Season 3, Episode 7

Eric Grace / Kyle

Sibling Loss Decades Later : A Heartfelt Conversation with Eric Grace

In this episode, of The Broken Pack: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss, surviving sibling Eric Grace shares his experience of losing his brother, Kyle, in a tragic car accident over 25 years ago. Through his story, we explore the complexities of sibling loss, grief, and the lifelong impact on surviving siblings.

  • Despite what society expects of griever regarding the passage of time, Eric’s sibling loss continues to impact his life and has shaped his perspectives on life, death, and purpose.

  • Eric reveals how Emotive Body and Ensoulment practices has helped him navigate grief.
  • Eric discusses his involvement in death cafes as a way to explore his grief and to normalize death, dying, and bereavement – something that both he and Dr. Dean agree is needed in our society.

Additional key points:

  • Dr. Dean and Eric discuss The importance of remaining open and connected with loved ones, even after they have passed. Eric shares how he was able to continue to connect with his brother after his death, and how this helped him to process his grief.
  • Eric shares that in the 25 years since Kyle’s death, his sibling loss has taught him that death can be an opening to new life, experiences, and relationships.

To learn more about Eric, see the following:
Website: https://www.eric-grace.com
Instagram: @soulfulrelationships and @ericfgrace
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericfgrace
Clubhouse: The Wholly Human House at https://www.clubhouse.com/house/the-wholly-human-house-rrgxbbn5

To Learn More about Death Café: https://deathcafe.com/

Surviving Sibling Eric and Brother Kyle
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 spoke with Eric about losing his brother Kyle in a tragic motor vehicle accident. This accident, while it happened many years ago, has had a significant impact on him and how he has viewed life, viewed death and living, how he works with other people, and his purpose in living. Take a listen. Welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Eric Grace: 

Yeah. My name is Eric Grace and I am a, Emotive Body, Ensoulment practitioner, and, I also have my own cleaning business. I think we’re going to talk today about I’m, I don’t know what the word is. It’s not quite survivor, but, my older brother passed away back in 1998, so we’re going to dive into that, and I’m also the host of the Wholly Human House on Clubhouse, that’s another thing I love to do, in addition to being a musician and a writer and all sorts of fun things.

Dr. Dean: 

Fantastic. What is the wholly, I’m sorry, wholly

Eric Grace: 

Wholly human house. Yeah, so that’s been going on for a couple years now and basically it’s a space for people to come together and i’ve done all sorts of courses on there on different spiritual teachings and psychological inquiry. It’s a group where people can discover more about themselves and relationality it’s open to anyone, and it’s free, but it’s an atmosphere of curiosity and, discovery and also just taking time to see what’s going on inside of us and, to be able to share that with others in a way that’s, supportive and, sometimes fun and sometimes, making room for the pain that’s there if there’s grief or whatever it might be. So it’s one of those safe spaces for that.

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds fantastic. And are you a licensed practitioner? The

Eric Grace: 

Yeah, I was trained in EBE for short, years ago, back in early 2000s, and then I took a break from all of that, for many years and then started up again not that long ago, a couple years ago. I’ve also been a watsu practitioner, an ordained priest. I was trained as a, death cafe facilitator as well. And, Trillium awakening mentor and, went to school for psychology and music and sociology and, economics was the first thing that I actually studied in. So yeah,

Dr. Dean: 

Sound like you’re a bit of a renaissance man.

Eric Grace: 

something like that. You bet. Lots of things I’ve been interested in over the years.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. thank you for the great introduction. before we dive into the story of losing your brother, what would you want our listeners to know about Kyle?

Eric Grace: 

The interesting thing with Kyle is, his spirit totally lives on, so I still have contact with him from time to time, which is intriguing in itself. Not everybody has that when someone passes. and I’ll dive into that more as we get into the story, but, Kyle is a theatrical being, and was from the get go, a lot of vitality. A lot of humor, quite a dork, goofy, in that way, but could be very loud and funny and playful and creative. yeah, fun, silly. And, I just love him so much. Just love him. And he loves me and loved me. Someone that I felt so close to, from the get go when I was born, he was there, he wasn’t so on board with me being there. He was kind of like, who’s this kid coming on the scene. He acclimated over time and, we spent a lot of good years playing and we would create, little plays. He became a director and a screenplay, writer. And, I would do all the voices of the little puppets that we had and stuff. We put it on for our family. So We had this whole collaboration and creativity component to our relationship. And, yeah, he was, quite, quite a mensch, just a good guy. Good

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. So I think I remember from your form that he was three years older than you?

Eric Grace: 

Yeah. Three and a half. August 1st was his birthday. I’m born in April. He was born in 74. I was born in 77, so three and a half.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. And you said he wasn’t terribly excited to have a little brother at first, but how was your relationship after that?

