Happy Birthday, Baby Boy by Kristen Heusinger

posted in: Uncategorized | 14

As another May comes to a close I have decided that this year I will do something different. This year I will use my experience and emotions to help others. Most people know that May is Mental Health month, but what most people don’t know is May 7th was the day my little brother was born. This year that beautiful boy would have turned 30 years old but, instead, he will forever be 19.  It will be 11 years this August since we lost him to suicide. May always seems to weigh a little bit heavier on my shoulders. It is something that others cannot always understand. I can honestly say thank goodness they have not had to experience this same type of loss. When May 7th comes around each year there is an empty pit in my stomach and I often feel like that day somehow has more than 24 hours in it because the hours seem to pass by so slowly. Friends and loved ones often say, “Don’t be sad, he wouldn’t want that,” or “We should celebrate. He would have wanted that,” or “It has been so many years- it should be easier now.” I forgive these comments because I know they are not said to hurt me. They are said because people just don’t know what to say. I can’t blame them and I know that now. I wish every year I could go out and buy him a birthday present.  I often wonder if he were still alive what things would he have wanted for his birthday. Would he still have been a music lover and wanted an iTunes card? Would he have bought his own car shop or wood-working shop and needed something for his work?  I satisfy my need to get him a present by buying a balloon and writing him his birthday card, which I watch drift up into the sky and get smaller and smaller as it makes its way to its destination. And I can’t help but smile knowing that wherever he may be he will never go a year without receiving a birthday card from me.

 

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As a survivor of suicide, we are often faced with these types of specific dates that trigger a flood of emotions. We are also faced with questions that trigger these feelings as well, but they are probably not the questions that you are thinking of. I love meeting new people and am one of those people that, from a very young age, could strike up a conversation with anyone around me.  As an adult, I talk to strangers differently now and am more cautious about the themes I choose to ask about or the way I choose to answer. When I meet someone new, those simple questions people often ask make me cringe and I find myself assessing the person and situation to see how to answer. A question like, “How many siblings do you have?” or “Is your sister your only sibling?” can make my heart pound a little faster. Of course I have more than just my sister and I always will, but the line of questioning that follows and the awkward silence at the end can be deafening.  There have been times when I just say ‘yes, I only have a sister’ because I can’t handle, “How old is your brother?” When people find out he passed away, they then ask, “Oh how old was he when he died?” Then, when they learn he was young, they ask, “What did he die from?” And finally from more people than you would think the unthinkable question, “How did he do it?” or “Did your family know what was going on and try to help?”  It is amazing how many people ask that but they really do. Like I want to spill all the horrible details about the worst day of my life for all to hear when I first meet someone. This is the point in the conversation where it abruptly dies and crickets can be heard in the silence. This is also the point where I get THE LOOK. Those who have lost someone by suicide know which look I am speaking of. The look where they are judging, questioning and at a loss for words.

The stigma behind suicides is real. I did not have a horrible childhood; in fact, it was actually just the opposite. My siblings and I were very fortunate and grew up in a loving home with two supportive parents. We went on family vacations, had water fights in the backyard, and snuggled on the couch on Christmas day to watch movies we got from Santa. We supported my brother in every way possible. He was in and out of treatment but nothing made him feel better. I remember borrowing different cell phones at night from friends in my dorm when I was away at college just so he would pick up an unlisted number and I could hear his voice and see how he was doing. When someone dies by suicide so many people ask, “Didn’t he/she see that so many people loved them?” and the answer is no. Depression is an illness and they are not able to see that love. They are not able to shake it off. They are not able to think of their families or their children because the thought of getting themselves out of bed in the morning is unbearable.  The question, “Why didn’t their family do more to help them?” You can’t help someone who doesn’t want the help. We would not ask these questions about someone who has decided to no longer receive treatments for their cancer, so why does it change when it comes to depression? I hope and pray for a day that the stigma no longer exists. A day when talking about my wonderful and beautiful little brother does not stop the conversation like a needle coming to a scratching halt on a record. It has taken a long time to be able to share all of this, but I do it to support all those who struggle with mental illness and for all the families who have gone through what I have. I know wherever my brother Stevie Joe is right now he is no longer suffering and he is with me every day in everything that I do. I know when I started reading other people’s experiences it helped me heal and know that I was not alone. I hope that this helps others know they are not alone either. Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!

