Storytelling …. It’s hard sometimes
“The story is a rollercoaster of hope, joy, devastation, disbelief and numbness. Words are futile, the pain can be boundless”
As many of you know, I am lucky enough to travel the world and tell my story of loss, my story of Aidon and our journey in the aftermath of his suicide. It has been over a year now and every time it is special but I have realised that I have also become very good at disassociating from my story. I think many of us in this space, who share some of the most vulnerable and raw aspects of ourselves, do this as a way to survive and a way to be able to give the story the justice it deserves without always breaking down.
I have been writing about my life after suicide for the last 6 years. The good, the bad, the emotions and the grief, however it wasn’t until recently that it dawned on me that my expressive writing had stopped. Life got hard. It got messy and as always a little complicated, but instead of writing down what I was feeling, I just kept moving through every emotion. I didn’t pause and reflect enough.
This week I decided to just write. See what came up and as it does so often, the theme of loss was present. The grief and loss I have with me to this day is heavy, but I do what I can to make sure it doesn’t engulf me. Writing helps and so does talking. I don’t talk enough. Some would say I don’t talk at all, but I find talking about that experience, when directly related to how I feel, challenging and thats ok. Im slowly finding people in my life I trust enough with my story. It is always baby steps.
So how do I describe my grief? Its hard. I wrote this piece not long ago and after re reading it tonight, I felt compelled to share it;
Most of us have experienced a feeling of loss or grief. It may have been when a pet dies, a grandmother, grandfather or when a loved one passes away from natural causes or a sudden accident. Usually it is expected. Things like old age or a known illness can be prepared for.
Do you remember that feeling in your chest when that loss happened? that tightening in the upper chest, the feeling of it wanting to just jump out of your throat?
For many of us, that intense feeling gradually subsides and is replaced by acceptance and we all go about our daily lives, trying our best to move forward, keeping the memory of our loved one alive. With suicide, the grief is different and it is one of the most complicated feelings anyone can ever experience.
I have that tightening in my chest, with me everyday. It sits there, always waiting for me to feel it. It doesn’t go, I just learn to manage it. I learn to not let it control my every feeling and emotion but it is always there, waiting for me to break a little.
And I am broken.
My heart has been broken, my life was shattered, split into a million little pieces and to this day I am still doing what I can to put some of those pieces together. And if I do manage to pull all those pieces together, is it really the same?
That is what suicide does. It shatters your world. It shatters what you know about how life should be and makes you re asses everything.
It is Friday morning. The sky is bright blue, it is just starting to heat up for the day. Summer in Perth is arriving. Its December 5th, 2008. There is a knock at the door and it is a knock I have been waiting all morning for. It is not a welcome knock at the door but it is one that I knew was inevitably coming.
I know that the moment I open that door, my life and the life of my family, will be changed forever, I just had no comprehension how much it actually would.
I open the door and in front of me stand 2 police officers. Both in their late 30s, looking very sullen and quiet. We all know why they are here, but process is followed, and they come into the house and sit down.
My dad was laying on his bed, waiting for that same knock, except the knock is me on his bedroom door telling him the police are here. We both sit at the table with our visitors. It’s like no one wants to say anything because as soon as we say it, it become reality. But we live in reality and the words have to come sooner or later.
“we found your brothers body”
These are the words echoed out of the police officers mouth. That’s all he says. He knows we can’t process much more.
We just sit. No one looks at each other, no one talks, no one wants to move. My mum isn’t home, she is at work, my younger brother is in bed, it seems weird to not have everyone there for such important news but that was how it unfolded that day.
I sit there and hope it is all a nightmare that I will wake up from. A bad dream. The kind that feels so incredibly vivid and real, that kind of dream where you wake up with a sense of relief that it wasn’t real. I wanted that. but it wasn’t to be.
We sit a little longer in silence but we all know we can’t be still forever. Process dictates that grief must wait. We have things to do, tasks to complete and my brothers body to identify.
There are days, events and moments in our lives we never forget. they are etched into our mind. We can recall the smell in the air, the sun on our face and in these moments its like it happened just yesterday.
December 5th was one of these days.
The day was filled with moments. moments I would give anything to hand back and erase.
