June 08, 2024

Sad wolf curled up

Hello, Reader!

Being the younger child, I had the smaller of the two bedrooms growing up. My single window, seemingly miles above the floor, remained a tantalizing mystery until I was a teen. Even then, my 5-foot frame required a boost from furniture to glimpse the world beyond. But I was strangely grateful for that one window, especially during thunderstorms.

As a child, I was terrified of lightning. