Season 1, Episode 3

Kyra Molinaro / Brett 

Kyra Molinaro’s Journey Through Sibling Loss

    • Kyra Molinaro, a sibling loss survivor, shares her story of losing her only sibling, Brett, from an accidental overdose.
    • Kyra talks about the unique bond she had with her brother, his sudden death from an overdose, and the challenges she has faced in coping with his loss.
    • She also discusses the importance of finding support and community after losing a sibling, and how she has found comfort through sharing her story.

Additional key points:

    • Kyra and Dr. Dean explore the role of family dynamics in sibling grief.
    • The challenges of navigating the world that doesn’t understand sibling loss are also discussed.
    • This episode highlights the importance of self-care and role of resilience in the face of sibling loss.

Content Warning: Information presented in this episode may be upsetting to some people. It contains talk of suicide, guns, and police/SWAT teams. 

    • If you believe you are witnessing an overdose, call 911 or your country’s emergency number immediately even if you are administering Narcan.
    • If you are in the US and would like support for yourself or someone else with substance use, suicidal thoughts, or other topics discussed in this episode, please call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or Text your 5-digit ZIP Code to 435748 (HELP4U) or call a warmline. For more immediate crisis call 911, 988, or go to the nearest emergency room.
    • In the USA an updated directory of warmlines by state can be found at https://warmline.org/warmdir.html
    • A warmline directory for trained peer supports in over 20 countries can be found at https://www.supportiv.com/tools/international-resources-crisis-and-warmlines (some of these may be hotlines)
podcast cover showing Kyra and her brother
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. Content warning information presented in this episode may be triggering to some people. It contains talk of drug use, addiction, sex work, death, suicide, and overdose. Other relative resources, including links for warm lines in over 20 countries can be found in the episodes. Show notes. In today’s episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Kyra Molinaro, a sister, a daughter, a wife, and a sibling loss survivor. You will hear her story of loss, her challenges, where she is on her healing journey, and a little about losing her only sibling, her protective, older brother, Brett, who was a kind, compassionate chef and friend. Do you wanna tell me a little bit about yourself before we jump into the story?

Kyra: 

Sure. Yeah. So my name is Kyra Molinaro. I am 30 years old. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. My background is in communications for nonprofits and higher education. I work in advancement and I do donor communications. So it’s, expressing the impact of gifts that donors give to the university in terms of scholarships, and down chairs and professorships for faculty and things of that nature. I’m married. I’ve been married for five years to, my husband Tyler, who I met at Elon. We have no children yet, but we do plan to start a family in the, near future and we have two cats.

Dr. Dean: 

Thanks for sharing that. Do you have any other siblings?

Kyra: 

No, I don’t. Brett was, is, my only sibling.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. so before we talk about the painful story, what would you like us to know about Brett?

Kyra: 

Yeah, so Brett was an amazing person all around. He was a very unique person. He was extremely funny, and had a great sense of humor. He, particularly was always very good at doing, impressions from movie and tv that was like his specialty. He would just kind of rattle off these lines that a lot of the time you had no clue what he was talking about or what movie or what show it was from, but it was so extremely funny that you couldn’t help but laugh.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Kyra: 

He was just always a goofball. In terms of his career, He was a professional chef and he worked for a very long time at a restaurant in Boone, North Carolina, called The Red Onion. I believe his title was Assistant Executive Chef, and he really helped the restaurant to become, a local gem in terms of farm to table, culinary styles. He created a lot of different really good dishes. He lived in Boone until about 2018 when he moved to Charlotte to be closer to my dad, and there were also some, some personal circumstances that we’ll talk about in a little bit. He worked in a lot of different, capacities in Charlotte in the food service industry. He worked for a retirement community called South Minster for a while. and then at the time of his death, he was working in the kitchen at 300 East, which is a restaurant, in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte that is pretty famous. A lot of people, at least locally, a lot of people like to go there. And, he was such a talented chef. He was very passionate about local produce, farm to table sustainability. He was a big gardener. He loved grow tomatoes and peppers and basal and all kinds of different things, and he loved to incorporate that into the dishes that he would make. And he loved sports. He played soccer and tennis when he was in high school, and he continued to play soccer He was 39 at the time of his passing. As he got older, a knee injury prevented him from playing soccer, but he got really into disc golf and he loved disc golf. I think he used to play at least once a day, sometimes twice. I think it was very much a therapy for him, and overall he was just an incredibly caring and compassionate person. He had really great relationships with his family and his friends. He was very giving, especially in terms of food. He saw food as his way of showing and expressing his love for others. At his celebration of life, we had so many people tell us about how he would drop off soup for them or a casserole, out of the blue, you know, just to make their day and just to make them feel a little bit better. So he, he was very caring and he, and he wanted to lift up people who were down on their luck. That was definitely a theme in his life, because I think he knew what it was like to, to hurt and to be down on your luck himself. So yeah, he was a wonderful brother,

Dr. Dean: 

How much older was he?

