As the one year anniversary of my brother’s death approaches, I’ve found myself getting hit by waves of grief again. Like after a storm that had passed, those initial waves of grief had been much smaller and manageable over the past few months. So, I was kind of surprised when bigger waves suddenly knocked me off my feet.
It shouldn’t be a surprise really, but it was. See, grief is cyclical. We talk about the stages of grief like they are bus stops and once you are past them, you are done with that stage, but the truth is grief tends to cycle around. Sometimes, as you cycle through, you even hit a stage you missed the last time around.
It’s also not surprising really because our family is going through a major milestone. My oldest, Brock, graduated from high school. Things are changing, yet my brother is forever in the past. He is not part of this new present.
Another reason – at least I think this is a reason – is that over the past few months I’ve been crazy busy. (You can read about 6 Tips When Your Everyday Is Crazy HERE) And now that I’ve had a moment to slow down and to take a deep breath from all the happy busy of birthday parties and graduation and graduation parties, the reality of the permanence of brother’s death has hit me hard.
The thing is, grief is not one big good-bye but a series of small ones. Each new milestone that your loved one isn’t present for is a small grief. The more milestones that pile up, the more final their death feels. You might wonder, well of course death is final – what in the world?
Well, after that first year, I can no longer say, “This time last year….” I am making new memories of which my brother has no part. That’s how life is, of course, the living constantly move forward. But I am finding it hard to move forward because that means I leave my brother forever behind.
In my mind’s eye, I picture it like we’ve all been in this meadow, and now my family and I are walking down the path, continuing our little hike. But my brother stays in that meadow. I keep looking back over my shoulder, lingering, walking slowly, but my family, my friends, my life keeps moving forward on our path. I’m getting to that bend in the road, and I have to decide if I’m going to continue to move forward and lose sight of my brother. He’s still in the meadow, where he will forever stay. Or am I going to stop, forever stuck between what was and what will be.
I think the healthy decision is to keep moving forward, but understanding the finality of death hurts. It doesn’t mean I can never visit the meadow, but I can’t stay there. I have to move forward. And that’s another form of good-bye.
Have you dealt with grief? What are some things that have surprised you as you’ve worked through it? I’d love to hear about it!