Two Years

It’s been two years. Two years since we got the call. Two years since the frantic drive to the hospital. Two years since the accident that tore you away. Two years since I walked through the doors of the burn unit. Two years since I put on that yellow gown and a pair of gloves and walked into your hospital room. Two years since the trash can in that room was the only thing keeping me standing. Two years since I looked at your face and didn’t recognize it. Two years since I looked at you in disbelief as the machine kept you breathing. Two years since I spent hours sitting in a stuffy hallway in uncomfortable chairs, waiting to know more. Two years since doctors and nurses breezed in and out, rattling off things I couldn’t wrap my head around. Two years since the words “severe burns,” “critical condition,” and “multiple surgeries” bounced around my head in a blur. Two years since I learned that fourth degree burns existed. Two years since I dashed around the hospital looking for your personal belongings, just so I could feel useful. Two years since I was at a loss for something to do just to feel useful. Two years since minutes felt like hours as I waited for answers I’d never get. Two years since I told myself over and over that you’d be okay because you had to be. Two years since I was wrong. Two years since I wore a bracelet that read “My story isn’t over yet,” and held your hand and told you that yours wasn’t over either. Two years since I haven’t been able to look at that bracelet without feeling like I’m falling apart. Two years since I spent hours trying to hold myself together when all I wanted to do was break down and cry. Two years since I sat hoping you’d be alright and open your eyes again. Two years since we sat in that hallway, talking about what would happen when you woke up. Two years since my life was flipped upside down again. Two years since we lost you even though your heart was still beating. Two years since you were ripped away. Two years since I was broken beyond repair and two years since my heart shattered. Two years since my throat tightened and I forgot how to breath. Two years have gone by since that day; that horrible day. Two years since I lived through one of the worst days of my life, and yet, I would give anything to go back to that day. Because on that day, I still had hope that you’d wake up. On that day, you were still alive. It’s been two years, but somehow, it still feels like yesterday.

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In Memoriam

A few days ago, I was finally able to end a one year and seven-month process of getting a large tattoo on my left shoulder blade. Of course, that isn’t the interesting part- the process is. Before I dive into that, I need to tell the story behind the ink.

Growing up, my older brother was my best friend in the world. We did everything together, and as we grew older, we remained close friends. I hung out with him more than anyone else, and I always took comfort in knowing that he’d always have my back. But I was wrong. When I was 13, I lost him. My best friend in the whole world died at 17 from suicide. To this day, that remains one of the two hardest things I have ever had to go through. But after that fateful night, I thought that I would never have to go through something that again. I never thought that I would feel that monumental pain a second time, because who goes through something like that twice?

But then seven years later, it did happen again. I was always really close to my uncle in a way most people aren’t. We were very close in age, which helped make us really close in life. Growing up, my older brother, my uncle, and I would have sleepovers, go joy riding, and a million other things together. My uncle had a personality like no other; he could make me laugh in a way no one else could, but he also was the most compassionate person I’ve ever known. One night, he was a one car accident that was bad enough to make the news. His car caught fire with him trapped inside, leaving him with third and fourth degree burns on several different parts of his body and a list of injuries a mile long. After a month of hospital visits, and him going through surgery after surgery, his heart gave out before he was ever woken out of his coma. At 20, I never thought this would be a place I’d be again- this time with my 27-year-old uncle.

Not only did I feel this new grief from losing my uncle, but I also found feelings that I had long buried forcing themselves to the forefront of my mind from losing my brother. It was a grief like none other, and I didn’t think I would ever get through it. In nearly nine years, not has a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of my brother. The same has been true for the past year and half for my uncle. I miss them every single day, and some days the pain is so bad I can barely stand it. I have an emptiness inside me that I know will never be filled, but I did find a way to make the pain a little more bearable.

About a month after I lost my uncle, I started getting ideas for an art piece. Art had always been a way from me to release my emotions, and this was no different. I decided to make this piece into a tattoo as a way to carry the two of them with me. One night in early July, I drew my first sketch for my tattoo idea.

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Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison was my brother’s funeral song. He had told us a few months before that it was his favorite, and while the song is about a broken relationship, parts of the lyrics seemed to fit the situation. If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher was my uncle’s funeral song. He was a huge Cher fan, and this song just felt right. It was one of her most iconic songs, and again, some of the lyrics seemed to fit the situation we were all in. While I liked the sketch, it still didn’t feel right. After many conversations with my best friend, who was so unbelievably amazing while I went through everything with my uncle and played a HUGE role in this process, she suggested I put the rose inside the hourglass. After many attempts, I came up with my final sketch for my tattoo in August.