My brother Aidon had died. He had chosen to end his short 19 year old life that day and there was no going back, there was no chance to go back and convince him to stay. He made a decision that day that echoed through many of the lives he left behind. It has been 9 years but the ripple effect of his death are still present to this day.
When I think about my brother, I only think of the good.
At 19 years of age, he was a ladies man.
We have never seen so many ‘girlfriends’ as we did at his funeral, and let me tell you, none of those girlfriends knew about each other. Hashtag #awkward!
People were drawn to his kindness and genuine spirit. He had dreams of becoming a rapper, he wasn’t any good, but we didn’t tell him that. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and most of all, he loved his family.
This is why, suicide death sparks something in us. It cultivates self reflection and it makes us ask the hard questions of ourselves.
I had no comprehension what my life would look like after Aidon died. I had no idea of the impending uphill struggle to keep the rest of my family alive in the months and years after he died. The battles fought internally and externally were intense and they changed me to my core.
Life is not always perfect or pretty but the battles we usually face can be worked through bit by bit. Suicide rolls is up into a big boulder and hurls it straight at you. You have no time to prepare or plan and no chance to pause for a breath.
Our heads were barely above water. My mum and little brother were struggling, along with my dad facing his own battles. We all had pain, we all dealt with it differently but we all felt that loss and still do to this day.
The ripple effect was in full swing. My life didn’t feel like my life anymore. I had no control. I lived day to day, trying to keep my family alive. Every phone call, my heart would drop, hoping that someone would answer and I wouldn’t need to leave work and go hunting for them.
Not only was I living with intense grief and loss, I was living in fear that my loved ones would all be gone in a flash. Taken from me. Left alone forever.
The world continues to turn and people get on with their lives. We all had to continue to move. It didn’t feel like we were moving forward but we moved. Every day was a challenge, everyday was a new internal battle to try and find some meaning.
What was this life lesson? what was I supposed to do with this feeling?
Suicide in all its intensity, makes those left behind seek for purpose and meaning. We can’t just accept that it is the end of the story. Our loved ones were living in such mental torment that they made a decision to end the pain. They didn’t want to die. They just wanted the sounds in their head to be silenced.
How can we sit back and let other families go through this? We can’t and that is why many of us who have experienced suicide loss and are bereaved by suicide, find purpose in trying to make sure no one else ever has to feel what we felt on that day our loved ones were taken from us and the feelings and emotions we still deal with on a daily basis.
9 years. 9 years is hard to comprehend. It feels like yesterday. I can remember the day so clearly and the events that transpired in the months and years that followed. The ripple effect of suicide can be devastating but I have come to also learn it can be a tool for HOPE.
The stories we share about our loved ones and the pain they went through, the pain we all went through and the struggles we experience to this day need to be told. We have to share our stories so others who are experiencing this devastating loss can look at us and know that you can get through every day. It may be hard, and it will for sure be the toughest battle you have ever had but moment by moment, day by day, you can get through it.
The tears will gradually lessen, but the pain and grief will always remain and that is ok. We are human.
This journey has seen me battle against my toughest opponent, myself. I push myself everyday to learn more, to work harder and smarter, to be someone who people look up to and who my brother would be proud of.
Suicide is all consuming. My life changed the moment Aidon made that decision to end his life. My world shattered and I am still picking up the pieces to this day but this journey has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the worlds most special people. People who all have a story. People who want to share their pain in the hopes it will help others and that is the most courageous things there is.
In those quiet moments, I reflect on the fact I paused my life for a number of years and in some ways I forgot who I was deep down to my core.
But life is about learning isn’t it? Im learning to embrace the unknown a little more because sometimes that is where the most remarkable opportunities lay.
The power of our stories is evident. We can use them to help shift the way we work, the way we treat people who are struggling and the way we treat ourselves.
Life is moments. The moments in time we fill with talk, actions and feelings. Make your moments count. The impact you could have on another might just be the reason they decide to breathe, and take the step into the next moment.
We are all on a journey. Fill your life with people who matter, be kind to yourself, and make your moments count. Take a few measured risks, step out of your comfort zones, stop questioning your ability on WHY you cant achieve something and just give it a go. You may just surprise yourself.
And lastly, express yourself. Express your feelings in anyway that you can. For me, that isn’t talking, but it is writing and for a while I forgot how helpful it was to my wellness. I am trying to make a conscious effort to let my walls down a little and see what growth happens.