All Life Matters

Please don’t mistake the title for a response to the BLM.  It has nothing to do with that.

All life matters. Period.  As a society we seem to forget that.  We minimize others in order to make ourselves feel superior. We judge people without knowing who they are.  We judge them based on our refusal to seek the truth, to open our hearts and minds to the fact that events in people’s lives create the person they become.  We negate those events and refuse to acknowledge there are problems we fail to address.

Mental health is one of those.  Suicide is one of those.  Each year our government, state or federal, continues to cut funding to mental health facilities, to offering assistance to those struggling with a mental health disorder.  That continues to breed more people with mental health disorders that are unable to receive treatment.  It removes the ability for them to ask for help…to seek help.  Why ask for help from a system that is broken?  Why ask for help from those that will deem you “crazy”?!  We fail to acknowledge that it is an issue.  We fail to educate our children, our youth, our young people, our veterans, our society that having a mental illness is not a death sentence.  It does not make them less of a person.  That they are not freaks.  They are suffering from a disorder no different than cancer, diabetes, etc.  We find a way to treat many diseases in the world, but we continue to fail to treat those with mental health disorders successfully. That failure comes from our refusal to acknowledge it is an issue in this country and every other country in existence.

I myself have struggled with depression on and off for many years.  It took me a long time to acknowledge it.  It took me a long time to seek help for it. I was ashamed.  I had the world at my fingertips.  Great parents, an education, athleticism, etc.  Who was I to struggle with depression?!  But mental health disorders know no race, religion, creed, socioeconomic status, age, sexual orientation.  It is NOT shameful.  It is despair, darkness, pain.  It is the “silent” killer.  And as long as we as a society continue to fail to recognize it is becoming an epidemic we are allowing those that struggle with a mental health disorder to die…suffer…alone.

I have no doubt that my kid brother was struggling immensely.  That he was in pain. That there was despair and darkness.  I have no doubt that he was ashamed of this.  That he didn’t feel he could reach out to anyone – not even me. Not me as his sister; his protector.  He was alone in his battle.  No one knew. And for that I am greatly saddened. Maybe had I reached out.  Maybe had he known I too spent most of my life struggling he would have reached out to me.  Allowed me to help him save himself.  I don’t believe that we can save people.  They have to save themselves, but we can throw them a life vest.  We can reach out to them – offer them that hand.  Unfortunately, I will never have the opportunity to do that for my brother.

People of all ages, races, religions, etc. take their lives – daily.  On average there are 117 deaths by suicide each day. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.; 42,773 people die by suicide each year; for every suicide there are 25 attempts; suicide costs the U.S. $44B a year.  White males account for approximately 7 out of 10 suicides.   Those are just some of the statistics.  You can see more at www.afsp.org 

My brother has now become one of these statistics.  Not just one of them, but many of them. He was a white male and used a firearm to complete suicide. Even with the staggering statistics still we fail to recognize the severity of the situation. We push it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.  “It won’t happen to us.” My family and I used to think the same thing. Nothing like that will ever touch us so closely.  Our failure to recognize the signs, to acknowledge that it can happen to anyone, blinded us from seeing what was right in front of us.  This CAN touch us.  This DID touch us. Perhaps I am more emotionally open to acknlowedging that I failed my brother; that I failed to remember what it felt like and what it looked like to suffer so immensely.  How easy it is to hide from those you love.  I don’t believe my family is there yet.  Why would they be?!

Friday marks 2 months since he took his own life.  It feels like it’s been so much longer than that, yet just like yesterday. It’s still unfathomable.  How could this beautiful soul, who had so much to offer this world, take his own life?!  How could one of the few people in this world who I can absolutely relate to leave ME here to deal with the fallout of his death?!  I know he did not do this TO me.  He did this to be free of the pain.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  The difference between he and I?  I had an amazing soul, Diane, help me through it.  I sought her out with the encouragement of a friend – and she never gave up on me.  I remember finally thinking that maybe I was not crazy.  Maybe my life was worth it. Matty never got that.  But he also never reached out.  Maybe he didn’t know how. I sure the hell didn’t.  Maybe had there been more dialogue and the negative stigma, set forth by society, removed he would have.