Eric Grace: 

I think he, endured that I was there, in the beginning, and then he warmed up to me. And we had a lot of fun years in those, Early years, a lot of play went on, and then as he got older, my dad was a, a functional alcoholic, so a lot of the stuff there with my dad, I think he still had PTSD from his father, stuff that happens in the war, and then people bring it home, I think that existed in my family, and then alcohol got woven into that, My dad was sometimes so really scary to be around and my older brother took on a lot of that in the beginning And then as he got older, he started to send it to me So it was like the pass down of the generational trauma, you know That’s how it went through and so when I was eight nine ten There was a lot more of tension that he didn’t want me around. Especially as he got in his teen years. We’d get into major fights like Parents would be gone, we’d be in

Dr. Dean: 

hmm. Mm hmm.

Eric Grace: 

and a couple of hours wrestling to the point where we’d almost, You get a person to headlock and just be squeezing so hard and they start to lose the air into their brain. it’d be like that kind of thing, very intense. and we learned about our strength and power, in those kind of conflicts. culturally, like we would watch the WWF and football and things like that. So there was this whole thing around masculinity and that’s what guys do. But also our dad could be really rough with us. So we were trying to play out what was being sent our way towards each other. And then when I got to be about 12 or 13, I was big enough to stop him, to actually say, no, he can’t do this anymore.

Dr. Dean: 

To your dad or to your

Eric Grace: 

brother To actually both. It happened around that same time. I had a big altercation with my dad where, I knocked him down after he was attacking me and I ran out of the house, but I knocked it down. And after that, he never attacked me again. And my brother right around that time. We were fighting, and I won. And, after that, just stopped.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm.

Eric Grace: 

what that did for our relationship, though, in later years, is we knew, at a really instinctual level, each other. body to body, dominate, Survival that stuff was really we had worked through a lot of that. And then as we got older, we just became really close friends. And once he had moved out of the house and went to college, and then I moved out. so yeah, when you have someone that They’ve seen all the sides of you like, just the things you don’t show everybody else, or the things that kind of relationship really evokes that doesn’t always come out with other relationships. there was a different kind of trust that he and I had that we could show any part of ourselves and, we weren’t, we were still loving each other, and we could not only have the playful creative components. but if we got in a conflict, we’d be really honest with each other. And, we could trust each other’s feedback and there was no BS.

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds very much like the sibling relationship where, friends don’t always see all of our sides and our parents don’t either. So I think what you’re speaking to is something unique in the sibling relationship from that early age on. Of course, you can develop other relationships that are similar,

Eric Grace: 

Yeah. And with our age difference, I think. Different siblings can have different forms of relationships based on the age and the kind of parenting experience they have. Like my younger brother, he’s seven years different than me and he was 11 years different from my older brother and he got a very different experience with our parents. Then Kyle and I did. Kyle and I were able to share enough of that same window of time with our parents to have sympathy and empathy for what we went through. whereas my younger brother, he just had a different, he had his own challenges with my parents having a divorce and everything, and it’s just, but he had a different relationship, especially with our father. Our father was kinder with him. so I think that’s another dimension with siblings is even though you can have the same parents depending on sometimes gender and sometimes depending on your age gap, the birth order, all of that. I

Dr. Dean: 

Attachment.

Eric Grace: 

yeah, exactly. Attachment styles and with Kyle being first and then I was second and then Brent was third. I saw in the beginning years what it was like to be the youngest child. And I really loved being the baby of family with getting that kind of attention. And then when Brent was born, I got lost in the middle. So I got to feel what that’s like to be the middle child. And then when Kyle died, then I was the oldest. And so I could feel like, oh, there’s different pressures and things that come with being the oldest and different challenges. birth order really plays a part for siblings as far as their identity and their challenges with one another in ways that may not understand what, how one another is experiencing the family.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, I would agree with that. I do think it’s important to state that there’s. not a blanket birth order, like not all the oldest and not all the youngest are a certain way, but because of all of those other factors that you mentioned and family dynamics and ages and stages and all of those things. but I’m glad that you were able to see how that played out. So Brent is, you said seven years younger than you. Okay. are there other things that you want to share about your relationship with Kyle as adults? How did that change?

Eric Grace: 

