Beatriz and Tom McKee’s brother/brother-in-law, Oscar, died by suicide in 2017. Beatriz overcame feelings of shame and isolation because of how her brother died. Tom acknowledges that he struggled with Oscar's death and with how to support his wife in her grief.
BEATRIZ: My brother.
TOM: My brother.
BEATRIZ: I was working from home that day and I received a call from my father telling me that my brother had passed away. And I remember thinking, “this has to be a mistake.” Like how could this have happened to my brother?
TOM: Grief has a way of just completely changing your life. It takes it and just flips it over. The way that we relate to others is by having things in common with them, and as soon as something horrible happens to you, it all of the sudden becomes impossible to relate to anyone around you, because they haven’t experienced this.
BEATRIZ: After he had passed, a lot of people showed up and offered their support and their love and offered to do anything and everything for you. That lasts a very short period of time. And then people go back to their normal lives and society pushes you to get back to your normal life. And it doesn’t work that way. When my brother died, a part of me died.
I was out of work for a little while because I wasn’t ready to face people. I wasn’t ready to be asked the questions. I think a part of me felt afraid, that I was going to be judged because of the way that my brother passed.
TOM: There’s definitely a stigma associated with suicide, and one of the things that we learned as part of this recovery is just to call it what it is. Oscar died by suicide, and that’s an important thing to just recognize. It’s the brutal reality, but you have to lay it bare if you really want to have a productive conversation around the topic.
BEATRIZ: Now that time has passed, I better understand the state of mind that he may have been in. It wasn’t that he wanted to do this. It was this battle that he had with his brain where it was telling him that this was the only choice.
TOM: We have good days and bad days. It’s certainly something you just have to continue chipping away at. You’ll have setbacks. But, that’s OK.
BEATRIZ: Driving into work, for me, I find that’s the time that I reflect the most and it’s listening to songs that my brother and I enjoyed growing up together. And it’s hearing these songs (crying), that just... it makes me break down. And it’s getting better, ’cause there are certain songs that I can listen to now and not cry.
TOM: My grief has changed from the beginning to where it is today. I wouldn’t say that the anger is gone completely. I still get upset with Oscar sometimes when I think about it. At the same time, a certain level of acceptance has given me peace. I think, that we can’t change it, so we just have to accept it and try to go forward. What other choice do you have? You got to keep living your life, doing the best for the people who are depending on you, for the people who are around you.
Everybody, without exception, loses somebody at some point in their life who is special to them. Certain things that you say, certain things you do, they can mean a lot to people.
BEATRIZ: One of the things that I stopped doing was when I was crying and talking to someone, I would say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for getting upset.” And now I’ve realized I don’t need to be sorry. It’s okay for me to cry. It’s okay to have these tears come out because they’re tears of love. Because whenever I talk about Oscar, I remember the person he was and the love that I had for him. He was somebody in this world. He mattered. And I can’t forget that.
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TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) provides comfort, care and resources to those grieving the death of a military loved one. Learn more about TAPS.