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I contacted a place not too far from where I lived to set up a time to get my tattoo. It was my 21st birthday present to myself. I sent them my sketch, and a few days later my best friend and I (plus one more) made the trip in late January. After two hours of him sketching and tattooing, I had an outline done. He told me it would need three weeks to heal, and then I could get the rest done.

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I stared at that outline in the mirror a lot, especially when I really missed them. As much as I wanted to finish it, it took me a long time to actually do it. But over a year later, in late March, I finally did. I went to a different person for the shading, and it was the best tattoo experience I ever had. She did a beautiful job, and it turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined.

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When I finally got home after work that night, I started at it in the mirror for what seemed like hours. And for the first time in a long time, I let myself cry. I cried for how much I missed them. I cried for everything I had lost. I cried for the emptiness I feel inside me every moment of every day. I cried for all the moments I will never get; memories I will never get to make. I cried for the unfairness of it all. I cried for the person I used to be before; the person I had left behind. I cried for my family, and all the pain we’ve had to endure. I cried for all the people who lose the ones they love. I cried for everything they had missed. I cried for all the good times we had had. I cried for all the memories we had made. I cried for the people they had been and the people they’d never get to be. I cried for them and I cried for me.

When you lose someone you love, that love doesn’t die with them. It lives on inside you in a very different way. It stays with you wrapped in pain and loss. There are days where the pain is manageable and days where it takes your breath away. But days when I miss them more than usual, I can look at this tattoo. It is a way to carry them with me wherever I go, but also serves as a reminder of all the happy memories. I wouldn’t trade the short time I had with them for anything in the world. Even if I knew how it would all end, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.

What I Miss the Most

Today marks the day my brother should have turned 26. A day that should be spent celebrating and laughing is instead spent in a quiet, private sadness that I try to hide from everyone around me. Because my brother isn’t turning 26 today; because he never made it past 17. Instead of being sappy and sad, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about my favorite memories spent with him. Thirteen years wasn’t long enough, but it was still enough time to live through moments that last a lifetime. I love my brother with everything I have, but these are the things I love the most. The things I miss the most.

I miss the times we would lay outside, staring up at the clouds. We would point out the shapes to each other and make up stories about them. We didn’t do it very often, but when we did, it was so much fun. And when it was dark, we’d do the same with the stars, trying to get the other to see the same picture in the dots. Now every time I see shapes in the clouds or connect the stars into a picture, I turn to tell you, but of course you’re not there.

Every time the wind picks up, I think of that night we went to a movie night at the library in town. The wind got so bad, they sent us all home. Rather than calling our mom, we decided to chance it because we really didn’t live that far. We ran as fast as we could across the baseball field, but we were no match for the strong wind. We ran so hard, barely making any progress. We were halfway across and exhausted when Mom pulled up to drive us home.

I miss whenever we tried to find a movie to watch, I’d ask what you wanted to watch, and you always said, “The back of my eyelids.” Always without fail, that’d be your response. We’d laugh at the joke for the hundredth time before getting serious about deciding what to turn on. It was usually a cheesy comedy; the kind that no one else had ever heard of. But we’d watch it over and over, laughing at the stupidity of the entire thing.

I think of those times when we were both so little, and I had that purple car; the kind you use your feet to make move. You’d take a bungee cord and hook one end to the steering wheel and the other to your bike. I’d hang my legs out the side, and you’d take off pulling me behind. We go up and down the sidewalk again and again, laughing the entire time. I’d give anything to go back and have a day like that just one more time.

Every time I see a puddle left over from the rain, I think of all those times we’d beg to go outside as soon as it stopped falling. We’d grab our bikes, and ride through the puddles over and over, soaking our legs and shoes. We said we were playing Rocket Power, a show we both loved. We would ride through the puddles, sometimes getting stuck in the deep ones, splashing the water as much as we could until our toes were numb from the cold water and we’d squish back inside.

I miss when we were younger and played our own version of Fear Factor. We would give each other three challenges to complete, usually involving the old wooden monkey bars on our swing set. We could go back and forth for hours, never running out of things to do. We played almost every day, except on Monday nights when the show was actually on. Then we sat in front of the T.V., cheering on our favorites and eager to see what challenges they had for the players that day.