Yeah, well, it changed Once he went up to college, I really wanted to leave the house and go up to the college, too. We had a neighbor friend, Dan, who was my brother Kyle’s really good friend for many years and then they roomed roommates together up in college up in Duluth And I so wanted to go be a part of their world it seemed like they had freedom, you know from all the shit was going on that was going on at home and that last year they were also a year apart so Dan stayed behind one year for his senior year and that year he and I became close we were in a musical together and all of that. So When he left to go to UMD as well and they were both living there it was like I still want to be a part of that And then I just felt like the odd wheel out I would go and visit every once in a while and Dan was a musician i’d get into you know wanting to watch his band play music and all that and go see Kyle’s plays that he was a part of and just seemed like it was so exciting, I wanted to be a part of the cool thing. but then, at a certain point, I realized that’s just not where I’m at., and I focused on the rest of my life, other things that were going on my life. And, Then for a couple of years, we just didn’t have that much contact. It was mainly through, at that time, it was just snail mail, because there really wasn’t anything else. He would send me a poem that he wrote, or we’d write about what was going on. I don’t think he really knew what He wasn’t tracking the kind of challenges in our family at the time with my mom and dad separating and just this stuff that was happening around that. I ended up going to college at a different place and then I left after the first year and went traveling all around the country and I ended up landing in Arizona and Sedona and, had just a lot of synchronicity, a lot of magic, a lot of beautiful life experiences there. And I started telling him about it, and he came and visited me one time and stayed where I was staying, and he was inspired to come down there and eventually moved down there. in 97, he moved down and we lived in the same space, and then we were like roommates living together. not long after, my mom ended up moving down, and, there was this place that opened up for all of us to stay. and my girlfriend at the time and her daughter, we all moved in together and it was like a family redo 2. 0 or something, and that relationship then for Kyle and I was closest. I’ve probably ever been with someone. Because we were, in the beginning stages, it was him and I were sharing a really large room space. And, same kind of creative collaborations on things. He was a movie critic at the time, and a writer, and a waiter, and he was doing multiple jobs. And we’d go see films together, and he was working on a book, so I would edit kind of some of the stuff he was doing. it was just a lot of fun. And in the family, house space, Game night, like just, it was a really good time of about 10 months. We also, started doing the EBE process that I’m trained in. We all started doing that together, going through that as clients. So there was a lot of growing and a lot of discovery that was happening, internally that we were sharing with one another. It was a precious time and that lasted about 10 months and then. There was a girl still back in, Minnesota that had been his friend for many years and was partnered to one of his friends. And, they had been pen pals and all that since he had moved down to Sedona. but he went back to visit in Minnesota and this was after he wrote his book, Standing on the Edge, which was all about his relationship with Dan and my dad. And he ended up connecting with both of them and talking about their relationships. It was a very healing experience, I think, for all of them. But during that visit, while he was doing that, he met up with this girl Piper and Scott, her partner and his friend. And, it, during that visit, it became really apparent that Piper and Kyle really wanted to be together. They were really interested in each other and Scott and Piper had been together for a while and they decided that they were going to end. It was no longer a good fit for them. And so things really changed for Kyle. He was like, I want to be with Piper. And so once he got back from that three week trip, he was like, I’m going to drive up there and, pick up Piper. And then we’re going to move out to Seattle together. That was the. Kind of the shift.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm,

Eric Grace: 

I was sad about that, but it felt right. It was a really good happening, for both of them. I felt like they were a really good fit for each other. and then it was on that trip as he was driving up that he died in a car accident in 98 in Sandpoint, Idaho. really beautiful part of, Idaho. and unexpected. he wasn’t the greatest driver and he was pretty reckless at times. when he was in high school, he had messed up my parents car once or twice. He and I went in on a car together. We bought a car together and he totaled that car. So I didn’t get to drive it. and. There was always a little bit of recklessness in him, and so I think he was driving down the road and was trying to get like a CD or something that was on the passenger floor and then swerved and then overcorrected and went over the median and then there was a FedEx truck that just crashed into his small little car and just basically rolled over the thing and he was crushed and died instantly. Yeah, pretty nasty, gory. And, the driver of the truck, his name was Brent Allen Jessup. And that’s the first two names of my younger brother. Brent Allen McDonough was his birth name. And it was one of those interesting synchronicities. We ended up getting to know Brent to this guy, Brent Jessup afterwards is my wife, my mom and Piper and I all drove, flew up there and then spent time looking through

Dr. Dean: 

Mm,

Eric Grace: 

all the things, because when Kyle was taking this drive, he put everything he owned in his car. So when the car got smashed. Everything got scattered all

Dr. Dean: 

I have a while,

Eric Grace: 

I mean, it was, there was like, we went to the crash site and there was like broken CDs and bits of the computer that he had. And it was just smashed all over. and, so we went there to both get his remains and, get the last bits of what was left of his own things, his personal items. And we found a couple of things that were really valuable, like the journal he had been using while he was on this trip, which was really sweet, like some of the poetry he had written in there and just the different stories of his experiences. and, I think the other thing that was important was when he had died, I knew we weren’t going to be able to get there for a while, so I asked the, the coroner or the mortician or whatever they were called, I said, Can you take some pictures of the body? Because I somehow knew that if I didn’t have some kind of concrete evidence. It would be like he’s still on vacation. He’s still gone somewhere like it wouldn’t register. And since I knew he was going to be, cremated before we came, I needed something around his body to be like the remains weren’t going to mean much to me. They would just, it would just seem like it was ash. So the picture they took, which was a really gory picture of his body after the crash, but it really was important for me to register the reality of him being gone. And, everyone else is like, why do you want to do that? It’s so gross. But it’s it really made sense to me and helped me come to at least some kind of closure that did happen. He did die. I wasn’t there to see it, but it did really happen. And, that could at least start the process for part of me around the grief.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. I think that’s an interesting thing of people that I’ve talked to is some people want to absolutely see the body to get that, sense that the person is gone. I know, and I’ve shared this before, is that I took a photo of my brother in the casket for that reason. I knew that I would forget, not forget, but it wouldn’t seem real. I was not going to forget, but other people don’t want to see it. So that’s, that had to be hard to look at.

