Life can be very hard . It can be devastating , it can be brutal , it can be callous. Someday life can just turn up on your doorstep and destroy the one person or people you loved.When it happens the events are etched on your mind and they scar your heart and soul forever.
I lost my brother to suicide. Everything about him says he wasn’t the type of person to commit suicide. He was the party. He was the guy who got the girls. He was really well liked, never bullied in school. He always had the quick one , the smart answer ,the funny one. He had a love of life that drew people towards him. It was like fluttering butterfly s attracted to a bright ,vibrant , glowing, colourful light . He had that special something that made people like him .
He was nt a saint . He liked to be liked and liked to be popular but who doesnt .We had our fair share of brotherly rows when we were younger trying to establish who was the top dog among the boys. But hey most brothers do .But we grew out of the rows and the bond between us grew. We went on nights out together.Trying to get the girls and have the laugh. Played hurling together.Let off fireworks together at Halloween .Filled tennis balls with petrol,lit em and hit them with our hurls with all our might into the Halloween night.The flaming ,bright tennis balls represented how our future was meant to be : bright , exciting ,vibrant.
I loved him and he loved me .We never said that to each other because we are country men and that’s not what we do. It was implicit between us. We were brothers , we were friends . Like every pair of brothers, we knew where we had come from and where we wanted to go. We shared our family bond , we had our hopes , our dreams.
I can remember being in bed . It was dark about half nine at night. I had been up late the night before so I went to bed for a nap as I do sometimes if I have been up late the night before. When I hear an abrupt knock on my locked door. “Do you know where my Dubarry shoes are ? ” my brother said in an annoyed teenage I m heading out tonight do you not know voice. I told him groggily I had nt a clue where they were. Then he asked me did I want to head out with him tonight. I was wrecked. So I just said ” no too tired ” .And I fell back to sleep for an hour or so. Then I got up for a while and my brother had went out at that stage.I was feeling peckish so I got some cornflakes, chatted to the parents then went back to bed .
Next thing I know I hear my sister knocking and shouting at my door. ” Get up , Get up , Get up ,your brothers in trouble ! ” I jumped out of bed. Sometimes in life you know something serious is going down.I ran down stairs with my sister to my brothers room. He was in his bed crying . He had told my sister that he taken all my mothers heart medication and was afraid he was going to die. At first he would nt go to hospital . He said to me ” I m not going , I m not going .They locked you up . ” Then turned to my sister ” I dont want to be locked up like him .” Its a tragic state of affairs in this country if the stigma of mental illness would make someone think twice about going to hospital even if that means they could lose their life.Eventually me and my sister convinced him to go to hospital . My sister drove him in and I was in the back of the car with him . I did nt know what was going to happen. My brother was very distressed in his bed . Saying that no one loved him and he wanted to die. But in the car he returned more to his usual self . Saying he would just go into hospital get his stomach pumped and everything would be grand. In the hospital he joked and flirted with the nurses .The doctor was an Indian junior doctor , he looked worried and serious.We waited beside my brother. He was given some black stuff by the nurse to swallow to make him puke. He puked a load of black stuff up . My brother was still on a serious charm offensive with the young nurse. The junior doctor turned to us and told us that the tablets that my brother took are very dangerous and his situation was very serious. Then they moved him on his trolley to a separate room where we could not see him . I was very worried.
The next few hours felt like an eternity. We rang our parents and told them the situation .Time moved so slowly .I was in a state of shock . I knew when they took my brother away that everything was on the line , that his life was on the line.I started making a serious of plea bargains with God. If you save my brother God , I ll do what ever you want me to do. I ll be nicer to Mam and Dad , the rest of my family , I ll be a saint just save my brother. I still hoped in my heart of hearts that everything would be all right. We were left waiting with our worries and each other. My parents arrived . Dad thought it would work out he could nt contempt his youngest son dying.
Morning arrived ,it was a bright, clear and frosty morning.The surgeon called us in to a special room. All my family were in the room bar my brother. The surgeon said they tried everything they could but that the dose was too high and the tablets too dangerous. And that my brother would pass.
My father started crying . I have never seen my father cry before, even at his own mothers funeral I did not see him cry. He is a strong country man . While it is terrible to lose a parent and a great tragedy, it is the natural order of nature. It is totally unnatural for a father or mother to bury their son. That is not the life cycle. That is a cruel twist of fate where fate is a callous unforgiving reaper .
We were allowed in to see my brother. I started talking to him .”Dont leave us yet , you have so much to do , you have all your friends, all of us ,We love you dont go , we need you .” I was in tears. He was my brother. Sure he was nt a saint but he was my brother. He didnt deserve to die at seventeen. He had the charm , he had the brains , he had the looks, he had the potential . He could of had a brilliant future . He would have got on .
