I Still Ask Why by Kelley

posted in: Uncategorized | 19

I lost my sister to suicide a year ago this November. Like so many other’s experience, her death was a complete shock. Hindsight torments me with my failures in recognizing what was right in front of me. I have profound anguish and grief. I feel responsible.

The details of our loved one’s despair leading to suicide are all different, but I want to share a detail in my tragedy.

My sister left a letter. It was brief. In three sentences she expressed her despair, her sorrow in leaving us. She told us she loved us. I’m sharing this extremely personal and private detail because I still ask “why?” I’m anguished and tormented. I analyze and pick apart every detail, every word in our conversations in the weeks and days leading up to this horrific tragedy.

I thought I was supportive, loving. I thought I understood her pain. We were sisters for 56 years. We were sisters who loved each other unconditionally. We were each other’s best friend. We didn’t need a big circle of friends, we had each other. We had our family. We were blessed. Nothing could separate our unconditional love for our family. And then our family woke to tragedy.

We have a letter but I still ask “why?” Why didn’t I see this? Why didn’t I see the enormity of her despair? Were my words insensitive? Did I contribute to her despair? Didn’t she understand me? Did I hurt her? I shouldn’t have said that. I should have said this. Didn’t she know how much I loved her? Why weren’t we, her family, enough? I should’ve. I would’ve. Why didn’t I? Why?

I think as survivors we want to believe if we can have just a few more pieces then we can understand. I have many of those pieces and I’m still tormented. I’m still analyzing and picking apart the details. I have a letter and I still ask “why?”

19 Responses

  1. Sherry Looney
    | Reply

    I am so sorry for incredibly devastating loss of your sister. I understand. I lost my younger brother. It does leave us with mental anguish and torment. It’s awful. I can tell you that in time the answers to those questions won’t matter. After you beat yourself up and drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what, if anything, you could have said or done differently, you will have to accept the fact that even if we could now figure that out, it wouldn’t change anything. What is done is done and somehow we learn to live with that. It took me many years. I knew I couldn’t stand the pain I felt in the beginning and I thought it unbearable. Eventually the pain eases and life goes on and you catch yourself laughing and smiling and really feeling the joy without that stab of pain. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. My brother was my best friend. It devastated me to lose him. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps to know that even if he had left a letter, I would still have questioned everything. Thank you.

  2. Mary-Jean Hunt
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    I think that question willl never leave us. As much as I know intellectually that his mental illness was eating away at him, it is still our nature to want to try to see if we could have changed something. I have learned at the moment they chose to end their lives they could see nothing but agony ahead of them and in turn thought they were causing nothing but agony for us if they lived. Little did they know.

    • Sonny C.
      | Reply

      So well said, Mary-Jean. And yes, little did they know how hurtful life is for us now each day.

  3. Dianna
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    Thank you for writing this and I am so sorry for your loss and ensuing pain. I also lost my sister to suicide. She was 45 at the time and I was 49. Her note, which we found weeks later (she had wrote and hidden it when she had decided it was just a matter of time), was much more detailed. So, the “why” questions faded away, but the detailed description of her intimate emotional pain haunts me. And the “what if” and “I should have” and “did I contribute to her pain” questions are still relentless. All of this is to say, no matter what message they left behind, it is never enough to dull the excruciating agony we feel as survivors. Many blessings to you as you continue to heal.

  4. Bonnie Swade
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    I remember when our son died fourteen years ago I dissected every part of our life together.
    If only I could have….
    If only he would have shared his despair…..
    If only…
    And then the “Why?”
    I have come to understand the why will never be answered and one is only tormenting one’s self if they are waiting for an answer, a sign, or whatever.
    The only response I can give is…because.
    Because they couldn’t see a way out of their agony.
    Because they believed they were causing more pain to those whom loved them.
    Because they were seeking peace.
    And that is the only thing we really want
    for them…
    Peace to you as well.

    • Diane
      | Reply

      Thank you Kelley. All these questions are what tear me apart as well. And truthfully, I know that we will never really have the answers. Thank you Bonnie for your thoughtful response as well.

  5. Denise Hairfield
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    I want to say thank you for sharing your story and your pain. This is the first post that I’ve seen that speaks of siblings. I too lost a sibling, my brother, my baby brother on 1/1/2016. There was no letter or explanation. The one word that has haunted me daily is “WHY”.

    Prayers for you
    ~denise

    • Kathy
      | Reply

      Hi Denise, your post really resonated with me. I also lost a sibling, my baby brother, my only sibling and you’re right, there is not much out there for siblings.
      My brother died on 1/1/15, so we both experienced the added heartache of grieving while the entire world is celebrating. The whole week after my brother died I was wished a happy new year by everyone, everywhere-the grocery store, the bank, etc.
      It was agonizing. And still is.
      I’m so sorry for your loss and for all of us who are now part of this group of “survivors”
      I don’t really like that word because it hardly feels like surviving when you are paralyzed with grief.
      Reading these posts help me to not feel so alone, but every day is a struggle.
      I’ll be thinking of you on New Year’s Day and praying you navigate the day as best you can.

