On the aftermath of suicide
A personal account of survivor's guilt on an anniversary
Friends, this week’s newsletter marks my first paywalled post as I start to put words down for the first time about my brother’s suicide on the anniversary of his birthday and death. I may share this more widely someday since I know personal stories of grief can help us feel like we’re not alone, but for now, a (much) smaller audience feels right. If you are experiencing financial hardship and this topic resonates with you, please email me. In the meantime, I wanted to bring awareness to a stat that isn’t well known. Suicide among veterinarians are among the highest rates of any profession. My brother was among them, a veterinarian and a board certified critical care specialist. For more information, please visit Not One More Vet.
I remember when Facebook served me a slideshow of my “Year in Review” the year my brother died. This was 2014. I got so angry at the platform, I cursed at Zuckerberg for having the nerve to throw at me, without warning, a year in pictures of what was up until that point, the hardest year of my life. It might have been irrational to get angry at a CEO of some tech company (well, maybe not anymore), but nothing was rational that year. It was enough to make me quit the platform.
But then something similar happened on Twitter some time later when I was culling my followers of inactive accounts. I was surprised to see that not only did my brother have a Twitter account, we had been following each other for years, apparently. I guess I didn’t remember because we never interacted on the app. Curious, I clicked on his Twitter. I was amused, but not surprised, to see that his entire timeline consisted of threads of conversations with other baseball fans and sports journalists. Ed was unabashedly a huge fan of all his hometown teams and loved to flaunt it in venues, especially when his beloved Yankees and Mets played visiting games in California where he lived. He was not afraid to illicit taunts from rival fans. His online Twitter showcased the same sharp banter and occasional trash talk online, backed by his impressive knowledge and commentary of sports.
I was happy to discover this online persona of his, but decided to unfollow him even though it felt weirdly conflicting. It wasn’t even him that I was unfollowing—just his inactive Twitter account, but that forceful click of the unfollow button felt like a very deliberate and intentional act of disconnection. The app, however, would not let it go and would taunt me with his name under “accounts to follow” for weeks.
And then one day, I saw an email land in my inbox from a name that I was no longer accustomed to seeing in writing.
My brother’s name in the sender column.