TW suicide, including implicit mention of method
Many things made me angry in the weeks and months after my younger brother died by suicide in 2014. But only one person made me absolutely beyond furious.
This person was a “suicide loss survivor” (I don’t endorse or use this term, for reasons I explain later, so it’s in scare quotes) who was corresponding with my dad in the weeks after. My dad had been a “Big Brother” (as in Big Brothers/Sisters of America, not as in 1984) to a young man way back in the day—actually how my parents met, but that’s another story.
That young man, the Little Brother, died by suicide some years later. The woman my dad was emailing was his mother. She’d been a single mom to him, and he was her only child.
I suppose dad had reached out to her as a “Oh, someone who’s also lost a child” kind of thing, and parent who was “later” in the grieving process at the time, so for possible guidance (to his mind anyway).
He tried to rope me into their email convo through a forward—which he has a habit of doing—especially when at loose ends, like he was then. That was how I saw one of the earlier emails she had sent.
In the email, she tried to define the actions of David, my brother who died, as aberrant, selfish, and capital-W Wrong—in the guise of “comforting” my dad. She did this by using a lot of the rhetoric of people who see it (dying by suicide) as Like That, but she ended by making it extra personal by invoking my older, surviving brother and me. We HADN’T died by suicide, she reminded my dad in the email.
Okay, fine, creepy, but “focus on the living” or whatever is a common way to tell grieving people to move forward. My dad still had two kids surviving; she has/had none.
Like, not where I would have gone with that but okaaaay I guess.
No, but she made it more than that.
WE (older brother and I) weren’t “like that.” WE hadn’t done the “selfish” thing. YES SHE MADE IT ABOUT THAT. YES SHE DID.
I knew this lady not at all, but in that moment, I felt like I wanted to annihilate her. First, she was lumping me in with (abled, “normal”) older brother, whom I already knew was defining this event in a way I absolutely couldn’t be part of, as a kind of rhetorical “family legacy” as told by him, one that made my stomach turn over and every muscle in my body tense up. (We aren’t even close to being on speaking terms now, years later.)
But moreover, she was ASSUMING I’d never been “like that.” Based on…. my being not-dead, apparently? And that fact being convenient for the point she wanted to make. Right? Claaaaaaaaasssy.
So I was beyond furious, which, well, wasn’t super useful in that specific moment. In fact it was pretty counterproductive.
But as I started to unravel things in the weeks, months, and years to come, I saw that she had just said what a whole lot of other people were thinking, beneath the surface.
And now, 7.5 years later, that means I need to stop hiding, and hinting, about how and why younger brother and I were and ARE so similar. It’s not just that we’re both autistic, with very similar sensory sensitivities, and other things (face structure; sense of humour; love of cats).
It’s that a full decade before my brother died, I had what I now know could be called a bout of suicidal ideation. Not a plan (according to the boundaries most often drawn anyway), or an attempt. Ideation.
TW suicide ideation, including implicit mention of method
But being me, it was some very idea-heavy, specific ideation. It included a sort of mental suicide flow chart, if you will.
But I was able to get the support I needed, somehow, and I have not had further ideation-as-such since.
Yet that… that flow chart was almost exactly what my brother enacted years later. Like. There were multiple points where he could have chosen multiple things, and he chose the very things that I had ideated, and TOLD NO ONE ABOUT, a decade prior.
And no, he hadn’t told me. I didn’t know he’d done it until it was done. I was not part of his ideation (patterns), not explicitly anyway.
But beneath the surface?
Yeah, I probably was, kind of a little.
So I KNEW things about “what he had done” and “how he had done it” multiple steps before anyone else did. I knew it, but no one would listen to me; I was the Chorus in a Greek tragedy, only no one was listening on any plane; shouting into a void.
Like, my parents still wouldn’t believe it (“what he had done”/”how he had done it”), even as multiple uniformed people in positions of authority told them.
It was excruciating to watch, the degree of denial.
Because… there, but for the grace of God, go I.
So heinous woman-in-an-email-forward invokes me as some sort of paragon of non-suicidal virtue, and I WANT TO VOMIT because she knows not at all what separates me from him, from his legacy, his memory.
My entire existence in the 7.5 years since has been trying to unravel this. This judgment; this posturing; this denial; this VIOLENCE.
I miss my brother deeply, but what he did was NOT selfish.
It was violent, yes. Gruesome, even.
But it was not “selfish.” Or aberrant.
Hell, it’s pretty common, actually.
NOW. This does not mean I’m down with suicide or wish more people would emulate him. Far from it!
He was autistic; I’m autistic; SUICIDE IS A HUGE PROBLEM in our community; and when we try to point this out and work to make it better, it is also like shouting into the void—just like me as the Greek Chorus.
Mainly because people who aren’t autistic are SO very committed to not listening to us; and not naming the conditions that cause us to make up those mental flow charts.
My brother died because of ableism. Because people—including very close family—were terrified to face his neurodivergence, and his disability.
Because his profile was very spiky, and thus he could do some things that absolutely knocked ableds’ socks off, while he did other things that made those same people cluck and sigh and shake their heads and imply—or straight-up say—that he was lazy.
In a world where ableism like this did not exist, or was significantly lessened, my brother would likely be alive.
Probably not “independent,” okay, but alive.
I want that world. I work for it every day with my own tiny autistic child.
But, I also really wish we would talk about why people find suicide so terrifying. Aberrant. And wrong.
It isn’t really.
It’s quite common, actually—an understandable reaction to the reams upon reams of ableist abuse that we regularly face in this world.
And those who do it… are quite human.
THAT’s why I’m not a “suicide loss” “survivor.” I’ve survived many things, but my brother deciding to unalive himself in late 2014 is not what I’ve survived.
I’ve survived ableism; assumptions that I’m not “like that” when I absolutely was—and am; and reams upon reams of sensory violations, and sensory abuse, which intruded on my need to autistically grieve.
“Suicide loss” though?
Nah. I didn’t “survive” that. Anymore than I “survived” my own ideation half a lifetime ago.
I just came through it alive, on this plane.
Somehow… for some reason.
And I’m done shouting into the void. And also done hiding/hinting.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
It could have so easily been me.
If you are experiencing suicidal feelings, please use the text and voice-based resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com.