My stepbrother went missing May 17th. Then on Friday this week, a body was found in the river and they matched his tattoos, but have yet to confirm with dental records. It took until today to match his dental records. We knew something was wrong because the police had confirmed he had not accessed the funds in his account since he got his support payments. Plus he has not contacted us at all or walked into a hospital. Very unusual behavior for him. But had to wait for official confirmation for closure so we could properly grieve without that sliver of hope that slips in making you wonder… maybe it isn’t him. But it was.
I have never lost anyone in my immediate family and the grief is almost a tangible thing. My mind keeps going to the day he must have died. How he died in particular. He was found in a river which meant he drowned. When we were younger he always used to tell people how I saved him from drowning twice. Once at a waterpark when we both went down a slide with a large drop and deep water and he didn’t pop up like he should. And the second time at a lake that has shallow water for a long distance then abruptly goes deep; he was following me and my older brother, even though we warned him not to, then he was just gone and I pulled him up and into the shallow water. In neither case do I believe he was at risk of drowning really, but he used to tell people that. But I was not there this time.
It also travels back to when we were just kids together and that at least is a happier time. Almost everything triggers a moment. Every quiet moment I find myself thinking about him. Every song in my playlist reminds me of a time.
Here are some pictures I took of my brother when he was young and I was in a Visual Communications class in High School.
I have a difficult time saying ‘was’ at this point because I still can’t imagine that he is just gone forever. My brother was schizophrenic and it made for a difficult life of balancing medications against functionality and the delusions. Even on medications, he had delusional thoughts. Convoluted stories about how he believed the world worked. I remember we were out one time and he was excitedly telling me one of these stories and people around us were literally giving him strange looks and moving away. That bothered me a lot. His mind was more a threat to himself than anyone else but people are afraid of what is different… like it is catching or something. I always did have a lot of empathy for my brother though because in a way both of our brains were against us. My brain gives me constant pain and false sensory information. And his warped reality to fit his delusions. Both of us had issues with sleeping. My brother could not work, it was too stressful for him. I barely can tolerate work, and often end up on leaves… too stressful to my system as well. You can’t win a fight against your own brain though. What it says is real, is in fact real.
He was only 32 when he died. I know that I could think that at least his struggles are over. That he will no longer be haunted by his delusions. But it is so little time. So little time. And it is wrong to think his life, as he was, was insignificant that death is preferable. Because it isn’t. His life had a lot of meaning.
From the moment we learned of his death, if it is, in fact, him they found, I have been ill. Grief and stress do not work well with chronic illness I have discovered. Having never gone through this process to this extent it caught me off guard how quickly it affected me. Constant migraines, increase in vertigo instantly, IBS flare up, troubles sleeping and eating. Literally sick with grief.
I can’t comprehend why they only give you three days off at work for this sort of thing. It is profound. It is deeply impactful. I just don’t understand why society wouldn’t understand that.