Image: Kim Gargiulo and Rowan were inseparable as kids (supplied). In honour of RUOK Day, Kim shared her story with The Glow:
My brother was just 17 when he took his own life.
Rowan was doing an apprenticeship in Melbourne, he was charming, and he’d get away with absolutely anything; he’d bat his eyelids and Mum would just let anything slide. He had his whole life ahead of him.
Growing up, we’d been inseparable. I was always the ‘protector’, but he ended up leaving home at the same time I did — I was 18, he was 16. Unfortunately, he got involved with the wrong crowd and from there it all happened very quickly. For six months he was taking drugs, then he spiralled into a depression and just couldn’t see a way out. It was devastating. It’s going to take me my whole life to try and figure out why.
I found out about Rowan’s suicide from the police very, very early the morning after it happened. I was 19 at the time. I didn’t believe it for a long time, but I guess when you go through the funeral and everything that comes afterwards, it starts to sink in.
For those first weeks and months I was still in denial, but the main feeling was guilt; because I took on that role as his protector throughout our childhood, I felt like I could’ve done more and I should’ve seen more of the signs.
At the same time, I struggled to be emotional. There is such a stigma around suicide that people are scared to ask how you’re going and what the story is. If Rowan died from cancer or a car accident, I think people would have been more willing to ask, and so I just didn’t know how to show emotion or even what I was meant to be feeling.
Caroline wasn't scared to ask the question.
When I found out about my brother a lot of my friends came over and sat with me, and Caroline was one of them. She was one of my mum's friends, and she must have just felt like she needed to be there.
Throughout the whole grieving process, Caroline basically took on a second motherly role for me. My mum, who I love endlessly, was also struggling with her grief; the two of us had conflicting ideas about why and how it could've been stopped, and we needed different supports.
What made Caroline's support stand out was that she just allowed me to be a human, and to not be afraid of what I was feeling.
Having never gone through something like that before, I didn't know how to compartmentalise it or analyse it or process it at all. She didn’t try to rush me, she didn’t try to finish my sentences and she just had this wisdom about her. When she said something, I believed it.