6 Lessons I’ve Learned About Grief After My Brother’s Death

6 lessons on grief


“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott

I cannot physically explain to you my reaction on the day I heard my sister painfully tell me that my brother, Brian had died.

It felt like there was a loud, dark silence that stood for a few seconds between those words she said and my reaction to those words.

It was naturally the most devastating sentence I had ever heard in my young life.

And when I thought I couldn’t feel any more broken, that loud, dark silence revealed itself the next morning…

When I woke up, for a split second, I had absolutely no idea what had happened… temporary, blissful amnesia.

It didn’t take very long for reality to crash into me like a 10-tonne truck slamming through a hatchback.

“No, it wasn’t just a dream…

Yes, Brian is gone…

I don’t know, how I  am going to live with this…”

That was almost 19 years ago, and the impact of his death is still raw and fresh, like it happened a year ago.

You never really get over a loved one. You just figure out a way to live without them one day at a time.

There are good days and bad days…

Luckily as the years pass, the good days outweigh the bad.

Along the journey of grief and its complex anatomy, I have had to learn 7 crucial lessons and I want to share them with you.


1. Gratitude Is Incredibly Important

grief


As we stared at Brian’s grave at his burial, my mother tearfully turned to my sister, my youngest brother and I and said “you’re all I’ve got now.”

Those words have never left me. In fact, they taught me how to be thankful for the life I have.

My brother’s passing was such a traumatic but powerful lesson on the fragility of life, and how important it is to be grateful!

Grateful for the stability, health and privileges I enjoy,

….thankful for the people in my life who genuinely love and care for me

…. appreciative that I am afforded a new day to experience life each day, in all its joy, happiness, cruelty and pain.

I truly remain thankful.


2. I’ve Had To Take Stock of My Closest Relationships.

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When my brother died, things between us were strained.

Understandably we were both really young and hot headed. So even when he died, as devastated as I was, I still held some resentment towards him.

Maybe I was mad at him for dying and leaving us hanging. I know that sounds ridiculous, but grief makes you have the strangest thought patterns.

His death opened the door to the broken relationships I had with my parents and siblings.

I cannot believe there was a time I had the audacity to tell my sister that I didn’t care about them, that they were all adults and I needed to figure out my life on my own.

Years of setting aside my pride and ego, consistently asking for forgiveness and changing my behavior drastically has led me to having deep and meaningful connections with my mother, father, sister and brother.

I had to learn, like my mother told me at Brian’s funeral, that they really are all I’ve got.


3. Life Owes Us Nothing

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Life is cruel.

It giveth and it taketh away.

Who knows why life would agree with death to take away my brother as his life was just beginning?

I used to ask all these questions that agonized me. Sometimes I still do.

But the one thing I realized is that since I have absolutely no idea how life works, the only thing I can do is find my own meaning within it.

I have also started to remind myself that the ones I love so much will not be with me forever, and that I need to start mentally and emotionally opening myself to the inevitability of the mortality we all live in.

Death is a terribly difficult subject to talk about, but it will happen, and I want to be more prepared for it than I was when my brother passed on.


4. It’s Still Okay To Grieve

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I am writing this article because there are times, even to this day, that I am still so overwhelmed by Brian’s passing that I need a day to myself.

To cry, to reminisce, to talk to him…

It never ever goes away.

Those who have never lost someone they love honestly don’t understand this. Life is “supposed to continue”…the sun still rises and sets, but never ever feel guilty for grieving, because you never really get over it.

The good news is that you can pick yourself up and continue to lead a healthy, meaningful and beautiful life even with your beloved gone, but that sadness still lingers now and again, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting this.


5. Holding On To Anger No Longer Makes Sense



At a certain point in my life anger became my best friend, my shield and my defender.

It protected me from the reality of how broken, depressed and detached I was from life.

I not only held on to my anger towards those in my life that I believed had done me wrong, but I still held on to the anger I had towards my brother.


6. Take Real Risks

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If there is one quote my mother tells me repeatedly, it is “Makena, life is not a rehearsal.”

Coming from a woman who lost her first-born son, I know better than not to take her advice seriously.

As the years pass, I do reflect on whether I am leading the kind of life I truly want.

I turn 40 next year, and I feel like I have the opportunity to architect the next chapter of my life exactly the way I want to.

Life has been extremely safe for me. I haven’t really had the opportunity to ruffle the feathers of my destiny. I have remained in the throes of comfort so much, that I realize I will deeply regret this life if I do not live it to its fullest.

None of us are promised tomorrow.

It could disappear in an instant, so the best you can do is try to live a life that you can be proud of, not influenced, directed, controlled or coerced by anybody else!

Over to you…

Have you lost a loved one?

What are the lessons you have slowly started to learn?

Do share your thoughts below by leaving us a comment.

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