Eric Grace: 

it was surreal, to see, his body was really mangled. So there’s one level it’s like. Wow, I didn’t know a body could look like that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm.

Eric Grace: 

there’s no one home. Like it’s just flesh. There’s no, there’s nothing there. So that’s that those two things made it really surreal, but it was enough familiar that I knew it was his body, but I’m just glad that I asked for that, and with both my parents have passed to and being with both their physical bodies after they passed really did something for me. in both of those instances. I was really grateful. I don’t know how it would have been to actually see his physical body mangled like that. That might have been a little too much. But the picture was just right. Yeah. in helping me, they start to reconcile what had actually occurred. With him and in my life.

Dr. Dean: 

Did you go back to it after you looked at it?

Eric Grace: 

yeah, several times

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-Hmm?

Eric Grace: 

Yeah, and then with his ashes We ended up going to Duluth and put him at some of the ashes in Lake Superior where he loved to be and a couple other locations in Sedona since he was there, too you know there was steps along the way of how we were processing grief around that

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Eric Grace: 

Yeah, but one of the things that I haven’t mentioned kind of alluded to it at the beginning here was, I was in Sedona when he died and it was in the morning. I’m sitting on the riverside just watching the river. I was actually going through some grief around my father and some of the relationship dynamics. So I was already in a grief kind of place. My mom walks down and she tells me, Eric, I just talked to the sheriff up in Idaho and your brother’s, Pat, your brother died in a car accident. And it sunk so deep inside of me, I just started saying no, and started yelling and wailing. And the way the canyon is set up, where this creek is, the canyon walls are pretty close. So I could hear my wailing, echoing, reverberating off the walls. It was that loud. And, I remember registering that and then Kyle showed up in front of me, his spirit as if, like what people say when Jesus was resurrected and showed up or like when people see ghosts, like his form was completely in front of me uh, about 20 feet out and he was smiling. And he said, there’s no need for sorrow, only for joy. And it was so clear. That I immediately stopped wailing and I started laughing because I felt our connection I felt the truth of what he was saying and the only thing I could do was just start laughing And so everyone’s around me this, I’m a family members my mom and they’re like looking at what the hell is going on with you like but it was so visceral

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-Hmm.

Eric Grace: 

And I could not deny that he was right there and I was seeing, I was seeing a reality. it wasn’t the same physical reality that other people were seeing. I was seeing that too. so that started a very strange process around grief and His death because on the one level his physical body was smushed and I was never gonna hug him again I was never gonna spend time with him and there’s all those nevers And I knew on some level that something was going to happen and we even got a a hint about it, too When he had come down to visit For the first time in Sedona, I was living at a guy’s house, Len, who was a psychic He worked at the post office, but he was a closet psychic. and so Kyle was saying, Hey, what do you think about me becoming here? And Len said, here’s great, but don’t go up into the Northwest. I get a really bad, like, do not go there at least for a while. And this was just a year later that year and a half later that he went up there and then he died up there. So there’s this little Foreshadowing that something was going to happen there And then when he left the house to go on this driving route, that morning He got up pretty early to go in his car and I go and I hug him and I just start sobbing you know, I just start sobbing when i’m hugging and I just Something so deeply in me felt like I wasn’t ever going to see him again. And I said, I don’t need I don’t even know why I’m doing this. I miss you. I miss you already. Like it was that I, it really registered in me. So things like that were happening. And then this moment where he shows up happens. And then it was like

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-Hmm.

Eric Grace: 

the process of dealing with. He’s not in my life anymore as my closest friend, really felt like a soulmate that kind of close But yet he was connected to me still I was still having a relationship with him on another level and he would show up in dreams It was there was people, Sedona was very I don’t know if you’re anything about Sedona was a very like Cornucopia of spirituality and psychological modalities and, palm readers and vortexes and all that. So I knew I had so many friends that were, they were able to check in and could hear him too and report what he was saying. And that was aligned with the things that I would be getting in, in the dreams and all that. So I had a lot of, validation for what I was experiencing. At the same time, it was also very real that. Something ripped in me when he died, my trust in life and with people started to fray.

Dr. Dean: 

Mhm.

Eric Grace: 

it also, what had already started with that process, the EBE process that all of us has started, something was starting to open anyways there and this just ripped it in an unexpected side way. And, I think there was a part of me that gave up on, on life and people after that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mhm.

Eric Grace: 

Just feel like I’m never gonna have that kind of relationship again with someone where I trust that deeply. it took me several years to come to terms with that reality that, that rip that was inside of me.

Dr. Dean: 

Mhm.