The fact is, all LIFE matters.  However, as a society, we fail to acknowledge this. Obviously all life doesn’t matter – to some.  Obviously we don’t put enough importance that life matters. That every individual’s life matters – regardless of their indescretions.  Life matters.  Life is beautiful.  Life is chaotic.  Life is unkind. Life is worth it.  If only my kid brother would have been able to see how much his life mattered.  If only every person understood that their life matters. Maybe, just maybe, fewer people would take their own lives. 

There is a song by Andra Day, “Rise Up”, that has quickly become one of my go to’s when I just don’t want to face the world.  When my introverted self wants to completely retreat from life as a whole.  “And I’ll rise up, I’ll rise like the day, I’ll rise up, I’ll rise unafraid, I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” We have to keep rising.  We have to keep fighting.  We have to help those who need the help.  We have to offer a safe place to fall.  We have offer them kindness.  If we can’t do that…if we can’t help others…then what is the point? If we refuse to create a better world then what is the fucking point?!  

All life matters…period.  Remember to be kind for we do not know the battles one is fighting.

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The Road

Each time I view this photo it takes me back to a place where I knew the meaning of peace.  It was taken last year during the color change in Colorado. Colorado has quickly become the place I go in search of peace. There and New Mexico.  I’ve always loved the mountains but last year I discovered I had a new found respect for them.  It’s Mother Nature in all her glory.  It’s hard not to look at this picture and see beauty.

This picture has become my “road less traveled.”  It was deep in the mountains where many people don’t venture.  I did.  It’s a reminder that the roads we travel are not always paved.  They are rocky and rough.  But if you take a moment, stop, and take in what is around you – you will see the beauty through all the ugly.  The path is lined with the beauty provided by Mother Nature.  I spent two days or so driving through Southwest Colorado and took many pictures, but it’s always this one that I come back to.

The road curves and you can’t see what’s ahead, but the beauty in that moment, in that second, the sides of the road are lined with beauty.  The trees ending their seasons with the beauty that is.  The leaves going from green to golds, yellows, oranges, and some reds.  They are preparing themselves for the winter months – when days get shorter.  When there is more darkness than light.  Protecting themselves until the spring.

I miss the mountains.  I swore I would go back this year, but with everything that has taken place and all the home projects it didn’t happen.  It’s a slap to my soul.  My soul needed the peace of the mountains. The beauty, the fresh air, the chilly nights.  I’m still thinking about taking a trip – maybe not to Colorado – but to the mountains of New Mexico.  Santa Fe happens to be another one of my favorite places.  It has been the place that I can fall. That changed a bit last year when I found an awakening peace – a peace that was so deep in my soul.  It’s like a high.  I have longed for that peace again – especially over the last couple of months. 

I wish I could take Matt with me.  I wish he was here so he could experience the deep awakening of peace flood over his soul.  He can’t, but I can.  I wish he had been creamated so that I was able to leave a little piece of him there.  Maybe his soul could find extra peace.  But, maybe I need to do that for myself now.  I need to focus on me, my soul, my peace.

Insanity or Sanity

I am a Case Manager for a Rehabilitation Program.  Part of my job duties are to teach a psycho-educational class. Yesterday we were covering “Grief and Loss”.  While covering this material one of the participants brought up suicide. They spoke about how their uncle committed suicide and how only someone who is crazy or insane would do that. That he would never do such a thing.  He continued on with his banter.  I let him.  Each person is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how much I may disagree.

As he was bantering I found myself becoming frustrated, irritated – ANGERED.  I kept thinking who the fuck do you think you are to judge someone.  After he finished bantering I told him I was not going to discuss it with him nor say anything about it; that I respect everyone’s right to their own opinions but that I disagreed with him 110%.  I left it at that.

