pastarticles.htm

COMMENT - The Unchosen Minority (3)
A Sibling's Perspective

(Reflection - June 2004)

Shock. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Depression. Suicide only intensifies these feelings that sibling survivors must face each day for the rest of their lives. A sibling seems to be the “forgotten mourner.” When a child dies, the community expresses much help for the parents, but siblings seem to be forgotten and are expected to go on with their daily routine.

The whole family changed
When a child dies, everything is different for the surviving family. Family dynamics can totally change. One may become an only child, the oldest child, or even now the youngest. A sibling survivor may feel the need to fulfill the lost one’s roles – be it cleaning the house, being the strong one, or simply being the quiet one. Many times a sibling survivor feels a tremendous loss because our siblings are our links to the past. They are the ones who went through our childhood with us. They comforted us in times of trouble. They argued with us and were the ones with whom we had sibling rivalries.

When a sibling dies, the world crumbles around us. If we are attending school, it can be very traumatic to have to go back and be looked at by our peers, as “that’s the girl whose brother shot himself.” School officials are trained to just keep going and expect from you what they expect from your classmates.

Express your love
It was such a challenge to get out of bed each morning, let alone keep up with homework and Bible study. To start eating, or even stop eating took a day-to-day effort to accomplish. To get to sleep or to stop sleeping was even a more difficult task. The feeling of being left or being alone was the biggest struggle for me, and sometimes still is. I felt I was shunned by society for such a long time. It wasn’t until recently when I was told by a close friend, It’s not you; those people just lack the knowledge of what to say. They are afraid they will say the wrong thing. I wish people could just say that instead of saying nothing! It would have been such a tremendous help. And let me tell you a little secret, there are no right words to say – you just need to let them know you care!

Anger was another issue I had to constantly deal with. I didn’t understand when I read, “Bear ye one another’s burdens” why no one was really talking to me. It was a difficult task to open up to anyone, especially when you could tell they really didn’t want to talk to you. Many people were, and still are, uncomfortable with the topic of suicide. Please don’t try to judge the way a person died, but look out for those who are still alive. The survivors are the ones struggling.

The survivor’s struggle
Due to the fact that so many people are far removed from the situation, it can be extremely difficult to find your place again among your peers and to function properly. Once the funeral of my beloved brother, Jonathan, took place, many people were able to return home and put it all behind them. In fact, in a recent letter a dear friend wrote, Honestly, I have not given much thought to Jon since March, 2001. Given the manner that he passed away, I have tried to avoid recalling or, as you wrote, glorifying the situation. I had the luxury of returning home after the funeral and moving on. I was blessed. I realize that many of us who were so blessed cannot understand what you go/went through. This letter shows exactly what a blessing many people have in not knowing the pain and suffering my family has gone through since March, 2001. We had to wake up every day and be faced with the fact that Jonathan was dead. Many times I would wake up expecting him to drive me to school, and then it would hit me like a Mack truck that he was no longer here.

Coping
Why? Why? Why? I battled with this question for a year and a half trying to understand why God would allow such a tragedy. It wasn’t until another CYC member died by suicide that I realized everything happens for a reason. I recognized then that I could not take personally the fact that Jonathan took his own life. I knew other teenagers, just like me, needed help. I knew if I had feelings of depression and sadness, other teens worldwide did too. That is when I sought help and decided I had to start helping my fellow peers through a suicide prevention program.

My program started with a presentation to two psychology classes. In those classes, I told my story, gave handouts, and led an interactive discussion. From there it developed into a school-wide program. I have presented to over 35 classrooms in my high school, and to many different community groups. I use a pre-test and a post-test, a large informational packet and evaluation sheets. Lord willing, this program will be implemented into at least 25 high schools nationwide by September.

Stay close to people
So I would like to say just because we are Christadelphians and have such an awesome hope doesn’t necessarily mean we are immune to outside pressures. Our teens are not immune to feelings of sadness, fear, and rejection. When someone is suffering, do not ignore him or her because you don’t know what to say. Rather, let them know you can listen and that you care. We don’t need the ‘right’ words because they don’t exist – please just don’t overlook the sadness some may be feeling.

Just as I tell parents I present to – this is my plea for you to talk to your teenagers. Please listen to what they say, and even sometimes what they don’t say. Let them know you care about them and try to understand what they deal with on a daily basis. One of the greatest parent-teenager relationships is when you can pray together. Parents -- do not be afraid to seek help from other parents in the brotherhood -- none of us are perfect, and we are all here to help one another.

And fellow teenagers – please never be afraid to ask for help. I know it is really hard for us to open up, but know that God loves each and every one of you – never underestimate what He can do for you. You can always go to Him in prayer and pour out your heart, and your Father and our Lord will be there for you. Pray with your siblings and parents daily. Know that you are loved and cared for by brothers and sisters worldwide.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments (suicidepreventer@yahoo.com).

Jacquelyn Kauffman

Return to Top