That wasn’t the only game we made up. It seemed like we never stopped making up new games to play. There was the one we named Knocker, that was just a spin on ball tag. There was Shark Tag, which become our little brother’s favorite game. There was the one we never actually named, because it wasn’t long after we started to play that you weren’t there anymore. It seemed like our creativity never ran out, and who could be bored with an endless possibility of games to play.

When the Christmas came that we got a brand-new toy, that became the center of all our fun. The green plasma car that would go when you shock the steering wheel; the perfect toy for a 16-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 6-year-old to play on for hours at a time. We would come home from school and head straight down to the basement where it was waiting for us from the night before. We’d spend all afternoon down there until it was time to eat supper. Then we’d finish our chores as fast as we could and go back down to play until bedtime came. We played every game we could imagine on that and rode it until it didn’t move anymore.

When we didn’t feel like playing on the plasma car or just needed a breather, we would shoot pool on the hand me down pool table. So many games were played on that old thing.  We could spend a whole afternoon down there playing pool. Our little brother would have to sit on the edge to shoot, because he was still too short to see over the top. You won most games, but that didn’t matter to me; I was just happy to be there, smiling and laughing with you.

Basketball was your favorite game, but I didn’t like it that much. I wasn’t good at it and I got bored with it fast, but I always played when you asked. Anything to just spend time with you because how many big brothers want to hang out with their kid sister? So, I played again and again, whatever basketball game we decided. As much as I used to complain, I’d give anything to have one more game.

I can barely touch a basketball anymore, because when I do, I’m filled with crushing memories of you. That was the last game we played together; that game of 21. I never thought that would be the last time I’d see you smiling and laughing, and just being alive. Because when you went inside that night, you never went back out. We never finished the game, so I guess no one really won. I can’t help but wonder if you knew what would happen even then? Did you try to leave me with one last good memory or was it simply just another Tuesday night?

Just like that you were gone, and that’s something I will never understand. The one who taught me how to tie my shoes, who tried so hard to teach me how to do the perfect layup (something I still can’t do), and who let me sleep on the floor next to his bed when I was scared of the dark. The person I thought would always be there with me is now just someone I have to miss. You weren’t there to see me graduate and you won’t be there to see me do it again, this time with a bachelor’s degree. You weren’t there to see me go to college or to see me become the person I am today. You won’t be there if I get married and you’ll never meet my kids. Instead, I’ll have to explain to them why their uncle is someone they’ll never get to see. You weren’t there to see me grow up, because you never grew up yourself.

I’ll never understand why you chose to leave, I’ll never stop wishing I could go back and do everything different, I’ll never stop replaying that last day over and over in my head, I’ll never stop wondering about who you would have become, but most of all,  I’ll never stop missing you and you loving you with everything I have.

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The Side Effects of Suicide

We would be foolish to ignore the ever-increasing rates of suicide that have become so prevalent in our society. As of today, there is an estimated average of 121 suicides per day; that averages out to approximately 5 per hour. Every hour, there are five people who no longer see a point to their life, and make a choice to end it. For every successful suicide, 25 people attempt. That means that every day, 3,025 people try to take their own lives. That’s more than three times the population of my home town. These are startling statistics- that’s no secret- however there is a side of suicide many don’t know. A side that affects those of us left behind after someone we love makes this decision. The side effects of someone else’s suicide.

Many who know me also know that I lost my older brother to suicide in June of 2009. He was 17 years old when he made the choice to end his life by using a shot gun. That’s the thing we aren’t told about suicide; more often than not, it is extremely graphic and horrific. Over half of all successful suicides are carried out by a firearm. Experiencing the loss of someone by suicide changes you in ways no other cause of death does. When someone you love chooses to die, you are never the same. From what I have seen, read, heard, and experienced, I have discovered that there are certain things we all seem to experience after losing someone in such a brutal way.

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First of all, you feel a deep sorrow for anyone who chooses to take their own life. Just hearing about a complete stranger committing suicide can draw a tear to your eye, because you feel for them. You wish you could go back in time and stop them just to spare them from such a dark fate. You may have never met them, but your heart still aches for them. You grieve the loss of someone you don’t really know without even understanding why, because the truth is, everyone who is lost to suicide becomes a small part of you.

