A year ago my younger brother had passed away. It’s a 24 hour span of time that I recall so vividly. Every detail, despite the cloudiness from shock and all the emotions that came with it, I can recall every detail from that day. It doesn’t even feel like it has been a year.
Mourning is such a strange mixed bag of moments and emotions all rolled together.
Throughout this year I have had the most amazing support system. Friends who have had the same experience of their brother dying, those who know the feeling of a sudden and shocking death, friends who dropped everything to be there/to do something/welcomed me into their home and friends over seas who could careless about the time difference that demanded I contact them when I need to.
Immediately myself was put aside and all my attention went to my parents. Yes, my younger brother just died, but I can’t imagine as a parent what either of them felt. Then the planning came, picking up my aunt from the airport, staying with family in the town the funeral took place (where my brother lived most of his life), driving my dad places, going through the funeral motions, more family time, conversations with the funeral home and coroner, taking my aunt back to the airport… It was a week of non-stop events.
I got home and reflected on my week: vividly recalling the initial shock, having to forcefully come out of it to go through the events the week of the funeral, realizing how I exhausted myself to be around so many people and I never took the time to absorb what happened.
I reached a point of just not knowing what to do. I laid in my bed and sat on my couch motionless, speechless and feeling like I was in an alternate world. I’d crumble in the arms of my friends.
I went back to work with anxiety, knowing people knew what happened because I’m never unexpectedly out of work. It was overwhelming going back to see the love and support from my colleagues and students. Others who knew what it was like to have a sibling die and understanding what it’s like. As overwhelming as it was, it was such a healing moment.
A moment reminding me how I’m not alone in my grieving.
Christmas was an exciting and comical holiday when my brother and I were kids. Whatever the situation was, wherever we lived, every year we took the time to reminisce about events that took place at family Christmas parties and how the same black haired Mediterranean men dressed up as Santa.
The biggest thing I struggled with was seeing people for the first time after my brother died. The anxiety I felt of knowing they knew what happened, it’s being acknowledged to my face by them, I have to discuss or see their emotion regarding what happened… it was a lot for me. It was all so fresh and new for me yet and then I needed to be around others who were only trying to show sympathy and be caring, but I hated having to face this.
I started to feel angry. I wanted to talk about life and everything else. I didn’t want to talk about the one recent event that was still such a huge mixed emotion for me every day. I didn’t want to start crying in front of people. I didn’t want to feel that indescribable feeling all day. I didn’t want it showing up throughout the day, having to pull myself back together. I already went through that at work.
It was my least social Christmas because I didn’t want to see anyone and feel those emotions. Then, I thought about it and knew that it isn’t what my brother would have wanted for me to do. My brother would have moved on. I needed to do that.
I was determined to make 2015 an amazing year. It’s been quite the year. I don’t even think I felt all these emotions when I was a teenager!
Unfortunately, I chose to keep myself so busy and occupied that I didn’t take the time for me to further grieve. I had moments, but not the moments I knew my body needed. Those moments when my mind and body would want to break down and have a long cry would happen when I’d be at work, driving in my car, out with friends who had their siblings, witnessing other brothers/sisters when I’d be out… it always happened at such inconvenient times in public areas. Stopping those moments used up so much energy that I couldn’t even acknowledge it getting home, I was exhausted.
Last week I sat in my car with one of my oldest friends and cried. She had asked how I was doing with everything and encouraged the conversation. Of all people in my life, she knew I was still struggling with these grieving moments. I shared all the things I wish I could have talked to my brother about, all the moments I wish he took part in, and how much I miss punching him and singing along to the Beastie Boys with him.
I’m sharing all of this because it’s important for anyone to know that they’re not alone in feeling this way after a loved one passes. It’s important to feel your emotions and not push them aside. Don’t be bashful in expressing your hurt and pain. You don’t owe anyone an apology. Throughout this season of mourning, I learned that I had become stronger and found strength in myself in ways I never imagined possible.