Kyra: 

Yeah, that’s, that’s an important part. He was nine years older than me. He was 39, as I said, at the time of his death. And I’m 30, so we had an interesting dynamic growing up because a lot of people would think, oh wow, he was nine years older than you, you guys probably weren’t that close, but it was actually the exact opposite. We were very close because he was very much the protective older brother. and I worshiped the ground. He walked on. I was always following him, him around. I always wanted to hang out with his friends. He was definitely embarrassed by me, but he still had a soft spot for me, obviously. And as we got older, we just kind of maintained that closeness as we developed on through our lives. I was in middle school, he was in college. I still thought he was the coolest person ever. then when I got into high school and college and he was, beginning his professional career, he would give me a lot of advice. There were definitely times where, if I had a broken heart or if I wasn’t sure about, a college application or something, I would, I would talk to him about it and he would, usually have pretty good advice for me.

Dr. Dean: 

So it sounds like you had a close relationship.,is there anything else you you wanna say about your relationship with him?

Kyra: 

I think our relationship at times could be a little hard simply because we were very much opposite in terms of our personalities. As a psychologist, I’m sure that you know a lot about how sometimes in sibling relationships, one person kind of fills a certain role to adapt to the role that the other sibling has taken on. And from the time Brett was little, he was very much a little bit of the troublemaker. He could be the rebel. He did not like authority. and because of that, as a child, as I was growing up, I felt like I had to be the good kid who didn’t give my parents any trouble. And not only that, I, it’s almost like I wanted to kind of ground him in a way, like I wanted to be closer to him by kind of giving him almost like a safe haven. Because he could, he could be very emotional. I think he struggled with some ADHD issues. not to say that i didn’t, I think a lot of people struggle with those kinds of things, especially when they’re young. But as we got older, I definitely became more of the type A personality, very organized, always had to have a plan. Whereas Brett was the opposite. He did not like to have a plan. He kind of liked to fly by the seat of his pants. He was very spontaneous. And some of the, some of the problems that he had in his life were, I felt a result of him having not planned well enough and having not always thought out the consequences of his actions. And I would tell him that sometimes. I was very honest and I wasn’t afraid to, to tell him what I thought. And I think he could resent that sometimes, because I’m sure no older brother likes to be essentially scolded by their little sister. And looking back, especially now that he is gone, there’s a lot of guilt that I feel sometimes about having criticized him about the way he was living his life and certain decisions that he made. My husband always tells me that, of course, I shouldn’t feel guilty because I was validated in what I felt and what I was expressing to my brother. But there are times where I do feel like I could have just been a little bit easier on him, I suppose. However, regardless of that, even when we did fight and even when we did butt heads, there was never any love lost. And that’s something that I’ve really held onto these past few months because I know 100% that I loved him very much and that he loved me and and we respected each other and we did have a good sibling relationship. And that’s something that I treasure because I know that that’s not the case with a lot of siblings. So I feel very lucky to have had him and to have had such a good relationship with him.

Dr. Dean: 

It sounds like you were speaking out of love in your concern for him, and I’m guessing he knew that.

Kyra: 

Yes. Very much so. Especially because, just to shed some light on some of the issues that he dealt with, in the last couple of years, Brett, did deal quite a bit with substance abuse issues. And in 2018 he got a D U I. and in getting that D U I, it led to a lot of complications in his personal life, as you can imagine. He and his long-term girlfriend ended up breaking up and I know that he was devastated by their breakup because he really loved her and he thought that they were potentially gonna get married. And he kind of hit rock bottom. and he ended up moving home to Charlotte to live with my dad for the time being to get back on his feet. He felt that he had outgrown his job in Boone, He had been there for a really long time and he felt that he wanted to move on to a new opportunity. It was an opportunity for him to kind of start over and to start fresh. But he, he really struggled to get back on his feet and he intended to only live with my dad for maybe six months or so until he could, get the DUI resolved and get a job and get back on his feet. He actually never ended up moving out of my dad’s house. He stayed there for the past, four years, and he was just never able to really like, liberate himself, financially. I think he was happy with his life for the most part, and he did eventually get a job at South Minster and then he started working at 300 East and he did really enjoy those opportunities. He was also doing some gigs on the side. I think there’s a, like a food industry app called Gig Pro where you can pick up shifts at different restaurants and he really loved doing that. He worked at a lot of really popular Charlotte restaurants in the process of doing that. So I know that he was satisfied for the most part with his situation, but knowing how intelligent he was and knowing how talented he was, I knew that he could do better. And I, and I pushed him to try and do better. I wanted him to move out of my dad’s house. I wanted him to be financially independent. and of course this is also difficult because this is a little sister telling her brother this who’s nine years older. He had a lot of good friends. There were several friends in Charlotte that he reconnected with that I really liked, and that I’d met before and they cared a lot about Brett, but there were also some friends of his that I did not think were helping him down the right path. And I think even though he got the D U I resolved, and he did start drinking less, I think his substance abuse issues curtailed in other ways which unfortunately we didn’t really know a ton about until his death when we found out about, the circumstances.

