Season 1, Episode 2

Miriame Cherbib / Hamza

Miriame’s sibling loss story is a powerful and moving account of the grief, adapting to living as a surviving sibling, and love that persists following the loss of a sibling who is extremely close.

This is a conversation with sibling loss survivor, Miriame Cherbib, about losing Hamza, her brother, best friend, and safe space. 

  • Miriame a sibling loss survivor shares her personal story of losing her brother unexpectedly.
  • She discusses the intense grief and isolation that followed her immense loss.
  • She also talks about the difficulties of navigating her relationships with others, including with her husband.

Additional key points:

  • Miriame emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries with others who may not understand or be able to provide support in grief.
  • Miriame expresses the hope that her story will help break the silence surrounding sibling loss and provide hope to others who have experienced similar losses.
  • We discuss the importance of slowing down in order to grieve.
podcast cover showing details of episode and a picture of sibling loss survivor, Jen with her brother, Jimmy
Transcript

Dr. Dean: 

Hello and welcome to The Broken Pack™, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss, a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling Loss is Misunderstood™. The Broken Pack™ exists to change that and to support survivors. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Dean. In today’s episode, I talk with Miriame Cherbib, who is a mom, a wife, a daughter, and a grieving sister. She’s also a kind, loving soul that I have been honored to get to know over the past few months. Her love for her brother Hamza, and the story of her loss moved me, and I hope that they touch you as well. So today I am joined by Miriam She’s the founder of Speaking Justice and a training and programs facilitator at Ethos. Thanks for joining us today.

Miriame: 

Thank you So much,

Dr. Dean: 

You’re welcome. It’s so good to see you. did you wanna tell us a little bit about yourself?

Miriame: 

I think you said a lot about what’s important for me. family is important for me and, my work is my passion. I work in the industry of diversity, equity, and inclusion and belonging. and it’s definitely something that is aligned with my purpose, and I’m very happy and proud that I’m being able to find something that really gives me a lot of purpose, a lot of meaning in my life. I am, yeah, I said family, friends, community. That’s something that’s, all these things are really important for, for me in my life. I spend a lot of time with my family where it’s on the phone or, physical presence. and, and same with, with friends and community. And I have friends, community, and, and also, family all over the world. literally in, is it all continents? Almost all continents. Like Asia and North Africa, Europe, North America and South America. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s fantastic. So coordinating time zones to get together,

Miriame: 

It’s easy. It’s easy. I’m so used to it. I’m so used to it. After years, you get, you just get, get used to it. Yes, it takes a little bit of, kind of structure and habits to be able to do that. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think as you probably mentioned later, that probably played a little bit of a role in your story from what I gather,

Miriame: 

Yes,

Dr. Dean: 

being on different parts of the world. Before we get to the story, what would you want our listeners to know about your brother?

Miriame: 

Hamza was very, it’s a very gentle soul. and extremely funny. It’s like the funniest person I know. I think he was really trying to prove to himself and, and probably to my parents, but mostly to himself, that he was able to have a positive impact on the world. And he worked really hard for that, really hard, with great results. I’m something I’m really happy about is that he saw the outcome of his work before he died. And my parents saw it too. Hard for me to imagine a situation where all that work, wouldn’t have brought this amazing result. He had found something that was like me, completely aligned with who he was and what he wanted to do for the world. And, he was recognized for it, valued for it. And same thing, same theme. He was living abroad. Like we, we were raised in France, Paris, France, and he was living four years, he was living in Dakar, Senegal. And, a few months before he died, he moved to Bamako Mali and that’s where he died.

Dr. Dean: 

What kind of work was he doing there?

Miriame: 

He was basically a researcher and advocate. There’s two different aspect to his work. He was working for an organization called Civic, also called Centers for Civilians in Conflict, based out of, Washington, DC and LA Hague. They have two headquarters and I think they depend somehow of the UN too. His job was, as far as I can understand it, to be on the ground, travel a lot, meet main stakeholders of this problematic issue of civilians in war zones. and get information, understand what the situations are, what the issues are, and try to advocate to improve, civilians lives. And

Dr. Dean: 

Mmm hmm. Sounds like you two had a lot in common with the social justice and compassion.