Eric Grace: 

The loss and, the only person I could talk about that with was Piper, who in Kyle’s leaving, she came and visited us for a good month, we really started to develop a new, it’s like I gained a sister, lost a brother, gained a sister is what it felt like, and so there was some ways I had someone to commiserate with what the experience was like, but the, that rip, It just felt like that was never going to go away and the grieving process was really wonky, and I think that can be for many people, some people, like I remember my mom, as a parent, losing a child, they’ve got their own process and things that come with that. Like for her, like holidays and stuff were really important, big for bringing up feelings to sort out. And for me, it would be like a movie I would watch. I remember there was this one with Tom Hanks. It was all about 9 11. And him losing someone and man, there was just a part in that film where I just cracked watching. I just sobbed for a good two hours straight, so there’d be like moments where Some kind of trigger would bring it up and I would just pull like everything would just come all out. That was, still just building like a dam, like the water surrounding rather than a certain point. And that happened for, many years, it was more palpable the first year, like seeing the FedEx trucks or like butterflies, like those things. There were certain symbols that got connected to him around that time that we all felt, or some of us felt. And then. Other things over time, Goodwill Hunting, like there was there’s films and music. I think we’re a thing he and I really connected on. So stuff like that would just really stir the ache, the long longing for that connection that brotherly connection. and also just The loss and then that loss of trust with people, that I really wrestled with for a long time, which I think is on a soul level, some things I had to deal with anyways, and his death has helped me process has helped bring that forward to actually work through that, maybe I wouldn’t have worked through it in the same way with without him passing. yeah, I guess I just want to emphasize how complicated that was. Thanks. Knowing he was fine and feeling our connection still exists and we’ll probably have other lifetimes together. And when I leave this plan, he and I, when I leave this plane of existence, we’re going to be having conversations similar to what I experienced in our, in the dream space. so there’s one way everything’s fine, but there is a very specific dimension of where that loss and grief existed and still in moments, I was probably two weeks ago. I was being with a part of me that part still missed my brother and I could feel my brother come in the room

Dr. Dean: 

hmm.

Eric Grace: 

he was holding my left hand. I could feel a presence around my hand and him right there and I just again another just letting go like feeling the sobs and it felt so good to just feel the love and the grief and let it all be there.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. Thank you for sharing that because I think for a lot of our listeners and a lot of even our guests, have lost their siblings in recent years. There’s definitely a few that it’s been decades, but, I think what you’re highlighting is, grief lasts forever, and it sounds like it’s just as palpable to you in moments now than it was in 1998.

Eric Grace: 

Yeah, the poignancy of it, say it’s like the waveform is in the beginning. There’s more of those punctuated moments of poignancy, and then there’s greater spans in between the poignant moments now. So it might be a year or two and then boom, wow, there it is again, and I’ve grown and matured as a person and done a lot of healing around that loss of trust and I’m more able to open up with people now. So like some of those dimensions are not as poignant. and there’s when the weeping comes, it feels more beautiful. there’s this, The beauty of the love and the connection. And, I can really, savor it, I guess is the way to say, whereas in the past it was like, there was more like pleading or wrestling with, or there’s an acceptance now, real deep acceptance. But I totally welcome the poignant moments when they crack through and it’s there and I just feel the love and the beauty and the goodness of our connection.

Dr. Dean: 

Sounds like that joy that he encouraged you to have in the beginning is something that you’ve been able to feel in your, even with your sorrow.

Eric Grace: 

Yeah. Yeah. Good point.

Dr. Dean: 

hmm. Mm

Eric Grace: 

I had a lot of years after that, where I was in a lot of suffering and struggle. And now in a point in my life where there’s so much more joy. So I think that phrase of how joy is usually unprocessed love, like that there’s so much love in the grief. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. And if we open up more and more to the love that we are, that we’re made of, that changes our relationship to grief and to those that we lose. Yeah,

Dr. Dean: 

That’s beautifully stated. Thank you. So I’m curious, about the death cafe and how you ended up facilitating that, where you are with it, what that was like for you,

Eric Grace: 