Dr. Dean: 

Thanks for sharing all of that. I think that there is a lot of substance use in the restaurant industry, unfortunately.

Kyra: 

There is, and he would always say that, and, and you have to understand that, from my family’s perspective and from what we knew, we just thought, okay, he’s, he’s a big party guy. He probably dabbles and experiments with, with drugs. like we didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary. And I mean, he did have a point that when you’re getting off work at 11:00 PM midnight and you’re still wired from having worked a 6, 7, 8 hour shift, of course you’re gonna wanna do something to help yourself relax and. it’s really your only opportunity sometimes to see friends, because if you’re, if you’re sleeping during the day or if you’re doing other things. So yeah, he would frequently say, that it’s just the industry that we’re part of, like everyone in the food industry is, is using drugs, is drinking. and he also had this tagline that he said, where he would say, nothing good happens after 11 o’clock and I was like, yeah, I bet you’re right. I don’t, I don’t wanna know what you’re doing after 11 o’clock, but you’re, I know you’re right,

Dr. Dean: 

Do you want to move into, I know I’m sure you don’t love talking about this, but do you wanna move into telling the story of losing him?

Kyra: 

Of course. Yeah. So I lost Brett on June 30th, 2022. I actually had a cold at the time and I’d taken the day off of work, and I was taking a nap and it was around 4, 4 30 in the afternoon when I woke up and I saw that I had, several missed calls from my mom and she had texted me and she said, it’s an emergency call me. And I called her back and I actually, initially thought that it was, maybe something was wrong with my stepfather because he’d actually been in the hospital a few months prior. So I thought maybe it was something with him. but she told me that there were police that had come to her house and it’s because they had not been able to get in touch with my dad yet that day. But they, they told her that, that Brett had passed away and, it’s their policy, of course, to they, they won’t tell you that kind of thing over the phone. And so since they hadn’t been able to get in touch with my dad yet that day, I guess they had gone to his house and knocked on the door, but he wasn’t there because he drives around a lot for work. They went to the next of kin, which was my mother. And so they sent local police in Richmond to, to tell her in person. And, and she was home with my stepfather. I remember my initial reaction being a combination of feeling deep down that it was true, but also being in complete disbelief and shock. I remember before I even responded to my mom, I, I called to my husband downstairs. He was working from home that day. And he came up immediately because he said that the tone of my voice was like something he’d never heard before. and he knew that it was serious and something was wrong. He came upstairs and I was on the phone and I just looked at him and I mouthed Brett, I mouthed my brother’s name to him. And I said to my mom, are you, are you serious? Is this real? And she said, yes, I think it is. And so what information, we had gathered from the police is that, Brett had gone over to a hotel, near downtown Charlotte at around

2: 

00 AM previous night, June 30th. He was visiting a friend of his who, was homeless at the time and living in the hotel. And this information actually wasn’t a shock to me because this is something we had had a fight about a few months prior, because he told me that he had met, a friend who was going through a lot and her parents had kicked her out of their house and she was, trying to get out of an abusive relationship. And Brett helped her financially by helping her to, to book hotel rooms until she could get on her feet. So I’m actually not totally sure if this is the ex, if the this is the same friend or if it might have been another friend that also was in a similar situation. But either way, he, he went over to this girl’s, room at 2:00 AM and what we later found out is that, police believed that, she was a sex worker. Even though she told the police that her relationship with Brett was platonic and that they were just friends. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s, that’s what she said. He had gone over to her room to hang out and they were gonna watch a movie and he showed up and she says that he had a cigarette pack that just had a tiny white pill in it. She even described it as a white clump, is what it looked like. And she said that he told her that it was fentanyl and she claims that she said to him, you shouldn’t do that. it because apparently she herself has overdosed from fentanyl several times before. So she told him this and I guess his response was essentially, I’ll be okay, and he crushed the pill and snorted it. And immediately got woozy, laid down on the bed, and fell asleep. In the meantime, she had Narcan with her. She actually had two different things of Narcan, but she left, she had to go meet a client and she said that she wasn’t too worried about Brett because his color looked better and he was snoring. So she thought that he was okay. And so she left for several hours. She came back at, around, I think around five 30 ish in the morning, and he was not responsive and he was not breathing. She tried to give him C P R, and then called 9 1 1. And the paramedics worked on him for a while, but essentially what they told us is that he was, he was dead upon the scene. He had, he had been gone before she even came back. they estimate

they called his time of death at 6: 

17 AM but they estimated that he’d passed

probably around three or 4: 

00 AM. I’m

Dr. Dean: 

so sorry.