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You also feel an unfathomable connection with anyone who has lost someone to suicide. You know how much it hurts, how much the guilt weighs on you, how much you scrutinize every little thing you could have done differently, and you would give anything to keep another person from ever feeling that way. You understand that losing someone to suicide is so different than losing someone any other way. You understand the pain it brings in a way other people can’t. You empathize with people going through this loss, because you’ve been there. Again, even when it’s people you’ve never met, you feel for them. You sympathize their pain, and wish you could take it from them, because you understand the way it destroys people. You instantly become connected with the friends and families of people who fell victim to their own minds.

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You feel a small prick of pain whenever someone utters the words, “I’d rather die,” or “I’m going to kill myself if I get another assignment” or even when they mimic blowing their head off when something annoys them. People say and do things like this in passing all the time, never thinking anything of it, but it hits you every single time. Many people don’t even notice the reaction you have, but you feel it. You don’t understand how people can joke about something so awful, especially when they don’t understand how painful it is to lose someone to suicide.

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You take every threat of suicide seriously. You worry relentlessly about people who show the signs that you are now hyper-aware of, and you can’t just ignore what other people deem to be idle threats. You instantly are called to action, and will do whatever you can to prevent it; to spare another person from going through with it. You take these things more seriously than the people around you, because you have witnessed the aftermath and would do anything to stop it from happening to another. If you’re like me, you carry a suicide prevention card in your wallet just in case you find someone who needs it, but also to remind yourself that help is still out there for those who seek it.

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You suddenly find yourself with an intense drive to educate yourself on the topic and spread awareness. Ironically, you learn all the warning signs and the best resources after it happens to you. You learn the statistics and the stories and you have an internal need to spread this knowledge to others to try and help prevent it from happening again. You immerse yourself into the topic of suicide and will enlighten anyone who listens. You make it your mission to end the shame that surrounds it and try to gently force people to talk about it. Because deep down you know the only way to prevent it is to stop pretending it doesn’t exist and talk about it.

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Suicide is never easy to talk about, but it NEEDS to be talked about. Ignoring it will not make it go away; we need to start opening up the conversation with our kids, our parents, our friends- everyone. Nothing will ever change if we keep shoving it into the background and pretending it’s not an issue. Suicide is a prevalent issue that is affecting thousands of people daily; never in history has it been more relevant. If we continue to disregard it, it will only get worse. It’s time to take it seriously, and not just after you lose someone. Because I can tell you from experience that you never move on after a suicide. You never stop feeling guilty. You never put it behind you. You never go back to being who you were.

Suicide has side effects that alter the people who are left behind. Those who lose someone close to them to suicide are forever changed in ways we don’t expect. I lost my brother eight and a half years ago, and it still affects me. This post was still hard to write, because the emotions are still so raw, and I know it is far from my best writing, but it’s also something that weighs on me. There are so many people who do not understand the side effects of suicide; so many who don’t understand suicide at all. As I said above, people who lose someone this way have a need to educate others in hopes of raising awareness and encouraging others to take preventative measures- that’s why I chose to write this post. A suicide changed me; I hope it doesn’t change you too.

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*Statistics listed are from The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention website at afsp.org

To You

I’ve written to you so many times, never able to find the words to convey how I feel. I think I’ve finally discovered the reason why: I’ve been writing out of anger. Every time I sit down to write how I feel about you, it’s when I feel consumed by my anger at you and I let the anger out on the paper. But as soon as the words are out and the anger melts away, I’m left with how I truly feel; sad. I feel as though I’m swirling in a vast emptiness- an emptiness filled with pain and regret. There was so much left unsaid; so many things I still want to say to you.

It’s been almost three months since I’ve heard from you, and the silence has been deafening. I’ve never felt so lost and alone. I wanted to pick up my phone so many times- almost called more times than I can count- but I always told myself if you wanted to talk to me, you would have by now. You told me to stop talking to you, so I listened. Part of me wishes I would have begged you to stay, but I know that that’s not who I am. You told me to go, so I went, and it has been killing me ever since.

Make no mistake- I’m still angry at you. I’m so angry I hope I never see you again. I hope that someone does to you what you’ve done to me. I’m so angry I want to scream and yell. But I know that all that anger would vanish if you would just talk to me again- if you would just be a part of my life again. Because I know that all that anger would never be worth losing you over, at least not for me.

