Sibling Loss Companionship
Two weeks before my 21st birthday, I lost one of the most important people in my life, my 16-year-old brother Nick. I spent the majority of my life protecting him, not letting him get too far away from me on vacations or at events to his annoyance, checking up on him constantly and making sure he wasn’t doing anything he would regret. I miss my brother every single day, but what I miss the most is the connection I had with him. Nick understood me better than anyone else ever could. There is nothing that compares to a sibling relationship. You spend 49% of your life fighting about very trivial things and the other 51% loving each other unconditionally, even if it was unspoken. Nick and I were just starting to become closer until the accident took him from us.
My brother’s car accident was an incredibly traumatic experience for my family. Every time I explain the details surrounding Nick’s car accident, I feel like I’m explaining a movie. My experience is not relatable to most people and its hard-to-find people who have experienced the same situation as me.
Sibling grievers tend to be the most neglected in terms of acknowledgement of grief. When Nick died, I didn’t want to put my unexplainable grief on my parents’ plate. They had both spent the prior 30 days in a hospital with limited sleep, in a different country, and had to bury their 16-year-old Son. Something a parent should NEVER have to do. I remember standing in line at Nick’s visitation, hearing from many people that I needed to be there for my parents now more than I ever had been before. As a result, I opted to grieve in private to be strong for my parents, which led me to feel more alone than I ever have in my entire life. No fault to my parents or friends, they were there with open arms for me. However, I just didn’t want to put anything more on others. I felt bad asking my friends and close family who had dropped everything for us, because they had just helped my family through the most difficult chapter of our lives, how could I put more on them after all that they had done for my family?
I spent the next year of my life ignoring my grief and hoping it would subside over time. I did not discuss how Nicks passing really affected me to anyone. I have always been scared to outwardly grieve to people who do not understand my grief. Sometimes grief makes you feel crazy, sometimes it makes you wonder if you are the only one who grieves the way you do, and sometimes it makes you wonder- should I still be this sad?
A year and a half after Nick’s passing, my mom invited me to one of her Bereaved Mothers Breakfasts. A few of the other bereaved mothers were bringing their daughters, who had lost their siblings to talk about our grief. For the first time in my grieving process, I did not feel like I had to put on a brave face or act like what was happening in my life wasn’t actually happening. I was able to talk to people who suffered a similar unexplainable and heartbreaking loss like I did. Prior to COVID a few of us would go for breakfast on Saturdays, and most of the time we would not even talk about grief. It was just nice to sit in the company of other grievers who understand you for who you are after the death of a loved one, because they have also walked that path. The breakfasts were the highlight of my week, and it made me feel like I was not as alone with my grief as I once thought. The companionship I have with those girls is something I will never take for granted. I know that if at any point I just need someone who understands the pain I feel, they are always in my corner. Sharing my grief experiences was the first time in my grieving process where I didn’t feel like my brother’s death was a stain on my sleeve that I couldn’t talk about.
That’s the thing about grief, there is no expiry. I’ll be grieving the loss of my brother throughout every momentous event of my life. There are not many people who have experienced a loss so profound. When you find people who understand and relate, you are put at ease knowing you are not as alone in your grief as you once thought. I find the most comfort in others who have experienced similar losses to me, knowing you are not alone in your thought patterns of grief is the most liberating feeling.
Grief has no expiry, no deadline, and no end. I have caught myself on a random Tuesday in a grocery store crying in a cereal aisle because a memory of my brother came up, nowhere near an anniversary date or a birthday. Grief is not a two-week event where you simply move on, it is a long marathon. Grief ‘s marathon can get more manageable over time by being surrounded by people who truly understand and honour your grief.