Kyra: 

Thank you. She had also told the police that Brett had been doing meth, and that’s something that we didn’t know anything about. I knew, as I said earlier, we knew that Brett had dabbled in drugs. I knew that he’d tried cocaine. I knew that he had tried mushrooms. He smoked marijuana frequently. but I didn’t know anything about any, any harder drugs. It wasn’t until later on when we were looking through his room that we did find some crystal meth in some small jars that he kept in his nightstand. The thing about it all is that we, so we did get his toxicology report back actually just about two weeks ago. so it took about four months to get the toxicology report back and it did show that, his cause of death was combined toxicity of fentanyl and methamphetamine. So it did confirm that those were the drugs that were in his system at the time of his death. However, the questions that I really struggle with are, did he know that he was taking fentanyl? Did he willingly take fentanyl? And how much of what the friend is saying is true? I don’t think she had any reason to lie, and I don’t think there was any foul play, but it’s just, it just seems a little odd to me that he would have told her that it was fentanyl, because from everything that I’ve heard and read about fentanyl deaths is a lot of the time it’s because someone takes something that’s accidentally laced. in talking with the, detective who was on the case, he actually told me that that’s not always true. Especially with people who take meth, fentanyl is a painkiller and sometimes people will use it to help them sleep. Of course the problem is that you can never tell if what you’re getting is pure or not. You can never tell what the consistent or, not what the consistency is, but the dosage and just a tiny amount of fentanyl can kill you.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm

Kyra: 

It’s interesting because I had actually had a conversation with Brett about a year ago about the fentanyl, epidemic and how bad it was. And he told me, he was like, don’t ever take anything anybody gives you. And I was like, okay, you know, I wouldn’t anyway. And he was like, don’t ever take anything anyone gives you because you don’t know what it is. Fentanyl is in everything nowadays. So I just found it very ironic that he would’ve told me that. And then I hear this story that he took fentanyl of his own accord. However, at the same time, we didn’t know that he was taking meth. We didn’t, we didn’t know the extent of his addiction issues. and I’m aware that addiction is a disease. Something that I’ve, really thought about since his passing is that he very well may have done it thinking he would be okay. And I don’t think that he did it intentionally. I don’t think that he was trying to kill himself.. I think that addiction was the cause of what happened because, sorry, , I’m struggling to, to get this

Dr. Dean: 

Just, if you need to take a minute, it’s fine.

Kyra: 

Yeah. Let I think that he made a bad decision that was fueled by addiction. And I think it was something that he wasn’t thinking about in the moment. He wasn’t thinking of the consequences. He was a person with a disease who was trying to feel better. So many times I’ll ask myself and my family will ask, well, why did he do it? Why did he, he, he knew better. He was smarter than this. And I think at the end of the day, it wasn’t about us and he didn’t wanna hurt us. He wasn’t even probably thinking about us in that moment. It was what he needed at that time to get by.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm.

Kyra: 

So that is, and it’s, and it’s tragic in that sense, because something that my dad said multiple times after this is that, No one deserves to die because they made a mistake. and there are so many people who, I mean, you’ve seen in the news that overdose and they continue to abuse drugs knowing that there’s a very high chance that they’ll overdose. And I don’t know if that was the case with Brett. I don’t know if this was his first overdose or if this was one of many, but it’s, it’s, I think the tragedy of it is that you, you don’t know if this is gonna be the, the one that kills you. You don’t know if this is gonna be the last time.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm.

Kyra: 

So yeah, that’s the story.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s a lot. It sounds like you’re able to find the compassion for the pain that he was in.

Kyra: 

Yeah. And something I probably should have mentioned earlier is that, Brett did deal with quite a bit of trauma when he was, when he was growing up. My parents divorced when I was very young. I was only in first grade, but Brett was in 10th grade at the time. I think he was, I think he was 15. 15 or 16. And I definitely felt the impacts of the, of the divorce as a young child, but I know that as a teenager going through a very critical phase in his life, I think that he definitely felt the impact a lot more. And I think it really took a toll on him. And another thing that happened when he was also a teenager, it was actually the month before he was supposed to start college. My grandmother passed away, in front of Brett actually. He had gone to her apartment to pick her up and take her to church to give her a ride. And she went to the bathroom, before they were ready, before they were about to leave, and he heard her fall. And he went in the bathroom to try and help her. And it turns out that she’d had an aortic aneurysm. So she was pretty much a gonner. There was really nothing that you can do for an aneurysm because, it’s so immediate. So she essentially, she did, pass away in his arms. And it was, as you can imagine, that’s very traumatic for an 18 year old. He actually didn’t wanna go to college for a while. He, he had a serious discussion with my dad and he was like, I don’t know if I can do this. And somehow he pulled it together and he went, he started college. He started his fall semester at App State, Appalachian State University, the month after. And that’s something that I’ve always been so proud of him for, even though it may or may not have been the best decision, looking back, I’m still just so proud of him for, for trying and for giving it his all to try to, to try to move forward. So I know that those are two really traumatic events that I think had quite an impact on the way he lived his life moving forward, because from then on. He, he did struggle a lot with substance abuse. I actually talked to one of his really close friends shortly after he passed and she said, I loved Brett. I still love Brett. He was one of my favorite people in the world. But I never knew a time where he wasn’t addicted to something, whether it was alcohol, whether it was pain pills, whether it was Adderall. He was always taking something. I really think that Brett was kind of like the definition of addictive personality because he also struggled with gambling. He was a big poker player. He struggled with compulsive spending. I think he may have also, I don’t know the details of this, obviously, cause I’m his sister, but I think he struggled a bit with, sexual addiction So, yeah, the manner in which he died while tragic and shocking. It was not, at least for me, not completely unexpected.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for sharing that. How are you doing right now as you just shared that very