The funeral happened. Our neighbours were brilliant , bringing us food , showing us their deepest sympathies and care. The parish rallied around the lose of one of its own like a herd closing ranks . The priests were excellent and very caring . Our relations were so good.My friends were like brothers to me . People were great.
The hardest part is the weeks after the funeral when everyone has left and trying and I mean trying to carry on with ordinary life. As Frost said “Life : it goes on “. There was this void in my heart. My mother was in bits.I was thinking about my brother the whole time . What if I had to go out with him that night ? Would he be alive today ? What if I had never been in a psychiatric hospital would he have went to hospital sooner ? Could that have saved his life ? I was just left with questions and no answers. I ll never know the answers to those questions. I can guess the answers to those questions but it hurts way too much to answer those questions .
I can sadly say that losing my brother to suicide was the worse thing that ever happened to me in my life. My pain is no greater or less than the pain that other people have suffered. There are people who lost all their family , who have been physically and mentally tortured .There are people who have went through huge suffering .Pain is subjective . Pain is an authentic human experience. But in my opinion emotional pain is the worse. I have experienced extreme physical pain before and but in my experience I have found emotional pain worse.
When the worse thing in your life happens to you the key is to realise its ok not to be ok . It could take a year or three years to recover or more. I have never truly got over losing my brother to suicide but I have learned to deal with it . I can have really bad days but most days are good.
I think in life you have to make a pact with yourself . No matter how hard life hits you and boy can life hit hard ! No matter what happens to you or the ones you love.No matter how much you fail or fall in life .You wont let life destroy you . You wont give up the on life . Life is for living not for dying .
I have had to come to terms with the fact life can be cruel , merciless , unforgiving . But life can also be beautiful , meaningful , triumphant , joyous. The world owes us nothing .Everything here in life is temporarily given to us and can be lost : family, talent, money , success , happiness, life.
Losing my brother taught me life is short , life is beautiful , life is valuable . I did not want to lose my brother to find out these things . But I have. I know that today could be my last day on earth or someone I love last day on earth. Once you know that you realise that those petty fights , rows are worthless. That life is the most valuable thing on this planet . That love and time are the next most valuable things on this planet. Every angry word spoken , is a second lost being happy. And no one knows how many seconds they have left in their life. Right now someone ,somewhere in the world has only one second left .
If you are in trouble in your life today, tell someone. I learned that the hard way. We are human beings, we are tribal ,social creatures. We need people and people need us. Reach out to someone . The most important thing is to tell someone. Ideally tell someone who loves you like friends or family or a trained professional like a therapist or doctor. But if you don’t have that you can tell someone else even if its talking to a stranger on a park bench or ringing the Samaritans or telling a random priest in confession . Its ok to unburden your thoughts and worries with someone you trust . It will make you feel better. Invest time in your friends and family they are a true source of happiness and always reach out to someone you love and trust in times of stress.
Exercise is crucial to recovering from a tragedy in your life.It will give you strength and make you feel good when your down in the dumps .I have found half an hour of aerobic exercise is brilliant for cheering me up . Learning meditation can be crucial for controlling anxiety and worry . Even ten minutes meditation is enough .I found rediscovering my pastimes and passions great in taking my mind off things. Getting into a state of flow and happiness.Therapy can work wonders . Dont be afraid to see a councillor if you need to . Talking is a sign of strength not weakness .A great therapist is one of the best things in life. Medication really helped me . I think medication definitely has a place along with talk therapy .Reading self help , positive psychology and popular psychology can be amazing for empowering you . If you cant afford therapy and if you can I would highly recommend reading these books :
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl ,
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius,
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns ,
- Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman,
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau,
- The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
- Flourishing By Maureen Gaffney
Everyday be thankful for something in your life. The way I do this is I imagine my life with out someone or thing I love .It is a very powerful thing to do . Because then you realise how lucky and blessed you are to have that person in your life. Also have a day in your week where you do eight acts of kindness it will make you feel really good about yourself. Attitude is everything if you have negative thoughts fight your negative thoughts, be kind to yourself. Argue with your negative thoughts ,tell your thoughts they are wrong and then list the positives of the situation. Read a book about body language and try to use as much strong , positive body language in your daily life as possible . Act and think as if your the most confident ,positive , happy person in the world and your brain will start to believe it and so will everyone else.
When the worse thing in your life happens to you nothing can prepare you for it .Life can be cruel . But life can be wonderful . This is your life . You only get one go at this . That’s it .Whatever happens to you, life is for living. Life is precious . Life is valuable. You can recover from anything, you have to , there is no other way forward. It will not be easy . But you can emerge stronger , happier , a better person. There will always be the huge loss . But unless we have hope we have nothing. Hope and optimism are the fuel for life. Nothing or no one can hurt you with out your permission .Don’t let them .When life knocks you down , slowly but surely get back up and walk forward with the warm gentle sun light on your back . I m playing for keeps . One life , multiple chances at a good life . Its all to play for . There is hope .