What Love Means After My Brother’s Suicide

After losing my brother, I learned to rethink love

Cindy Brzostowski
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readAug 6, 2019


Photo: Rika Hayashi/Getty Images

WWhen I was five years old and on a family vacation in Hawaii, my older brother Adam and I missed our sweet Sheltie dog, Charlie, so much that we refused to leave the hotel room. We were sneaky little masterminds and we had come up with a clever way to resolve our pining: We would stay right there inside our hotel room — foregoing the pristine beaches and perfect summer breeze for the starchy hotel comforters and artificial cooling of the air conditioning — and we would sleep. Going to bed would make the time go by faster. Plus, being unconscious meant we wouldn’t have to keep feeling that painful separation as the hours ticked by. The more we slept, the sooner we would see Charlie again.

It must have been Adam’s idea. He was seven years old at the time and the gears in his brain were always churning with practical thoughts, solutions, and plans. While I was dreaming up dramatic romances for my Barbies, he was busy building intricate Lego models without a peek at the instructions. I loved that when I followed him into middle school, and then into high school, I already had a reputation waiting for me. I was “that smart kid’s” sister. He was the kid in math classes above his grade level, the kid with all the answers. However different our personalities, I relished anything that linked me to Adam.

To this day, I still employ our way to cheat time, mostly when I’m on plane rides. Sleeping through an entire flight means I can skip watching the minutes and hours slowly inch along. Instead, I wake up exactly where I want to be or with the person I want to see, as if no time had passed at all.

When my brother took his own life a little over four years ago, I wished I could use our childhood trick once again. This time, I would close my eyes and wake up in a time and place with him still in it.

I found out on a Wednesday afternoon. I was at work in New York City at my first “big girl” job. My dad was the one to call and deliver the devastating news that Adam’s life was suddenly over. I walked into my boss’s office and handed him my phone. My dad wanted to explain the situation; he didn’t want me to be left alone. I watched my boss receive the news as everything turned…