I tried to remind myself that everything he was said was due to ignorance. Nothing more.  How could he know what it’s like – he’s obviously never been there. He’s never been in that situaiton. He’s never wanted to take his own life.  He kept saying he could never do that.  I reminded him until he is in that mind frame saying he would never do that may be an inaccurate statement. He disagreed.  I found myself saying, to myself, “Like anyone can trust his judgment anyway.”  

Ignorance…it’s exactly what his statements were.  He is ignorant.  It wasn’t stupidity, because while he claimed his uncle killed himself, I don’t think he has any real understanding.  Even with the intellectual knowledge that it’s all based on ignorance, emotionally I was livid.  I was ready to ream his ass and leave his ego and self-esteem in tiny pieces on the floor.  Who the fuck are you to say that someone is crazy or insane for committing suicide?!  But ya know, I began to reailze that many think the same way.  That many have absolutely no idea.  THey don’t understand any of it.  What it’s like or even possibly what that person was going through – so they remain ignorant.  What I’ve also recognized is they don’t want to change their perspective on it either.  They want to remain in their ignorance and denial because it’s easier. 

Easier…while they remain in the dark about this epidemic some of us have been struck personally by it. We know what it’s like to either want to take our own lives or someone we love has completed suicide.  It’s not easier to remain in denial.  I believe it’s one of the many reasons they don’t ask for help.  They don’t reach out.  Why would they?  Why would someone ask for help when they know the person(s) they can talk to have no idea, they don’t understand, or they think it’s the ultimate sin.  I wouldn’t reach out either.  We have to change the way we deal with those struggling with suicidal ideations.

We had no idea my brother was struggling in life – we didn’t see the signs.  Hindsight is 20/20.  He didn’t feel like he could reach out and that saddens me.  Maybe had he known I had been there before he would have reached out.  Maybe if I had talked to him more.  Maybe if I had protected him like I was supposed to.  I didn’t and the result of that is his death.  He didn’t feel comfortable enough to reach out.  I don’t guess he thought anyone would help him.  In those days, weeks, months – those final moments his pain and despair were so deep it’s the only thing he thought he could do.  The only way to be at peace.

I am still processing.  I still struggle to believe it is real.  My heart still has not caught up to my head, but I can say that the emotions I experienced when this person talked about how only crazy people would kill themselves were intense.  It’s the most intense I’ve felt about anything in almost 2 months.  The first time I got angry.  Still no anger towards Matt, but anger towards the ignorance of others.  I was able to talk myself down and work my way through it but I struggle to understand how anyone can be so closed minded to something that is becoming an epidemic.  Something that no one wants to talk about.  We are doing nothing to help these people.  These kids.  We are just doing the bare minimum and then wondering why people continue to die at their own hands…It’s time to take a stand – to make a difference.

Reflection

As said in another blog posting, I will share my story. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Many organizations are trying to spread the word. Gain momentum to stop suicide. Resources to offer help to prevent such tragedy from occurring. I used to be ashamed to admit or talk about many of these events, not so much anymore. So, here is my story.

My life has been a string of “tragedies.” My sister died in 1995, my grandfather in 2004, my grandmother in 2010 and most recently my brother in July of this year. There were some other events that took place in between; which I won’t discuss. Events that took so much from me. Events that rid me of my self-worth.

I struggled with depression most of my high school years, but hid it – very well. At about the age of 16 I began cutting (a form of self-harm). Initially it was pretty superficial, but the more I did it the worse it got. To the point that it has left deep, nasty scars. I hid it pretty well. Lied about it pretty well. I spent the next 15 years (approximately), off and on, cutting. It wasn’t an attempt to kill myself nor a cry for help. It was a release from the internal pain. I thought if I could physically feel the pain it meant that the internal pain would end. It would be released from the blood flowing from my wounds. It took many years to realize that it was only hurting me more. It was assisting in the destruction of me as a person.

In 2008, after a broken hand that resulted from me punching a beam in anger, I realized I had a problem. Something had to change. Because I was scared and embarrassed to ask for help, to call a therapist, a friend of mine called for me. She lives in Nebraska. It was with her encouragement that I sought help. I should have prefaced all of that with I was also struggling to come out. To identify as a lesbian. While my close friends knew, no one else did.

