five years later…

I’m not even going to lie and try to pretend that this week has been easy. They say there are some things that you just shouldn’t share on the internet, and perhaps my week of breakdowns, crying in the car, and seeming inability to do anything constitutes one of those things. But this week marks not only my birthday, but the five year anniversary of my baby brother’s death. I wish I could say this week had been easy, and that I could look back on my younger self and tell her that time heals everything, and that after five years it’s never a debilitating pain anymore. But that’s not true.

I don’t know if this is going to help anyone else. I don’t know if anyone will care at all, but I know that five years ago it would have meant so much to me to know that someone else had been through what I was going through. That someone else knew what it was like to lose their little sibling. That someone knew what it was like to feel forgotten and alone, crying themselves to sleep at night, barely able to function through the grief. I would have given anything in the months that followed March 2017 to feel less alone.

The amount of anger that I felt at God was unfathomable. The isolation was unbearable. All of a sudden everything felt like too much and I felt as though I had nothing else to live for. Somehow as I cared for my constantly ill mother, and did my best to keep the household running while still keeping up with everything else in my life, I had managed to hinge my whole existence in the life of that little kid. I don’t know how to explain how much I gave up in the year proceeding that day. When you pour your whole being into the belief that you are helping create the best possible life for someone, and that is all ripped away in a second, what remains of the person you were before? How are you supposed to survive when the existence you had so carefully laid out for yourself is nothing but a shattered remnant? All I could do was pick up the pieces that were left and try to keep going. I was angry. So angry. At God, my family, at everyone who I felt should be supporting me but wasn’t. I couldn’t believe that a good God would let me break the way He had, letting people tell me that everything would be worth it in time, only to have him die in the end?

My mom was sick. My dad was working. And I was trying to pick up all the slack. In a matter of a couple of months I lost everything that I thought defined me as a person. My sports, church recognition, the friends that I had made on my basketball team, and my co-op classmate. All of a sudden I was all alone, and I had so many more responsibilities than I had ever had to deal with before. I got very depressed. I thought my life was worthless. That even the sum of my parts amounted to nothing.

But then there was my brother. The very one that I had spent the whole early part of my childhood diligently praying for, and this… It was just something I refused to do to him. I didn’t want him to grow up thinking that I hadn’t cared about him. I didn’t want him to grow up feeling the loneliness that had characterized my childhood. I wanted to be able to tell him how much I cared, and to be there for him no matter what. And I guess in some ways I was. All the way to the bitter end.

I held on because of the responsibility that I felt to be there for others, even when I didn’t think they really cared that much. Everyone told me that all the pain and all the heartache would be worth it when he was born. Oh how they ate their words. It’s incredible how most people tend to leave when your pain makes them uncomfortable. In my anger I found it impossible to find solace. Not in other people, and not in God. My pain consumed every part of my life. When the depression would subside I would be consumed with anxiety that made me unwilling to leave the house, or to interact with people. My parents, even in dealing with their own grief, did the best they could to help me, but I refused to be honest with them for the most part, and suffered in silence instead. I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings in a way that wasn’t just internalizing them and putting on a brave fact for the world. I didn’t want to be weak. I didn’t want to be struggling. I just wanted to not care.

Obviously I made it through, but being thirteen was the worst year of my life. And suffering in silence, the anger that I harbored towards everyone in my life, and my self hatred and survivors guilt made it nearly unbearable. I would like to just smile at this point and say that now that I’m older I’m all better, and that none of this stuff effects me anymore, but to be honest as I go through this week, I feel like such a fake. Sometimes my emotions feel so overwhelming, and I can’t even cope, and then other times I feel so cold and heartless. Like I don’t even care. Sometimes I can make myself believe that I’m past it. Like after five years it just doesn’t matter to my everyday life anymore. But then the feelings come. The gut punch, take you to your knees, soul wracking sobs, like nothing exists besides the pain in my chest, and the quiet insistent echo playing inside my head is the only thing that truly exists. And I feel guilty. I feel like somehow, in some twisted way that this is all my fault. Even though I couldn’t have changed it, or fixed it. Even though there’s nothing I could have done that would have saved him. He was just an innocent little kid. I’ve spent so much time wondering what’s so great about me that I deserved to live, and he didn’t.

That all being said, it does get better. I don’t feel that same constant ache of hopelessness so much anymore. And at some point I managed to make it through my anger at God. My guilt no longer negatively influences all of my decisions, and though I still cry and have bad days, those days aren’t every day anymore. As I write this I pray that finally sitting down and writing and just being honest, things that have felt so tedious and difficult for me since that time will bring me more healing. I know, that even through this God is very good to me. Even as the pain sucks me in, I know that I am stronger because of it. That even though I would give anything to bring my brother back I can’t, and I have learned to live with that truth for the most part. As for the guilt, I am working to let it drive me to do something that matters with my life. I want to let his life drive me to do the things that I know God has called me to do. Because if he isn’t around to do amazing things for himself, I want to make a positive impact in this world on his behalf. The pain is horrifying. The valley was deep. But even though all of that, somehow I now have a glimpse of peace, and for that I praise the Lord.

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