It’s been a year since I lost my brother.
Not lost as in missing or dead.
No, but lost as in very complicated, inexplicable, brutal, unexpected and extremely painful.
“The end” had a bittersweet flavor. One day in October, I heard the news from my brother himself, who said reassuringly:
“Have faith, it’ll be fine. We will see each other again,” or something like that.
We cried. We hugged each other one last time. I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me.
We cried even more and finally, with great pain, agony, we separated.
A few weeks ago, Lydie, my therapist asked me how I was doing. First, I answered as a reflex that I was doing well.
Then I said, “Actually no, I’m not doing well…”
After that, I could not stop sobbing, tears as big as a thumb, I felt dizzy and mucus was running down my face.
No word could express how I felt.
Lydie asked me if it had something to do with my brother, it’s been a year this month.
I vaguely thought it could be related, but that was behind me and where there’s life there’s hope, so…
I cried even more. A thick curtain of rain that would not stop. Rain like never seen before. And under my skull, a storm, an avalanche of emotions that followed. And there, I was wet with my own tears, sobbing and laughing nervously, thinking:
“It does not matter what I say, the pain is there. It’s not up to me… I have control over almost nothing. My head can think what it wants… my heart and even my whole body, all of my cells know how I feel, even if I feel like I don’t know."
I still get up, eat, work and share things with my friends, I go out, laugh and suddenly, I can feel really bad and feel like crying buckets of tears, or feel dizzy and anxious.
If someone asks me how I am doing, I will probably say, to use what my friend Sabine says, ‘I’m doing like a rainbow.’
Life goes on. I’m getting ready to go to the Doll RDV in Paris.
I wonder a lot about what I want to do. Like, really want to do. What are my deepest desires? How long will I be in pain? How long will I grieve?
I thought of a text from Alexandra Franzen that said,
"Grief is like giving birth to a child. You’re giving birth to a new life—your new life. Your next chapter. Just like childbirth, you are not in complete control of the experience. You don’t get to decide, ‘the baby will be born at precisely seven p.m.’ or ‘I will be done grieving exactly three weeks from now.’ The timing is not entirely up to you. Yes, you can do things to alleviate some of the discomfort—you can breathe deeply, try to relax, meditate, visualize, hold someone’s hand—but ultimately, the process takes as long as it takes. It might be three hours. It might be thirty. Surrender and let it work through you.”
It is what it is.
It feels how it feels.
There is no rush, and,
It takes as long as it takes.
. . .
Friends ask, “How are you doing?”
One year later, I am still grieving. There’s a lot more space between each wave of grief (hours of calm in between waves, instead of seconds) but the waves still come.
One year later, I still think about him every single day, at least once. I still cry. I still feel a thousand different emotions. I still have questions that will probably never be answered.
Some days, I judge myself very harshly (“Why can’t I just be ‘fine’ already? What’s taking so long?”). But in my compassionate, patient moments, I remember, “There is no rush” and, “It takes as long as it takes.”
“When you love big, you grieve big,” another friend said to me.
And I loved him very, very big."
What helps me personally?
People’s understanding, not being judged if I need time and haven’t gotten over it yet
and for my private life to be respected. Unless you know about it, it’s useless to ask questions
about what happened. I’m not even 0.0001% able to talk about it. But I’d be glad to hear kind
What also really helps is not being categorized as being ‘fragile’ or ‘strong.’ I’m neither. I’m both at
the same time. It varies from time to time.
When I’m told that what I write is useful and inspiring, it also really helps.
When someone calls me or write to me. Like any human being, I love receiving kind words whether
it’s through chats, email or SMS.
Just to say, ‘I think of you. I wish you a lot of courage,’ or ‘I don’t know what to say, but I share your
I also do not know what to say most of the time when someone is going through an ordeal and I’m
afraid I’ll make it worse. But, ‘I am with you wholeheartedly,’ when it’s sincere, is often enough. And
it’s even more than enough. It really helps to know that someone thinks of us.
What else helped me?
Alternating contractions and breaths.
Being alone. Being surrounded.
Having a balanced diet. And eating sweets.
Drinking more. Sleeping more.
Walking alone in nature.
Laughing. And crying when I need it.
Grieving. And having moments of leisure.
Letting my emotions run free. And giving myself some respite.
Having a regular program. And breaking the routine.
Thinking about my brother. And thinking of others.
Being asked, ‘How are you?’ And that others really want to know how I’m doing.
Being listened to by my family. And my friends.
Taking a look at my priorities. Thinking about what really matters and what I’m doing with my life.
I want to share another text from Alexandra to finish:
"If you are grieving a loss of any kind, I wish I had the perfect advice, recipe, or seven-step process for swift healing. I don’t. All I can offer is my own story, which is still unfolding.
All I know is you’re not alone.
All I know is you will laugh louder than ever, and cry harder than ever, possibly all within the same afternoon.
All I know is being near/in the ocean helps. Salt water and tears are so cleansing.
Well-intentioned people may urge you to “hurry up” (“c’mon, hasn’t it been long enough?”) but you don’t have to do this. Your internal soul-clock moves at its own pace, nobody else’s.
When you’re ready, your hut (heart + gut) will tell you. You will know.
Until then, breathe, hold a friend’s hand, surrender, let the waves and contractions move through you. It’s all happening. Lava cooling into rock. New earth being born inside your cells. What seems like a “loss” may eventually feel like “more than before.” This might take a while. Tiny steps forward. One day, the ice will melt. Try to take good care of yourself. You’re doing a great job. There’s nowhere to be except here, nothing to do except this.
There is no rush."
Alexandra Franzen's blog: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/new/