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A weekly newsletter delivering sibling loss specific grief resources, support and validation, coping strategies, sibling loss stories, news from The Broken Pack, and much more- including exclusive content and opportunities for subscribers.
As seasons change and as we enter the last quarter of the year, I find myself thinking about how much life changes – sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly.
The seasons may have significant reminders of our loss, pain, and changed futures.
Perhaps the season of the year you are entering (Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere and Spring in the Southern one), reminds you of certain events, memories, or celebrations you experienced or hoped to experience with your sibling.
For me and my brother, we loved Halloween so much as children. In hindsight, I can’t understand why going door to door to get candy was appealing to us when we literally could have any candy we asked for at our grandma’s store. I’d love to ponder this with him now and think we would have a good chuckle over it. I think of the years of costumes and sharing our treats, picking and carving pumpkins, and jumping in the leaves with great joy.
This joy comes with sadness- nostalgia and longing, if you will. I see the children preparing for the holiday, and have such hopes for them and their siblings to make sweet, everlasting memories.
Here in the United States, like many places in the world, our culture is not comfortable with talking about death. The exception seems in October during Halloween preparation or in media. In both cases, the comfort in exploring death is often in the macabre, gore, and fascination with the unknown about life after death.
As I shared on Instagram and Facebook this week, I was driving out of the neighborhood and saw a gory display that wrecked me. There were skeletons, pumpkins, warning signs on the lawn, and a faux crime scene complete with a full-size body bag. My mind was filled with intrusive thoughts of what my brother’s death was like and images (though I never truly saw it) of his dead body in a body bag.
I forced myself to process the range of emotions that flooded me upon seeing that scene and knowing I would be working with many grief clients on the same day.
This unexpected, unwelcome stimulus for my distress helped me remember that grief comes and goes, and that it does not fall into neatly into stages or predictable patterns.
What we can learn from nature’s seasons
Seasons of the year serve to nurture and foster nature through various life stages and sustain the ongoing process of life. As Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, author, and poet, wrote in his book, You are Here, even the most beautiful flowers have periods of time in which they would be appear to be garbage. However, a gardener sees the beauty of the garbage as part of the life cycle and with curiosity and knowledge can see it into its next season.
When looking back over our lives, we can see various “seasons” and organize our thinking around this. For so many of us as sibling loss survivors (and with loss in general), the periods before and after our loss mark beginnings and endings of different “seasons.” The loss may even be our garbage.
Let me be clear, I do not think that we have to like that we had such an awful season of garbage in our loss. On the contrary, it was pure trash. Sadly we cannot go back in time and stop the loss from happening. If we could, I would not be writing this newsletter. I’d be happily drinking coffee and eating pasta with my brother.
Rather, what I am saying is that as we move forward, knowing the loss happened and living beyond that loss, we can see how the loss has impacted us and continues to shape our lives.
I have to face the body bag scene every time I take my 14-week-old puppy out (which is a lot) until my neighbors take down the display. This timing is out of my control in the same way that reminders of our losses, the loss, and the mourning are largely out of our control as well.
However, what we can do is learn from our loss and reflect on how these seasons have changed us. Our instinct will be to toss out and avoid the garbage – the pain, the unbelievable sorrow, the despair, etc. However, those will always be part of our story. How do we move into the next season with these as part of our story?
Learning from our seasons
Take a moment and consider:
How are you different in this season than you were in the season of your life before losing your sibling?
- While it’s easy to see how we are negatively impacted, are you able to see any strengths or changes for the better? If not, it’s okay. Just think about it.
- For me, I have learned to prioritize myself in the way Tony always wanted me to and I have set better boundaries with some toxic people in my life.
What is coming up for you in this season now (either life season or season of the year)?
- How much of this is or isn’t in your control?
- What support do you need and who can you ask to support you?
- If you need help finding resources or support, please email me or DM me on Instagram.
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