Dear Jody: Parents blame me for brother's death


Q:

My brother "Adam" was murdered five years ago. He was killed in the South, not here in Michigan; a year after his death I left and came here. My brother was two years older than I, and we were very close. Still, to this day, my parents blame me for Adam's death.

The reason they blame me is because my brother was asked - by my parents - to go and get me at a party. I was drunk, so I called home; that was a promise I made with my parents - if I were ever drunk, I wouldn't drive. I had never before needed a ride home - or at least didn't call - but this one Saturday I got really smashed and I called for a ride home. That was my fault; no one forced all that booze down my throat. I take complete responsibility for myself in this.

On the way to get me, my brother was killed by an on-coming vehicle crossing over into Adam's lane. That driver was drunk. Adam didn't die immediately, but three days later he died in the hospital.

Since my brother's death, I've been treated like a killer by my parents; that's why I left the area and came to Michigan. (I had a friend here, so it seemed as good a place as any.) I feel like I not only lost my brother, but I lost my parents as well. It has been horribly hard to keep going, but thanks to my friends here I'm hanging on. I'm not sure how the rest of my family sees this, but I do have one aunt, at least, who is supportive of me, but she lives by my parents. So it is not like she lives near me, but I do get phone calls from her.

The biggest problem I have around all this is that I can't forgive myself. I agree with my parents: I am responsible. If I hadn't gotten drunk, if I hadn't called my parents, if my brother hadn't come for me, Adam would be alive today. I set the events in motion. Now I wish I had never called, drove home on my own; and if anyone were to get killed, it should have been me.

I don't have any questions for you, Jody, but I did want to warn others about drinking - and what it could lead to. And, I guess, I wanted to just get this off my chest.

A: Life if full of "what ifs," and if you engage in all those "what ifs" - especially when things go wrong - it feels crazy and horrible, as it's making you right now. All of us are setting off chains of events that always lead somewhere: to good things, bad things and things that are pretty inconsequential - or at least they appear that way. We may know how some of them end, but not all. That is the way our lives work, and we can't know how things are going to work out at any particular time.

You need to stop beating yourself up about this. Would your brother want you to suffer like this and be unforgiving of yourself? I would guess not. I'm sorry your parents have placed the blame on you. Seems to me if they needed to place blame somewhere, it would be directed at the drunk person - the person who hit your brother's car. Maybe your parents feel guilty for sending your brother out instead of going to pick you up themselves, as they had originally agreed; but they can't handle the guilty feelings, so they transfer them onto you.

In any case, you got drunk and did the right thing by calling your parents - as your parent wished. Your brother ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. That could have happened at any other time and at any other place. It's just life and how it works. As the bumper sticker states: "Shit happens."

I strongly recommend getting some counseling for your tremendous loss and your guilt issues. Good luck. I care.

Note from Jody: Recently I developed a "Dear Jody Valley" page on Facebook. I'd love to hear from you. Visit Facebook/Dear Jody Valley. I have "Discussion" groups going and am looking forward to adding others (feel free to add one yourself), so make sure and check out the discussion topics. I'm also in the process of writing a gay novel and will have a discussion group for other writers interested in connecting. Looking forward to seeing you on Facebook!

Jody Valley spent 12 years as a clinical social worker. She worked with the LGBT community both as a counselor and a workshop leader in the areas of coming out, self-esteem and relationship issues. The "Dear Jody" column appears weekly. Reach Jody at DearJodyValley@hotmail.com. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.
  • Latest News

Enter To Win

Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more

Special Section: Pride Guide
Lake Effect

Hot off Season 7 of the LOGO channel's "Ru Paul's Drag Race" phenomenon, Darienne Lake of Season 6 spoke with Between the Lines about her upcoming hosting gig at Motor City Pride June 6.

View More Pride Guide
This Week's Issue

Download or view this week's print issue today!