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heartaches and pain

June 1, 2017

it's with a heavy heart that i write this blog post. as many of you may already know, my brother passed away recently. as everything is still so fresh, and i am still so exhausted, i have chosen not go into details at this time, but i decided to title this post after a song written by the insanely talented soul singer, charles bradley. this song so accurately describes how i feel - heartaches and pain. charles wrote this song {along with tom brenneck} after the passing of his own brother. it is a song that portrays so beautifully what i've been going through and how i feel. 

 

in the almost two weeks of my brother's passing {friday will be two weeks exactly}, i have had moments where i could barely breathe, but i do have so much hope and comfort as i know my brother is indeed in heaven. i have done some very light research on dealing with the loss of an adult sibling. i found it interesting to find that many refer to the remaining siblings as the "forgotten mourners". i read it is common for the attention to be focused on the parents, children, and grandchildren of the person who passed, and my goodness, rightfully so. the pain in my mother's eyes and in the eyes of my brother's beautiful children and grandchildren is enough to shatter my heart over and over again. they all deserve so much attention, care, and love. i do have to say that i do not feel like a forgotten mourner because my mother, husband, sisters, daughters, nieces, nephews, family, and even friends have all gone above and beyond to comfort and be there for me in these past almost two weeks now. my brother's children are the best. they have gone to great lengths to honor their aunties and everyone involved, really. they've been so incredibly amazing. it got me thinking though, when i read about the "forgotten mourners", and i bet many would not realize the pain that does come with losing a sibling, just as many cannot imagine the pain that comes with losing anyone else {a child, a parent, etc} unless you too have been there. besides, grief isn't a competition, is it? i mean, grief is grief. it hurts soooo bad for all of us. my focus is this - if people are hurting, simply recognize that they are hurting, and if possible, be there for them. my family has been so blessed by so many people doing just that - being present.

 

i think what surprised me most when my brother passed was the realization that i lost a lifetime friend, a friend who walked through life with and for me. just think about your own sibling for a moment, if you have one - they were there during the other deaths you've experienced, maybe when your parents divorced or fought, they know you - really know you because they were there since the day you were born or vice versa, they know the things your parents don't and maybe even covered for you when you were doing things you shouldn't have growing up, they toted you along with them everywhere they went as children/teens, even when you were at your most awkward and annoying stages. they know all of those inside jokes no one else does. if someone picked on you, they had your back, in a way that's different from your parents. your parents informed the school or the proper authorities when you were being hurt/bullied. your sibling informed the bully of the price to be paid, if they didn't stop. you suspect and dread that one day you'll bury your parents {ugh, a day i cannot even fathom} but you hope to have your sibling by your side to help you go through that wretched day. your family dynamic will forever be changed, as with any death, i suppose. i have had two brothers pass away now and i am dreading the unavoidable question to come: how many siblings do you have? will i burst into tears, will i simply say four, will i say i have two sisters here on earth and two brothers in heaven? it just really gets so complicated. i hate it, but i daily choose to accept it. 

 

i cry. i get angry. i laugh. i am joyful. i am so many things in just a short period of time. it's wave after wave. my stomach has hurt for nearly two weeks now. a pain not related to anything except grief. i know all of it is normal and expected, i've experienced grief before, but i do not like it - not one bit. it feels uncontrollable, but i'm doing everything i can to feel it...all of it, because it is a pain that demands to be felt. my brother, his life, is worthy of this pain i am trying to not let overtake me. he was kind, protective, handsome, respectful, and giving. we had a lot of fun together. we laughed a ton. we also irritated each other at times, like all siblings do. i was and am proud to be gabriel's sister. 

 

so many of you - even my friends from social media - have reached out to me and your kindness has humbled and amazed me. thank you from the bottom of my heart for your messages, prayers, and love. the orchid in this photo {below} was sent to me from a few of my amazing instagram friends {jen, erin, cara, leigh, tamara, sara, and megan} and when it showed up at my doorstep, i burst into tears. my entire family was so touched at the kindness of the amazing women who sent it - women i have never actually met in real life. it is an act of love, selflessness, and kindness that i will never forget.