But you made a choice- a choice to turn your back on me- and I hope it was worth it. You gave up on someone who would never have given up on you, and I hope it was worth it. You threw me away and shattered my already broken pieces- I hope it was worth it. I spent a long time blaming myself for all that happened, but then I realized that I’m not the only one to blame. You could have saved us. You could’ve chosen different. You could’ve chosen other words to say. You could’ve chosen to stay out of a situation you didn’t belong in. We both made choices that the other didn’t like, but I never would’ve chosen to lose you. I never would’ve chosen this. You chose this.

You chose to say goodbye. You chose to throw me away. You chose to stop caring. You chose to give up on me. You chose to turn your back. You chose to walk away. You chose the silence. You chose this ending. And I am the one paying for it. I am the one who is dealing with the consequences of the choices you made. I am the one pretending it doesn’t still hurt. I am the one who lays awake at night, crying silently. I am the one who would do anything to fix this. I have to suffer because of something you chose.

They say get over it, but I can’t. They say move on, but I don’t know how. They say you aren’t worth this, but I don’t believe them. They say that it’s over, but I can’t accept that. They say that it will all be okay, but I can’t see how. I always said that losing you would destroy me, and in a way, it has. When something happens, you’re still the first person I want to tell. When I see something that makes me laugh, you are the first person I want to share it with. When something goes wrong, you are the only person I want to talk to. I’m mad at you for this- for making me feel this way- but I’m more mad at myself. I always hoped the day wouldn’t come where you would see me the way I see myself, but it did. And now you’re gone.

I wish I could go back and change the words I said. I wish I could change the choices I made. I wish I could change your mind. I wish I could keep myself from ever trusting you. I wish I could keep myself from ever believing you when you told me you’d always be there. I wish I could tell you not to lie when you told me you’d never throw me away. I wish I could go back and change everything, but most of all I wish I could go back to that first party. Go back to the night I met you, and we become something a little more than friends. I wish I could go back to before we ever got so complicated. I wish I could return to that night- that night that changed everything- I would’ve stayed home. But then I realize that the little time I had with you was worth all this pain, and if I truly could go back, I would do it all over again. Because you are worth it, even if I’m not. 

The Truth About Grief

As someone who is no stranger to grief, there is one thing I know without a doubt: there is no right or wrong way to grieve, though people will tell you there is. These people, in my opinion, have never been directly affected by grief, because if they had, they would know that there is no truth to this. The truth is there is no correct way to grieve; there is no normal way. Grief is not clean and organized; perfectly laid it out in a step by step guide. Grief is messy, ugly, and disorganized.

They say that the last stage of grief is acceptance, but how do you accept someone’s death? How can you ever be expected to go back to your old life, when there is no going back? You are forever changed. The fact of the matter is that you can get over an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend, but you don’t get over someone you love being ripped from the world. You only get through it. You learn to rebuild a new life from the pieces of the old one. You learn to function in a new way; a way that doesn’t include the person you lost.

Some days it seems like a lifetime ago and other days it seems like yesterday when you were talking to them, hugging them, laughing with them. Some days you catch yourself forgetting they’re gone and other days the vast emptiness of the loss is so great, it steals your breath away. This is notion few understand; people expect you to get up and get back to normal. Little do they know that there is no more normal, because your reality is forever changed. Nothing will ever be the same, especially you.

There are days that are so unbelievably hard that you wonder how you will ever survive. Other days provide a sweet relief when you forget they are gone, even if only for a few seconds, but then the memory comes rushing back in such a force, it nearly knocks you off your feet. Each of these types of days are their own type of evil, but the best types of days are the ones when the grief is manageable. When you have long grown used to the emptiness in your heart, and are able to make it through the day without the weight of their memory crushing down on your chest. These are the days we revel in, because they are the ones that make life bearable.

I don’t think there will ever come a day when my grief will end; it only becomes a little more bearable as the years pass. That’s the secret no one tells you; it doesn’t end. You don’t wake up one day, finally free from the chains of your sorrow. Instead, you get accustomed to the heaviness and learn to live with it. Those us of us who have been grief stricken carry a horribly heavy weight each and every day, and we do so discreetly that some may mistaken it for honor. But there is no honor in grief; there is survival. It takes an incredible amount of strength; strength that many of us don’t discover until we need it to keep living.