Kyra: 

Yeah. I’m I’m good. I hope you don’t think , it’s so funny because it’s like you feel bad for not crying sometimes. I’m sure you might feel that same way, like, oh, I should be a mess right now. But grief is so strange and so up and down that today is just one of those days where I just kind of feel neutral and I feel numb and I’m able to talk about it. So I’m, I’m okay. I’m hanging in.

Dr. Dean: 

Good. I just wanted to check in on that and, and you’re right, grief is so sometimes unexpected. You can walk into a grocery store and be triggered by something, and tomorrow you could be at a funeral and not feel anything. Right.

Kyra: 

Yeah. Who knows? In five minutes I could be a sobbing ball on the floor. So we’ll see.

Dr. Dean: 

yeah.

Kyra: 

Take it minute by minute.

Dr. Dean: 

So did you feel supported immediately in the, like, aftermath of this, this loss?

Kyra: 

Yes. so I will just say upfront that I have been very lucky in the sense that I, I do feel that I’ve had a very good support system. I have a, I actually have quite a few friends who have experienced traumatic loss, of either a sibling or a parent. So, when the news got out, when we shared publicly that Brett had passed away, I have a lot of people reaching out to me immediately, in my family as well as friends, giving their support to myself, my husband, my dad, my mom, and my stepfather. It was really helpful because in those first few days, as you can probably relate to, I mean, it was, it was a nightmare. The pain was unbearable. I was just completely stuck between shock and acceptance and anger and profound sadness. And of course, you’re swept up in this whirlwind of having to make arrangements. Brett. He didn’t have a will. He was 39 years old. He didn’t plan on dying, so we had no clue what his wishes were. We did decide to have him cremated because we felt that that’s probably the option he would’ve chosen. He wasn’t really a traditional guy. I don’t think he would’ve really enjoyed having a, a wake and, then being buried and all of that. And we opted to do a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral because he was not particularly religious. And we just felt that a celebration of life would better, represent and reflect who he was as a person. Going down to Charlotte to be with my dad and the fact that we couldn’t see Brett right away because he was at the medical examiner’s office until we decided what funeral home to send him to. It was just traumatic and a complete shock to the system. I remember it was actually the weekend before July 4th and, I feel like people are running around making plans and celebrating the holiday. And in the meantime we were making plans for what to do about my brother and when we were gonna be able to see his body. We actually were finally able to see him on July 5th is when we, we had chosen a cremation center to have him taken to, and we were able to do a final goodbye where they let you see the body before it’s cremated. Sometimes I still struggle about whether or not it was a good decision to do that because I needed proof that Brett gone, and I wanted to say, I did want to say my final goodbye to him, but it was incredibly traumatizing for me. And it’s something that I, I, to this day, I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Just seeing him pale and cold and lifeless in front of me.

Dr. Dean: 

I’m guessing that they don’t do makeup for that kind of

Kyra: 

Right. they’d done a little bit just so that he was presentable. I think they, fixed him up a little bit. but no, he hadn’t been embalmed. and because he’d had an autopsy, they could only show his face. So he was essentially in the cremation casket with, pretty much like a white sheet around his face. And then there was a quilt draped across his body. That was very troubling for me because, I kind of just wanted to like, hold his hand.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Kyra: 

I just wanted to, I don’t know, just see that there was still some part of him left.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm.

Kyra: 

it just felt so, and I understand why they did it. Of course, they don’t want to show like, that’s, that’s even more traumatizing for families. Like, you don’t wanna see the, the aftermath of the autopsy, but just seeing his face, it was so just very, very troubling to me is, I guess the best way I can say it. anyway, where was I going with this? We’re talking about support So yes, I was, I was very lucky in the sense that we had, we had a lot of people reaching out. My uncle actually flew down from Philadelphia to be with my family for the weekend and he’s actually my dad’s twin. So they’re very close and he really helped a lot with just talking to my dad and listening to him vent. In the weeks following, I continued to have a lot of people reaching out to me and checking in on me. The only thing though is that, of course, there’s really nothing that anyone can say that makes it better. I was very thankful for everyone, for following up with me and checking in on me and asking how I’m doing, but at the end of the day, there’s, there’s nothing that anyone can say that makes you, that makes you feel better because someone who you loved so much and who is such an important part of your life is, is gone. And especially when they die in an unexpected way. it literally felt like he had been stolen from me, like he had been ripped away from my hands and I didn’t get to say a true goodbye to him. That was, that was incredibly tough and still is the probably the hardest thing for me to deal with.

