Four and a half years ago, my brother, my only sibling passed away suddenly.
My sister-in-law had talked to him earlier that day. He wasn’t feeling well and he was a teacher and had stayed home. By the time she came home, he was gone.
She was distraught. She wasn’t even able to call us and tell us. It was her mother who called me to tell me and then I had the very difficult task of then calling and telling my parents and the rest of the family.
The call to my parents was the hardest I ever made. My dad is one of these people who is very put together, pretty easygoing, doesn’t get emotional a lot. Listening to him break down on the phone was awful. He was so upset I then had to turn around and tell my mom.
It didn’t hit me right away. It took a couple of weeks. I did break down at the memorial. After that was when I started to have it really sink in. It wasn’t just how I was reacting to it. I kind of view myself as the caretaker. For a long time, I was so busy taking care of them I didn’t take care of myself. I have since remedied that.
Everybody grieves differently. For me, I needed to seek counseling. I needed to get an external perspective because it wasn’t just dealing with my grief over losing him. It was kind of like losing my childhood.
My relationship with my parents has since changed in its dynamic.
When I started grieving it was after everybody had gone home. It was after the busyness and the meals, the stuff that happens when somebody dies. When somebody new would find out he had passed I would start to grieve with them again which is hard. One thing I noticed is nobody asked how I was. It was how are your parents, how is your sister in law, how is your niece?
My dad and I have always been close. I’ve always teased that I’m a daddy’s girl. If anything it has brought us closer. While we don’t specifically talk about the loss we talk about him probably more than we ever did before.
You learn life is short. Eat the cake. Do the things that you’re looking to do.
I’ve always been close to my family, but it has reminded me that in a blink of an eye they could be gone. It’s important not to let petty things get in the way of my relationships.
The last thing you want is for them to be gone and for you to have not said that thing. For you to have not said I love you, for you to not have mended those fences because that you will carry with you forever.
I have found a way to use this to help others. I have connected with other people who are grieving. When somebody dies people say things. They’re trying to be comforting and they don’t know what to say and instead, they say something they probably shouldn’t.
I understand grief. I understand that heaviness. I understand that loss. It has allowed me to connect and help others in a way I couldn’t before.
In his memory, I have tried to dig deeper and reach out more and so more service. It makes me feel like I’m keeping that connection by doing those things.
Don’t stop talking about them. Their memory is still there. Initially, while I thought I lost my childhood, the memories are still there. While I may not be able to talk to him about it, I can talk to other people about it, I can tell my niece the silly stories about ridiculous things he did when we were kids. Things like that, in a sense, help keep him alive.
It gets better. You’re able to function. I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a way you can remember them and almost pay tribute to them in your life.
Give yourself time to grieve. It’s okay if it takes longer than some people think it should. Find that connection, find something that makes you feel like they’re proud of you, and do that. Seek other people who you can talk to because holding it in doesn’t help either.