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Updated: Jan 18, 2023

As the night comes to a close and I’ve watched countless posts being made about families celebrating the day and what they’re most thankful and grateful for... and seeing their families huddled together and smiling in photos that they’ve taken with each other...

It’s hard to swallow.

It’s hard to think that there’s happiness outside of my grief bubble right now... but I know there is, and I’m glad there is, even if it’s not the lens in which I can see my own life through right now.

Today was hard.

Not all of it was hard. But as the night started creeping in, it became harder and harder until it finally broke me.

The frustration set in.

The hurt set in.

The overwhelming feeling of loss started pulling me down.

The jealousy of everyone hugging their siblings in photos when I can’t hug mine stung and hung over me like a thick, black blanket. It seemed to be dimming what little light I actually do have right now...

I read what people write on his tribute page (that his two cousins and two church friends run) that I’m not allowed to post in because my posts “might be offensive to some of the members”... and what I read is just so... flat. It’s emotionless. It’s the surface of who he was as a person.

“What is the first word that comes to your mind when you describe Josh as a person?”

- Caring

- Passionate

- Deteremined

- Loving

- Giving

- Good to the bone

- Very Kind

- Creative

- Always positive and kind. That is why I am still in disbelief.

They’re right, at times he was all of those things. But what I can’t understand is why when someone dies all we do is glorify them and we forget to talk about the truth and memories of the not so great things as well. Because in Josh’s life... the not so great things WERE really real. It was hard. Sometimes brutal. Hurtful. Spiteful. Mean. Cruel. I know that people only choose to focus on the good, or only knew him as an acquaintance or a friendly neighbor... and I know that I’m just frustrated because my grief is complicated and theirs isn’t. I’m hurt. I feel like he let me down, and I let him down as well. I’m sad that I’m still so hurt from things that he did and said. I’m embarrassed by the lies and picture that he painted about his wife, kids, my Mom and I to other people. The more I learn about what our Dad had said to him when he tried to reconnect with him makes me so angry. “I’m too ashamed of of my choices to have the confidence to pursue a relationship with you.” REALLY?

Josh, HOW could you not see that that’s just Dad being Dad and yet another cop out of a relationship with you? You and Dad are so much alike... he doesn’t want a relationship with you because it’s like looking in the mirror at himself. He sees all of your faults as his own. Stop trying to rekindle a relationship that won’t ever come... not for your lack of trying, but because Dad is broken and incapable of loving others and accepting their love too. I know it hurts to the bone that he doesn’t want us; that he only wants our older brother because he can manipulate and shape him. It means that we’re stronger though, and we can stand up for ourselves. It’s OK that he’s not in our life... how can I help you accept that?

See... this grief is so fucking complicated. It’s one twisty turn after another and we’re in a car going 100mph on the s-curves. How am I ever supposed to start healing if there’s more baggage to unpack at every turn? See how easy it is to get sucked into this garbage... all this garbage I’ve dealt with already and set aside 10 years ago. Ugh. It’s exhausting.

Enough for now... I’m too wound up and frustrated to continue. xoxo,

the after sierra.

The cold truth about grief + suicide is that I’ll never heal the way the world or you want me to.

You are uncomfortable with death. You’re even more uncomfortable with my grief. Add in my grief from a loss due to suicide and it makes you visibly squirm. I can physically see your discomfort.

The last thing you want is my sad all over you. You don’t know what to do with me, my words or my grief, so you pawn me off on someone that has had the same thing happen to them. I know you want to ask me questions... and not just any questions, the hard questions. You want to be nosy. You want to know the intricate details of the when, where, how and why. You want those gory details because it’s like an entertaining scary movie to you. Only for me, it’s not a scary story. It’s reality. And it’s not entertaining.

Maybe you want to know so you can gossip about me, him, or our situation and talk amongst yourselves and how “you’re so glad that you’re not living that kind of life”. I can actually understand that in a way. But I also wonder if you know how truly shallow that is? To want to know the details of someone else’s hardships so you can make yourself feel better about your life or your misfortunes.

But I know the questions and thoughts that cross your mind... let me guess, do they sound a little like this?

How did your brother kill himself? Who was the first one there to find him?

How selfish was he that he took his own life... what a coward.

Was it messy? As in blood... was there blood?

I feel sorry for the person who had to clean up that mess...

Did he use a gun?

Did he hang himself?

Did he swallow a bunch of pills?

What kind of man does that to his kids?

Maybe if his family would have treated him better he wouldn’t have done this to you...

Are they hiding the guns and pills from you... are you just as messed up?

And here’s what I want to tell you...