Yeah. so the death cafe is this international organization. Lots of pilots. So different groups are going to be different experiences for sure. But the one in Ashland, some years ago, I learned of it. It was a quarterly meeting that was held at a, it was a, at a synagogue, actually. And the first time I went, they had six or seven facilitators there. and it’s open to a donation, but it can be free as well. And the amount of people that showed up beyond the facilitators was, I think it was like 50 to 70 people, something like that. And then you just broke up into groups of eight to 10 in separate spaces. And it was for two hours, basically, they would open up the whole group together and one person would lead with saying, sharing, like a poem or something in relationship to grief, death, dying, living, and then everyone would go into their groups and we’d have this basic outline that you could use as a reference, but you didn’t have to use it as far as questions you could explore around death and dying, and grief and life where The facilitators were simply they were there as participants as well, so they could share their own experience and they were basically there just to make sure no one hugs all the space or no one is cutting someone else off or, those kind of things, right? So It was just a space where people could come together and talk about these topics, which tend to be taboo in our culture, like most people don’t talk about it. It seems too depressing or morose or whatever, but this was a space where in the sharing and it was really wide open. You could talk about preparing for your death. So many elderly people would be there talking about, I’ve lost many friends. I can see this is coming for me, and their thoughts, feelings around that, or people that had questions like, Hey, what do I do to prepare? do I need to do an advanced directive? so practically kind of stuff, or Hey, I just lost my mom and I am just racked with grief, or I just lost my dad and I feel relief. What do I do with that? Like it was the whole range or I don’t know anything about death. I haven’t lost anybody. And I just want to hear other people talk about death. so it was, anything was welcome and I love that. death is something we all share at some point, we’re going to experience it with someone in our lives passing most likely and our own death is in the future. So it’s a common denominator, which we could all connect on and find a dignity and A realness around experience or lack of experience and inquiry and curiosity around that topic. So it was a great environment and I went to several after that and at a certain point I think they asked me or I talked to one of the people they’re all wonderful people the facilitators I said, what do you know? How do you become one of these or i’m interested and they invited me on and I ended up doing it for several years And every time it’s like a group of people, strangers you’d never met, and you start talking about death. And it’s like the stories that come out, the contemplations about what do you want to, what do I want to do with my body after it’s, after I’ve died? Some people want to just, it was just one guy that was like, I’ve got this huge plot of land out in Grants Pass, and I just want to put my body out and I want the birds to peck at it. and I’ve talked to the city and by getting permits to make sure that’s okay, like all these people have their different preferences of what they want with their body, green burial. I want to casket, the whole range. So those kind of conversations would be had. people having experiences like some, there’s a few that had experiences like I did with my brother, interacting with me afterwards. yeah. It was just a rich space for connection and conversation and as a facilitator and as a participant and I did that for many years I also inspired us reaching out to the university To host them there so younger people could have an opportunity also to do that So we did that then we started working with the nursing program that was a part of the university to help them because they were you know being working with hospice and all these different individuals that are preparing so a lot of good came out of that and Then COVID started and we couldn’t host in person meetings anymore. So then I felt like that was my time to transition out, of doing that, but it was such a rich experience. And it really

Dr. Dean: 

hmm.

Eric Grace: 

me be that much more at point with my own relationship with death and my brother Kyle. and I mean, I’ve lost a lot of people on all my grandparents. My aunt, godmother, my mom, my dad, my brother, a lot of people. I don’t really have any family for the most part left besides my younger brother and I, and my son.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah.

Eric Grace: 

So that was a space where I could keep on reflecting on where am I at

Dr. Dean: 

Mm

Eric Grace: 

relationships and the people that have passed. And is there anything else that’s called for here in honoring them or honoring relationship or feeling in a way that I haven’t felt yet? Welcoming that, which cause every death is unique. when my mom died, I had a panic attack and I went into rage. I felt rage and panic. Because of our relationship with my dad, when I was by his body, I felt closer to my father when he was dead than when he was ever alive. And I felt so much peace and love. And so it’s like each death is unique enough to itself, just like the relationships and giving oneself the permission to really feel what you feel in relationship to that person. I find that’s the most helpful in supporting people to be real with the experience versus any shoulds that you might think. You’re trying to hold on to around it, right?

Dr. Dean: 

Right, shoulds are, yeah, they’re problematic for lots of reasons, but easy to fall into. so you mentioned just now changes in the relationship, and I think earlier you said even seeing yourself as the oldest brother now, like how is your relationship with Brent since Kyle passed, right?

Eric Grace: 

it’s gone through a lot of stages cause that was a 98, 24 on this now it’s been past the 20, 25 year mark. he got into drugs and alcohol, when this all happened when he was a teenager. And where we were in, in Sedona, he got in with the wrong crowd. He had a tough several years there. And then I fell into the role of trying to take care of him. and, having some form of identity tied into that as well. And we need, we both needed to break from that dynamic. I think that was overbearing for him, for me towards him. And for me, it felt like a burden at times of, I don’t know what to do. Like with, I don’t know how to help him. When he finally found his way through all of that and got some good support we started to reconnect. And it also was like, we each had our own relationship with, with Kyle, and there was just no way Either of us could be that for the other. So there was a little bit of that had to sort out, I think. and over the last, I’d say probably eight years, something like that, eight, 10 years, something like that. We have found our own unique relationship post Kyle’s death. which is beautiful. I think it’s found its own rhythm now. And we’ve had a few visits, like he’s on the East coast now, with his partner, Crystal, and we had a couple of nice visits back and forth and, we connect a little bit about music, a little bit about football. Those are the things that we are, our connection is. There’s, we don’t spend lots of time together, but I love him and he loves me and we enjoy each other when we’re around each other. I think that’s evolved in a good way. It’s matured. and we can talk about, our mom, our dad, and Kyle all being gone and those relationships. And I’m really curious about his feelings about them because they’re very different than mine.

Dr. Dean: 

Mhm. He was a teenager when Kyle died.