Miriame: 

Yeah, we do. our father is a human rights activist, so we come from that background. Both of us have been raised, in a community of human rights activists, so absolute heroes who’ve put their lives in danger, to bring democracy, in North Africa and also defend immigrants rights in Europe. So we come with that kind of ethos a little bit. And, though my dad did everything he could to make us not follow that path because it’s in my dad’s mind, it wasn’t a path that was very rewarding. And he was right because when I look at, my uncles, as I call them, his friends and my aunts, a lot of their lives got, pretty much destroyed by that activism. And for sure they didn’t get, rich doing this or, the traditional vision of success was not there. I think something we tried to do, Hamza and me was to, prove my dad’s wrong. Prove my dad wrong because we were convinced that we could do something as impactful that would allow us to have a livelihood, not become rich, not our objective, but have a comfortable life and have a stable life and have a family and not go through divorce or, not, end up in prison It gets really heavy, like tortured and all this stuff. that’s what my dad knows from his friends. And so that’s what we really try to do. and in terms of similarity, so Hamza and I we are two and a half years apart. I’m the oldest, and, so I’ve always raised Hamza When Hamza met my husband, the first thing he told him was that I was the most important thing and person for him in the world. And the reason for that was that I was not just his sister, I was his best friend and I was his father and his mother. He wasn’t saying that lightly. And it’s not that my parents were bad parents, not that at all, but it was very much that my parents from the start, made sure that we would be extremely close. It was really important for them and gave me that responsibility, for better or worse of, protecting my brother. He was a very lively, little boy who would always get in trouble and by in trouble. It’s just like he would always get hurt. I have so many stories that I tell my daughter, now of like her Uncle Zza. She calls him, stories of when he broke his arm, when he, got stung by hundreds of bees when he got. I know he, he got, into a bike accident. there’s just so many stories and he was really like, that they would be like a major accident every year growing up, that would keep my parents on their toes. And so I was very much needed to keep an eye on him. So we were close, extremely close. And, but there was something else for us, and that was my, my parents are immigrants, first generation immigrants. And for them our success was their success. And they put a lot of pressure on us to, to succeed whatever, with their own version of success. And, it was a lot for one person to take on. But, Very early we had this intuition without really being able to understand the, full situation, but the intuition that we could divide the load between the two of us. And so there would be things that my brother would do and things I would do, and this way my parents would have their load of just being happy. Just oh, or like we have a kid that is really good at playing music and a kid that is really good at theater and a kid that is really good in science and a kid that is really good at writing and that was great. And we did that even as, ham. I wasn’t working in social justice or anything like that. when I came to the US I wanted a simple life. I wanted to just build community and I was a teacher. I was teaching kids preschool to sixth grade, teaching them French and cultural competency. I was a small school, was not a lot of pressure. And I had impact on the community, but I wasn’t looking for impact on the world at that point. I was really happy that my brother was doing that. So it was a real division of tasks where Hamza was in charge of having the huge impact on the world that, you know, my dad, even if he didn’t want us to follow exactly his path, wanted to right?

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

also like, For my dad, a real job. He had a title and he was making money and he was paid to travel, and I was more like on the building family side. I had a daughter and was married. My brother wasn’t. So it was a great division of tasks. Everybody was happy. There was like a real equilibrium for a while with that.

Dr. Dean: 

So it sounds like in, in a lot of ways, you were very close in his perspective, was that very similar to yours as far as being best friends and your motherly role with him as well?

Miriame: 

Yeah. I would add that it wasn’t, only like me helping him. He was, I think, I don’t know if I believe in soulmate, but he was definitely like, I as close as one can be of that for me. And I grew up being extremely anxious and my brother was my safe space. So yes, I helped him. I was his sister. but I was, he was also helping me a lot. And that humor that I was talking about was like key for me to just go through depression and high anxiety moments in my life. Moments of disappointments and all that. but otherwise, yes, he was my best friend for sure, for sure, without any doubt.

Dr. Dean: 

So it sounds like you grounded each other through some rather difficult circumstances.

Miriame: 

We did. yes, we did. We did that for each other. I remember when he moved to the US for college, he studied in the us. it was really tough. He didn’t have a lot of money. It was really tough to integrate. It was tough to do. He was getting a master’s in, political philosophy, and international relationships. it was really intense. and doing that in the foreign language too. he spoke English, but it’s one thing to speak it and read it. It’s another thing to really do these like intense, intense work, with a, with another language. It was intense, but I made sure each time he was somewhere in the US to come and support him as much as I could. It was a tradition. He knew that I would be there, help him find an apartment, help him set up everything, help him teach him how to cook. He like, the first time he left, he didn’t know, and it led to some just terrible, not terrible health consequences, but just like he wasn’t taking care of himself. It was very clear, just figure out how to be healthy and as happy as he could, given the amount of stress and pressure.

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds like he was a amazing human. What would you like to share about the story of losing him?