Dr. Dean: 

For sure. Are people still checking in on you?

Kyra: 

Yeah, yeah. So obviously not as frequently, but yeah, I have several close friends who check on, check in on me a lot. I am one of those people who, I’m not sure what the term is called. I think it’s, I think it might be intuitive grief, something that I’ve talked about with my, with my grief counselor. But I, I, I like to share, I like to share my story. I like to post on social media about my brother. I’ve actually been pretty open about his cause of death because I believe in transparency and I believe in being truthful. And I, and I’m not embarrassed about what happened. He, he had a disease. He, was a victim and I’m, I’m okay to share that because I, if anything, I wanna raise awareness about what is happening and, I will have people commenting on my posts. I’ll have people reach out to me thanking me for being so open, which is nice because a lot of the time I feel like I get this pit in my stomach where I feel like I’m bothering people or that I’m posting about it too much, which is never a good feeling. So it’s nice to have that validation from people saying that they, can relate to what you’re saying, people who’ve experienced grief themselves and who haven’t really felt like they could share. So yeah, so I do, I do continue to have a pretty good, a pretty good support system. and I have sought out resources, My ,I guess my view of the whole situation is I’m in terrible pain. This is a life-changing loss and I will take whatever you can give me to help me heal from this. I started going to a grief counselor every other week. I actually just finished a eight week support group for people who have experienced overdose loss. There’s a, a, a grief, a nonprofit grief center here in Richmond that is offering both of those services, my individual counseling and the support group. Both of those have been really, really helpful in terms of helping me understand that my grief is normal and the feelings that I have are valid and common, especially in the circumstances of how I lost Brett. Sometimes I feel like what you seek out is what you will hopefully get in return. So I, so luckily for me, I do, I do feel like I’ve been getting quite a bit of really strong, really good support.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s fantastic and it, it’s also fantastic that you found a grief center with counselors that understand and validated that your loss is valid. Mm-hmm.

Kyra: 

Yes. Yeah. I’ll give them a shout out. It’s called Full Circle Grief Center. They’re a nonprofit and the services that they provide are really amazing. They do, online and in person work. They do focus groups, they do support group sessions, they do individual counseling. They do outreach opportunities in the community, so it’s, it’s wonderful.

Dr. Dean: 

Uh, Thank you for sharing that. That sounds like a great resource for sure. I’m gonna check that out.

Kyra: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Aside from having that support system, what else do you think? I mean, nothing can take away this pain, right? There’s no world in which we haven’t lost our siblings. Now, from this, you know, from the time of their death forward and what do you think could have been more helpful? Or what were you looking for that you were unable to, to find if anything?

Kyra: 

Yeah. the things that I want, unfortunately, are the things that I know I’m never gonna get. And that’s the hardest part. I want answers. I wanna know what exactly happened. and I don’t know that I’m ever gonna, I’m ever gonna get that answer. I wanna know where he is now. I have, have, I don’t wanna say struggled with my faith because it’s really interesting because I grew up, I was born Catholic and I did go to church quite often as a child, as I was growing up, I was never particularly religious. I didn’t strongly relate to Catholicism, but I have always believed in God and I have always had faith. Of course with, a natural sense of curiosity and with questions about, what part of the stories that were told are real and what part are not. With such a monumental loss like this, it really calls into question for me, is there afterlife? Is heaven real? Is he there? Can he hear me? Is he, is he around us? And I have had quite a few experiences, some might call them signs that do make me feel that, that he’s still with me. And that he is, I do feel that he’s at peace and that wherever he is, I do think he’s happy. But of course I can never know that for sure. And the rational academic. Part of my brain is always calling that into question.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm.

Kyra: 

so that’s something that I know I’ll never, I’m not gonna have an answer to until, until it’s my time as well. So in the meantime, I feel like I just have to, I just have to kind of come to my own conclusions and, and believe what in my heart I truly think is right. A resource that I have used is I have read quite a few books about faith and spirituality. I actually just finished reading”A Grief Observed” by CS Lewis, who lost his wife to cancer. And the book is essentially his journal entries dealing with the loss of his wife over the course of several months. And it documents All of the different phases of grief from anger and questioning and, denying these, the existence of God to coming back to a more centered place where he could come to appreciate the relationship that he had with, with his wife. And the fact that he believes that it is not over, that your love and your relationship with that person continues to go on after death. That is a place that I am trying to get to. it’s hard, your brain wants to make you not believe, but in my heart, I, I do feel that that’s true. And I know that, that in the end, love wins and love can’t be destroyed. And that that relationship that I have with Brett will continue to go on.

