Terror. Fear. That is all that I remember the night I found out that my brother took his life. The details of that day, now a little over 12 years ago, will always be etched into my memory. My life flashed before my eyes– everything, everything was gone. A part of me I never expected to lose, ever, was now gone.
I slept on my parents’ couch that night, but actual sleep never happened. I just felt true darkness, true fear. The brief amount of sleep I did get, I saw my brother. He was about five years old, and he ran up to me and hugged me, he laughed. It was a beautiful way for him to come back and say goodbye. That was the last time I ever heard his laughter and saw his smile. In that dream.
I later learned that when one of my dad’s brothers in New Jersey heard this news, he emotionally broke down that night. I don’t think my parents knew what to do. My dad locked his door, so no one could see his tears. It was the loneliest, coldest, scariest night I’ve ever had…still.
My brother was barely 20 years old. He was five years younger than me, and he was my partner in crime for most of my life. I remember his birth, I recall tormenting him just as any older sibling would, and him always getting his way with my parents, especially my father. I also recall making sure he was ok, being his protector, and having his back as much as I could.
The next day, I broke down, one of what seemed to be several hundred more that would come. For some reason, we thought proceeding with funeral arrangements and keeping busy would distract from the harsh reality. Everyone was in a fog. My dad’s other brother, who lived close by, picked myself and my parents up to go to the funeral home. As we were in the car, my dad and his brother were sitting up front.
There they were, my dad in his late 60s and my uncle in his early 70s. They had that chance. They got to grow up together, see each other grow, get married, and have children. My dad had a ton of siblings. Watching them talk to each other in the car that day, I lost it.
I only had my younger brother. And now I don’t get to have any of what they have. I’ll never get to see him grow, mature, get settled. It was taken away from all of us. I never knew he was hurting that much. What kind of darkness anyone must go through to hurt yourself, to escape. I was so sad in thinking how lonely he felt, it broke me. The guilt would continue to break me for years. His loss was the kind of pain that physically hurts, like someone literally beating you every day.
I called him the night he died, I called him earlier that day, he never picked up even though he was alive then. I called him so many times in the weeks leading up to his death, but he was a different person. He wasn’t the same and we all knew it. But we didn’t know what was going on with him. He seemed angry, withdrawn. We tried to figure it out, was it school? Was it more? Why was he being so weird? Why was he not talking to me anymore?
Do you have siblings?
I never know how to answer that question to this day.
My brother’s memory will always be with me and my mom and to the others who loved him. My father passed away of a heart attack in 2014, but his heart was broken long ago after losing his only son.
Anita speaks up about her experiences with her family’s mental health struggles in a MannMukti podcast earlier this year.
She hopes that sharing this personal account will help others talk about their experiences and assist in preventing these incidents from happening. Her blog shows that suicide strongly effects the families that are left behind. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to the national suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255. We are all in this together.
Anita Wadhwani currently works as a Defense Contractor and lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Anita previously worked as a DoD civilian and served as the India Country Director for the Department of Defense from 2016-17. She received her Masters in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and her Bachelors in Journalism/Mass Communications from Point Park University, both in Pittsburgh, PA. She was born in Delhi, India and settled with her family in the United States before the age of five.