So in 2008 I started seeing a therapist; one whom I continue to see as needed. It was a long road. When I first started seeing her I was shutdown and defeated. Stubborn as a mule. I had no idea who I was anymore. We didn’t just start working on one thing at a time – every thing was interrelated. We worked on my self-worth, self harm, my identity. We worked through issues I had carried with me for years. It was working with her that helped me to come to terms with my sexual orientation. To be okay with it. To accept it, own it, and love myself for it. That same year, just a day or two before Thanksgiving, I came out to my mom. She did not take it well and it took years for her to accept it was truth. She still doesn’t accept it, but supports me as her daughter. During that time I became extremely suicidal. My self harm got worse. After Thanksgiving of that year, I made an emergency call to my therapist. It was minutes before she called me back. She spent her Thanksgiving evening on the phone with me, talking me through it. Listening. Offering what support she could. I had no doubt that night that I was going to take my life. I could not do this. I couldn’t live this life as a lesbian, as a disappointment. I was done. After a length of time on the phone with her she made me promise not to do anything until I saw her again. A contract. Therapists do that. I agreed. I would not take my own life that night. She continued to encourage me to agree not to self harm or commit suicide. Over the course of the next probably 3 years I experienced suicidal ideation more times than I can remember. Each time she supported me and encouraged me to keep living. At one point I text her and told her I was done. Couldn’t do it anymore. And left it at that. I went outside, sat on my porch, held a rope in my hand, and debated. Then all of a sudden 2 law enforcement officers showed up at my house to do a welfare check. She called them. I was livid. All I remember thinking is, “Who the fuck does she think she is?” And I let her know that. And her response was simple and direct. She told me she wasn’t going to let me take my own life and if I wouldn’t fight she would. I had a few more bouts of suicidal ideation after that, but made it through. Looking back, although I had every intention of following through on my threat, a part of me hoped she could say or do something to change my mind. And she did.

In 2009 I met someone, fell in love, and then the that completely crumbled. I went into a deep depression. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, missed work. I was struggling. I started drinking – a lot. I had no care or concern for myself or anyone else. Yet, with the help of my therapist, I fought through it. I eventually mended my relationship with my ex. She was pregnant and we got back together. I spent the next almost 3 years helping raise what I considered our child. I had him 7 days a week. In 2011 we split up but I continued to parent him. Then in 2012, he was ripped out of my life and I found myself in a dark place, except this time I knew I would be okay. I fought and fought to stay afloat. And I did.

Earlier in 2012, I met someone and began spending most of my time with her. Which is part of the reason I was able to stay afloat during the aforementioned event. I fell in love with this person. Deeply in love. It happened gradually. I could do nothing to stop it. For almost 3 years we were in a “non-relationship relationship.” Never committing to each other. Just doing what we did. She was my person. The one they talk about on Grey’s Anatomy. My soul mate. That eventually ended and I was devastated. But not the completely broken devastation like the time before. This was the scary devastation. The kind where you are numb. The kind where you cannot identify your feelings. The kind that has the potential to destroy you. And it did. But I was healthier now. More able to cope. But I was depressed. It wasn’t long after that when I went to my physician and asked for meds – something my therapist had encouraged me to think about and take for years. This time I wasn’t going to spiral down into this place of darkness. I did, to an extent. But once again I made it.

I spent a good 4 years drinking uncontrollably. Not the point I could be considered an alcoholic. But to the point I had a problem. My mindset was it was just another reason, another reminder. It is also another reminder of a battle I fought and won.

It’s been 9 months since I was drunk. I rarely, if ever, drink anymore. It’s been years since I cut. It’s been a long while since I was suicidal. I no longer want to take my life. For the most part, I love my life. I love who I am becoming. I have made great progress over the last 8 years. I have fought and pushed my way through all the bullshit and made it. I am living MY truth now. I am being true to who I am. I am loving myself. And that’s the way it should be.

