In 1987 my best friend, my little brother, was born. We were 16 months apart and inseparable. We would raise hell all around the country, get in serious trouble almost daily, and always blame it on the other sibling.
I would dress him up and make him put on plays with me. He would throw the football at my face when I wasn’t looking. We had a pretty typical sibling bond, the only difference is we grew up in the middle of nowhere, without a neighbor in sight, so we were each other’s only option for a playmate.
Most of the time it was great, other times, like when his GI Joe’s were blowing the heads off my Barbies with black cat firecrackers, weren’t so great. But there was no denying that we loved each other more than any other person on this planet, and we were there for each other through thick and thin.
When I was 17, a couple of months before Trent’s 16th birthday, he was killed in a car accident. My world was flipped upside down, my heart shattered in a million pieces, and life since has never been the same.
I lost my best friend, my rock, my brother.
Then, as an adult, I experienced an all-too-familiar feeling when I lost my older sister, Jenny, to cancer. She was the ultimate cheerleader and completely selfless when it came to our relationship. She would drive hours to just to visit for one. She was the best sister, concert date, friend, confidant, and shoulder to lean on. Losing my sister came with a different set of challenges, and I found myself navigating new but similar waters.
I miss them both every single day, but in losing them I have learned so much about life, myself, and loss in general. I recently sat down with The Bee Podcast to share the story of losing my siblings and how it’s impacted my life.
You can listen to the full episode here.
1. Why and What If?
These two questions will literally eat at your existence and make it hard to breathe. You can’t ask yourself why something happened or what if it didn’t. It happened, and no matter how much you ask yourself these questions, the outcome will still be the same.
2. Talk about it
It may be painful to talk about but do it anyway. Share your memories, your stories, pictures, etc with whoever will listen. Once they are gone from this Earth, the memories are the only thing that keep them alive.
It is OK to cry. Sometimes you just have to bust out the old photos, flip through the pages, and put on the ugliest cry face anyone has ever seen. Sob. Sob uncontrollably. And when you’re done, I promise you’ll feel just a little bit better.
You’ve walked a mile in these heavy heavy shoes. You know what it feels like to have your heart ripped out, so you are able to recognize these feelings when you see someone else experiencing them. Tell them you’re thinking of them, offer a hug, or lend an ear.
5. It gets better
Does the heartache ever go away? No. But you do learn how to cope, and living your life without them does get easier.
6. Believe in something
It doesn’t have to be a God. Maybe it’s just that this isn’t the end. Whether it be Heaven or some other place, I get by each day with the belief that someday I’ll see my siblings again. But for right now I know they’re not far, and they are the BEST Guardian Angels.
7. Stop feeling guilty
For the longest time I felt so guilty that I was still alive and they were not. It took me YEARS to learn not to feel guilty, but once I let go of that burden, I was finally able to move on with my life.
8. You’re not alone
Dealing with loss can be the loneliest road, but you are NOT alone. Everyone will lose someone at some point in their lives, if they haven’t already, so keep that in mind when you are interacting with others. We are all fighting battles people know nothing about, so be kind.
9. Life is Short
The most important thing I learned is life is short. SO incredibly short. Stop telling yourself you’ll do something tomorrow that you’ve always wanted to do. You may not be fortunate enough to get that opportunity, as we are not all blessed with a tomorrow.
10. Lastly, LOVE!
Love with everything you have and make sure those you love know just how much they mean to you. I will never again pass up the opportunity to say I love you because I know that sometimes people walk out the door, and they never come back.
Life isn’t always perfect and bad things happen to good people, but it’s how we let tragedy shape our future that really matters. For me, I could not be happier for the lessons my siblings taught me, the strength they gave me, and the lifetime of memories we created in their short time on earth.
With that I’ll leave you with my favorite quote:
“Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about”