On Saturday my brother, Rob married his long term girlfriend Charlotte. It was a day we have all been looking forward to for a long time but obviously missed loved ones were always going to be conspicuous by their absence. This was particularly true of Simon who could so easily have been stood alongside me in the photographs. If only...
However, despite my pre-wedding fear that I would find the day especially hard, I actually didn't. It was a day filled with love and laughter and although I wish with all my heart that Simon could have been there, I more than got through it, it was actually almost a perfect day and I don't think I've felt as happy for years.
So it's almost two years now and I can honestly say I'm doing well. I'm never going to completely recover from losing my brother to suicide, I don't actually think it's possible but I'm ok with that and I know that the pain I once thought would consume me won't. Life is good. Not always but it's more good than bad and that's enough.
Sadly in the almost two years since Simon ended his life many more people have also lost loved ones to suicide. If I was going to give advice to somebody recently bereaved by suicide I think I would say the following,
1. Whatever you're feeling is ok, chances are you can't even name all those feelings right now as they compete for space in your brain. Don't feel guilty if anger is one of the emotions you're experiencing. The person you love chose to die and whilst it's not a selfish act, it is still an act that has left you shocked to your very core. Acknowledge your anger then you can let it go.
2. If you feel as if your head is going to explode then find an outlet that allows you even a brief moment of peace. The thoughts will come back but finding something else to concentrate on, even for a little while will give you just enough strength to carry on. Reading and later writing was my way of coping, I often read through the night.
3. Talk, scream, cry, rage but don't forget to laugh. You are still here and although your world has currently been shaken from its axis you are going to carry on. As much as you'd love to go back in time it can't happen so remember the person you've lost by honouring the good times you shared. Then go and make new good times, you deserve it.
4. The person you loved chose to end their life because dying became less frightening than living. It wasn't an easy choice for them, at the moment they died it probably felt the only choice. They did not choose to leave you, dying wasn't easy but they felt life had become impossible.
5. It wasn't your fault. Whilst right now you will be sure there was something you could or should have done differently, they made the decision, you didn't make it for them. You are no more to blame than when somebody dies of cancer or heart disease. You may not have spotted the signs because they kept them hidden from you or you may have tried your very best to get them help, whatever you did or didn't do doesn't make it your fault.
6. It will get better. Right now you can't believe that, chances are you don't want to because feeling better means moving on without them. You have to move on though, they ended their life, they didn't end yours. It will get better and you will be ok with it getting better.
This is my advice based on my experience, it's not meant to be prescriptive, you must do what is right for you. All I can really say is that I am so very sorry for your loss. It hurts like you can't imagine and there is nothing I can say that will stop that. That intense pain though, it doesn't last, honestly it doesn't.
If you have lost somebody to suicide and would like to write about it here, either about your loved one or about your own experience as somebody bereaved in this way, then please get in touch. Writing about it has helped me immensely and I would love to be able to help others similarly affected.