My Brother Committed Suicide

My Brother Committed Suicide

[“And when the lights shut off and it’s my turn to settle down, my main concern – Promise that you will sing about me – Promise that you will sing about me” – Kendrick Lamar]

A few years ago, Chris, my step-brother, committed suicide at the age of 29 by hanging in San Antonio, Texas. He left behind a wife, a daughter, and a son.

I was driving my wife and some close friends back from a great dinner when my other eldest brother, Channing, called from Texas to give me the news.

“I have some bad news. Chris killed himself.”

I took the call while driving and thought it wise to pull over and let the news sink in.

My first thought was toward his mother. Chris was technically my step-brother, and he was his mother’s only child. I’ve been described as cold-hearted on numerous occasions, but that night my heart broke for her.

In the following days and weeks, we learned that Chris blamed much of his circumstances on his marriage. He left a note written on a chalkboard and a final text sent to his wife. Words that night fueled by frustration and despair amplified by a figurative swimming pool of alcohol deep enough to drown those piercing emotions.

I never fully understood his motives as family members of suicide victims are often left to question things they could have done to prevent such preventable tragedy. And therein lies the true hurt of suicide – the guilt left behind and distributed amongst the living with questions of what we could have done differently.

I can only imagine the hurt he must have felt strongly enough to leave behind his two young kids. I hope to never be able to truly relate.

Individuals who haven’t been exposed to mental health experts or even familiar with mental health issues are greatly disadvantaged to fight this monster once it shows up. I feel as if I couldn’t write enough about this subject and particularly this incident, which is why I’ve avoided posting this article for so long. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know that we need to start talking about it.

Within the black community, the fear of hell is becoming less scary than the fear of continuing to face the rest of life under their circumstances. For what is hell other than a place of no hope for anything better? As long as this trend continues, we can expect more suicides on the horizon.

I remember talking to a friend after the incident and both us agreeing that we could never see ourselves in such a mentally precarious position to ever contemplate suicide. Thinking back, clearly at least one of us was lying.

At Chris’s funeral I recall only a few things:
* his body didn’t seem like him
* the sheer number of people of that attended, which I wish he could have seen
* how it felt hearing Deitrick Haddon’s “Resting Place” and Coldplay’s “What If” [which happened to be the last song he posted to his MySpace page]
* my wife wouldn’t stand with me to go see his body
* not one person, including myself, stood to say any words

This article has no nice summed up conclusion. I still struggle with the incident. As does his mother. As do his children. As do millions more of us.

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  • Danny

    Powerful. I love him and miss him dearly. I was his best friend in high school and I can still her his voice. I have dreams about answering the phone and hearing him say ” What’s up fool?” I can’t imagine how his mother, you and the rest of the family feel. I am sure we all feel a few things the same, our desire to hug him, hear his voice, and to have been there. Thank you Isom, God bless

  • Eric Foster (@YBEMagazine)

    Suicide, as unfortunate as it is, is preventable more times than not. We have to learn the language and communication skills necessary to talk people down from that metaphorical ledge. The unfortunate thing is that this society is set up for us to be too often too distracted from the people that matter most to us.

    I can relate to the emotional pain, mental anguish and despair that one who is suicidal goes through, because of my experience with depression. I suffered through emotionally turbulent times during my teen and young adult years. I didn’t have friends, and I didn’t have family that I could communicate with. Even if I did, they probably would not have been emotionally equipped to understand what I was going through or help me through it. I was felt alone lonely every day for over 11 years and didn’t trust anyone to talk to them, even if there was someone there.

    “…the fear of hell is becoming less scary than the fear of continuing to face the rest of life under their circumstances.” What is hell if not to wake up everyday living in torment, even if it is only perceived?

    It is not a comfortable place to be and requires one to be extremely resilient (or extremely weak) to make it through. Weakness sometimes can be a good thing, especially in cases like this (through weakness, you can find your strength). Being weak, being afraid of self-inflicted physical pain kept me from attempting suicide, despite my emotional turmoil. As hellish as I felt my life was, I couldn’t have ended it if I wanted to because of the fear.

    I had to find my way through, but many people can’t. And that’s why we have to be more vigilant, but also more open in discussing emotional and mental health with our families and in our communities. We talk freely about (the details of) sexual conquests but hide in shame at discussing our emotional distress.

    People need to be there to communicate with those going through mental or emotional pain. We don’t have to relate to what is going on to be able to talk with them (or listen) about it. We need to be more open and honest with ourselves and each other. We need to stop being so reliant on church for all of the answers and stop being so dismissive of people who come to us for help. We need to be there for each other and make it known, so that no one ever feels they are alone in dealing with life’s issues.

    • isomKuade

      Eric – Thanks for sharing that man. That feeling is more real than most people care to admit. I’m glad you’ve made it to this side, and continue to strive for your dreams. I’m humbled to have your story shared here.

    • isomKuade

      Thanks for your candidness, Eric. You’re absolutely right, and I’m genuinely glad to have you still here with us. I have a fear that our mental health issues will become worse in the community before they become better. If you haven’t been able to tell, I’ve been attempting to share my piece of the story as well, so I’m humbled you decided to share a part of your story as well on here.

      I think these emotions are more familiar than many of us would care to admit, but through stories such as ours, perhaps we can have a small but substantial impact on someone else’s story. No easy answers out here, but we have to keep asking questions.

      • Eric Foster (@YBEMagazine)

        Indeed, sir. I have come to terms with my emotional issues of the past, but so many people haven’t. One of the problems is the culture of hypermasculinity within the black community, where anything emotional is viewed as a sign of weakness or brings into question one’s manhood.

        We have to stop teaching these false notions to our children and stop accepting the stereotypes of the unfeeling man and the sensitive man. Emotions are not tied to gender – they are tied to us as humans. We have to accept that we have emotions and can express them without fear or criticism. We have to be honest with ourselves about the emotions we feel, and even if we don’t know how to communicate them, we must try. It is necessary for our survival.

  • Femi

    May he continue to rest in peace. Thanks for sharing the story.

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