None of us are ever safe from the pain of grief, for it is something we will all inevitably face. No one can save you from this; you will have to learn to save yourself. Save yourself from the crushing weight and the burning pain. Save yourself from the vast emptiness and the deep sadness. Save yourself from your scariest thoughts and deepest fears. the key? Remember that no matter how you are feeling or when you feel it; it is perfectly okay. Grief has no limitations; grieve the way you need to, because that is the only way to get through it.

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To the Older Brother I Lost

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Because my brother left this world so abruptly, a lot of things were left unsaid. Seven years later, and I still have so much to tell him. This is just a few of the things I want him to know.

I miss you: There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of you. Sometimes I miss you so much, it takes my breath away. Every day, I wish there was a way for you to come back. You left a gap inside me that will never be filled. I miss the memories we made, the jokes we shared, the things we did, and the stuff you said. I miss your smile and your laugh. I miss who I used to be when you were here. There are days when I catch myself unable to remember your voice or your face, and it leaves me terrified that I will forget to miss you someday.

I’m mad at you: Sometimes, I feel unbelievably angry at you for leaving. I want to scream and yell until you hear me, because you left me here to pick up the pieces of the things you broke. I’m mad at you for not being here for me anymore, because you were supposed to always have my back. I’m mad at you for shattering the world I knew and forcing me to build a new one- one that will never be complete without you. I’m mad at you for abandoning me. I’m mad at you for giving up. I’m mad at you for not fighting harder for your life. But then the anger wears off, and I get mad at myself for being mad at you. Because the truth is, I just miss you.

You left me a mess: There is so much that broke when you left, including me. You left me here to pick all the pieces of the mess you made, especially all the broken pieces of myself. I’ll never be able to completely clean it up and I will never be able to put myself completely back to together, because no matter what, there will always be a huge gaping hole that you used to fill.

You make me wonder if I am good enough: I will forever be questioning my self-worth because I wasn’t good enough to make you stay. I feel like I will never be good enough for anyone, because the one person that was supposed to always be there for me left me. Everyday I wish that I had been enough to have made you stay, but I wasn’t.

I will always look up to you: You taught me so much about what it means to be a good person, and I will never forget that. Even now, as I continue to be older than you ever were, you are always someone I look up to and admire. You showed me that sometimes you should put others first, but you also taught me that sometimes you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. You taught me to spread love instead of hate. You taught me to be compassionate and empathetic. Most importantly, you taught me how important it is to keep a good sense of humor. You probably didn’t know how much you were teaching me, but you were. You are forever a role model in my life, and no one can ever take the lessons I learned from you away.

I love you: Nothing will ever fill your place in my life or in my heart. You will always be one of the most important and influential people in my life. As much as it hurts to think about how my life will continue to go on without you, I still love you as much as I did when you were here. Maybe even more. I wish I would have told you this more when you were still alive, but I have the rest of my life to regret the decisions I made when you were here. No matter how much time passes, I will never stop loving you.

Losing someone is hard, that is something that everyone knows to be true. But what they don’t tell you is that it continues to be hard years after. It has been seven years since my brother has been ripped away from me, and there are days where it still hurts as bad as it did when I first lost him. It has been 2,557 days since he died, and I have thought about him for every single one of them. I don’t know if there will ever be a day where I don’t think about him. Some days it feels like I just lost him yesterday and other days it feels like he is from a different lifetime. Which brings me to the point of this post:

I didn’t just write this for my brother. I wrote it to remind us all how fast someone can be taken away. To show how much losing someone affects someone, even years later. If you have lost someone, there is no time limit on grief. If you still feel the need to cry, cry. If you feel a need to get angry, get angry. You are allowed to grieve for the rest of your life if you need to: don’t let anyone tell you differently. Because for me, the hardest part of losing my brother was when everyone went back to their normal lives, but I didn’t have a normal to go back to. Keep that in mind when you are trying to be there for someone who has lost a loved one. There is no going back. Instead, you have to build a new world. Life is so unbelievably fragile, so don’t waste it. Spend it doing the things you love with the people you care about. Stop holding on to useless grudges, and forgive those that are worth your forgiveness. Let people apologize for their mistakes, because we all make them. And most of all, tell the people you love how much you love them. As my brother told me: Live your life with no regrets.

