My personal process of grieving a person who was more than just one thing to me…
This post is going to be a difficult one for me to write, but I am going to press my way through this, with the hope that it’ll help me to further process the feelings that I am having.
As I stated before in my first post of this season (Breathing Again…, posted on October 22, 2022), one of the traumatic events that has happened since my previous post in 2018 was the sudden passing of my brother. November 18th marks 2 years since I got the phone call from my sister with this soul shattering news. To this day, the thought of him not being here still hits me like a cannonball to the chest. Once my family and I got past the memorial service, I knew that this process was going to be difficult and like nothing that I have ever experienced before. As it turns out, I didn’t even know the half of what I was about to go through emotionally.
What Happened to the Gentle Giant?
My brother was the gentle giant in our family. Well over 6 feet tall, large build, strong, and full of love and empathy for anyone and everyone he’d meet. Two years ago on October 3rd, he was rushed to the hospital with what turned out to be a severe case of COVID-19. My family, my church, and my loved ones all prayed, and as we prayed we began to see a daily progression towards him having a normal life again one day. By the time November 1st came, he was out of the coma, going through rehabilitation at a surprising rate, and this gave us a hope and a firm belief that he would eventually be perfectly fine, and that I would be able to hug him and joke around with him as I would always do. On the 15th of that month, he and I had a very long phone conversation, which was surprising to me because of what he had just came through. He had enough energy to talk to me at length, and even though I kept trying to get off the phone with him so that he could get some rest (he was at home by this time), he kept reassuring me that he was fine. He even sounded so much stronger than what he sounded like in the previous conversations. Our family and I were on an upswing because we saw God healing my baby brother before our eyes…
But then, the 18th came around…
That evening, my sister called me, and that was it. He…was…gone.
Gone way too young, gone too soon.
A Loss of Words
For a long time, I couldn’t quite articulate exactly what I was feeling. There were absolutely no words that I could come up with to even talk about the fact that he was gone. What I did have was a picture in my mind that was the best way of describing what I was going through.
In my mind, I saw myself standing up, and I appeared to be a cyborg (a human-like being with skin/tissue overlaying a robotic endoskeleton). I am not sure how I knew I was looking at a cyborg, but I just did. Anyway, while looking at myself in this form, I saw a hand suddenly come out of nowhere and grab my arm, ripping the entire arm off. The cyborg version of me started shooting sparks from the shoulder where the arm was ripped away, and it began short circuiting because of the sudden trauma that occurred.
That is exactly what I felt when I heard the news, and for at least the first year afterwards. A part of me was ripped away, and I had no idea how to manage what I was feeling, mainly because I was feeling so much all at once. My mind, heart, and emotions were all short-circuiting. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve experienced loss before. But this wasn’t like the times when I lost either of my grandmothers or grandfathers, nor was it like the time when I lost my favorite Aunt, or the time when I lost my godmother. Those events were absolutely tragic. This event was brutal, to put it mildly.
Learning How to Grieve
I can honestly say that even though this weekend marks the 2 year anniversary of my brother being called home to live with the Lord (he was saved by grace through faith; he was a Christian), I am still learning how to grieve this particular loss. As I just stated in the paragraph above, this is nothing like the other seasons of loss that I have encountered before. God has indeed helped me through this time, and He is still helping me because the pain is still tremendous. However, I am finding myself grieving my brother in different stages or levels. For the first year, I grieved the loss of my brother, the one who was such a big part of me. However, during this last year, I have had to get a better understanding of why this grieving has taken such a toll on me. I found out by talking with my Mom about my relationship and connection with my brother that in many ways, I took on the role of a “mother” when it came to being there for him, especially if our parents weren’t around. This dynamic was portrayed mostly when we were at school, on the playground, defending him, fighting his bullies, and doing my best to come to his rescue when trouble was coming his way. I knew and remembered doing this as a child, but what my Mom helped me to understand is that she and my Dad saw at a very young age (from the time they brought him home from the hospital) I covered him as if he were my own. My brother and I were close in age, but he was my baby. Even as an adult, he never stopped being my baby. So, I have been learning how to grieve for him in this new revelation. I was not his mother, but he was still my baby. I believe that a good way to describe who I was to my brother was an extension of our Mom. Whatever one may call it, I’m learning how to grieve as a sister/mother-type.
This information that my Mom gave me was very helpful, because it shed some light on exactly what I was feeling. However, this also made me wonder if I were to blame at all for his death, because I was the one who should have protected him from the complications of this heinous virus. Could I have prayed more, or prayed harder? Did I miss something? I know that this wasn’t the case at all, but oftentimes we as human beings seek for some sort of answer for life’s mysteries—even if it means that we are somehow to blame. His death was a mystery to me on several different levels. But I know God has Him, and that has to be enough for me. It needs to be enough for all of those who loved him.
Recently, as the date of the anniversary drew near, I began to think about and understand that a sibling is our first best friend. That is exactly what he was for me. It’s bittersweet to realize this now, because I now understand that he and I were so close and so bonded that he remained my first best friend, but because he was also my brother, I took that dynamic for granted. I got so used to him being there that I didn’t always take the time to sit and really think about our bond. I always told him that I loved him, and I always told him that he could talk to me about anything and ask me anything. We would encourage each other when life was hard. We laughed together at family functions when one of our cousins or aunties were acting “extra.” But I never called him my BFF because I didn’t realize that he indeed was just that. This takes nothing away from the ones who are my BFF’s today, but it helps me to understand just how loved and supported I really am. If only I had realized this when my brother was still living. I wonder what he would have thought about this? I’d imagine that he would agree, but he’d also say something goofy so that he would allow himself as a man to feel all gushy and sentimental.
So now, I am learning how to grieve the loss of my first BFF, and my brother, and my sort-of-son. I am understanding that those who are closest to us are more than just one thing for us. For example: both of my BFFs are friends, but they’re also my sisters, counselors, teachers, cheerleaders, confidantes, and correctors when I am out of line. In this season of my life, God is helping me to understand and go through the layers of my relationship with my brother, which is also helping me to understand why I am grieving the way that I am. Every time the emotions would come up to the surface, I would feel tremendously overwhelmed, almost as if I was on the verge of an anxiety attack. Grieving for my brother layer by layer has helped me to cope with those moments when the emotions would come up to the surface, but I also know that I am not done yet and that I still have a way to go before I am completely ok, inside and out.
I do know that a person cannot rush the grieving process, and I have no desire to do so. My only prayer for this portion of my life is that as the Lord heals me and helps me through this, so that I can hopefully help someone else who is also grieving. We may all grieve differently, but at the foundation of our grieving is one truth that can help us to cope and to keep moving forward: you/I/we are not alone, and knowing that can and will give us comfort in times like these.
I am grieving in different levels. I am grieving the loss of my brother and the loss of everything that he was to me. How many more layers do I have left? I don’t know. God has been revealing the layers only one at a time, and only when He knows that I can handle the information and the process that comes with it. Regardless of how many more layers I have to go, I will continue to miss my baby brother, and I am trusting that God will continue to carry me and the rest of my family and friends through this.
Rest in Heaven, Baby Boy…