Dr. Dean: 

Are there other things that have been helpful for you in coping? also I wanna say that I’ve read about his book, but I’ve never actually read the book, so that sounds very intriguing and definitely something worth checking out. Thank you for sharing about that.

Kyra: 

I know not, not everyone, a lot of people hate social media, and I definitely think that it has its pitfalls, but Instagram and social media has actually helped me tremendously. There’s groups like the Broken Pack and, I follow quite a few other, Instagram groups. this, the Discomfort Table is one of them. It’s a, a woman who, recently lost her spouse and she’s now a single mother. And it’s very raw accounts of what life is like, after you’ve lost someone unexpectedly, or not an, or not unexpectedly, even people who lose someone. of natural causes. It’s, still extremely hard. but just seeing other people’s experiences and seeing their stories and their quotes, like inspirational quotes, I’ll save quite often. It really helps, seriously, it helps get me through the day. There are times where I’m having a grief burst or there are times where I just don’t see a point to it all. There are times where I just get very low and seeing other people who I know are struggling with the same thing, who are, who are still going, that it’s been tremendously helpful for me as well as talking with friends. like I mentioned earlier, that I have several friends who have had traumatic loss. I actually have a friend whose brother committed suicide about 10 years ago, and he’s been a huge help to me in terms of rationalizing my feelings and, talking about a lot of the, a lot of the things that have been going through my mind since, since Brett died. So, yeah, so support and outreach and sharing experiences is seriously, it’s, it’s everything. Everything for me.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm., it sounds like you’re getting a lot of validation, and I’ll validate that for you too, that all of these emotions you’re feeling are real and valid, and

Kyra: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

whether it’s positive or negative in the moment, whatever you’re feeling is valid. it’s helpful to hear other stories, right?.

Kyra: 

Yes. And sometimes I feel like, I don’t know, maybe you feel like this way too, but since your loved one has passed, I’ve become a little bit more morbid in the sense that like, I wanna know what happened and I wanna know the taboo details of the stories because it just helps me to understand how other people relate and react to having trauma like this. So I do appreciate, and of course, no one is obligated to share those parts of their story that they don’t, that, they might be uncomfortable talking about. But for those who do, I think it’s extremely brave. when people talk about their reaction to seeing their loved one’s body and if they, if they found their person, after they passed, I think it’s really important for us to normalize responses to trauma and, giving each other outlets and resources for ways to help with that is really, is really good.

Dr. Dean: 

That’s a very good point, and I know we’re recording this before I’ve released any episodes yet, but, you’ll, hear that as a theme of a couple of the conversations that we’ve had. In our culture, at least here in the US death is largely avoided. And so the whole process of death or seeing someone after they’ve passed is, is hard and especially when it’s someone you love. So I appreciate you sharing how hard that was. I can’t imagine.

Kyra: 

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and you know, it’s interesting because I’m lucky that I have had quite a bit of good support, but. There, there are situations and there are people who I’ve talked to who I can tell they just, this isn’t something that they’re comfortable with. And this isn’t something, this isn’t a thing that they can really support me on. I had a friend whose father passed away, and we were talking quite a bit and, kind of trying to help each other through our grief. And then I noticed that after a while he kind of stopped responding, because I think maybe I had, gotten a little too far into talking about some of the intrusive thoughts that I’d had. And I, I just kind of figured that, okay, this is, this is the extent of where it can go. and, I guess it’s, it’s not something that I can be upset about. Everyone has their own responses to grief, and there are friends of mine who didn’t, who didn’t reach out to me after Brett died. And they’ll look at my posts on social media and they’ll see my stories, but they haven’t said anything. And I think it’s because I think they just don’t know what to say and they’d rather not say anything than, than mess up and say something that they think could be bad. Which honestly, I’m kind of an open book and you can say anything to me and, if I’m offended, I’ll just kind of move on, like I won’t get too upset about it. and yeah, it has been interesting seeing how people respond to, to grief and just the level of detail that they can accept from you.

Dr. Dean: 

For sure. Mm-hmm. Yeah. so is there anything we didn’t talk about that you wanted to share today?

