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What I've learned in the 10 years since my sister's suicide

Posted September 21

On a summer morning 10 years ago, I woke up early, sick with worry. “Call Megan,” were the words spoken to my mind.

So, I did. I called my older sister.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m in the hills by mom and dad’s house,” she said in a shallow voice. “I can’t do this anymore … I just can’t do this anymore,” she repeated over and over.

“I’m coming,” I told her. “Hold on. I’m leaving now.”

Right then, we lost reception, and I didn’t know what to do. So I packed a bag of clothes, my two small children and my very pregnant self into our minivan and made the three-hour drive to meet her in the hills near my parent’s home.

Where in the hills, I wasn’t sure, so I kept driving along a road until it ended. Seconds later, Megan emerged from the wooded area wearing no shoes and looking like a shell of what once was a vibrant, confident woman.

During our conversation that day, I found that she had spent the night in the hills, contemplating life and whether it was worth continuing on.

Despite my efforts that day and the days and weeks following, I would find myself delivering the eulogy at Megan’s funeral just two short months later.

While a decade has passed since my sister took her life, I wish that I could say that I have become an expert on preventing suicide. After all, I have lived through the daily stress that is someone suffering from depression and constant suicidal thoughts. I know what it’s like to live on high alert, wondering what the next day, hour or even minute will bring.

I also know what it is like to lose that battle and to look back and wonder what, why, how and even who?

I have blamed myself for not doing more. I have asked what I could have done to have prevented this. I have found myself shifting the blame to others, feeling anger toward them for not doing more. I have even directed those same feelings toward my sister. Yes, even anger as I wondered why she would do this to herself, her husband, children and us.

While this is all part of the healing process, it is in letting go of these questions that has allowed me to do the most healing.

All these years later, I have learned not to ask why because only she knows. I no longer ask what I could have done because what’s done is done. I no longer blame myself and others because nobody can be blamed, and blaming others only causes hurt and anger, and I’m tired of being hurt and angry.

But, there is one question I ask each time I think of my sister. I ask myself, “What, now?”

I can’t change what she did or what I did or didn’t do all those years ago, but I can change what I do now.

Now, I work hard at not blaming myself or others but instead, try to show love to all I come in contact with. I don’t stay silent, hiding the reality of suicide, but instead, do what I can to talk about it so that others aren’t afraid like I once was. I don’t dwell on the final months of her life where she wasn’t herself but instead, celebrate the life she lived — the sister, wife, mother, daughter and loyal friend she was.

And as I think back on that day all those years ago when I parked at a dead-end by the hillside and watched my sister walk toward me after spending a lonely night in the woods, I am no longer filled with despair but with hope.

And as I drive the long road, I am no longer met with a dead-end, but a reminder — that I will see my sister again.

Arianne Brown is a mother of seven young children, and she loves hearing and sharing stories. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. She can be contacted at ariannebrown1@gmail.com. Twitter: A_Mothers_Write

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