As we say goodbye to October, we lay our costumes, tricks and treats to rest. In goes the bloody vampire and spider decorations and outcome the sweaters and wool scarves. The monsters on late night movie marathons are replaced by holiday classics, filling us with joy, comfort as we begin to satiate ourselves on holiday shopping and of course, turkey!
Hello November, oh how I’ve missed your bittersweet chills. Reflecting back, this was the first time in quite a long time where I did not partake in the October festivities.
Instead, I became a sort of voyeur, watching others as well as taking a closer look at myself. I pondered what the meaning of Halloween was and what he, my brother, had meant to me. You can never truly begin to analyze the importance of someone until you have felt their loss, and have tried to come to terms with the reality of the situation. That is the act of missing.
I decided October isn’t about the masks, or the costumes or about consuming our favorite candy; it is about preparing for Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead. For those who could use a refresher, Dia de Los Muertos began as a Mexican tradition but has grown widely popular with many Hispanic populations. It is celebrated from October 31st until November 2nd and serves as a day of remembrance for families and friends to honor and celebrate their loved ones.
It allows us to learn to cherish those that are no longer physically with us, but whose voices we can hear carried by the gentle winds. It is about facing the reality that all people come with an expiration date and there may be a period of time when you must accept that they will no longer bring happiness into your life.
My brother took his own life the summer before my senior year in high school. No matter the amount of time that passes, the memory remains a constant in the forefront of my mind. Something about the holiday air always makes it that much more difficult to stomach. The reminder that he won’t be there at the dinner table, taking part in our festivities, always leaves me broken.
I won’t deny, it is difficult, as I beat myself up, contemplating what I could have done differently that could have helped him or convinced him to stay. Rather than staying in this state, I take the time to remember who he was and constantly reassure myself that he will always be with me, that he will always be proud of my choices. The last conversation we shard, he encouraged me to keep my head in the books and that he would love me, no matter what. I carry that with me on tougher days, becoming elated in the thoughts of his once beautiful existence.
As a writer, if there were one thing I would love for my readers to take away from this article, it would be suicide awareness and prevention. Appreciating your close family and friends is to be expected, as that should be a constant effort you practice and not something you limit to the holidays.
This holiday season, I encourage you to be aware of those who may not have any family or friends to comfort them during these long and cold months. Reach out to someone who may not be as fortunate as you; extend a helping hand, a listening ear, or if you are able to, a plate of food. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, even though it is a preventable health problem.
So reach out, for a friend, if you must or talk to someone for yourself with the 24-hour hotline. You are not alone in this struggle.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available 1-800-273-TALK (8255).