Miriame: 

Usually when people hear that he was working for a UN related war zone, they think that he had a very traumatic, dramatic death. it was definitely sudden. And of course, all deaths are dramatic. but it’s not while doing his work that he died, it was actually almost ridiculously just like an accidental,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

and, He, as far as we know, because it’s difficult to really get all the answers when, deaths happen, away from home. We think that, he got electrocuted in his shower. and, obviously, we didn’t know, it was gonna happen. it was extremely traumatic for me to, the way I learned it. I think it was traumatic for my dad. My dad was the first person

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

who in the family received the call, from Hamza’s boss, Who was a, who was an amazing human being. like the head of Civic, the head of the center for, Civilians in Conflict, Federico. And, I have so much compassion and, very grateful gratitude for Federico and how he tried to break the news to my dad. How do you do that? And he did it. My dad was commuting. He was in the metro in Paris, coming back home. and for me, that’s just, it’s hard for me to imagine, my dad’s suffer. It’s very hard. And I think about. 45 minutes between the moment he learned and the moment he made it home. And then the wait for my mom to come home and tell her

Dr. Dean: 

So your mom hadn’t known until your dad told her?

Miriame: 

Yes, because I think the emergency number they had was my dad. My mom is a teacher and she was working late, so she came home and that too, my dad having to tell my mom. And then the way I learned it is that, I was teaching that day and I had a lunch break and I had a tablet, like back then, didn’t have a phone. And on my app, iPad had Skype. And that’s how I would call my parents and my brother. I saw a notice that my parents had called me like seven times. I was like, oh, that’s bizarre. I should better like try to find a quiet place and call them back. And I called, they didn’t respond, didn’t answer. And then I noticed that actually there was a voicemail. And I listened to it. and it was, they didn’t leave it. they left it, unintentionally. and it was my dad crying and saying that, he needed to talk to his daughter. And saying like, where is she? Where is my daughter? I need her. And in the background, my mom like screaming. and that was really like, they did not say Hamza died, but I, I knew, I just knew. and so right away I called again and that time he picked up. and, and he told me that he died. I was expecting an in-between, I, I never expected death. Like usually they would be like, oh, okay, there’s a, I dunno, like a car accident and he’s at the hospital or, something like that. I couldn’t believe that it was that binary that he had been alive and then he was dead and there was nothing in between.

Dr. Dean: 

It was pretty shocking, it sounds because you called expecting bad news, but not the shock of the sudden death,

Miriame: 

I think I knew, I think I knew because of their reaction, but I was still hoping that it would be, that it would be like he’s at the hospital and it’s grave, like it’s really grave. but he’s at the hospital and, and so I remember asking multiple times like, are you sure? That doesn’t make any sense. And he said, no, no, that’s, that is like the. They called me. And, and of course, I am, I don’t remember what, I don’t remember exactly what we said, but I remember not being on Skype with him and feeling nauseous, having to lay down, being total shock after that. and having to have someone to take me home. It took months to be able to function as my normal, not normal, but like to function as, Just feel that I was, interacting with human beings in a way Miriam would.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. It sounds like given your relationship with him to i’m guessing Please correct me if I’m wrong, that he was probably the one person that you wanted to support you through this.

Miriame: 

Absolutely. I think you’re totally on target. Like there, that was definitely the hardest thing for me is that he’s my safe place and he’s gone.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

And now that I don’t trust my husband, but it’s not like that. It’s not the same level, you know? And yeah, and actually I didn’t want my husband’s support. It was like, I, I absolutely didn’t want that. and, That was the hardest is the one person I wanna, I wanna talk to right now is not here. and it’s, it’s tough because there, there was good intention around people trying to support me, but really not being able to understand For me it was total destruction, of like absolute destruction of, who, I was,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

because I depended so much. Inability to trust anyone really

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

Processing it or, when people talk to me, I looked totally fine. I looked like I was doing really well, actually. I think my husband Encore knew definitely that something was not okay. but because after a couple of weeks, I thought I wanted to leave my husband. I thought I wanted to leave my town, leave my job, take my daughter, and do something completely different. But I think for me was really just, everything had been destroyed and it was impossible to imagine going back to that life. It had to be if I wanted to stay alive, which I knew I had for my daughter. It had to be something completely different. It couldn’t be, it couldn’t be the same because my whole life had been built around. My brother, when we would spend something I didn’t share is that he lived in Maui. I lived in near Seattle, and we would spend five, six hours sometimes, depending on the days, depending on how many meetings he had, just on Skype. I would be prepping my classes and he would be working on his research

Dr. Dean: 

Every day.