Eric Grace: 

yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, so I’m guessing that would be a different experience, especially with the age difference and like you said, the different relationships with each other.

Eric Grace: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. are there other things that you wish people knew about losing a sibling specifically? Or wish that you had known?

Eric Grace: 

some of the things that come to say about that was going back to the shoulds, to what was really beautiful around that time. I was in a very open, magical period of my life where there was a lot of freedom, a lot of discovery. And when his death happened, where I was living and how we were living, we were very open to reflect, how do we want to be with this?

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm.

Eric Grace: 

there’s, depending on where you live in the world and the communities you’re a part of, and it’s this is what we do when someone dies. And we were not like that. And there was so much room to experiment and feel into that with many different people’s perspectives. I really like how that happened because I think sometimes we’re so conditioned about a certain thing that’s just what we do, and it’s not actually what would nourish us.

Dr. Dean: 

Right.

Eric Grace: 

And so with all of those deaths in my life, they’ve been very unique as far as the response and how I’ve responded and how I participated in the post death processes with Kyle’s. There was a lot of people that participated and. When we went to, Minnesota to have the memorial, our pastor was so, welcoming because our whole family had spent so many years there, even though we hadn’t been there for many years, he was just open door. What do you want to do? I will help facilitate whatever you want to do.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm.

Eric Grace: 

we call, we did a Native American thing of calling in the four directions in a Lutheran church while I sang John Lennon’s, Imagine in a church, which says, even in the tagline in there, in one of the lyrics is imagine if there’s no, religion. it was, There was so much space for us to just do what we wanted to do, and we made a beautiful, video that we played, and I sang a song, and then, or Dan sang a song, and it was, we made this beautiful mural of all pictures and artwork and his writing, poetries and stuff, it was gorgeous what we did, and I think giving oneself the freedom to be in the unknown and listen to what your own source of inspiration. Inklings are around it that maybe hadn’t even considered before. Death can be a, an opening, a real opening to new life. new experiences, new ways of relating to yourself and others. And, that, that time was really precious. Now, on the other side, I think it’s important to say too, since all of us had gotten so closer amidst all that, at a certain point, the grieving process, after like months, 2, 3, 4 being around all the same people and everybody’s grieving. It got to be too much. It was like, oh, I just, I went down and I, I, I was in the thick of it and I felt that I’m, and now I’m on the other side, but now they and they are. Now they’re there and it was just like kept on cycling and We eventually had to break apart and just, I think, get some space from one another in processing and digesting what we were going through. And I think that was natural. It was painful, but it was part of the process. so that whole, the different stages of grieving and how unique that is to the relationship. And if it’s a mother or father or sibling, I think there was room for me to really. Own what I was going through and for Piper and all that, but from what I can tell in a lot of instances, siblings, this is why I love what you’re doing. Siblings don’t always get the same amount of space and ideally in every family system everyone should have room to really feel what they feel and to be considered and what it might what their experience might be like, not just mentally, but emotively to feel that kind of presence support and support,

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for those words. I think our society has this unstated and maybe it’s even sometimes stated hierarchy of whose grief is worse or harder or, and that’s ludicrous, but I think it’s implied. And it sounds like you felt that to some extent, but also there was some equality in your family unit at that time. Mm hmm.

Eric Grace: 

oh,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm. Mm

Eric Grace: 

When I made that move to Sedona, I was claiming my own life. And I said, I don’t care what other people think anymore, I’m going to do what I need to do for me. and so that made space for my own experience in a way that I hadn’t up to that point. And then when Kyle moved down and my mom moved down and like we started having this new way of living, there was more room for Instead of the old traditional structure of the family, where the parents or specifically the father, like my dad took up a lot of space in our family with his kind of underground seething anger and stuff, and then the alcoholism and how that impacts. And like that, our family structure changed after a certain point. And then he did participate in The memorial and he came down and visited us. he really opened up during that time in a new way. And his second wife, Sabrina, she did as well. so I think there was an opening and I guess I would just. Encourage that to like I was saying, like death is a doorway like things can really open up unexpectedly because of the power just like in birth. Like when you’re around a baby, you’re like, wow. Newborns are so powerful what they bring into the room, and same thing with death and my mom and my, My stepmom, Sabrina, they both had memories of being sexually abused within a couple of weeks of Kyle’s death. So it opened up for both of them deep seated repressed realities that they were completely out of touch with up until the cracking that grief did for them. It can be an opening in a good way, and I think that was positive, but it was really hard for them to be with that, right? they’re, not only were they grieving for Kyle, but then they had all this other stuff that came along with that. And just like I was saying, my own form of that was around trust. I had deeper seated issues that had nothing to do with Kyle that the grief process then brought up to feel. And I think that’s not always talked about, that grief is a doorway. And yes, some, sometimes it is about the actual relationship, But a lot of times it’s just unprocessed stuff. We haven’t come to terms with yet in our lives. And that can be an opportunity for us to do so.

