The ugly mug of the author

By Kai Sassnowski


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In Memory of my Brother

It is 2:10 AM on January 1st, 2022. I’m sitting at my kitchen table writing these words. A few hours ago, while I heard fireworks going off outside and people on the streets wishing each other a happy new year, I sat crying in my bed, looking at a picture of my brother on my phone.

Three days ago, on December 29th 2021, my oldest brother, Björn, decided to take his own life, leaving behind a wife and two children.

This is the first time in my life I have truly experienced grief. There are no words, no metaphors or analogies I can use to truly capture how I am feeling right now. And yet, I can’t help but think that I’m supposed to feel ... more, somehow. Sure, there’s the crying that comes and goes in waves. But mostly there’s just a deep, heavy emptiness.

People often say that suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. A person who commits suicide has decided to ignore the pain they inflict on their loved ones, the pieces they leave behind. A coward, in other words. People get mad at the deceased, saying things like "How could you do this to us?" and "Didn’t you think of your children?" And I get it now.

And yet.

I cannot bring myself to harbor these thoughts towards my brother. Instead, all I feel is a deep, gut-wrenching pity. I don’t know what demons my brother had been fighting with, or for how long. But knowing that it got so bad that the only way out he could see was suicide... it tears me apart.

An accident would have been different. I still would have lost my brother, but ultimately there is nothing I could have done. It’s the ultimate "Shit Happens".

Suicide hits different. I can’t stop thinking about what his last hours must’ve been like, how incredibly lonely he must have felt. Did he cry, or did he feel at peace? There were so many opportunities to stop doing what he was about to do, to call one of us, anything.

But he didn’t.

And now he’s gone forever.

I don’t cry because my brother is dead. I cry because of the knowledge that someone I loved dearly must’ve been suffering so much that it drove him to end it all.

And I never had a clue.

The picture I had of my brother is completely incompatible with a person who decides to commit suicide. It just does not compute. He always seemed so ... happy. Writing this feels like such a cliché but he was truly the last person I ever expected to go down this path.

An Appeal

Let me try and use this truly fucked up situation to hopefully have some kind of positive impact on the world, no matter how small.

My brother never talked about his problems and we all paid the ultimate price for it. There’s a good chance, that some of you reading this post are fighting a similar battle. You might feel ashamed because of it. Like there is something wrong with you, that you’re "broken" somehow, or that it’s a sign of weakness. You might not even take it seriously, thinking that, surely, everyone must have these moments from time to time.

All of this is wrong.

There is no more shame in seeking help for mental problems than it is to go to the hospital for a broken leg. Please don’t make the mistake of underestimating these things. Not all mental health problems are the lying-in-a-dark-room-crying-all-day type. Some of this shit slowly builds up over time from tiny, tiny things. And when it hits, boy does it hit.

I know that talking about mental health still carries a stigma for a lot of people, unfortunately. I have always been very open about my own issues, hoping to normalize talking about these things. I never knew how prophetic this would become.

So if any of this sounds even vaguely familiar to you, please, please talk to someone. If you don’t want to talk to your family for whatever reasons, there are plenty of other options available, even anonymous ones.

On the flipside, if someone decides to open up to you, please listen to them. It takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage to make yourself this vulnerable infront of someone else. Don’t betray that trust. I wish I would have been given the chance to just listen to my brother and make him feel understood.

That’s the second part. Don’t just listen, but take them serious as well. Many mental health issues aren’t logical. What might sound like a ridiculous thing to get upset about to you can be an insurmountable obstacle to someone else. I know it sounds ridiculous, but there have been days where having to take the trash out can bring everything crashing down on me. You don’t have to understand it, but please believe them when they tell you that it’s a problem for them.


It is now 03:25 AM. This has been a long, largely unedited post. I have to get up early tomorrow because we’re picking up my other brother (I have three... well, only two now) so we can all take a final look at Björn’s body and say goodbye before he gets burned.

Goodbye, Björn. You will be dearly missed. I wish there could’ve been another way.

I hope you have found your peace.

I love you.

— Kai