10 powerful lessons my brother’s suicide taught me
12 years. Today 12 years ago I was throwing soil on my brother’s grave.
Years have passed but it feels like yesterday…
Been a while now since I’ve admitted that I have finally accepted (if there’s such a thing) that back in June 2006 my younger brother committed suicide. I wrote about the whole story and it turned out to be the post with the most comments on my blog. Sadly.
Deep in my heart I know that the most negative thing that ever happened to me actually moved me forward.
It is your hard times that give you the biggest opportunity to change …
And only because in Decmeber 2014 when I wrote this post for the first time, brother of a dear friend of mine, committed suicide, too, it made me think again about the horrible feeling I had within me years back. The very same feeling my friend I’ve known since we were both born must have as well. Thinking of her and her family made me sit down and write this post.
10 powerful lessons my brother’s suicide taught me:
1. You can never know what other person is thinking. You cannot read anyone else’s mind, nor control what other people do. Do not blame yourself for the life of others. I used to pity and punish myself at first because I said no to my brother when he wanted to come over and visit me for a few days before he shot himself. It was during my exam period at the University in Czech republic so I knew I would not have any free time to spend with him and instead I asked him not to come. I spent years feeling really guilty for that … because who knows?
He might not have done what he did if he had visited me. Now I finally know I could not have changed anything. My brother’s suicide taught me not to blame myself for what was not in my hands. Everyone is responsible for their own life. You cannot change life of other people.
Please, never beat yourself up for other people’s decisions, it has nothing to do with you. They are the ones who decide. I learned this once I realized no one else has any influence on my personal decisions, except myself. I mean, I do hear up what others think but I am still the one who makes the final decision. It is the same with everyone else. Don Miguel Ruiz was right in his book Four Agreements. What others do has nothing to do with you so don’t take anything personally.
2. You need to forgive everyone for everything. If the person is not physically on Earth with us any more, you need to forgive him/her even more and as early as possible. Forgiveness is only about you, no one and nothing else. It’s all within you. If you don’t forgive others, you will be the only person to suffer. The best way to realize that is by trying to forgive someone who is already dead. If you want to forgive him, you have to do it within your own head and heart. No matter how impossible it might seem but I was finally able to forgive my brother for taking his life.
3. Learn to respect other people’s decisions, no matter how negative they might seem to you. Over the period of years of reading and traveling, I found out that people always do what they believe is the best for them at the very moment, or at least what they think it is the best they can do at that time. In the beginning I could not understand my brother’s decision to commit suicide. It took me years to finally be able to accept the decision he made. When he did it, he must have taught it was the best solution for him. It does not mean I understand why he did it. It means I respect his decision now.
4. You have just one life. Some of you might think that I travel to run away from something. That may have been true in the beginning, years ago when I left my home town in order to travel the world. First, I could feel my brother’s presence all around our apartment, our mutual childhood room. I could feel his perfume, see his smile, feel him standing at the door when I tried to pass through. I felt I had to escape. When traveling to unknown places, I could not feel my brother there and it was a huge relief. I used to run away, yes. But over the years, my brother’s suicide taught me something different. I travel because I don’t want my life to escape me. My brother left this world with his dreams unfulfilled. No way I am going to allow the same thing happen to me. I want to follow my dreams.
5. Relationships do change. I admit I did not have the best relationship with my mum before my brother died. We were like a cat and a dog. We were very close but we would argue every day, even a few times. However, when my brother died, I became the closest person to my mum. Very quickly, we became BEST friends. Nowadays, we hardly argue and we can chat about anything, even about men.
6. My brother used to tell me I was a a bag of nerves. Deep inside me, I always knew it. But it took me years to admit publicly he was right. My brother’s suicide taught me to calm down, to react in a nicer way… It taught me compassion. In a way, it also taught me to meditate. Thanks to my brother’s suicide I changed from an anxious bitch into a quieter person who does not always need to be right. I don’t say I don’t have bad days or I don’t get nervous at all now… but I am on the right path to become more quiet.
7. ”What are you doing? Are you reading again?” was what I would ask my brother almost every day. I used to love reading too, but not as much as he did. Once he passed away, I wanted to keep this great habit of reading. I became a very fast reader and most days I read instead of watching TV. Some of the best things I’ve learned in life were or by traveling, or by reading.
8. Before my brother died, I used to be scared of cemeteries a bit and did not enjoy them at all. I mean I do remember that we would go there as kids to play who would stay at the cemetery for the longest. I always won. Cemeteries taught me not to be scared of my own death, and not to be scared of darkness. But now, I go to cemeteries when I am nervous, when I need to calm down, when I need to connect more with my inner self. Illogically, cemeteries fill me with peace and they quiet down thousands of thoughts going through my mind. When I am in my home town, one of the very few places that can change my bad or restless mood is the cemetery where my brother’s urn is located. Cemeteries are not a haunting place for me any more, they are a place of peace.
9. Henry Ford’s quote ”If you do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” was the quote hanging on my brother’s wardrobe. I will never forget that saying. If I am not happy about something and I have the power to change it, I have to really do something to change it to get different results. I am the one who can change my life. No one but me.
10. I don’t think I had ever told my brother I loved him. We had a typical teenage brother-sister relationship when we would show love to each other by little quarrels. But my brother’s suicide taught me to express my feelings more even though the other person might not be so extroverted, open-minded and so used to directly talk about the emotions. I learned I prefer to speak my mind and tell others I appreciate what they’ve done for me, I like what they’ve told me and/or I really admire and love them. Never again I want to feel sorry for not telling someone about my feelings, even if they do not feel the same. People do want to feel appreciated. People do want to feel loved. People do want to hear those pleasant words. You remember that day when a stranger gave you a compliment on the street? You do? I bet so! You might not even know his name, nor anything else about him, yet you will never forget those nice words he said. So now imagine saying positive things to people you know well, to those you honestly love. You can definitely make their day. Show love as much as you can, period.
Remember, everything happens for a reason …
My brother’s suicide definitely left a deep scar in my heart which will remain there forever.
Nonetheless, it also taught me many life lessons I might not learn otherwise.
R.I.P. my little brother… and until we meet again!
TIP: Brother’s death is also one of the main reasons why I started writing daily Gratitude journal. It’s available online on my blog too. Get inspired reading it. Every single day I write down at least 10 things I am grateful for on that day. Do you write a gratitude diary, too?
*This is a corrected version of my original post I published back in December 2014. I was crying when writing it so now I corrected some typos and republished it.