You know how when you get a new car, suddenly you see that model of car everywhere on the road? Where were they all before? Because of your new car experience, your awareness of that model is heightened so that you notice it more often. Life experiences can be the same. After my brother passed away in 2007, I encountered dozens of people who had also lost a brother! Once I began to share my story, I learned that my suffering was not unique and I was not alone. Some of these people I had known for several years and had no idea they had been through this loss. Finding people who have had a similar experience can be a great comfort when you are grieving. Only they are in a position to understand your feelings.
Unfortunately, I waited at a year before sharing my story and beginning to heal. When Kevin passed away, I was one week into an accelerated certification program for my teaching license and I threw myself into my studies, avoiding my grief altogether. When I finally allowed myself to feel, it was overwhelming. I didn’t know how to “fix myself” and feel better. For the first time in my life I was not in control of my feelings. I attended counseling and sought medical help. Over time I learned ways to channel my grief into something productive: a memory garden, a scrapbook, a journal of funny anecdotes my brother used to say, starting new traditions in his honor, or helping others. Everyone’s journey through bereavement is different and spans a different time frame. One thing is certain; if you avoid your grief it can lead to physical ailments, depression and anxiety.
They say that siblings are the forgotten mourners as often the parents, spouse and children of the deceased are the focus of sympathy. However, sibling relationships can be among the strongest bonds, intended to be a lifelong, cradle to grave walk alongside each other. It is also said that when you lose a parent you lose the past, when you lose a child you lose the future, but when you lose a sibling you lose both. No amount of poignant sayings can describe the loss of your sibling to someone who has not experienced the same thing. But acknowledging your loss, working through your grief, and being able to move forward out of depression is possible when you seek help. I’m not sure we ever fully heal from such a loss, but we can manage our feelings better over time. Now, when I see a Toyota Tacoma truck on the road like my brother’s, I can smile rather than cry, and I try to stay aware of all of the other “cars” like me on the road who need help healing from grief.