Losing My Brother by Erin Sutliff
(Erin is a full time stay at home mom, dedicated wife, former school teacher, and part time volunteer. She loves spending time with family, friends, and her varied communities.)
My brothers, Kyle and Matt, and I grew up in Tucson, Arizona with my mom after my parents divorced when we were young. We are only 15 months apart. Family problems continued and went on for years. Around Jr. High for me, my mother developed a drug problem and later my brothers followed suit. I still have so many questions unanswered. I had emotionally distanced myself and primarily stayed in my room. We lost our home and she moved us around to different boyfriend's trailer homes. It only barely felt safe. The men my mom chose were a far cry from good role models. Eventually we were able to move into my dad’s house with more family. That went well on occasion, but often was a haven for conflict. Two very different worlds combined. We left an unstructured, unstable, ultimately scary place to live in to a structured, scheduled, clean home. It was hard for my brothers to feel as though they fit in. However, life seemed to get better as we each grew. Kyle ended up going to high school, was dating, and seemed to be doing fine. I mostly hung out with my friends so I wasn't always around. After graduating in 2002 I moved to Tucson to go to college and wasn't very involved in whatever was going on back home. In 2004 my brothers were living in an apartment and Kyle was dating a girl. That didn't turn out how he anticipated it would. Kyle wore his heart on his sleeve. He loved people and showed it. He would have done anything for me and for our family. He was a protector, but due, I think in part, to the lack of steady family life growing up and so many other things, he didn't know how to control his emotions and was conflicted.
Finally, we drove to his apartment, but he didn't answer the door. Silence. His long-time friend was there, outside, but he didn't know anything and had the same trouble getting a hold of Kyle. Kyle's car was there, but we just thought maybe a friend picked him up or something...there were lots of possibilities. After some time, we just left thinking he'd call back. Maybe his phone died. Maybe he was somewhere else and couldn't talk. That night, after we'd been asleep there was a knock at the door. My parents answered it. I heard and walked out quietly to listen in. I saw two police officers that told my parents to sit down. Then my dad just started bawling. I walked out and knew without hearing any words. My dad came toward me and muttled something about Kyle being gone. Dead. Suicide. I couldn't stop crying. My heart felt like it had stopped and I didn't have breath. I called my mom. Then my cousin, whom we were close to. There was no more sleeping that night. How could we?
My dad had to call the army to tell my brother Matt, Kyle's twin, that his brother had committed suicide and beg for them to let him out for a little while to mourn. Later, probably the next day, we went to Kyle's apartment. The cops said there was no note, but I just felt it. I started searching his spiral notebooks and found one. He said he was sorry to each of us by name, and that he loved us. The cops told us not to go to the back bedroom, and my dad told me not to go even though he was going. I didn't listen either. There was no body there of course, but the things I saw that day were horrifying. I also saw the stereo and the CD he had playing. Again, something I wish I hadn't seen.
Some days later I had the house to myself and I put in the CD Kyle had been playing, most likely during. Matt knew which song he was likely listening to and told me. I didn't know it and when I heard it I just couldn't control myself and was screaming on the floor of my parents' living room. The pain was unbearable. The next year I cried every single day. I couldn't listen to any of the music I listened to before. Christian music was the most difficult to listen to. Every song brought Kyle to mind. All jokes about suicide brought Kyle to mind and weren't and aren't funny to this day. I couldn't watch TV or movies that even eluded to suicide. I still close my eyes when I think there is going to be one. And every time I am reminded about what my brother did. As time went on I didn't cry as much, God was healing my heart. I still miss my sweet and funny brother, and someday I hope to see him again. One thing I know is that my God is good and he was weeping right there with me - every single time I cried.
The signs were there, we just didn't know them. You just tell yourself that nothing's going to happen, you think you know what that person is thinking, but you don't. I tell people now, not to wait. When you see any sign, you need to stay with that person if you're there or call someone for help or it could be too late. My brother had a gun, but willingly gave it to my dad. But later his friend let him borrow one. Kyle had already made it up in his mind. The signs I saw, looking back, were that he was distant, quiet, not himself. Kyle was normally a very bubbly , happy person, and even if he wasn't happy he was quite dramatic at times. So the Kyle I saw at my parents' house on the porch, the one I was talking to, was someone who had given up. Later we learned he had visited our mom a day or so before he did it. Saying his goodbyes, in a way. That was another sign, that we didn't know about. And being the last person to talk to him on the phone, I should have headed straight to his apartment or called the cops. This haunts me. Please do something. If you know someone who has signs like those or others, please do something. You can connect them to professional resources and start conversations with them. Thankfully Live Again will have community training and online resources that would be VERY helpful for people struggling on where to start to help someone or to help yourself. Suicide IS preventable and community is so important. I have three different community groups I can count on. My neighbors are people that I am getting to know. I'm home a lot of the time and so have the opportunity to see them often. We don't know each other well, but I feel that we could count on each other, to some degree. I also, of course, have my wonderful husband and our families that live close. Then I am blessed to have an amazing small group (missional community) and others at my church. These are the people I do life with, they know me and I them. We laugh together, cry together, pray together, and struggle together. Community care and training is the best way to suicide prevention that I've heard of. When people are in community there are less places to "hide" and more people who are concerned. And if those concerned people are equipped with the right tools, they can help stop suicide.