Kyra: 

I know something you talked about quite a bit in your posts and something I’ve seen is that sibling grief can be disenfranchised. and a lot of the time people ask about your parents and not necessarily about you. And I think my situation was a little bit different because, and I could be totally wrong, but I think because my parents were divorced, I think people were more able to accept that we all kind of had our own individual experiences and they were able to see us as individuals rather than, oh, here are the parents who are a collective unit and here’s the child. And especially because people knew how close I was with Brett, I think that they very much knew that I was impacted just as much as my parents. So I didn’t get quite as much of that, Oh, we’re gonna ask about your parents and not about you. I will say something that kind of bothered me, even though it’s, people are always, I, I believe that everyone is good nature and I believe that everyone has good intentions, but I do have people asking me a lot over and over again how my parents are doing. And it’s, and it’s not so much that I mind the question, but to me, I feel like there’s only so much that I can say because how many different ways can you say they’re devastated because they lost their son, but they’re doing okay and trying to move forward, So that’s something that I feel like every single time someone says, how’s your dad? How’s your mom? It’s almost like I have this script that I’m ready to rattle off because I’m like, well, you know, they’re really sad, but we’re doing our best over here. It’s just kind of like, how exactly do you answer that? But of course, you know, it’s hard because I do appreciate the people are asking.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. Well, of course they’re not asking about our parents because they want to ignore us. And, and for me it’s been similar and different depending on the people. Nobody’s asking like, how my parents are because they don’t care to ask about how I’m It’s sometimes It’s just not thought of. But you’re right. Like how, how many times can you. They’re devastated. They lost their son,

Kyra: 

Yeah. Yeah. A parent should never lose their child. I mean, as much as it sucks for me, and, you know, I do feel like in some ways it is harder for me in a sense because I’m gonna have to go on longer without having him with us, in a way like, I’m gonna have to remember him for longer. It’s still nothing compared to having a child. But I will say, going back to, the reasons behind people asking, I do think that sometimes people will say, how are your parents? Because they don’t always feel comfortable asking how you are doing. So they ask about your parents. Mm-hmm. And then they just assume that you’ll slide in there how you’re doing as well, without them having to actually ask you which I typically do. So

Dr. Dean: 

That’s interesting. I don’t, I don’t actually do that.

Kyra: 

Oh yeah?

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-hmm. You don’t ask. I don’t tell you

Kyra: 

I’m like, I’m gonna

Dr. Dean: 

gonna wouldn’t call it selfish. You’re more aware.

Kyra: 

Yeah. I’m like, well, I’m gonna talk about me. What about me?

Dr. Dean: 

Also, as my role as a psychologist, I tend to not talk about myself with a lot of people. So

Kyra: 

Yeah, I get that. Mm-hmm.

Dr. Dean: 

My last question is, what is your favorite memory that you’d like to hold onto about you and Brett?

Kyra: 

Yeah. that’s a good question because I have so many, so many good memories with Brett. I have some bad ones, but for the most part, they’re all really great. And that’s yet another thing that’s helping me get through is that I know I have just this huge archive of memories and I always, I save a lot of photos of him. I have like a thousand photos of him on my phone that I’ve just either taken myself or that I’ve pulled from his Facebook or that people have sent me. Let’s see. One of my favorite memories is, is, my, so my dad and Brett and I. would usually go to Charleston or Kiawa Island in South Carolina almost every year. It was kind of like a, a tradition that we did, that we’ve probably been doing since I was like 11 or 12, I think. So it’s been quite a while. And there was this one trip, I think I was 23 or 24, and Brett was, would’ve been, 32, 33. And we did a boat ride, around Charleston, around some of the islands. And the boat docked at this little sandbar where you could get off and you could like explore and look at seashells and look at some of the, the birds and things. And I remember that there was this giant, like, I think it was like a horse fly or something, this huge fly that started chasing me. And I was terrified because I was like, oh my God, I think those are the ones that bite. And Brett was like, I just remember Brett was like, run, run for your life. And he was running and I, and I remember I’m running as fast as I can and I remember looking down at the sand and I saw the shadow of this huge fly behind me and then him running after me and the fly a few paces back. And meanwhile, my dad was like sitting on a log over near the boat, just like laughing, watching me run from a fly and run and, and my brother running after the both of us. And thankfully the fly flew away and did not bite me and Brett and I just laughed for probably like five or 10 minutes and it’s such a weird memory, but I just, it just shows like the kind of people we were. And then we probably, we have a lot of movie quotes, We both loved the movie Gladiator with Russell Crowe, and Brett always did an impression, of one of the gladiators that Russell Crow fights with. And at the end of the movie, the, the guy. Actually is speaking, Russell Crowe dies. Spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the movie And this, his friend says, I will see you again someday, but not yet. Not yet. And Brett did a spot on impression of this guy and his accent. And it’s actually really interesting because when I was saying my final goodbye to him, I said that same quote and I literally was crying and then started laughing because I was like, oh my God, I can’t believe that I’m quoting a line from Gladiator to my dead brother right now, but yeah, we just, that was us. Yeah, we had lots of, lots of movie lines, lots of impressions, lots of quotes, and yeah, he was a good one for sure.

Dr. Dean: 

He sounds like it. And I’m sorry about your loss Thank you for sharing with us today.

Kyra: 

Of course. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Dean: 

You’re welcome. 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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