5 months later
My name is Samantha Thornton. I've always had a passion for others so I decided to become an elementary school teacher to plant the seeds of a love for education into little hearts. I am currently a 5th grade content literacy teacher. I graduated from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!) and I'm currently living in South East Florida. Within these writings I hope to offer a unique perspective on suicide and grief and I'd like nothing more than to help others either start this conversation, think hard about their loved ones that would be left behind, or help my fellow sibling survivors not feel so painfully alone. “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
Well, it’s shocking to believe that it’s been 5 months. I feel like I am living in a completely different lifetime than I was just a few short months ago, but this loss also feels so painfully fresh.
A little update about my life…I have moved 2 hours away from “home” to a quiet beach town and started working in a new school as a 5th grade teacher; leaving behind my incredible teammates who have become part of my family, and administration who cared so much about my well-being, and my sweet 1st graders who were such a light in my life. Thankfully most people have been super supportive and understanding, especially my parents. My new place has a guest room and they will be making many, many weekend beach trips in the near future! (Did I mention how much I love my parents?)
The darkness surrounding my hometown with the constant reminders of my brother were too much for me to keep living around day in and day out. Moving away from my parents, friends, and job was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make – because I am pulling myself away from my complete support system. I would be lying if I didn’t say I regret it because being alone in a new town, starting a new job, and missing my parents is so lonesome and painful at times. I try to keep myself busy, but that is exhausting when you work a full time teaching job! I know things will get better, and I have already made a couple of new friends, but it’s hard to see the light during those dark times I have every now and then.
I went to visit my parents last weekend and it was the first time going home in my entire life without my brother there. I stopped by the cemetery before I went to my parent’s house and the denial I’ve been sheltering myself with has completely worn off. It’s real. He’s gone. He won’t be home when I get there. We won’t hang out in my room and talk and laugh. He chose to end it all and left me here to cope. Home as I know it is forever gone and my heart aches for “home” every morning and every night.
No-where feels good to be, no-where feels right. I can’t fix this no matter how hard I try. I can’t stop him, or bring him back, or cheer him up, or call him, or snapchat him, or send him a funny meme, or go to Universal and wear our “Thing Big Sister” and “Thing Little Brother” t-shirts.
I’m struggling with my friendships because I feel no one “gets” me or wants to. Who wants to be around someone so sad all the time? But why should I have to pretend? Yet, I put on a front every day just to make it through. It’s easier to pretend everything’s okay than to really let people see the struggles. Sometimes I’m able to put things in perspective, but sometimes the grief takes control. It’s frustrating that this pain seems to be gaining strength instead of dwindling down. I choose to be happy every morning I wake up but the images of my brother’s death, his unfortunate circumstances, and the sad thoughts of all the things he will miss out on often overtake any positive thought I can place in my head. I’ve always believed that we can control our own emotions, but sometimes the truth is that I cannot.
I’m struggling with understanding why he thought this was the answer. Why couldn’t he have just texted me and said he was having a bad day, and we’d joke around or go get frozen ice like we always did. Why was this time when it all had to happen? People message me on Facebook and tell me things and tidbits of information that I didn’t know, and it breaks my heart to feel so left in the dark by him. He knew everything about me, why didn’t he fully let me in? I know he loved me, but selfishly I wonder why he didn’t love me enough to stick around. I was his big sister, it was my job to protect him – even if it was from himself sometimes. We spent a lot of time together the past year because he was living at home and going to school and I know he was lonely and struggling. Of course I would have chosen him over every other person in my life, any day of the week, but unfortunately for me – those feelings weren’t reciprocated. I would have done anything and everything for the rest of my life for that kid.
Grieving suicide is so difficult because we will never have the answers, we will never understand the “why”. We still don’t have the medical examiner’s report…and I’m so back and forth with if I even want to know if he was intoxicated or high. What good would it do? I want all the answers, but every answer I get sends me into a downward spiral. When does this all end? When do I accept it? I’m starting to feel like the answer is: NEVER…but I know that’s simply not true. Will my heart ever heal? Will my life feel whole? Why did he do it that day? What sent him over the edge?
We had the conversations about if he made this choice what it would do to me. Why do I feel so selfish for wondering why my love and our long talks about our wonderful futures weren’t good enough to stay for? I know that this isn’t about me at all, but why couldn’t it have been a little bit about me? I loved him with my whole heart, more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything. There is no love like that love and it shatters my heart to know that his void in my life will never be replaced.
I’ve been meeting new people through my job and the inevitable, “So, you do have any siblings?” question comes up more regularly than I thought it would. Sometimes I say “No”, and feel overwhelmingly guilty. Sometimes I say “Yes, but he passed away in March”, and I watch as the person’s face twists when they immediately ask, “Do you mind if I ask how?”, and sometimes I tell them, and sometimes I say I don’t want to talk about it. It’s frustrating being on the swinging pendulum of grief. Some days I’m fine, some days I fall apart.
Andy loved all things music, and Hamilton was his latest obsession. I listen to the soundtrack that’s in my car when I’m feeling extra brave and one lyric always hits me, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” I hope he can see me down here telling his story, through the smiles and the tears. I miss my brother more than I ever thought possible and I hope that if you’re reading this, you can’t relate...but if you can, I am here for you and we WILL get through this.
Our lives will never be the same, but we can tell their stories.
If you or someone you know is suffering with depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide, please seek counseling or for immediate help call the Suicide Hotline.
Visit Samantha's personal blog page All Things Considered