Learning From a Tragedy

While I normally try to keep my more recent posts light hearted and funny, I’ve learned that life is not always cooperative with this notion. Sometimes life is heavy. Sometimes it smacks you in the face and kicks your legs out from under you. No matter how you live your life, it will still find a way to knock you off your feet. As my family faces yet another tragedy, and our inner strength is put through another test, I can’t help but wonder how I’m supposed to stay positive during this. While my family has always been the type to use humor to cope, underneath the tense laughter there is an unmistakable air of heaviness and sorrow. Needless to say, this past week has been an emotional rollercoaster. My theme for 2016 has been about inner strength and bravery, and it seems that life has taken this as a personal challenge. While I have been struggling to remain positive through all of this, I can’t help but look back on my past week and see what I have learned.

  1. People reveal their true colors during a tragedy. Some people’s aren’t as pretty as you thought. The people you thought would be there for you just simply aren’t. Others have some of the brightest you will ever see. You will find that some people are much kinder than you ever thought possible. Some colors will change. People will realize things about themselves and may even discover strength or kindness they never thought they had in them. Sadly, some are uglier than you could ever imagine. Some people will be crueler than you ever thought humanly possible. This is a sad fact that I have discovered exists very close to home, but do not let these people dull your own colors.
  1. No matter how good of a person you are, the world will still find ways to torture you, even when you don’t deserve it. It always seems that those with the biggest hearts and kindest spirits are the ones left suffering the most. This can cause a lot of internal struggle, something I’ve been struggling with. What I’ve concluded: Don’t let this keep you from being a good person. The world will always be there to knock you down no matter how you live your life, so I personally would rather live it kindly. There are many times in my life where I have regretted being rude, disrespectful, insensitive, and just plain mean. However, I have never regretted being kind. Yes, I have been taken advantaged of. Yes, I have been taken for granted. And yes, I have put my trust in the wrong people and given others more chances than they deserve. But I have never looked back and regretted being nice, helpful, or kind. Always be nice to others, you never know when you are the only one to show them kindness.
  1. People will talk about things they don’t understand or know the whole story to. This can hurt. A lot. But don’t let those people make you feel like you aren’t doing enough. It isn’t your job to tell everyone your story unless you are ready to. It is also not other’s people’s place to share your struggle with others without your consent, nor is it their place to fill in the spaces of your story with their own version of the truth. There are times when it is simply best to keep your mouth shut.
  1. People will get angry with you. Never feel bad for taking your time to deal with your struggles. If the people in your life can’t accept that you need to go through your own personal process in your own personal way, you don’t need those people in your life. They will only bring you more pain and frustration later. Everyone processes and feels things differently. We all need to understand that no two people have the same heart or the same mind.
  1. Tragic times can bring out the best in people. This has been especially prominent in my relatives and family friends. It is amazing how many people you discover have hearts of gold. I have seen so much inner beauty show through in people this past week. It amazes me how many people are willing to step up and offer their help in any way they can. Whether this be bringing food, offering a place to stay, or even a simple “You are in my thoughts” or “I hope the best for you and your family,” it can go a long way when times are tough. I wish people could be this kind to each other all the time: the world would be a much more beautiful place.
  1. Unfortunately, tragic times can also bring out the worst in people. There have been people that have been so cruel, that I can’t figure how they sleep well at night. As if life isn’t hard enough, there are people that make it worse. I will never understand how people can be so unbelievably cruel to others in this world. It is a sad fact that people will kick you when you are down. All you can do in these situations is hope that the kind people in the world outnumber the cruel people. Use these people as a lesson: do not become the people who hurt you. Instead, become the people who helped you as well as the people you needed when you were struggling.

I realize that I didn’t give many details on what my family is facing. That is because the point of this post is not to gain sympathy or pity. It is not to get people to feel sorry for me. The purpose of this is to show how much light tragedy can shed on different aspects of life. It is to reinforce how important kindness is, because we live in a world that is so overshadowed with hate, it is easy to get caught up in it. Life can be brutal, but that doesn’t mean we have to be. I know it is a cliché, but be good to those who mean something to you. You never know when the last time you see their face will be. You never know when it will be the last time you see them, the last thing you say to them, or the last text message you send them. Take it from me, I went through it seven years ago and I am going through it again. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. You will never look back and regret all the times you told them you loved them, but you will regret all the times you didn’t. Stay positive, stay strong, and stay kind.

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