Miriame: 

almost every day when I did not teach. Yeah, I only taught two, two days a week. And it was just normal practice for us to just be on Skype and once in a while he would like, tell me a joke. he’d be like, oh, did you see this funny YouTube video? Or whatever, or this movie’s coming up. Or I would do the same with him or make a joke or, but yeah, we were not physically together, but we were together. And the rest of my day, my husband used to joke. He’d be like, you are actually, when you’re not with your brother, you’re just thinking about things you’re gonna tell your brother, like funny events or jokes you heard, or I would have ideas. I, I like to prank him. I like, I really liked to do that. That was part of our thing. So I would come up with elaborate stories or pranks and and that was like, just things I would do throughout the day. and he would do the same. So suddenly not having that, I, I don’t know if I can describe. It’s just like he was just there all the time.

Dr. Dean: 

You, you found a way to stay connected despite all of the distance and challenges that come with being on separate continents.

Miriame: 

Yeah. And it was even a way for us to just, overcome challenges. it’s difficult to be in a different country. It’s difficult to, do different, like new jobs. And for me, I was a new mother. My daughter was, a year and a few months. And, it was, it was really important that we had that. I knew that I would just call him. He would be there, you know, and sometimes I’ll be cooking and just, I had that tablet. I would just bring the tablet in my kitchen. I’d be just cooking. I’d be doing laundry, I’ll be prepping. I’ll be, and he would just be there. yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

So you not only lost your brother and your best friend, you also lost some structure to your day,

Miriame: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

it sounds like you didn’t know how to recover from that.

Miriame: 

No. Yeah, Suddenly it was like total silence. I was very, I was really lonely for the first time in my.

Dr. Dean: 

And then it sounds like you didn’t feel very supported.

Miriame: 

So a lot of people tried to support me. First of all, my husband did like everything he could to support me. but it was just, given everything I said, it was just meant to fail, right? He couldn’t, until I was ready, no one could. And a lot of people showed up and, really supported me, supported my parents the way they could, but that was not gonna just feel the gap, the big hole that I was feeling suddenly. and, Really when I say that, Hanza and I built our identities kinda like around each other, knowing that safe was our relationship, because again, my parents were great, but they were not feeling safe to us. There was like pressure, judgment, a little bit of emotional abuse here and there, sometimes some physical abuse. They were not safe. There was a lot of love for them. we love them a lot. We, I still, take care of them. I still admire them for a lot of things that they’ve done and challenges they’ve overcome, but they were not safe for us. that was very clear for the two of us. So we very much grew up, feeling that the structure, the pillar, the safety was our relationship. and with that, we’ve built our, again, our identity is around, Around each other, and, and suddenly losing that was a real, just I didn’t know who I wa I didn’t know my values. Like I didn’t know who I was, didn’t know my values. I knew I was a mother. That was very clear to me. And that did not change, especially because when my daughter was born, my brother decided that my daughter would be his favorite person in the world

Dr. Dean: 

So you got replaced a little bit.

Miriame: 

I got. But it was fine with me. It was totally fine. but yes, it was, there was this thing where my brother was absolutely dedicated to my daughter. And so I think that completely protected. In addition to being a mother and being a new mother, that relationship with my daughter, but relationships with everyone else around was just like, not something I could recognize, identify, maintain. I could actually, I didn’t care. I was very cold, wanting to leave my husband that I absolutely love, and built a life with him. Like never, we would’ve never thought, ever, even for a minute that it could go there. it’s, it wasn’t a challenging relationship. We’ve always had, had been like a, a great relationship.

Dr. Dean: 

I know you both and That’s right. That’s evident. and so when you actually said that, I was a little bit surprised, but it makes sense given your relationship with your brother.

Miriame: 

Yeah. like everyone else, like including my husband. he was like, what this happening? But that was the sign for him because he knew me so well. That was a sign for him that even if I looked completely fine, I was not okay. I was not.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

And I know it’s a stereotype, but I had this thing where I’d be like, doing, I remember doing a lot of like drawings and coloring around that time and everything. Even unintentionally everything would look like fire. It was just like I was burning things down. Yeah. And like I was just drawing fires and I looked completely fine. I wanted to support my mom and support my dad and still doing my job and everything was okay.

Dr. Dean: 

Did you make it home?

Miriame: 

was, yeah. So that’s also an interesting, I think he added to my. I don’t know what it’s called. I have no diagnosis for that, but just that being

Dr. Dean: 

I’m not diagnosing you today.

Miriame: 

I know, but I just don’t know. Maybe people will know what it’s, I have no idea. I don’t care. But very quickly after learning the news, my dad went on his like problem solving, Quest, which he does really well. The first thing that he needed to do was to figure out where my do, where my brother would be buried. And, though we grew up in France, though my brother would have probably liked to be very, where we grew up in France. My dad thought that it would be, necessary for my extended family, including my two grandmothers to bring my brother back to Tunisia. And make him go through France so folks who were in France could see him. I don’t know if anyone, listening would have like this experience of, moving bodies, from from one country to another. It’s extremely difficult. But making a body go from one country to another, and then another one is

Dr. Dean: 

Oh.