  6. Julie Harris
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    “Why” is the hardest question. We’ll never know the answer in this lifetime at least. It does get easier with time and we go on with a new normal. Try not to torture yourself with “why.” “Be still and know” that one day you’ll be with her again and everything will be good. I know she wouldn’t want you to put yourself through all the agony of “why.” She’d want you to be at peace as she now is. Hugs to you Kelley.

  7. Stella
    | Reply

    I lost my 28 year old son on December 20, 2016. He didn’t leave a note, but we were well aware of his mental illness. Every single day I ask “why”, “what if”, “why didn’t I”. I analyze everything I did from when he was a baby, and wonder how it contributed to his depression. I’m so sorry for your loss Kelley. Thank you for describing so well what we as survivors feel every day.

  8. Patty Foster
    | Reply

    wow your story is so much like mine..i lost my daughter also most 1 yr ago this December 18th..We were so close just like your sister and you..i ask everyday WHY..she also left a 4 line note to her husband and a 4 line note to her 3 little girls..i will never understand “WHY”..My love and prayers are with you this Christmas season…

  9. Kelley
    | Reply

    Every response here touches my heart and means so much. Thank you for sharing and providing a ray of hope through tragedy. I wish I could meet each of you if only to give you a hug and say “thank you”. – Kelley

  10. John Filiczkowski
    | Reply

    Any loss is too great, terrible tragedies, the consuming why reasons, all sought after, but cannot ease the pain, which can when remembering, the specialness of your loved one allowing them to pass in Gods hands.

    • Kelley
      | Reply

      John – you words bring me comfort. Thank you for them. – Kelley

  11. Kathy
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    As someone that has struggled with suicidal thoughts for over 30 years, please know that it’s not your fault. It doesn’t matter what one says, or doesn’t say, or does or doesn’t do that would change what your sister did. It’s the pain that people have in their hearts that never goes away. The pain that they just get tired of, and don’t want to carry the weight of anymore.
    I am deeply sorry for your loss.

    • Kelley
      | Reply

      Kathy, thank you so much for sharing your experiences & pain. We are so devastated. The known & unknown of this tragedy are so very painful and a daily struggle. You will be in my prayers that God’s comfort and peace are with you, especially when the pain seems too much to bear. Sending you a big hug. -Kelley

  12. Jen
    | Reply

    My baby brother was in pain. We did not see, or we all ignored the signs. We had grown insensitive to the fact that he was always in trouble, one way or another. We expected him to stand up on his own two feet one of these days. He was unable to, though, and now because of our indifference, for the first time, he was all alone. Peace, maybe, but not the way it was supposed to be achieved. A life lost too soon. Problems are only temporary–but he could not see past the pain and the future seemed dark. We are sorry we did not reach out to him, or foresee that this could ever happen. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. I never got a chance to say goodbye or tell him I loved him. I wasn’t finished. I think he thought I was mad at him, even.
    It is very difficult to have to carry all of this on my shoulders until the day I die… I decided to go on for my children, whom he also loved very much. It is also hard for my mother who feels the most guilty of all; he left me to struggle to keep her alive in the aftermath of this tragedy, as if my own grief is not enough. I don’t think he realized the depth pain he would cause. I forgive him for not knowing, but it is still hard. The shock dulls a tiny bit each day. It is almost a year now. I still wonder if ‘suicide chat’ rooms contributed to this very bad decision.

    • Kelley
      | Reply

      Jen, you are not alone in your suffering. I am very sorry for the painful loss of your brother. The suffering and pain in losing a sibling is unique as all relationships are. Sadly, there is common ground for all of us who are suffering loss to suicide. Suicide doesn’t provide us the chance to say Goodbye or I love you. For me, regret over last and past conversations are also a part of my sufferings. I never thought regret would be woven into my relationship with my sister, but suicide and loss leave this in the aftermath as well. I have hope that my regrets will soften and become more bearable as I live through this tragedy. Along the way maybe we can remind ourselves to leave room for self forgiveness. We are human beings and that means we will always be imperfect as were our loved ones. Praying for peace for you and your mother and all of us who are suffering. You are not alone. Kelley

  13. Jen
    | Reply

    Kelley,
    I know that your sister forgives you for anything you may have said or left unsaid during your lifetimes together. In her heart, she knew that you loved her, and I am sure, vice-versa. Sibling relationships are imperfect; we are competetors, albeit teammates, throughout our lives. No negative conversations or endings would negate a lifetime of loving each other. I know this is true for myself, and for you. Your sister, and my brother, would also feel guilty if the situations were reversed, and we were the ones who had passed first. Please be kind to yourself in this situation. We all do the best we can with the information available to us at any particular point in time. We did not know our siblings would die. We did not imagine it could happen. I still can’t imagine it, almost one year later. Most of the time, there isn’t any one reason why this happened. Praying for our tragically departed and keeping their memories alive is all that I imagine that they would ask of us at this time. I don’t find too many people who can understand what this experience is like. Praying for those survivors among us who are also considering giving up due to sorrow, including my mom, and at one point, me. Thank you for understanding my pain, and thank you for your kind words. There is a purpose to each and every life, and I want to fulfill mine, as I hope many other survivors will do. You are also not alone.

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