the things I was angriest at him for was that he'd beaten me to it. I knew it wasn't my best option, but I never didn't consider suicide as an option until he took it from me. 

I also realized in the time that passed after David how much this feeling seemed to echo through friends and acquaintances. Friends close to me would tell me how his death affected people I hadn't seen in years and likely never even met my brother. I found some comfort in this shared burden. I didn't feel as alone, though I'd never ask for such company. 

To me, it seemed that a lot of people felt this wash of shared grief over the reality of this 'idea' or this 'option' we had at one time or another considered, no matter how seriously. 

But the loss still remained with my family and not with them. 

I have a hyper sensitivity to a lot of things now. I hear songs with gunshots in them and I turn them off immediately. I walk out of movies and I turn channels. I throw my phone when I see the gun emoji pointed to any of the face emojis. I hear the phrases 'ugh, I would kill myself' or 'I'd shoot myself' at least once a week and it's like a searing pain in my chest. 

I even went to the improv theater where David worked and, a few weeks after he died, was horrified to witness an improv sketch centered on the acceptance of suicidal people into heaven. It's more difficult for me to separate myself from the crushing disappointment of an insensitive world. 

That's also why it's more important for me to share my story. Expecting to be understood without explanation only leads to heartbreak and frustration. 

It's important to be heard and to be listened to. 

It's important to ask people you love what's really going on. 

It's important to answer them when they ask you. 

I still get angry with my brother. But it's mostly because I miss him so much. Because he should be here going to movies with me and telling me how to work my phone and making me laugh with one sharp look. 

It will break my heart for the rest of my life how much I won't get to share with him."