3 years ago today my brother passed away. “Passing away” is such a crappy phrase. He died. I miss his laugh, I miss our discussions, I even miss the way he teased me (even though I was the older brother!). It’s an experience we are pretty much guaranteed in life. Yet when it hits us, it can feel like we were just bulldozed by an avalanche, wondering if we’ll ever breathe again. The world as we know it seems to stop, and the crumbling inside our hearts can feel paralyzing.
I didn’t write about it for a long time because in all honesty, I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted to be alone in my pain and stay connected to my brother in any and all ways possible. The opinions and, “Oh my gosh I can’t imagine” moments were not all that welcome out of what seemed like self-preservation.
I was enraged, overwhelmed with sadness, lost, worried about my parents, lonely, mad that I wouldn’t see him again, then angry and sad again. This roller coaster of emotions continued for a long time. I was confused often. I desperately wanted to ‘figure it out’
As time passed I realized there is actually so much beauty in grief. It helps us realize just how enormous our love can be. Which is ultimately why it can hurt so intensely to say goodbye to that person in the form that we knew them.
When this all happened I felt like I have to be “superkid.” To be the best son as I tried to console my parents. I had to be the best and do everything to make up for what he could have done. As the older brother, I felt like somehow I had let my parents down. That there was something I SHOULD HAVE DONE.
Our brothers and sisters are the first real relationships we have outside of our parents. He was the youngest brother – I’d like to believe he looked up to me but he was also my friend and a person I learned to play with, share with, and laugh with. A life without him was never in sight. And I think that’s the hardest thing to get over.
He left behind a beautiful wife and children. I love it when they visit because I see Jeff in their eyes and hear Jeff in their laughs. Somehow they have made it this far. Maybe not easily, perhaps not always graciously, but they are doing great.
It’s my hope that these lessons I’ve learned can help you in your darkest days to find the silver lining. Even if it’s just a small glimmering glimpse of hope, you can find comfort knowing that those we love continue to be our life’s teacher long after they’re gone. To let you know you’re not alone. Grief is a different and unique journey for everyone. We all deal with it the best way we know how in the moment. And it is a moment to moment process of healing.
1. Forgiveness: for the situation, the person, the things not said, the moments you wish you had, the ones you wish you could get back. Forgive.
2. When I was ready, choosing to focus on the love shared rather than the current pain.
3. Realizing and trusting that this too shall pass.
4. Being open and honest about where I was emotionally rather than trying to hide it. Expressing my needs to my loved ones, letting them know the times that I simply needed alone time.
5. Asking for help from the people I trust and love, while allowing myself to receive it.
6. Giving myself the time and space to feel and heal the way I uniquely need to.
7. Expressing gratitude for the gifts I received, for having my brother as a part of my life for as long as I did, celebrating our endless memories. While realizing that his spirit is forever with me, as long as I stay open to experiencing it. I also wrote down all of the incredible memories we had together, which was so healing.
8. You don’t have to be the super kid. For some reason or another, especially in the beginning, you feel like you have to take on everything and suddenly save the world. Your world is your family. And if you’re like me, your immediate family is now just you and your parents. So in your mind, you have to save your parents. Let me tell you right now: You can’t save anyone. They are living and breathing just like you and I. There is no saving. There is only being. The biggest thing you could do for them is to be you, live and be present. The best thing you can be will always be you.
9. Life goes on. Sometimes it feels tragic to think about, but life really does go on. It’s hard to imagine life without the people we love and how wrong it is that he or she will not be on the sidelines cheering for you as you move through life. I have friends that never knew him. I wonder what he’d think of me. I carry this sense of wonder with me in everything I do, but it’s my way of keeping him with me while living a life I know he’d be proud of.
10. There is no such thing as closure. This is an inside joke so excuse me. Every time I drop a piece of food during a meal I look up and expect his laughter. The empty chair will always be there in my heart. Something and someone is always missing. But now I look at that chair and think to myself all I’ve learned, all I’ve gained, and how far we’ve all come. You will always be stronger than you think.
Don’t waste your day today. Make someone smile.
Jeff, Every time I sit down to write I think of you. Thank you for making me better.
Love, Peace and Yahtzee
As I was driving around doing some errands this morning I had some time to think about what I am afraid of. I am afraid of forgetting. Forgetting his laugh. Forgetting his quit wit. Forgetting his bad jokes. I do not have an answer for this. It is just my fear.