I’m a survivor of suicide loss and this is my story.
I was privileged to have 4 older brothers growing up, the youngest being 7 years older than me. I was always protected and watched after and cared for. My three older brothers were half brothers from my dad’s first marriage and they had already moved out and started their own families by the time I was old enough to know who they were. Brian Keith was born April 27, 1971 to my mom, Barbara, and dad, Jerry. My Mom tells me he was always a sweet boy and very considerate and helpful. He was also fearless when it came to adventures. He rode dirt bikes and took part in races from the young age of 10. He was driven and determined to be the next Evil Knievel, hence his nickname “Evil”. My memories of him involved him picking on me, as big brothers are known to do, and him constantly aggravating me. One memory in particular was when he took the heads off of all my Barbie dolls and hung their bodies on a ceiling fan and turned it on high. I was so angry that I chased him around the house with a butcher knife. Not sure what would’ve happened if I actually caught him but luckily we never found out. He was faster than me. It wasn’t until I was 10, when our Dad died, that I started seeing a different side of Keith. He was very close to my Dad and they did a lot together through my brother’s high school years. My Dad would throw wild and crazy high school parties with my brother and bring in old cars for my brother and his friends to destroy. He would buy the alcohol and whatever else to make the parties wild and fun. They had a bond that I will never understand. Our Dad died in 1989 and my brother was shaken pretty hard. He never fully recovered. Part of him was missing and he resorted to drugs and alcohol to fill the void. He was an exotic dancer and a weight lifter so his priorities were to party and bulk up. He became addicted to steroids and also took anti-depressants. A chemical imbalance was in the works. At the same time, he had big dreams. He had married the love of his life and they were trying to start a family, but were unsuccessful. He was working on his own construction business and had dreams of being a builder. He was in and out of the wrong group of people and partying but had his moments of being responsible and serious and ready to settle down. A constant roller coaster. The last time I saw him alive was an unforgettable day. He had invited my mom and I to a friend’s house where we grilled steaks and he made my mom laugh all day. He was in great spirits. He told us as we left that he would see us the next day out at our house and we would go to the lake. He gave my Mom the biggest bear hug and leaned in to the driver’s side window on the car to tell me he would see me later.
I was crazy about my brother. I had never loved anyone as much I loved him. I adored his energy and his electric smile. Everyone who met him loved him. He was always cracking jokes and doing whatever it took to make people laugh. He was a romantic too and wooed every girlfriend he ever had. When he would come home for the weekend I would hear his truck drive up and run to the gate to meet him and jump into his arms and he would have to pull me inside the house for me to let go. My friends would drool over his pictures and were always wanting to come over to catch a glimpse of him. I had him on a pedestal. In my eyes, he was perfect.
I received a call that next morning from his wife who told us to come to the hospital as soon as possible, that my brother had tried to kill himself. Note, “tried”. I drove over 95 mph to get into the city to the hospital, flashing cars and passing illegally. My mom and I laughed a few times on the way because of my crazy driving and I kept telling her everything was fine, we had both heard “tried” on the phone. When we got to the hospital, we were directed into the waiting room where we met my brother’s father-in-law. My mom asked where Keith was and she was told that he didn’t make it. She collapsed to the floor and began crying and screaming, “no”! I just sat down and couldn’t breathe. I thought how it couldn’t be true. The person I loved more than life itself was gone. I lost every feeling in my body and couldn’t think straight. The images of the previous day played over and over in my head. I could hear him laughing and telling me he would see me later.
All I wanted to do was see him. Eventually I was able to go back to the room where he was. His eyes were closed and his hands crossed over his chest and he laid there still and lifeless. He had a blanket over his body with his chest and head exposed and he was still wearing his clothes from that morning. I looked for a sign of life but found nothing as I touched his cold hands. I cried over his body and didn’t want to leave. This may be the last time I ever have him close to me. I was so angry. Why was this happening? This was not fair. Did anyone know who this person was? This was Brian Keith Durbin! He doesn’t die at 25!! I can’t live without him!! Brian was that guy that seemed on top of his game and had his whole life ahead of him. He was always smiling and cracking jokes and was naturally the center of attention.
Life seemed dull after this moment. I went through many stages of grief with mostly anger and denial. I even had dreams about him where he was not really dead but on a witness protection program and he suddenly appeared one day on the street and said he was safe now and could come back to us. I dreamed about greeting him at the gate at home and hugging him so tight I couldn’t even breathe. I imagined his smile and heard his laugh in my head.
Several times when I was overwhelmed with anger driving down the highway, I would grip the steering wheel with all I had in me and yell as loud as I could to the windshield “this is not fair”!!! I would think over and over again about turning the wheel sharply and running off the road into the next telephone pole. There was no point living without my brother.
But life did go on. My heart did heal. It took over 5 years for me to get through the anger and hatred of life but I found my happiness again. Losing someone you love to suicide has to be the worst grief and sadness and misunderstanding. So many questions remain unanswered and so much guilt for something that was never in our control.
Seriously, there is no reason on earth for anyone to hurt themselves. We are all meant to live with purpose and for a purpose and should not be our choice to end the life God gave us. More importantly, nothing is ever bad enough to end our lives and hurt those who love us. One of the things so many suicide loss survivors talk about is the enormous amount of people who loved the victim and how amazing they were. The ones we lose to suicide think the world would be better off without them, which is the furthest from the truth. There is always hope and there is always help if you suffer with depression or addiction or anything that haunts your mind. I know this from personal experience. If I could take a time machine back to August 3, 1996 and talk to my brother before I left him that day, I would hug him tight and tell him “it’s never bad enough to leave this life and hurt those who love you. I’m here to help you and I love you being in my life.”