By BRIDGET SMITH
I sat in a news editorial meeting the other day and there was a discussion about what stories would be covered for the day.
One of those was a suicide awareness press conference. Families who had lost relatives would be there to talk to the press. There would be a quilt with all the suicide victims faces on it. I was relieved I wouldn’t be covering it. I watched how everyone squirmed around the editorial table and the delicate discussion about how to cover it ensued. Suicide. It just makes people uncomfortable.
I wasn’t uncomfortable though. Because it happened to me. It had been six years since my family unravelled like a plot out of a novel. If someone had told me my mum would die of cancer, your brother would go to jail in the US and your other brother would commit suicide within a six month period I would have told them – wrong family, sorry.
This Christmas Eve will mark six years since my brother decided to hang himself at home after a night out. He was only 30 (possibly 31 I was never good with birthdays). We were the best of friends and like any siblings the worst of friends at times. If you think people find it hard to know what to say when you are grieving, try matching it with suicide. It is awkward and silent. And not fun when Christmas carols are playing in the background either. As I say, awkward.
My brother had simply lost his way. Probably smoked too much pot in his late teens, a broken down relationship with his partner, the loss of his mother and brother going to jail and a father who couldn’t cope. It was a far cry from the idyllic childhood in small town Central Queensland. We were a broken family.
On reflection my brother was also very sick. Mentally ill. As his life unravelled he began talking to me about people out to get him. I just thought in that usual sisterly way that he was weird and would get over it. I was oblivious to it.
Yet I had sat in the doctor’s surgery with my brother while he cried about his inability to cope, I listened while he curled up in the gutter and told me he wanted to kill himself and I organised counselling sessions for him. Alarm bells you might say? Well, probably, but you never think someone has the ability to end their life especially when you are a pragmatist like me.
I don’t ever wonder why he did it. I don’t really think he wanted to end his life. I just don’t think he had the tools to cope or the medical support. A lethal combination when mixed with mental illness.
The worst thing about death is that all of a sudden you find yourself six years down the track, sitting in an editorial meeting surrounded by people who know nothing about your story. A lot has happened in those six years, I married a wonderful man my mum and brother will never meet and I’m pregnant with their first grandchild and nephew they will never know.
This Christmas I will be with my husband and father. Just the three of us. A far cry from the wonderful family gatherings of the past where Mum had over shopped for the year and we all sweltered around a midday roast dinner. Oh, how I miss those days.
Life does go on and that is the shitty thing about death.
Bridget Smith has been a broadcast journalist for 14 years. She loves interior design, travelling, drinking champagne and attempting to cook.