 

speaking of, i have learned so much in this short time on what to do {and not to do} after someone passes away. let's just focus on what to do here. of course, every person/family is different, so it may vary, but here's a short list of simple things you can do:

 

- again, be present - whether at the house everyone is gathering at after the tragedy or at the funeral services. now, sometimes this is out of your control and you simply cannot be physically present, but at least take the time to let the person know you can't make it. i have decided from now on i'll error on the side of being there too much, rather than not at all or not enough. some people may not want visitors and that's okay too. at least check to see what they want so that you know.

 

- if you can' t be there, call the person. text and messages are okay too, but if they're what you consider a "good friend" - a phone call might be best. now, i had a dear friend call me multiple times, following up with texts in the days after my brother's passing, and i never could answer her phone calls because i was too emotional, but i explained why via text. can i just tell you that her multiple, unanswered phone calls meant so much to me though? really, they did. 

 

- consider bringing food to the grieving family. soooo many people did this for us and it was so insanely helpful to us. not having to think of meals or meal prep was such a relief, especially since we have a rather large family. thank you to the many who did this for us. some brought meals, some brought desserts, some brought drinks, some brought paper goods. paper goods were heaven sent - who knew? some took food to the funeral - again, such a huge help.

 

- sending a card or flowers is not faux pas by the way. every card and bouquet received brought us comfort. if you can't afford to send a single thing, that is okay too - just show up, however you are able - even through that phone call.

 

- some of my friends/family that stopped in to see me and my family in the days following heard an ear full of stories about my brother and all of the events since his death. however, some just sat there with me when i could only weep and words would not come forth. how grateful i am for friends and family who let me do both.

 

- share your memories {if you have any} of the person that passed with their family. the memories help.

 

- expect nothing from the grieving. we have almost nothing to give. we aren't planning for a wedding either, so if we forget to inform you of details, please forgive us. call in/text for details, repeatedly, if necessary. our minds are everywhere all at once and we don't mean to leave people out of the loop. we're just trying to stay afloat.

 

- i guess last, to keep this from being so lengthy, is don't be afraid of the mourners. we need you. check in after things settle too - text is totally okay. 

 

i just thought i would share a list, so that next time you decide to comfort someone in a similar situation, you'll have some practical steps on how to do so. i am honestly writing this list so that i too can refer to it later when i'm the hopeful "comforter". i now wish i had done more in the past for friends/family after losing a loved one, sometimes i did a lot, sometimes i was "too busy". how lame. i plan and pray to learn from this. if you're a mourner, try your best to communicate what you need or want from others. for instance - i tried to remember to tell people that my family was okay with and actually welcomed visitors, in an effort to eliminate the guess work. however, when you're grieving your mind is all over the place, so you might forget to do that and it's okay. if you're the one attempting to comfort the griever - just ask what they want/need. try to be specific since their minds are muddled. there were and are times i couldn't tell you what i wanted/needed, in that case the comforters just showed up with whatever they felt was best - food or just a listening ear. that really helped. again, it's okay to show up empty handed because what we really need is that empty hand to hold ours or to hand us that box of kleenex {preferably lotioned}. ;) if you're currently grieving or have ever grieved after losing a loved one {i imagine most of us have} my heart aches for you. i am sorry for any losses you too have had to face.

 

as the lyrics go in the song i mentioned above "your brother is gone" and my brother is gone, from this earth anyway. i am thankful for my faith and the comfort in knowing my brother is with jesus right now. another song that has been my lifetime anthem for my brother, one he and my sisters and i used to jam out to is, "he ain't heavy, he's my brother" by the hollies. it's true you guys, as that particular song goes, "and the load doesn't weigh me down at all, he ain't heavy, he's my brother." gabriel was my brother. gabriel is my brother. i will proudly carry him and his memories for the rest of my life. 

 

xo,

nichol

 

p.s. - you may notice in the photo that my open shelving/counter is a little more disheveled than usual, but how appropriate since my whole life feels that way right now.

 

 

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