Miriame: 

impossible. My dad did it though. He jumped on the first plane, went to Mali. He needed to go there to to the morgue, to identify my brother officially. but then he used all his network to put pressure to. Everyone he knew to be able to get my brother to France and then get my brother to Tunisia. In Tunisia, my brother was received by cabinet ministers there and he had one of the top doctors, do an autopsy there. and then my dad decided to organize this gigantic funerals in Tunisia. They involved not only my family, but every single person he’s ever met. And my parents’ town is a small, really small town in the north shore of Tunisia. There were thousands of people at his funeral. People he didn’t know, like 98% he didn’t know. My dad was that was his way to cope with the shock. He was in this, just not being able to sit down and also looking very like enthusiastic. That’s what my dad does for his activism. He organizes events and it was just one of his other events. He had organized a very successful event and people were coming and greet him. Super happy to see them. very grateful and and I knew, I had told, Ankur had told my husband when my dad told me on the phone that day that we learned that my brother died, that the funerals would be in Tunisia and that I had to go, I told my husband that was gonna destroy me like I. But I I felt like I had no choice. I had to go. So I took the family, I took my daughter and my husband, we went to France, then we went to Tunisia. While my mom was in complete shock and was unable to speak for about three weeks, and then, would have dissociative states, things that looked like strokes. She would hurt herself without knowing it. and so I had those two I was in between those two very different kinds of energies.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

and I think it contributed plus like this gigantic, almost ridiculous event that had nothing to do with my with my brother. I. Giant to imagine the scene, like thousands of people in the streets, giant portraits of my brother, giant people, like lifting them like he was some kind of national hero. it was just like, it just didn’t make any sense. And my mother was barely able to walk, not able to communicate, and all these people like coming to her and trying to tell her stuff and she wasn’t able to be there. it was very strange. Very strange.

Dr. Dean: 

It sounds surreal, like I can’t imagine what that experience was like for you at all.

Miriame: 

It was, I think it was like, walking into another dimension and I think that’s where a stayed stuck. It was like another dimension where nothing made sense, And I wasn’t able to feel anything.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

and yeah, and I stayed stuck there for four months,

Dr. Dean: 

When did that shift for you?

Miriame: 

going back to normal or whatever

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, and there’s not really normal, but

Miriame: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

When did you start to be able to feel like I can be in this world?

Miriame: 

Also, there are multiple phases, right? There’s a moment I learned, the moment I understood that I need to go to Tunisia and I knew it was gonna be really hard the whole week, 10 days, two weeks really after that, where I was. Traveling and funerals and stuff. And then I think three months after that, maybe two, two to three months where I just wanted to escape and burn things down.

Dr. Dean: 

And draw them.

Miriame: 

Yeah. There were like kids around me, so I was just drawing stuff with them and I’d be like, oh, that looks like a fire. That’s funny. I didn’t mean to do that. it’s like crazy thing. but yeah. yeah, two to three months and and my husband did the most important thing he could do when I told him. He didn’t allow it, which is extremely, him, extremely democratic, do whatever you

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

like anarchist. But he was like, actually, you’re not gonna do that. I’m not gonna allow it. And, and to help with that. I was lucky to have one friend here who happens to be my husband’s best friend. A husband grew up without a sibling and she grew up without a sibling and they grew up together. And so it’s my husband’s sister, and she’s my daughter’s, our daughter’s godmother, Vanessa, and. I remember that it is Vanessa that told me, in her very gentle way that, basically something was wrong with me. And and then suddenly I was like, oh, Vanessa sang it. Vanessa. Vanessa is Vanessa. I had my list. Like Hamza is like really at the top for some reason. I couldn’t trust my husband for a while. Dunno why, but Vanessa was the person I could hear

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

oh, if Vanessa is saying this, she’s the person who’s like the least judgmental. We can imagine. Vanessa is saying this, she must be right. The day I told my husband that I was leaving and I was like, changing life. He was like, no, you’re not gonna do that and you’re gonna talk to Vanessa. That’s when Vanessa told me, yeah, I think something is wrong. Like you, she was like, Memoo, she calls Memoo no, that I’ll be with you. Whatever you decide, I think something might be wrong. And and he said, you should go see a therapist. I hadn’t thought about that for some reason. I said, oh, okay. And I saw this amazing woman Pat lives in my town, and she told me something that would never forget. She said listen, Miriam, it seems like in your situation right now, a lot of people are gonna tell you what to do. I’m not gonna tell you that. I just promise that I’ll be an advocate for yourself. That’s all. I’ll be there listening and I’ll always make sure that you’re able to listen to yourself, because a lot of people are gonna come after you. And it’s true. And we have a lovely community, but when they learned that I was just wanting to leave and it was like a lot of people not reacting really well and so Vanessa and that, that therapist really helped me just be like, they were extremely obviously nonjudgmental and loving and, And plus my husband sticking with me and being like, you’re not going anywhere. Like I, I’m sorry. And then pat also told me and she said the only thing I’m gonna tell you is to not make any decision right now.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

