Recently, I was told that if I start talking about my brother’s illness and death that I would get closer to healing. The first post I wrote was about my brother’s diagnosis and this post will be about what loss meant to me. What I decided when I planned on writing these posts is that I would just write and let the words flow as honestly as they could.
This picture was taken when my brother was about age two – maybe younger. It is part of a family picture we took when I was about five years old. Oddly enough, I remember when we took the family picture. My brother looks like my toddler – the curls and all. As a matter of fact, the first time Elliott saw this picture he thought it was a photo of him.
Not many people know how hard the loss of a sibling is and unless you have experienced it, you cannot even begin to imagine it. It leaves your life forever changed and affected in ways you can never get back. The stages of grief that are so often discussed are unique when it comes to sibling grief. This is because every sibling relationship is different and unique in its own way. Sibling grief forces you to look at the past and the present all at once. You know that a future with that person is no longer possible and that pain is harder than anything imaginable.
I know it is normal to be angry at the circumstances. The anger comes and goes as do all the other feelings. The anger creeps up on you when you least expect it to because special events such as birthdays, they can leave you feeling the extreme pain of your loss. I am constantly bogged down by the survivor guilt. This is because when you are kids are taught that you are the same as your siblings. If they get something, you get something. If they don’t, they don’t either. It is hard to be privileged when you sibling isn’t here anymore. It is hard knowing your sibling is not going to experience falling in love, getting married, having children, buying a home, etc. Mostly, I am not sure why it was him and not me or another of my siblings. I constantly ask “why him?”
Then there are the regrets – these go without saying. Siblings have a way of fighting and still managing to love each other at the same time. I loved my brother and when we were kids, I defended him from anyone and everyone. When we were adults, we had a complicated relationship. When he got sick, I wanted to do what I did when we were kids – I wanted to protect him and I couldn’t. He was so weak and vulnerable and my big sister instincts kicked in. I wish that you we fought less and spent more together. However, I am grateful for the time we did have and the opportunity to forgive and to say goodbye. My brother looked up to me because he thought I was strong and that I had it all together. He died believing the same thing. Sometimes, I wish he knew the real me but other times, I am glad he didn’t.
The hardest and most difficult thing I feel is that death has become reality. We can lose anyone at any time. I worry about my mom, my other siblings, my kids, my nieces and nephews, etc. My brother was 31 when he died and I understand all too well that there is such a thing as dying too young. Life can be so darn short.
When people ask what the grief is like, I tell them losing a sibling is like losing a limb. It is a part of you that you will never get back. What have learned, however, in the past seven months, is that no matter how much it hurts, you start to understand that the person you loved is gone and no amount of hurt or tears can bring that person back. I know that the longer he is gone, the more we heal. The healing part is the hard part. Healing means we move on and in a way, it feels like we are being disloyal.