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I vividly remember the day my life came to a screeching halt. It runs through my head and rips apart my heart all too often. I remember every moment. The phone call from my Mom. The screaming. My racing heart. My body going numb and me pulling my hair to feel something other than fear and numbness. Speaking to the detective. Asking questions. Trying to listen to the answers. The what ifs. The whys. The searching. The realization that no matter what I do, I am unable to bring my brother back.

You are never prepared for the aftermath of losing a loved one. Especially when it’s a loss to suicide. No one warns you about the chaos that is about to occur in your life. No one warns you about how relationships with surviving family members change. No one can. Unless one lives it, NO ONE can warn you. They are unable to comprehend it or empathize with you.

I was having a GREAT day. It was a gorgeous spring day. The sun was shining. The windows were open. My music was blasting and I was blow drying my hair, getting ready to go shopping at a boutique I loved. It was the Tuesday after Mother’s Day. My husband and children had given me a gift certificate to the boutique and I was going to go use it. I was going to happily go on my way for a drive with my sunroof open and my music blasting on this seemingly beautiful day.

Then the phone rang. My Mom was screaming on the other end. Nothing made sense. When she uttered those horrific words, I actually responded with “no he didn’t.” I basically hung up and moments later called her back after I realized what I had just heard. I called my husband and a friend. What I said to them is a blurred memory. Everything was now blurry. My brain and my heart were trying to process this devastation. I couldn’t see from crying. My head and heart were pounding. I lost all strength. The remainder of the day was filled with phone calls you never want to make and plans you never want to deal with.

It was just shy of 7 years of the loss of my Dad. A loss that still pierced me to my core. This was something that left me completely shattered. I was desperate for answers. I needed to know why. I clung to every single thing my cousins had gotten out of his apartment and shipped to me days later. I searched. I investigated. I called everyone in his cell phone address book. I was looking for any answers. I was desperate to find pieces of him. I needed to piece him back together. I needed a rewind button. I replayed the last month of his life. It was that month that we started speaking after not speaking for eleven months. I was living an absolute nightmare.

Somehow I survived. As catastrophic as the loss is, I wake up each day with a positive attitude and live my best life. I survive the aftershocks, which still hit me. I realize that they come fast and hit hard but they do pass and I will smile again.

Many experience years they don’t remember. I am thankful that I have my children to keep me going on a daily basis. Without them to keep me focused, I’m not sure I’d have been able to be strong. They were young and they needed me. I needed to be strong for them. I still have my moments and I always will throughout my lifetime. I’ve learned to allow those moments to happen and then I reclaim my breath. I’ve accepted the fact that my heart has scars that will never heal but I’ve also realized my heart experiences a great deal of love and happiness with each new day. It is there that I shift my focus.

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, please know that you will find your way in your own time. Be gentle with yourself and live each day the best you can as you continue to heal. It is hard to accept that a piece of you will never come back. But remember that life keeps moving forward. Because life continues to move forward, it is natural that we as humans do as well.

We are stronger than we realize and as long as we are grateful for the good, we will survive.

And please always remember this: