3 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.”
Wow, I can’t believe I am finally mustering up the strength to being writing about how things have been these past three months.
We’ve made it through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and our first two family vacations. All three were complete hell. My parents and I often talk about how the “firsts” will be some of the hardest, and that’s all there is right now. Everything seems so dampened by his loss. Everything feels dim without his presence.
I got a tattoo on my arm with his handwriting from the last sweet little note he left me at my apartment, it says “With all my heart, Andy”. I love it, but some days I wear long sleeves because it’s just too painful to see. My parents also got “Andy tattoos” as we call them. I love that the three of us have a little tattoo for him, it’s been a very bonding experience for us. Every time I see them I think of those Coldplay lyrics, “Got a tattoo and the pain is alright. Just want a way of keeping you inside.” That couldn’t be more accurate.
Andy was my only sibling, making me now an only child at age twenty five. Everyone loves to tell me how I’m not an only child because he’ll always be my brother…little do they know how ignorant that sounds to me. He won’t be here to help me when my parents get elderly, I’ll never be a biological aunt, my future children and husband will never meet my counterpart. My brother wasn’t only my brother, but truly my lifetime best friend. We have so many jokes, stories, and memories that are the core of my being and I struggle with knowing no one will ever understand that or replace him for the rest of my life. I will never have a relationship close to what my brother and I shared. No one understood me like he understood me or knew how to make me laugh quite as hard as he did.
My family’s nickname for me is “Sister”. My parents have called me that more than Samantha my entire life. My point is, my relationship with Andy was everything to me. You can ask anyone who knows me, even if they know me a little, and they will tell you the same. I know he wasn’t perfect, but he was MY little brother, my red headed bestie.
I have struggled these past three months more than I thought I would, but I have also already started to see progress in myself. There is a long road of grieving ahead of me, but I have focused my sights on starting something (stay tuned!) to help others.
I feel so incredibly alone and un-validated in my struggles as an only child now. I still struggle being in this town, and especially my parent’s house. I haven’t gone into his bedroom yet, and I’m not sure if I ever will. His dog is bouncing around my friend’s houses until I can figure out what I want to do with her. There are so many questions I have and things I don’t understand about all of this that I have realized I will have to let go because I will never have the answers I so desperately want…and to be quite honest with you – I’m not sure if those answers would make me feel any better at all. The only thing that could mend my heart would to be to have him walk through the door and for this to all be some horrible nightmare.
I’ve just begun to really see myself come back since this tragedy. My sleep schedule has been wrecked, I have the most realistic night terrors I’ve ever experienced, my decision making has been non-existent, I make stupid mistakes, I lose everything, my mind races, my hands shake constantly…but I can feel myself coming back. I have a pretty big personality and an even bigger sense of humor and I felt as though I’d just be a quiet, sad, socially inept person the rest of my life. But there are days I can see my true weirdo-self shining through, and I value those moments so much.
I recently went to San Francisco, CA for a week all by myself. I was craving some independence and self-sufficiency. I thought it’d be the perfect way to reset myself and see that the world is bigger than this sad town. There were moments on my trip where I felt so alive and so strong, but then there were moments where I realized I was all the way across the country from all the people that love me and I wondered why I would do that to myself. It was definitely a challenging, but much needed experience. It’s good to do something for yourself when you’ve been so wrapped up in making sure everyone else is okay for so long. It’s also very freeing to let yourself realize that you truly can survive on your own. I have been so dependent on those around me that I forgot that I can take care of myself, too.
I’d be lying to myself, and you, if I didn’t mention how incredible my friends have been. I knew I had some wonderful people in my life, but the way my friends have stepped up and loved me through this is something I will forever be in awe of. Constantly checking on me, always up to hang out on tough days, holding me tight through the highs and lows of this uncharted territory for me that is grief. I have never seen anything like this, the way they have wrapped me in their arms and been there for me unconditionally. Everything feels so crappy, but I do feel immeasurably lucky to have them (even if I don’t text back...sorry!) I love you guys, xoxo!
I was really nervous to meet new people because I wasn’t sure how to not bring up my brother. How do you just pretend that his horrible thing didn’t just happen? How do you not talk about it? I’m still figuring this one out, but I have met new people in the past couple of months and those friendships have been so wonderful for me, to know that life keeps going and I can keep going with it, too.
This life is all about choices. Choices to love, to hate, to live, to die. Let’s all choose to live, even if someone else chooses not to.
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