After losing my brother to suicide, I was surprised how quickly anger became a big emotion I was feeling. After the shock and disbelief of what was occurring wore off, there were a couple days of extreme grief. But as I sat in a hotel room, the night before my brother’s funeral, the anger became overwhelming.
My husband, the videographer, and I were trying to put together a slide show of pictures to show at the funeral. I had gathered photos from my parents’ house for days, trying to include a few photos from each stage of his 24-year life. There was a void of current pictures, so we reached out to some friends to email us pictures. Most of the pictures I received were great. My brother was fun and such a ham for the camera, and the pictures his friends sent me reflected that.
My husband still felt we were short on recent pictures to fill the slide show, so we looked through his Facebook pictures to see what could be used.
Looking at those pictures, most of them at parties where it was clear that my brother was drunk or high on drugs, the anger became overwhelming. I was so mad at him for being so reckless with his precious life. I couldn’t see straight. I found myself sitting in the hotel bathtub, fully clothed, screaming into my hands.
The whole thing felt incredibly unfair. Why was I left here to sort through his party pictures, deciding what looked innocent enough to show at a church service tomorrow?
My parents were so distraught that much of the funeral planning had fallen to me, the oldest child. Picking songs, deciding which Bible verses to put in the programs, finding a photo for the obituary, and now making this slide show became my responsibility. I felt unprepared to do any of it.
And where was my brother?
That was a familiar question that added fuel to my anger. It was not unusual for me to pick up responsibility, to attend family events, to make sure Thanksgiving dinner was served, to clean up messes while my brother was doing whatever he wanted to do, usually with a friend, any friend, new friends, old friends, groups of friends. He always had friends around. I was convinced that he was afraid to be alone.
Most survivors of suicide feel anger at some point in their grief. Maybe I felt anger so quickly after losing my brother because it was a familiar emotion in our relationship.
There were just so many times in the last decade of his short life that I had legitimate things to be mad at him about. Bad decisions, quitting school, losing jobs, smoking, partying, staying out, not showing up, causing my parents heartache, causing my parents to fight, lying. The lying was the worst, caused the deepest anger.
There was a good side to my brother, and I wanted to remember it. There’s no one else in my family that I could laugh the hardest with, with almost no prompting. We didn’t need much material to go on.
On the day of the funeral, my proudest moment was when our slide show got a big laugh. Jeffrey did the hard lifting with his sequence of photos over-exaggerating putting on a friend’s lipgloss.
It has been almost 6 years, and I rarely feel angry these days. In the first few years, every bout of anger was quickly followed by strong feelings of guilt. Those feelings still come up, but they are not as strong. The majority of the time, I feel a big absence. I wish he was here. This year he would have turned 30, and I grieved that I would never see my brother at 30. I will never see him married. There will never be nieces and nephews or conversations about getting old.
The anger has lessened because, this time, I know where my brother is.
I have an understanding- a hope that my brother is in Heaven, with Jesus. I have assurance that he is no longer filling voids of loneliness and feelings of failure with temporary things like drugs, overindulging in alcohol, and constantly seeking out friends.
My anger has been replaced with hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” -Romans 15:13
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38-39 ESV