When A Loved One Commits Suicide [The Mental Health Files]

by Guest Contributor Renina, originally published at New Model Minority

“When Too Blue,” aroncb

It has taken me nearly a year to deal with the suicide of my play little brother Matteo.

I felt like shit when I first learned the news, nearly a year ago. In fact, I just laid on the floor and cried. When I saw that I had a phone call from a 510 number late on a Sunday night, I knew something was wrong; no one calls me from home that late unless something is wrong.

The day after I learned he passed, I still taught my class, but I mentioned to my students that someone close to me died, someone who was around their age.

After teaching, I went to Ben’s with Jerm the Perm to eat wings. #NOTtheAppropriateAayofDealingWithaDeath.

Teaching my students that day felt odd because I was able to be there for them, but I wasn’t able to be there for my play little brother. It made me question the meaning of what I was doing. If I can’t help people from my home, Oakland, then what am I doing? I’ve held on to this ambivalence until I went to Oakland three weeks ago and formally grieved his death.

You see, Matteo and I were close because I baby-sat him when I was in high school. When I say baby-sat I mean, 8 hours on Saturday, and 8 hours on Sunday. 16 hours per weekend for most of high school. I had to work in order to afford the commute from Oakland to San Francisco where I was a scholarship kid at Lick-Wilmerding High School. Matteo has been in my life for a long time. We caused quite the scene when I took him on trips to the swimming pools throughout Oakland and Berkley.

I am Black and he is White.

I had spoken to Matteo last August right before my grad school comp exams (a three day exam where we write two twenty-five page papers), just to catch up. I am glad that I made a point to meet speak to him and find out how school and work was going. I remember sending him a few text messages in order to set up a time. Normally that process annoys me, but I did it, and it felt right.

Grieving the loss of him in Oakland, I finally came to understand that IF he was in so much pain, and was so ready to go, there was nothing that I could do about it unless he wanted help. At the same time, if he was in that much pain, I wish he would have reached out to me.

So, while I was in Oakland, I made a short movie and walked around his/our old neighborhood. It was then that I felt better. I still don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. But there was something cathartic about walking around the neighborhood and remembering which street to avoid because they had two pit bulls in the yard and which house had the great squash garden tended by a Vietnamese grandmother or which street has rows and rows of the beautiful pink, purple and white bougainvillaea flowers that grows all over Oakland and California.

After I made the video, I walked down to the Farmers Market at Lake Merritt and I saw someone who looked just like him: tall, White, early twenties, box jaw. Handsome. I almost jumped out of my fucking skin. But I suspect that that is simply a part of the process. I bought some fancy, direct-from-the-farm pesto and kept on walking knowing in my heart that I would never see him again, that this was the truth and that I would dedicate my first book to him.

Have you ever dealt with the loss of a loved one?

What was your process?

US Suicide Resources

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers state specific information on suicide prevention.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education has resources on coping with loss.

Renina is a long time Racialicious contributor, a doctoral student, a veteran blogger and the founder of BlackGirlEverything.com and RaceinDC.com. Stop by!

  • BelleJackSigns

    My mother committed suicide three weeks ago. I’m still reeling from it but she asked us to move on and let her go so I’m going to do my best to honor her last wish.

  • http://blackdiamond2008.blogspot.com ASmith

    I’ve had two people close to me die by suicide. That grief process has been different. Maybe because who they were to me is different or maybe it’s because I learned, I don’t know.

    But when I realized what you mention, that in both cases there was really nothing I could have done, that’s when my grief process really started and I could begin figuring out how to live with the loss.

    I’ve done a lot of writing which has helped me work through my process but nothing really helped as much as recognizing that I could both wish they’d reached out AND accept that they didn’t and so this was the only logical end.