When the phone rang at one in the morning on Saturday the 11th of April, Kaleb Slade didn’t answer the call. He had a friend over, they were playing video games and it was only his mum, he just thought he’d call her back in the morning. And then it rang again, and he knew that it wasn’t going to be any kind of good news. “I answered, and heard mum crying. And I knew that something had happened to Matt.”
Kaleb’s older brother Matt had been having some problems for a while, and a few weeks earlier had attempted to kill himself and been placed in hospital. So when the phone rang twice in the middle of the night, and his mother was crying on the other end, it all came crashing down on Kaleb in a horrifying wave of realisation. His brother had committed suicide. “It changes your entire life, like, nothing is the same from the second you hear that. And your world stops but the rest of the world around you doesn’t and you have to keep playing this game of catch-up. I just wanted to scream at everyone ‘Hey! My brother is dead! Why are you acting like everything is okay!’ which is totally irrational, but that is how I felt.”
He had to prepare to bury a brother and his mother had to prepare to bury a son. Becoming a pillar of strength for his mother consumed Kaleb’s entire existence, it was his main focus in life for three weeks and everything else ceased to matter. “My two younger brothers are still in high school, which they had to get back too. My older brother has children, a career and lives away. He had to get back to his life but me, my casual job and Uni could be pushed aside. I felt like I had to be the one there for her.”
After the funeral and after a couple of weeks passed, reality set in for Kaleb. He knew he had to go back to Wollongong, back to work, back to University. But the pain that his brother was no longer around didn’t go away. The double edged sword of having to go back to normality when life was no longer normal has taken its toll on Kaleb’s day to day. All of the things that he used to like doing, his hobbies and interests, didn’t entertain him anymore. How can you laugh and play Playstation when every time you turn it on, you remember all of the times you played alongside your brother, and that you’ll never get to do that again? Everything made him feel empty.
Everyone tells Kaleb that nothing could have been done and that it was no one’s fault, but the nature of losing someone to suicide resonates differently to the loved ones who experiences the loss.“There is no way to describe the way it feels to someone who has never experienced this, and it is impossible to describe it to someone even if they have. There is this overwhelming feeling that something could have been done and Matt would still be here.”