That’s my story. Not the whole story, but nonetheless the story.

If you are suffering from depression, self-harm, suicidal ideations/thoughts, please seek help. There is another way. There is life, even in the darkness. You have to fight but it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Life is worth it.

Resources:

    I’m Not In Kansas Anymore

    Thank the lort. No, just kidding.

    I spent the holiday weekend with my parents, brother and sister-in-law at my parents vacation home in Kansas. I was not looking forward to the trip. So much has gone on over the last month(ish). Not to mention with my dad remodeling my bathroom he is here daily and my mom almost daily. So I’ve seen them quite a bit. I love them but I need some space. But, nonetheless, we went on the first family vacation in years. It’s the first time we have been to their Kansas home and they’ve had it for a few years now.

    On our first day there us girls were sitting on the deck and the picture below is what we saw. This doe and her twins, feet away. As I was taking the picture she just stared at me…we sat around the first day just talking and hanging out. It was a long drive and we were worn out.

    The second day we ventured out for a while. I can’t remember the name of this lake…I think it is a State Park, but it was just outside of Independence. And it was stunning. I’m very much of an outdoor type. I love Mother Nature – her beauty. And it’s not hard to see why. I never expected to see so many trees in Kansas. When you think if Kansas you think of wheat fields and plains. It was much more than that. After our little adventure we went back to the house. Some napped. I sat on the deck, although a bit warm outside, and just enjoyed the peace and serenity. Quiet. A time to think and reflect. And I did just that.

    On Monday my dad and I went fishing. I had no luck but he did. It was just him and me. No one else likes to fish. And it was his birthday. While I was fishing I talked to Matt. I think he would have loved it there. The peace it was able to bring over my soul – maybe it could have done the same for him. I stopped in the middle of fishing to capture a few pictures. The water, the trees. My sister-in-law and I stayed up until after 3 a.m. talking. We’ve never been close but we bonded that night. We talked about everything. It felt good to know her and my brother had many of the same feelings I do surrounding Matt’s death.

    While we were cooking a late lunch we had a couple more deer show up on the property. They lingered for a good 15 minutes. They weren’t frightened by us. They didn’t get too close but they didn’t run. They approached closers to the property and ended up around the pond bottom. Another reminder of Mother Nature’s magnificence. The sunset was beautiful that night. As it fell behind the trees.

    As we left this morning the sun had just come up. Night turned to day. I took a quick moment to capture the two photos below. A dirt road lined with trees and the sun peaking through. It’s the light at the “end of the tunnel.” I immediately thought of Matt and wishing he would have just waited for that light…

    We talked about Matt quite a bit this weekend. We missed him. It wasn’t until dinner on Monday night that I looked around the table and processed there were only 5 of us. The chair at the end of the table was empty. I had seen that empty chair all weekend, but it wasn’t until our last night there that I recognized it. We were missing one. And that one missing is deeply missed. It came to me that this is how it will be from now on. One chair will always be empty. He will always be gone. Seeing all the beauty Mother Nature continues to produce makes me feel as though Matt’s soul is at peace. Maybe this was his way of telling me he is okay now. Wherever his soul is wandering in the Universe. I think this weekend it was right there with us.

    I’m not in Kansas anymore. I’m back home. I had a great time with my family, much to my surprise. It was peaceful. I needed the time away, even if I tend to prefer to travel to places like that alone. To have a chance to ground myself. I was still able to do it a bit. I am home, where I belong. I will be in Kansas again. But for now, my yellow brick road is in the form of the plains of Texas. A place that while I don’t always like is home – for now. And if nothing else – my dog sure is happy I’m home.

    The Melody of Our Hearts

    Our hearts beat in rhythms.  They have their own melodies.  Happy.  Sad.  Angry.  Excited.  When we experience a feeling / an emotion our hearts beat, our pulse increases / decreases.  It changes its normal beat.

