Will My Brother Die by Suicide? How I Cope with That Fear
Trigger warning: this post contains frank discussion of suicide.
I worry that my brother will die by suicide. Even typing those words feels frighteningly intimate because this very real fear is an unspoken one in our family.
‘Die by Suicide’, the Phrase Scares My Family
We dance around ‘he might die by suicide’ with euphemisms — whispering about our concerns that certain events might « push him over the edge » or « be too much for him ». Suicide is a word that we dare not say, as if voicing it would somehow invite this horrible pandemic into our home.
I know that my family shares my worry that my brother will die by suicide, even though they haven’t directly told me. I see it in the way my mother bursts into tears when my brother hasn’t returned her calls. I see it in the way my father tries to avoid telling him bad or worrying news. I see it in the collective expressions of relief we all wear when he shows up at events in visibly good humor. You look so happy, we tell him, silently willing him to reassure us that the depression is magically gone now — that we can stop obsessing.
Dealing with Fears of a Loved One Dying by Suicide
If you clicked on this blog, you might hope that I have a life hack that stops me worrying that my brother will die by suicide. The fact of the matter is, I will always have this concern. There was a time in the most acute phases of my brother’s mental illness that his suicide was more a « when » than an « if », and that trauma stays with you.
The one thing I do think is helpful is accepting this fear, and part of that acceptance process is naming it. This could be in a conversation with a friend, in a therapy session, in your journal, or even to your loved one themselves (unless that would be a triggering conversation for them). In recent times, I’ve started opening up to a trusted friend who understands what these worries are like — I’ll post a video explaining more about how this has helped me.
You’re Not Alone
The main message I want to get across today is one of solidarity. If you’re a family member or a loved one of someone who you worry might die by suicide, I sit with you today and I share in your pain. The journey of supporting someone with mental health issues can be a lonely and terrifying one, but we can make it a little less secretive by speaking our fears. I will always worry that my brother will die by suicide, but every time I say that scary sentence out loud it makes me feel a little bit less isolated.
If you feel you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.