The month of October usually meant to me that it was finally Fall, and everything pumpkin would fill me with joy. It was time for pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie. It’s also my birthday month, so that meant loving birthday wishes from friends and family.
But on October 24th 2014, life changed forever. My brother was in a motorcycle accident and was on life support for one week. It forever altered my family, his wife, his children, his stepchildren, his friends and all the people who knew him and loved him.
I still can’t believe it’s almost been one year since his accident and his death. Looking back over the year, I’ve reflected on how his death affected me and what grief has taught me.
- I am grateful for every single day. I wake up grateful that I am here. I do not take my life for granted and know what a miracle it is to be alive. Someone asked me recently, “Are you always in such a good mood?” Yup, I sure am. I’ve seen life end in an instant and will not waste a minute of my life.
- Grief sometimes hits like a huge wave. I do have moments of sadness or when I think of my brother and miss him. It’s usually when I’m hiking or when I’m looking at the ocean sitting by the beach (my new favorite place to be). But in that moment I know that I’m not alone, and that is comforting.
- I can’t change how someone else grieves. My parents, sister-in-law, his kids; we all grieve differently and that’s perfectly okay. Some of us like to openly talk about it, others don’t. We all have had to navigate this loss individually. People don’t always say what we want to hear. I’ve learned to accept we are all at different places when it comes to feeling his loss.
- Grief needs to be felt. Grief cannot be pushed down or shoved aside. It needs to be felt. If it brings me to my knees, then I feel that. If I feel sadness, I feel it. If I cry, so be it. I will feel whatever comes my way, knowing that it will pass through me and then I feel released from it in that moment.
- I know I’m not alone. Because of my job as a police officer, I’ve seen more death than most people. When my brother died, I was on the other side of it. It was my family member. I felt I had to be strong for my parents and help them navigate this loss. After getting back to “normal” life, I take comfort that my brother is always with me. Wherever I go, he will always be with me.
I know I am not the only one to experience grief and loss. I have had family members suffer tremendous losses of their own. It is heartbreaking to see someone else in pain. The pain never goes away but it has changed for me over the course of this year. I have found gratitude to be my mantra. Every time I work out, hike, bike, or do a yoga class, I feel alive and thankful that I am here.
To my brother, I love you with all my heart and thank you for being with me and being my protector.