You can decide to leave whenever, like if you want to, but let’s take a couple of weeks and not make any decision. And she said, and if you decide to leave your husband, I quite terrible, if you decide to leave your husband, do not leave your house.’cause you would be in trouble if you did that. Don’t be the one leaving the house. And I was like, okay, cool. I had never thought about these things. I didn’t know, but yeah, so anyway, so there was this crazy moment where I was like, just not. myself, and I think my brother died on October 11th, 2018. And by January we went back to France in December for a couple of weeks. And by January when we came back, I think already in December, already in France, I was feeling, I started feeling guilt and shame and it was really hard for making my husband suffer. And then by January I was able to be like, okay, this is really what’s happening. it seems like I was unable to process this pain. and instead of processing it, I just threw it at Ankur. We didn’t deserve it and tried to, in a way, I think just make him understand my pain, right? Because I’m his most important person.

Dr. Dean: 

And you were in essence abandoned by your most, not intentionally, but abandoned by the most important person.

Miriame: 

Yeah. Because my husband couldn’t understand, right? Doesn’t have a sibling and never happened to him. So he had never experienced death, close death that way. So yeah, for anyone outside, I think it was clear what was going on, but it took me two, three months to really first feel like this horrible, intense pain. and then, then being able to process it, and then suddenly only after that, Was able to start the grief process.

Dr. Dean: 

Where do you feel that you are in that now?

Miriame: 

I’m not sure because, it still absolutely sucks. It’s horrible.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, unfortunately. Yeah.

Miriame: 

I’m not like, oh yeah, this is great. You know, whatever. It happened that was hard. and now I see the meaning of this now, there’s still no meaning. It’s still terrible. I still hate it. Do I think I’m a better person after this? Yes, it forced me to be a better person. Did I finally, after months, like completely changed my life, aligned my actions with my values, worked really hard towards that, got the job I wanted to get, also to compensate, right? Because we had this unbalance suddenly, but being like, okay, now I need to take ownership. Do what I’m, what I feel like I’m supposed to do in this world. Not hide behind Hamza. but really do it. Yes. so my life has changed. I don’t think I was a terrible person before, but it really forced me to show courage and, demonstrate strong ability to, just do difficult things, and not be, not try to avoid pain. So all that is obviously great. All that is obviously directly linked to this traumatic event. But I swear that if, that, if my brother could come back and then I could go back to where I was, I would just do it without hesitation.,

Dr. Dean: 

Of course. it sounds like despite all of this, you’ve been able to move forward and that grief is always going to be there.

Miriame: 

Yeah. After all that, like craziness of the first months, suddenly I had energy that came. I think it was, a year and something later. there was a moment of transition where obviously there was a lot of, healing to be done in my relationship with my poor husband and. Only we need to process a lot of things. So in, I think in January, 2020, I woke up one day, my brother was a, amazing, classical guitarist. And I had never touched the guitar before, identify as musician because it was his thing. I was theater, he was musician. And, in January, 2020, I woke up one day and realized that I needed to play the guitar to learn how to play the guitar. And I’ve done it and I’ve worked really hard. And same time I decided to start my own business Speaking Justice. And I worked really hard. And so around January, 2020, suddenly, like I had. I could feel a huge amount of energy. It might also be because my daughter was suddenly, more of a toddler and more independent. All that obviously came together. but suddenly I was like, I needed to learn the guitar. I needed to have some, I need to develop, like my spirituality was something that I had never looked at before. I wasn’t raised in a spiritual or religious household at all. And so I worked on spirituality. I worked on meaning and purpose. I worked on creativity. And the guitar for me was creativity and spirituality. It’s music is deeply spiritual for me. And I started doing all these things just like completely, yeah. Like huge wave of energy. And I still feel, Maybe less obviously than 2020, but like a lot of that still is with me.

Dr. Dean: 

I’ll say that it sounds like this was a way of staying connected with Hamza, with the.

Miriame: 

I think so. though, it’s

Dr. Dean: 

But to be clear, you are amazing. I’ve heard you, you are amazing at the guitar, so

Miriame: 

Thank you. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

you’re welcome.

