When My Grief Unexpectedly Resurfaced


My parents almost lost my childhood home in a fire this past weekend. Fortunately, their house was spared, while their neighbors was not. The fire broke out miles away from their home on Thursday afternoon. It was far enough away to put you on alert but not alarm. As time went, we watched the trajectory of the fire, the direction of the winds and the number of personnel able to put out the fire before damage was done. Factors beyond anyone’s control were not in favor of putting out the fire. Humidity remained in single digits, the land hadn’t received any rain in months after a dry summer and the wind was fanning the flame. Within a few short hours, my parents had to evacuate. I was on a work trip and keeping tabs from afar. I was mentally pulled in two directions; concern for my parents and their home and the task in front of me. By Thursday night the fire reached their front door (and their back door). Hope was losing the battle.

Every emotion I experienced from the moment my brother was diagnosed to the day he died came rushing back. The feeling of helplessness took root once again. Should I fly home or stay put? As someone who knows her own mind, I slipped back into wanting someone else to give me direction and felt starved for information. What was happening and how come no one could stop it from happening?

Thursday night I went to bed with the very real possibility that my childhood home would be gone. A part of me was angry at myself for being emotional about a “thing” that could be replaced, especially when I knew the pain of losing a brother. But it wasn’t just the home that I was grieving over, it was the loss of my brother once again. Let me be clear, a home is not just a thing; it is a place of love and memories, warmth and security. There are many reasons people love coming home, even after a great vacation. We also had plans to go to my parents’ house on Sunday. We were taking the kids and going to stay the night, therefore the house had to be standing, right? Just like when I received the call from my mom through tears telling me my brother had been killed, my brain vehemently denied the information because I was supposed to visit him the next day. It is hard to realize in an instant that the plans you make can be forever changed.

Today, someone I don’t know and probably will never met Facebook posts was shared about the loss of his brother. He described the frantic and sporadic call from his mother. The hasty drive in the car to get to his parent’s home. The driving need to figure out what happened and to confirm the truth because even though you know your parents wouldn’t lie, a part of you held on to the hope they heard something wrong until someone else tells you differently. And once again I recalled everything from the night my brother was killed. And now, since I’ve been on the other side of loss for awhile, my body reacts to the painful journey of healing he and his family is now on. I grieve, not just for the loss of his brother, but the loss of who he was before he received that phone call.

All of us who have received that phone call, this article may take you back to that night (or day), and if it does, let yourself cry and grieve. Protect yourself as well. Don’t take on another sibling’s grief. No matter what, I cannot take away the pain this young person is going through, and it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to go back to those initial moments of loss.

Most days, we figure we have a good handle on our grief, and we often do, but that doesn’t mean that grieving is over. Just like the initial loss can happen suddenly, so can triggers that spike your grief once again. There is no time limit on grief. People sometimes act like you “just” lost your brother or sister. Unspoken words making you feel like you should be over it, that losing a sibling is a “minor” loss, whatever that means. I personally don’t prescribe to “minor” losses. A loss that is meaningful to you is a significant loss, no matter who/what it is. But there is definitely no “just” about losing a sibling.

Healing from grief is a journey, not a destination.  Depending on where you are at in this journey, I hope you have a good day, hour, or moment and know you are not alone.

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

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Getty image via Artem_Furman

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