    While our hearts have melodies – my melody is music.  Happy.  Sad.  Angry.  Excited.  Frustrated.  Stressed.  Nervous.  Love.  Hate.  Grief.  Music helps to make up the melodies of my heart.  It’s helps me to express what my mouth cannot.  It identifies the rhythm of my soul.

    I have a set of songs – a playlist – the helps me experience, release, define, identify all feelings I may experience.  Music speaks for me.  It hasn’t always been this way.  I used to have a very limited appreciation of music.  As I’ve grown older my appreciate has grown.  It has changed how I view the world.  How I process my feelings, my thoughts, the events in my life.

    For example:  “I Hate U, I Love U” by Gnash (Featuring Olivia O’Brien).  A song about heartache.  A song with a true melody expressing how someone loved someone so much but they didn’t love them back.  There’s a fine line between love and hate.  “I hate you, I love you, I hate that I want you, You want her, You need her, And I’ll never be her.”  If you are experiencing heartache – over a lost love – loving someone who doesn’t love you back – you can listen to this song and I believe the rhythm of your heart will feel the melody.  It will break or heal.  You will relate to this song – this melody.

    Take “I Surrender” by Aron Wright.  Someone that has had enough.  They have gone through more than their hearts can take.  More than their souls can take.  They are struggling.  They are tired of fighting.  They are tired of trying.  They don’t know how much more they can take.  They surrender – to whatever it is they believe in.  Their Supreme Being – who or whatever it may be.  If you are struggling and you hear this song – the melody is soft and inviting.  It draws you in.  You literally feel the beat – the rhythm of your heart slows down.  Your soul opens to the melody.  Maybe it opens up enough that you are ready to surrender but not give up.

    And there’s this.  “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bob Marley.  Who doesn’t love a little Bob Marley.  You’re having a shit day.  You’re just not in the mood.  You turn on some Bob and almost instantly you find your head bobbing.  The rhythm of your heart beat changes.  The melody in your heart is a little lighter – not so tense.  Things are so bad.  Now, when I hear people say, “Don’t worry, be happy.”  I want to throat punch them.  But hearing Bob sing it has a better effect on me.

    Take Mark Ronson (Featuring Bruno Mars) “Uptown Funk”  I HATED this song when I first heard it.  One day I was having an amazing day and it comes on my Pandora station.  I almost skipped it and then I decided to let it play.  I found myself bobbing around and dancing in my car like a damned idiot.  Just smiling and enjoying my life.  I could feel the melody throughout my body.  My heart was happy.  Again – the melody of our hearts.

    Then there’s “Penitentiary” by Citizen Cope.  This is one I tend to listen to if I’m just having one of those days where I hate the world and everyone in it.  The beat aligns with my mood.  It’s not angry, it’s not happy, it just is.  The melody runs through my soul and heart.  It brings me back to a balance.

    The last two that I will share with you are the two songs that were played at my siblings’ services.  If I am missing them or thinking about them or maybe if I want to cry I’ll turn them on.  The melody, the beat, the words, the song all have meaning.  They all release something within me.  Not so much the song from my brother’s service.  But the one from my sister’s.  So the melody of our hearts yearn for or long for what is missing.

    Whatever the melody is in our hearts and our souls is the music we will reach for.  Our hearts are like music – they have their own beat – their own melody.  They determine how we live.  The melody of our hearts tells our story – a story about us.  It helps to define who we are.  Where we are.  Where we are going.  It teaches us to love, to hate, sadness, despair, happiness, joy, excitement.  We have our own and the melody – the music – is the life we are living both inside and out.  Find the melodies of your heart and own them and love them.

    Melody

     

    The Forgotten Child

    The forgotten child – it sounds like a book or a movie.  It’s not.  The forgotten child is a surviving sibling.  When a sibling dies, no matter the age, they are considered secondary mourners to the parents.  Their roles are altered.

