My sweet, sensitive, fun, beloved brother Junior killed himself by gun suicide in 1992. It’s taken me a long time to be able to say that freely.
Junior valued our family. I was the youngest and he loved to SMOTHER me with torturous cheek-pinching and called me his Piscean twin. Junior was also a romantic. In college, he fell in love with a girl, but she broke his heart. He fell into depression which ultimately provoked his schizophrenia.
For five more years, Junior battled this misunderstood and heartbreaking mental illness. When he couldn’t bear the pain anymore, he killed himself.
There is a stigma about schizophrenia, and for many Catholic and Asian families, a shame associated with suicide. We lived by the rule “What happens in the family, stays in the family.” We told people Junior “was shot,” not that he killed himself. Our silence only compounded our trauma, though, and it manifested in different ways for each of us in our family. I’ll never forget my Mom repeatedly saying, “A parent is not supposed to outlive their child.” But at least she had her faith. My Dad internalized the pain, to be strong for all of us, but it led to his own health deteriorating quickly. He died of a broken heart, three years after Junior.
I literally and figuratively lost my voice. For over 25 years, I lived with survivors’ guilt, trying to bury my pain. It was only when I found my voice as a survivor that I started to truly heal. That’s why I am so grateful to share Junior’s story. It’s an honor for me to keep his memory going, knowing that his story may help save one life or inspire someone to take action. Sharing Junior has given me my voice back, knowing his death has meaning, a greater purpose.