top of page

The After Sierra.

Hi. This is the after Sierra speaking. I'd love for you to have met the before Sierra, but sadly, she doesn't exist anymore. There's only the after.

The before Sierra would have a light-hearted, photography-filled, niece and nephew post overload, dog-friendly, funny stories about her husband filled, and genuine love for life kind of blog. And maybe I'll get back to that girl someday, it just feels like it won't be anytime soon. If I'm being honest... right now, it feels like I'll truly never get there; back to that point of happiness in my life.

My brother took his life on September 12, 2020. It's been thirty days as of today. Thirty long, sad, infuriating, confusing, and question-filled days. Sometimes I still can't even believe it. Sometimes it still steals the breath right out of my lungs. Knocks the wind right out of my sail.

So, this is the after Sierra. I guess this is where I say it's nice to meet you, or I'm glad that you're here, but in reality, maybe I'm just making this blog for myself. A journal through my grief, if you will. Maybe this is my way of reaching out to help other people who are dealing with this really shitty situation. I don't even know, to be honest. I just know that it feels good to type it out, so I guess I'll keep doing that.

There is grieving the loss of a loved one that has died from an illness, dementia, or old age, and then there's death from suicide. Death from someone who took their own life. In my mind, the two deaths aren't even comparable. Not to say that one or the other is less or more important, they're just not the same thing. At all.

This process seems so fucking overwhelming. It seems so long, tedious, and friggin' hard that I kind of want to just give up already. It's like a huge mountain has been placed right in front of me and I have none of the right equipment to climb it. No backpack, no hiking shoes, no carabiners or rope... just the clothes on my back, a half-empty plastic water bottle from the gas-station and some fucking flip-flops. And how in the hell am I supposed to climb a mountain in flip-flops? They're not even technically shoes. THAT'S what it kind of feels like, only harder.

I've been going to see a therapist. I'm sure she's great at, like, couples counseling, or helping a lost dog find his way... but I don't feel like she's getting me anywhere with this grief process. All I hear is, "What are your goals for today's session?". And I'm just over here thinking, "Ummm, to not feel like I'm going to die, to not think about death and suicide 24/7, or to have my normal life back for one day," but instead, I just cry, shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't really know." I feel like I'm even failing therapy. Jesus.

I'd love to say that I've made some sort of progress on this journey in the last thirty days, but that would be a lie. The only "progress" I've made is talking my husband into buying new living-room furniture, keeping Starbucks in business with my daily orders of mocha iced coffee, and purchasing a kayak (well, technically two kayaks... one for my husband too.), and keeping my dogs fed and watered. The only time I feel like I'm making any type of progress is when I'm paddling in my kayak. I can clear my head, think things through a little more clearly, and not be bothered by anyone, or anything but the water. I like the way it makes my shoulders and arms feel; tired, but in a good way. Not the tired like my brain and heart feel right now.

I guess I should also tell you all that I'm a full-time photographer who has a thriving business. A business that I've busted my ass to build. God, I've put so much sweat and tears into building this business and becoming the best in my craft that I can possibly be. I can't throw it all away over the death of my brother... but I feel like I can BARELY pick up my fucking camera right now.

It's autumn, and it's "busy-season" and families want photos with the beautiful fall colors. Little do they know that shooting a family session makes me die a little more inside right now, if that's even really possible. It's like taking my loss and shoving my face down into the ground, right in the mud. It's not my clients fault; they don't even know that's how I feel. And THEY aren't doing it, it's just my mind being foggy; it's just the nature of the beast, I guess. Photographing siblings is unbearable for me right now. I'm doing it, but I hate it, and I cry afterwards... and I hate crying.

I feel like I have clients breathing down my neck. I know that they want to see their photos, but I need a minute to process. I'm literally only shooting right now because I can't reschedule anyone because I'm that booked out. It's a blessing and a curse; kind of like being a creative or an artist when you're trying to grieve. You just can't make true art when your mind and heart aren't in the right space... and people with regular nine-to-fives who aren't creatives don't understand that. So, add in all the extra pressure of everyone wanting their photos and wanting them right now... it makes me feel like I'm failing at everything in life basically. Everything I've built and worked so hard for.

I just want my clients to have compassion for me during this time, to let me sit, have a moment and try my best to process what the hell is happening in my life. I pour so much of my heart and soul into each and every session that I feel like if they truly knew that, if they truly knew how much I loved photography, my clients, and the art, in and of itself, then they would let me have my moment. They would know that they may have to wait extra for their photos, but it would be worth it... once my heart has healed a tiny bit then I can get back to editing and making beautiful art.

But that's suicide in a nut-shell for you. People don't understand it. They think it's like a normal death of a loved one and you should be "getting over it" or "getting back to normal life" in the next thirty days. It's just not like that though. There's questions. God, there's SO many fucking questions. Here's just a few of them that go through my mind every fifteen minutes or so...

Why did he kill himself?

Was he crying when he shot himself?

Did he feel any pain?

Was the suicide note he left for everyone to see on Facebook really how he felt?

Did he love me?

Was I the best sister I could have been?

Did I do this to him?

Was this planned for exactly September 12, 2020?

Or did he just think, "Fuck it, today's the day."?

Did something trigger him hours before he ended his life?

Was this just one last stab to hurt our family?

Didn't he think that his two, beautiful daughters needed a Daddy?

Did he think that we truly would be better off without him?

Was he alive for a minute or two after?

Did he die instantly?

Those are on repeat in my head. ALL. DAY. LONG.

That and the words he wrote in his letter... "...Sierra... you coulda loved me better. You could have made different choices. I was your family."

And guess what... there are NO answers to your questions. You just get to sit with these thoughts in a vicious cycle and no one can answer them for you. Not a single one.

I'll leave it at this for today because now I feel like I'm at an angry point again and I have to move past it and work through it before I can explain who he was, as my brother, as a person... so I can speak kindness, truth and about how much I really did love him to all of you. I owe him that.


the after Sierra.


bottom of page