Two months ago I lost my beloved brother to suicide – 5 days after we got back to Denmark on our much anticipated holiday. A holiday that should have been followed by a happy story about fun, laughter and an abundance of positive family time. Instead, I am now posting the hardest blog I have ever written. Many tears have been shed in the process and it has taken me a long while to finish it, but I have been quite determined to get it out there. Both because I think it would be a bit hypocritical of me to “ignore” it (I elaborate a bit on this in the end of the post) and also, potentially, to break down some of the tabu surrounding mental illness and suicide.
I have chosen to make this post public exactly today because today is ‘R U OK? DAY’ here in Australia. In short, a day dedicated to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. A day to reminder us all that it is okay not to be okay – and it is totally okay to talk about it.
So, here comes the story about the saddest holiday I ever hope to experience and with that a tiny insight into the feelings and emotions we have been going through lately.
How life can change in an instant
It was our 5th trip back to Denmark since we moved to Australia 3 years ago and for the first time I had actually made a plan for us. Not a very detailed plan, but at least a plan. I’ve learned from our previous trips that planning while we are there often results in us not getting as much done, as we would like. I had planned when we would spend time at my parents’ house in Fünen, when we would spend time in Copenhagen, when we would see friends or family and when we would play tourists around the country. I felt completely ready for our much-anticipated holiday – our first trip home for over one year. Man, had I missed everyone.
As we arrived in Denmark the Danish summer was charming us and we celebrated a lovely midsummer at my parents’ house followed by some nice days spend with family and friends in Fünen.
Everything was pretty much going as I had imagined in my head and then – BOOM – our family’s life changed forever and all my plans immediately disappeared into thin air.
On the evening of June 27th two police officers came to our house and brought us the worst News a family can get. They told us that my brother was dead. It was very surreal. It still is. But I will forever have those moments printed into my memory. I will forever keep seeing the eyes of the youngest policeman – the brother of my old classmate – as he gave me his condolences without saying a word. Words were unnecessary right there. As they left…I had no words. Only disbelief…
My oldest brother, Muni died tragically 5 days after we arrived in Denmark. He couldn’t live with his inner demons any longer and he took his own life on his 50th birthday. His mind was very ill, but he, sadly, managed to keep the severity of his struggles concealed, so it came as a huge shock when the illness got the better of him
The following week was horrible, surreal, sad, emotional, and even somehow beautiful. It was filled with sorrow, it was filled with love. Most of all it was filled with thoughts about Muni. Thoughts like “why did he do it?” inevitably came back again and again – suicide is such an incomprehensible act for the loved ones left behind and the need for answers is profound. Answers none of us will ever really get.
However, what I also experienced was an unstoppable flow of memories popping into my head day and night. Good memories! Memories, that I didn’t even know I had in there, just kept coming to me as if my mind was going back through my entire life and sorting out everything to do with Muni. In the beginning it mostly made me sad every time a trip to the shops reminded me of “that time when I went to the shops with Muni”…But ohh, he left us with so many, many, many good memories and I really do cherish the ones we were lucky enough to get – and in time I believe they will make me smile a lot more than they will make me cry.
We said our last goodbye at the funeral the following weekend. It was all terribly sad and watching the hearse drive my brother away was just wrong. End of story. What was not wrong, though, was how the church was crammed with people that came to pay Muni their last respect. It was almost overwhelming…
Now, I am not very religious, but I do hope that he was somewhere ‘up there’ looking down at us – seeing just how many people that cared for him. How many people that he had made a good impression on during his life. How many people he had made a difference for…It actually made me proud.
That’s right: Muni, I am f*cking proud of being your sister! You were special and everything was just a little bit more fun when you were around. I love you. And I miss you.
Was the entire holiday wrecked?
No, not completely. It was, of course, not what we had imagined but we did manage to have a good time now and then.
The weekend after the funeral Billie Maja got christened in the same church where we one week earlier said good-bye to Muni. That was extremely emotional but also beautiful to celebrate life after all the darkness we had gone through.
And actually, Josh and I also got to go to Roskilde Festival for one day. That was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Muni had just died three days prior and there we were, hanging out with my friends, getting drunk and having fun listening to music all day long – in fact, we did what Muni used to love so much. I convinced myself that he would have wanted us to go there and I’m glad we did.
We also had some nice days in Copenhagen, had some fun days out with good friends, got to hang out with my sister and her family in their holiday house and in the end we had a couple of nice, warm summer days spend with my parents at the beach and in their house.
So yeah, on the most positive note, we did get to spend a lot of time with our family. That meant everything.
Going back Down Under
Coming back to Australia has been harder than ever this time. It was incredibly tough to say goodbye to my close friends and family, whom I have learned means more to me than I actually realised. At the same time I had this weird, unresolved feeling that we had missed out on our holiday. It never really came. It got cancelled and substituted by sorrow and grief, which was made quite clear by the very last words my mother said to me at the airport: ”It’s been one month today” – and then we had to go through security.
As we landed in Australia I was extremely exhausted and sad. It just felt wrong to be back.
The jet lag was terrible to get through and it took us well over a week to fight it off this time. As we finally did so the entire family went down one-by-one with fever and illness so everything on top of each other has taken a big chunk out of our mental strength.
Please, let me know, that you know, that my brother is dead
The hardest thing, however, has been the lack of sympathy, care and/or lack of balls from people around us. It has really hit me in the face how basically no-one has even mentioned anything about Muni. People that I know are aware of what happened to us when we were in Denmark. Even close family has just said absolutely nothing. Several have even cheerfully thrown me the question: “So, how was Denmark?”……………….
Get me right, I am fully aware that people don’t do it to be rude. I assume they do it, because they are afraid to make me sad or mostly because they just have no idea what to say, really – so they just avoid saying anything altogether.
That actually really hurts.
Please, don’t pretend you don’t know that I have lost my brother. Don’t be afraid to say something: “Hey, I’m sorry about your brother”. That’s all it takes and it makes everything less awkward. Maybe give a little pat on the shoulder or even a hug, if you’re feeling it. Then I can say: “Thank you”…and we can go on with our conversation. If you feel like asking me more questions you’re more than welcome. But you don’t have to. Maybe I don’t even feel like talking about it. Maybe I do.
Just, think about it in the future if someone you know looses a close friend or relative. Let them know that you know, and let them know that you care. It means more than you realise.
Hey – maybe even ask: R U OK?