He shot himself in the chest.

The first person to see him was one of his closest friends... in the garage, with the door screwed shut. His Jeep was running. His tractor was running. He was chain smoking cigarettes, and no... he never smoked before. He despised it actually.

He wasn’t selfish, nor a coward.

Can you imagine pointing a gun to your chest?

Do you even know the amount of bravery it takes to actually follow through with that, to pull the trigger and end your life?

It actually wasn’t messy. A lot of was contained, surprisingly.

He used a gun; a shot-gun if you want all the details.

The kind of man that ends his life is someone who is hurting so deeply that we can’t even fathom. There aren’t anymore moments of clarity for him where he can see, feel and accept love. He’s clouded. I loved him the best way I knew how. I would have sat beside him through anything, and I did... more times than you know. This wasn’t his first attempt with suicide. His first attempt was when he was 18. I was 14. I watched him hold a gun to his head, crying frantically, asking me “How? How will this get any better?”

No, no one is hiding guns or pills from me. I don’t have the mental illness he struggled with.

Now that you know everything and the details that you deem important, how do you feel? Did I satisfy your need and want to know what happened to him. Will you go run and share and gossip among your friends? Does the disaster that is my life make you feel better about yours? Now do you see how shallow this all is?

Your questions and the way you can’t handle sadness make me want to disconnect from people even further... as if that’s possible. It hurts me further that you can’t just sit with me in my sadness. Please stop trying to find the right words. Stop telling me that I’m in your prayers... do you really prayer for me or is that just the popular thing to say when you aren’t comfortable with the sadness and grief?

What no one knows about suicide and grief is how it leaves you a hollow shell of a person. It strips away your identity, your character, your moral compass. It takes, and takes and takes. When you think there’s nothing else to give, it takes even more.

It’s relentless. Persistent. Ruthless. Uncompromising.

I won’t heal the way you want me to because I’m not you... and that’s ok.


the after sierra.

2 months. 8 weeks. 60 days. 1,440 hours. 86,400 minutes.

I’d love to say that sixty days has given me peace, or hope, or comfort... but the truth is, I still feel just as broken as the night he took his life. I knew before I was ever even told that he killed himself that he was gone... I FELT it. I just KNEW.

I see his face in strangers, I hear and see his name in the most unexpected places.

It wasn’t always easy with Josh, and I’m learning that that’s ok. If it was an easy relationship with him, then you didn’t even really know him. If it was happy, rainbows and sunshine, and he was “the one” then you only knew him on a very surface level.

It takes a lot for me to say that. A lot of guts to speak truth about his life, his suicide, and his relationships.

Isn’t it usually after someone is gone that you are supposed to only remember the good? Seems like suicide isn’t like that. It’s complicated grief. It’s feeling mad AND sad. It’s feeling confused AND having clarity. It’s missing him AND being mad that you’re left to clean up his mess.

Suicide is the dirty little AND of life.

It wasn’t always easy, but I loved him. His Mother, who birthed him, loved him. His wife loved him. His daughters loved him. So many people loved him and that makes me happy.

I do remember the good times and good memories, but I also remember the not so great times too. Because that WAS reality. It doesn’t make him a bad person, not in the slightest, but it makes him a real person. And it’s OK to talk about the not-so-great times too. I don’t focus on the good or the bad, I take the memories as they come.

This isn’t an easy road. Emotions are complicated and complex without the aspect of suicide. Add that in and it’s a recipe for disaster.

I’d love to have simple grief and remember him for being an amazing, giving, loving, caring and tender-hearted person... and I can, and do, in some instances. But there’s also another part of him that I saw and remember too. I’m jealous of the people who knew him on a very surface level... it seems like they knew a less complicated person than I did. And if I’m being honest, I really just want this process to be less complicated. I want to just be able to grieve and be sad and work through it.

Frustration is a part of this I’m told, especially with complicated grief. I’m learning to accept that and just go with my feelings... to feel them, lean into them and move forward. But it’s hard.

It’s hard to remember only the good when you’re clouded by the bad too.

I know that Josh wouldn’t want me to only talk about the good though... that’s the weird part. I know he’d want me to talk about the truth and to share our (his and mine) story with others and maybe make a difference in someone else’s life, somehow. So, I’ll continue to speak truth and tell our story, how we lived it. And if people in his life wanted me to write more warmly about them, then perhaps they should have behaved better.

Josh, I talk to you all the time and think about you constantly. I hope you’re in a place where you can heal and become whole again. I hope you see your life with clarity and know how much and well you were loved, in all types of ways. I miss you, every single day. I love you brother.

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