    This is all too familiar to me.  This is not the first time I have had a sibling die.  My sister died when I was 12 in a preventable car accident.  I have been down this road.  The parents become so engrossed in their own grief they forget about the living child.  They forget that they need love as well.  It becomes a cycle.  The first time I experienced this I was much younger.  I was constantly reminded that I was not my sister and I was left to feel as though I would never compare to her.  And for my biological father I never did.  Had he had a choice he would have chosen for me to die.  Those are his words – although no verbatim.  The surviving child is not seen as someone who grieves deeply.  They “only” lost their sibling not a child or spouse.  They have no idea – that’s the gist of it.

    I am watching this happen all over again.  The difference now is that I am an adult and I can stand up for myself and speak without fear of hurting someone’s feelings or “getting in trouble.”  I have already been reminded that I only lost a brother – not a child – and it’s far different.  That my mother and father are struggling.  This I know.  I am fully aware they are struggling; however, I refuse to have my feelings invalidated.  I refuse to be treated less than I deserve simply because my brother chose to take his own life.  I did not choose that.  I did not commit suicide.  I refuse to allow “verbal abuse” – if that’s what you want to call it – in my life.  I value myself far more than that.  My parents don’t seem to understand that.  I understand there is pain and grief, etc, but under no circumstances is it okay to berate or belittle someone.  Under no circumstance is it okay to treat someone as though they are unworthy.  Under no circumstance is it okay to take out your anger on someone else – especially if they’ve done nothing to deserve it.

    As I’ve gotten older and grown and changed I have learned to stand up for myself – even if that means pissing people off.  I refuse to become the forgotten child yet again.  I refuse to be denied my grief because it was not my child or spouse.  I am watching a split occur in my family – not by my hands but by the hands of my parents.  While this is happening, I refuse to allow myself to be sucked into the drama and the bullshit.  If this means that I become more of an outsider than I already am then so be it.  I know that sounds tacky, but I’ve done too much work and worked too hard to allow myself to be in a place that is unhealthy.  I love my parents, but I will not be their proverbial punching bag.  I will not allow myself to be treated as though I am less important than Matt is.  Yes, he is very important and yes my parents are struggling significantly, but when they refuse to acknowledge that other children exist and they are just as important they are creating a divide that may not be able to pieced back together.

    The difficulties the surviving sibling goes through is hell.  Depending on their age, the circumstances surrounding the death, the relationship to the sibling all play part in their grief.  Matt was my kid brother – I was his protector.  I should have protected him, but I couldn’t – at least not from himself.  The fact is, he did not die accidentally.  He intentionally shot himself.  He meticulously planned his suicide and followed through on it.  For me it’s been a different experience.  My sister died in an accident – it was not intentional or deliberate.  Matt’s was.  There’s definitely different aspects.  Either way, none of it make sense.

    I think parents and families need to recognize that surviving siblings not only deal with the loss of their sibling, but in a way with the loss of their parents, the loss of a relationship, and sometimes the loss of their best friend.  It is not just a quick fleeting ball of emotions.  It is true and valid grief.  Until people begin to recognize this we continue to allow surviving siblings to be invalidated and to be left feeling as though they are not as important as the one who died.  Think about living that way.  Think about not being able to live up to the dead – no matter how hard you try.  No matter your accomplishments.

    However, surviving siblings need to work on learning and believing that they are just as important.  That they matter.  That they are valuable and worthy.  That they deserve the best this life has to offer and they should settle for nothing left.  If people fail to recognize their abilities and how amazing they are then that is on them.  I don’t believe surviving siblings should feel lost and defeated.  We should be empowered.  We are still alive and even if our parents or families or friends fail to recognize and validate us – we can do that for ourselves.  We don’t need validation from someone to feel as though our grief is real and it sucks and it’s difficult.  We know it is.  We must deal with it in the healthiest way possible.  Grow from it and move forward.  This is not always easy but it is doable.

    No one deserves to feel as though they are unimportant or insignificant – and that, many times, is exactly how the forgotten child feels.  Perhaps we should recognize that the forgotten child does exist and because of this it further complicates the grief process as well as their own belief in their self-worth.

    Rise Up…

    I fell in love with this song the second I heard it.  It is far more meaningful now than it was 3 months ago.