Miriame: 

The obsession, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to be as obsessed by it if it hadn’t been for my brother though. it’s tough to say because, when I’m playing the guitar, I’m not like, oh, I’m communicating with my brother. it’s not like that. It’s absolutely not like that. And I’m not trying to compete with my brother at all. but just something that. Is becoming, has become central to my life in a way that it was central to his life.

Dr. Dean: 

So in that period, those few months when you felt not connected to yourself before you saw the therapist, was there anything missing that you wish now you would’ve known or people could have helped you with?

Miriame: 

That what Pat and basically Vanessa told me, which was like, slow down, like something is happening. You’re not feeling it, but something is happening inside you. Like when Vanessa something is wrong, she didn’t say something is wrong with you. She didn’t say it that way. She didn’t mean that, but like that, Something was happening inside me and it was a very important moment for me to slow things down. And so I wish I had known that. I wish I had known that, that my first instinct would be survival. And what I know of survival was avoiding the pain. I wish I had been able to allow myself to not work for like months and be in dialogue with, I know with my husband. Just try to, I, I’m not sure, but just allow for more space, with that. I think more space and slowing down.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. Do you think it would’ve been helpful to have a community of other people that understood this kind of loss, even though they’re all different?

Miriame: 

It’s funny though, because I was avoiding it, so I think you would, yes, and I was avoiding it. I don’t remember if it was one person or two that shared with me around that time that they had also lost. It wasn’t really siblings, that were like cousins or people were really close to them, and, actually there was a person who had lost a sibling and I just, I was trying to avoid that. So I think. I think it would’ve been good. what said, you have to go someone to have, like you, this is just part of the process. I think I wouldn’t have discussed it if it was just like, oh yeah, this is common practice. You lose a sibling, you go to these meetings,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

you talk to this person, this is just normal. This is what we do. I think I would’ve, I wouldn’t have thought too much about it. I would’ve done it. but doing it my own in this kind of informal, very awkward, and me, and by the way, I lost a sibling too, and it was really hard. I’m here if you wanna talk, obviously I don’t wanna talk, I just wanna forget about this. I

Dr. Dean: 

Right. You just want to go back and erase it.

Miriame: 

Yeah, don’t. And I remember that feeling of I’m not like you. I’m not like you. this is not what’s happening here.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

we are not, we’re not the same. It’s not when obviously we’re there could have been a lot more there. but I remember like being like, no. Or if it were like, in the case of the cousin, I remember that’s so mean. just like being Oh, thank you. Yeah, sure. And then thinking something like, it’s not your brother, you don’t get it. Even with the other, I don’t know, but it was just, I think giving me that freedom was not, or honestly, it’s more than informal. Hey, call me if you need to talk. that wasn’t something that was working for me. And even more like there is a structure. This is what you do. This is just the normal method. that’s how I respond. There is a method or there is just, this is the normal process. There’s like steps. You do this.

Dr. Dean: 

That makes sense. And that’s rather common in these type of losses is because one, as you know, what we’re doing here is there’s not a lot out there, so we’re trying to build that, but in these losses, everything’s out of control. You just want someone to give you some guidance and control, is what I’m hearing to say. This is where you need to go and this is what you need to do.

Miriame: 

Yes, absolutely. I think the control thing, it’s obvious from my story was like huge, just having everything destroyed and trying to find some kind of meaning. but yeah, I think the structure would’ve been really nice. Unfortunately, we’re not in, in a society where, like in Tunisia where there is a structure. It’s like after 30 days something happened, after 60 days something happened and it’s totally normal to be wailing and expressing a lot of grief loudly, publicly. Tunisia is very close to Sicily, so people sometimes don’t like, have images of Sicilian like funerals, where it’s very close to that. It’s very close. so it’s okay to be in this kind of like demonstration. It’s in a, because the community’s safe. and you know that there’s gonna be an end to it. But during that time period of time, it is completely okay to melt down and just not have people feed you, have people carry you. It is actually expected. If you don’t do that, something is wrong. And there might be a need for intervention.

Dr. Dean: 

So having gone to Tunisia and having that event that you couldn’t relate to and then coming back and being alone sounds like it was wildly difficult to understand.

