At A Loss

When I was twelve or thirteen years old, my brothers and I stayed up late watching horror movies in the family room. I don’t remember what movies they were, nor does it matter; what matters is what happened afterwards.

I slept on the floor in my parents’ bedroom most nights. For some reason, their room was free from the demons that lurked in the shadows of mine, and it had the added bonus of very, very comfortable carpet (let’s just ignore the fact that they had the same carpet in their room as mine).

That night, after the horror movies, Justin–who was 15 or 16 at the time–insisted that I sleep on the floor in his room. He grasped my shoulders and held me close. “Whitney,” he said. “Mom and Dad won’t always be here to take care of you. I will be. You need to get used to that.”

The thought that my parents would be dead and gone from my life made me more desperately want the comfort of their floor, but Justin was unrelenting–as he was with most things.

“Whitney, please,” he begged. “You need to learn to not lean on them all the time. You can lean on me. You can always lean on me. Sleep on the floor in my room.”

His room was a dirty teenage boy’s room. The thought of sleeping around his gross athletic clothing and smelly socks was enough for me to push back to the point where he let me out of the half-hug I was in, so I could run upstairs to the safety of my parents’ floor.

That was the kind of teenager I remember him being. He was always fiercely overprotective of me, and in return, I always tried to soothe our father’s anger that was directed at him for seemingly inexplicable reasons.

As we grew up, that relationship continued. There was the time I talked him down from a desperate depression and a kamikaze car ride where he didn’t think he was going to make it home. There were all the times he enthusiastically disapproved of each of my boyfriends. There was his visit to celebrate my 18th birthday with me my first semester of college. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the most comforting hugs I’ve ever experienced.

But he was damaged by what our father had done to him, and ravaged by the disease of addiction. As he grew older, he grew angrier, and when he was no longer sober it was a struggle to find the person I loved in the expressions on his face, the words that he said, and the actions he took.

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When we bowled for my brother Andrew’s birthday in 2009. The light is still in his eyes.

I haven’t been able to write about this. There are no words for it, no humor for me to add in to spice things up and make it bearable. Because it isn’t bearable. I will survive it, undoubtedly, but I cannot bear it.

On July 7th, the week after the anniversary of our father’s suicide, Justin killed himself.

Sharing those words with the Internet doesn’t begin to encompass the disbelief and despair my family has been feeling the past three weeks.

I love you, Justin.

If you or anyone you know is suicidal, please, please, PLEASE reach out. Your pain can be lessened with time and help. The pain you leave behind if you choose to end your life may never lessen for those who’ve loved you their whole lives. It just becomes something they have to live with, along with the memories and the what-ifs and the shoulds.


11 thoughts on “At A Loss

  1. I know we don’t know each other, Whit, but I am literally crying right now reading of yet another loss in your life. Of course, there are no words I can offer that will ease your pain, but I am so sorry for what you’re going through. You and your family are in my warmest of thoughts. Sending lots of love to you.

  2. Dearest Whitney,
    Accepting the unbearable is to make it bearable after all. I’m always amazed at how my instinct for self preservation wins out over my depression. In the end, you must believe in your right to be happy.

  3. 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦

    *hugs, knowing that internet hugs aren’t even a fraction of what you probably need, but also that they’re all I have..*

  4. Whitney, I also have no words for the loss of your amazing brother. Justin was five years younger than me and he taught me so much about dealing with my demons as he dealt with his own. When I needed a female friend to listen he sent me to you. I will be forever grateful that I met Justin and he brought you and your blog to my life. Your writings have been there for me a lot. I hope that you know his love for you and your brother! Love and hugs to you and your family.

  5. I stumbled upon this thinking of your family today….You all pop into my head at different moments and today I had a computer at my fingertips and let ‘google’ do the rest. I’m so sad. I’m so sad for all of it. I knew you at a different, innocent time of your life. I knew your family fairly intimately. I don’t know that you knew me as intimately or what my own family faced as far as mental illness and longstanding hurts and anger. We have more in common than you know. I wish you and your family peace deep within your soul and heart and to know that each day is a choice of how you wish to look at and see the world. Much love to you and a big giant hug!!! You are dear to me no matter how old you are. Gina C.

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