14 Responses

  1. Jessica
    | Reply

    Beautifully written…….

    • Kristen
      | Reply

      Thank you!

  2. Dianna Matzo
    | Reply

    Thank you; very timely as my sister’s birthday is this Wednesday. She suicided last year on May 21 so I wasn’t very lucid when June 8 came and didn’t think at all about how I would mark the day. I am going to use your balloon idea… just me and possibly my adult daughter who shares the same birthdate. Blessings, Dianna

    • Kristen
      | Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss. Birthdays are never easy, especially the first few years after a loss. I hope you were able to celebrate her birthday this year in a way that was healing to you.

  3. Rachel
    | Reply

    Wow Kristen. This is really beautiful.. You have put so many intimate feelings into a terrific description that maybe others can understand. I didn’t know Steve, but definitely can feel and have felt the strength in your relationships with him. Being someone who has suffered with depression for decades, I agree with the de-stigmatizing this disease. Sometimes people don’t even know how to ask for help, or are not even sure what is happening to them, just know that things are so bad, there is only one way to stop the pain. Maybe if its recognized as a disease that no one should be ashamed of, less acts of desperation or finality will happen. You are an amazing woman, and I LOVE your balloon idea. Im so glad you wrote this. I should mention I think of I’m every time I see a hawk… Love you and thank you so much for your amazing words.

    • Kristen
      | Reply

      Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate the support and kindness!

  4. steve heusinger
    | Reply

    what an awesome way to honor an awesome brother ( son to me). Thank you krissy for what you have beautifully written

    • Kristen
      | Reply

      Love you Dad! I am glad you liked the piece I wrote.

  5. Wendy
    | Reply

    You have written this so well, it’s easy to see how it comes straight from your heart. Like you I have experienced so many comments that are so hurtful and difficult to deal with. It certainly adds another dimension to all the huge grief. I wish there was a way to make them easier. Thank you for writing this, I found it helpful and comforting.

    • Kristen
      | Reply

      First of all I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you were able to find my writing comforting and helpful, but so sorry that we have that in common.

  6. Julie Harris
    | Reply

    Straight from the heart to other hearts that feel the same. Thank you!

    • Kristen
      | Reply

      Thank you for you comment. I am sorry to have that in common, but am comforted that I am not alone in my healing and glad I was able to touch someone else’s heart

  7. Melanie
    | Reply

    It will be 5 years on July 25th that my husband took his life. We have 2 beautiful children. Although our loss is different so much of it is the same. Especially when it comes to getting to know new people and seeing friends from the past. It’s like how do you talk and share without the end result being “the needle on the record” and both parties walking away with an unspoken silence, and “the look” his suicide has somehow made me feel like a failure in some aspects of my life. These are feelings that definitely need some work. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for allowing me to really think about what I would like to share when I am ready to write.

    Although I have moved forward in life, this part sort of has remained stagnant as I just can’t seem to dive in and truly grasp it all. I hope by spending some time on this site, it helps me to truly come to terms with the enormity of what we were faced with. Still sort of feels like a part of my life I can view through a looking glass all while doing everything I can to give the love and support to my children who I feel will always need it more than I do. As this is my first comment ever on a blog regarding suicide I find myself having a hard time closing up my comment. So I will end it here by saying thank you. Thank you for being brave. <3

    • Kristen Heusinger
      | Reply

      Thank you for sharing your story and showing me that I am not alone. It is ok to need more time and not always be ready to fully move on. You are right that although we live our lives and move on that part of our live remains the same. The feelings of failure are something I think all of us who have lost someone to suicide struggle with and probably always well. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story here.

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