Miriame: 

Yeah. And I was really trying to find, obviously to find the person, someone, anyone, and I thought I, I found that person was wrong and then I. I didn’t want my husband to be that person. It’s just no, you’re like, you’re just like different category.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

but it was highly confusing. Yeah. That isolation, the loneliness was just killing me for sure. And obviously when I went to Tunisia, my aunts and everyone around was very demonstrative and were doing their thing, but because I wasn’t raised there and I was also going back and being like, okay, I took two weeks off from work and then I’m going back to work. For me it was like even, it was a shock though. If I had stayed there, it would’ve been, I think what we’ve talked about, like more of a structure, like just context. And people understand. People know the expectations. no one expects you to work for any amount of time, just you’re there. And, but that’s okay, I’m witnessing this is a weird, and it’s in this weird context, or my dad is like acting bizarre. And I’m also, I also know that I’m going back, to something completely different. it was very intense and it’s not, again, it’s not that people didn’t tell me. I remember at school they asked me, do you even wanna come back? They were really open, but it was just, I internalized expectations. we’ve had, we have these expectations. So I was supposed to take care of my parents and supposed to be okay, and my parents think we’ve talked about this, but my parents’ suffering was obviously like a. The main focus also of my attention. yeah, I guess the main thing for me is in our society, that lack of, oh yeah, this is just, it’s okay to grief. It’s okay to spend a lot of time doing this. and this is what it looks like also because in Tunisia, kids have seen these things a lot. Grandparents, like everyone still lives in the same town. Grandparents die. They’ve been there, they’ve seen how it goes. So they know what it looks like. I don’t know what it looks like, I don’t know.

Dr. Dean: 

is there one of your favorite memories of Hamsa that you would like to share and leave us with?

Miriame: 

When Hanza moved to New York, he was gonna study in Colombia and, not a lot of money. It’s really tough. And he basically had 10 days to find an apartment. I had a friend who lived there and, that friend had a girlfriend, so he was totally fine with leaving his apartment for 10 days for my brother. Very generous. And so I joined my brother and we had one week together where the mission was to find something, the amount of money we had, just anything. And it was the hardest. Most intense week ever because there’s a lot of stress and also the most loving, funny week ever, which just the two of us on the mission would go and look at horrible apartments sometime like hallways, and try to find something. And I remember, I always remember one day we were, went to this apartment and there was a guy who was renting a room and it was so clear that the guy was into like, some kind of like weird business. It was absolutely not legal. and he had a ton of very expensive watches on his table. There was it was a stereotype, had a fake. European Eastern, Eastern European accent, too, and it was this very intense thing. It was dark. the guy was extremely sexist. he kept telling my brother that he shouldn’t listen to me, that I should be listening to my brother. And we kinda left the apartment being like, oh my gosh, what just happened? It was just this very intense kind of situation where we’re like, oh gosh. Oh yeah. And he had like cards with, names, what seemed to be, escort girls or something. It was very bizarre situation. And we were like, okay. Don’t know what, what just happened, but definitely we’re not choosing these apartment even if we have to choose the hallway. And he ended up choosing the hallway, for a

Dr. Dean: 

So he lived in a hallway.

Miriame: 

He lived in the hallway for a few months. just so hard. But that was just the, that was just the choice. And it was honestly the hardest week and the funniest week ever. We’re just like walking all across New York trying to find, desperately trying to find something and having this kinda like sketchy situation, but being really happy that it was together. My brother was so grateful that I was with him in that department. Just just being able to, one, in terms of safety, but also just realize being like, is it, is that me or this situation was really wrong? No, it was really wrong. That was really bad. and we’re not sending you there. So anyway, it was great, moment for us of just if he had been alone, he would’ve been extremely depressed, I think. And we turned it into this kinda like week that we would talk about forever. very funny week. And actually I’m sending you a picture and I think the picture is from that week and that there’s nothing sad or stressful about it. it’s us having a great time. Even if it was indeed difficult time. He finally found like something that was great, but it took a couple more months to find something.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that. It sounds like your counselor was very well versed in grief and good with this whole situation. Was there anything that you wish she had known or been able to speak to about your loss specifically?

Miriame: 

I think Pat was, honestly, I was so lucky, was on target every time Like it was really intense when suddenly I realized what I had tried to do and how much pain I had inflicted my husband and the judgment from a lot of people. She was with my friend Vanessa, the person there to make sure that I understood that I. What happened was a survival strategy

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Miriame: 

and that it wasn’t, it was nothing about saying that I was a bad person. I’ll be forever grateful for Pat.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s good. Yeah, it sounds like that was a positive experience. Well, thank you for sharing everything today. It was great to talk with you and hopefully use this information to help other people. That’s okay.

Miriame: 

Oh, thank you, Angela. what you’re doing is so important and, and I’m very grateful for you.

Dr. Dean: 

I’m grateful for you as well. Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Mylwood and Brian Dean, and was performed by Joe Mylwood. If you would like more information on The Broken Pack™, go to our website, the broken pack.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Wild Grief™, to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guests can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

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