Dr. Dean: 

Yes. I wholeheartedly agree with that and have experienced that myself, so thank you for putting words to it. before we wrap up, I’m wondering if you have some favorite memories that you want to share about you and Kyle.

Eric Grace: 

the things that kind of twinkle down right now are playing Legos when we’re like seven years old, 10 and seven, building castles out of Legos, going to Valley Fair, which was an amusement park in, Minnesota. And he had a horrible singing voice, horrible, just horrible singing voice. And they had one of those studios. where you could sing the song you loved to the backing track, and he did it to Stairway to Heaven. And then we listened to the cassette on the way home of him singing to that, and it was so horrid. But there was something so precious about that moment. Like he just, he was, he could really let it out there. Like he could just, Let the chips fall where they’re at and he just sang and it was so horrible But it was he really put himself into it, like that was a sweet moment

Dr. Dean: 

Do you still have the cassette?

Eric Grace: 

no, I don’t it went somewhere. It went somewhere. Thank

Dr. Dean: 

get rid of that.

Eric Grace: 

Yes Yeah, so that was something Us going to a film together like when we saw I’m pretty sure it was Good Will Hunting and we were so deeply touched by that film We got up and we ran out of the theater We were just so giddy, and that, that spirit of joy and playfulness and creativity, it just wove itself through in so many different instances, and he was much more theatrical than I, but he invited that out in me.

Dr. Dean: 

hmm.

Eric Grace: 

the other thing I would say, this was something that Brent and he and I did together, one of the last things we did together as brothers, was to go to a Pearl Jam concert. And, just sharing in that love of music together and, yeah, having those times, I, Brent and I ended up going to a Pearl Jam concert not long ago, a couple of years ago, and it was sweet to have that full circle. It was like 20 years since I’d been to, to see them play since then. And, yeah, whenever I hear Pearl Jam, I think of my brother. and the other thing I would say is when we were living in Sedona together, those nights where we were roommates again. And the lights were off and we would just stay up for a couple of hours talking, the lights are off You’re laying in bed, and you’re just chatting There’s that there’s this certain kind of intimacy you can have with a sibling with a brother for me with brother just feeling so deeply known and be able to talk about whatever you want to talk about, It can be goofy. It can be mundane, it can be deep it can be vulnerable the whole range and just knowing that there’s someone that you can share that with and that they can share that with you, the preciousness of that.

Dr. Dean: 

Absolutely. Yeah, for sure.

Eric Grace: 

yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

What do you miss most about him? I’m sure everything, but.

Eric Grace: 

that’s really, besides us hugging, and feeling his little scruff.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm. Mm

Eric Grace: 

it’s theatrical. We were just kooky together. I’ve got a couple of friends that I can be that way with, but I got really serious after he died, and, being able to have someone to share in that kookiness was so precious to me. and just creating together and having someone that knew me so well.

Dr. Dean: 

hmm.

Eric Grace: 

And if I was BSing myself that they could call me out and say, come on, like just that, that the way the way our relationship was. Was really dear to me, really dear and felt like a once in a lifetime kind of thing.

Dr. Dean: 

thank you for all of that. I know on your website, there’s so many other things that you offer and that you’ve done to help you through this grief and help other people as well. Do you want to comment on any of that?

Eric Grace: 

all of that really speaks to my deeper like mission or soul purpose why I’m here. And I think Kyle and my relationship with him and how that wove in through my life and his death and that’s all so very much part of that like my process of evolving as a person and growing and unearthing who I am and what got hidden and What felt like it was broken. And, one of the things I really dig about myself is I really wanted to get to the core, this life, so what makes me. tick what really I’m made of, and so that I can then pay it forward. So I can bring what’s in my basket of gifts to others to help them really blossom in their experience. and now I’m doing that now, and I just love it. So That’s just another dimension of where the joy comes out because seeing people on earth their own soulfulness into their lives and and that shows up in so many ways, you know the relationship dynamics and parenting and or death that’s one component of it.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm.

Eric Grace: 

and the Death Cafe, doing that being a watsu practitioner for the time. I was that I there was so many things I was trained in and explored that just brought a kind of well roundedness to how I can be with people now, to support them in their growth that I just feel I feel really grateful and blessed how chaotic and crazy my life has been to bring me to the point where like anything someone brings to the table. I’m like, Oh, I’ve been there or I can relate with that or like there’s I can get with that, so that’s the gift of having that much death and suffering and chaos and all those kinds of things is I got a lot of compassion for others and

Dr. Dean: 

hmm.

Eric Grace: 

be dealing with.

Dr. Dean: 

And I think that’s very evident in our conversation today. And so I’m hopeful that our listeners will garner some of that. thank you so much for this conversation, and I look forward to staying in touch.

Eric Grace: 

Yeah. Thank you for what you’re doing in bringing this whole consideration out with siblings and making more room for siblings to reflect on their relationships. And maybe in a way that maybe they didn’t think they had the room to before,

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, of course. You’re welcome. Thank you. 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 like, follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

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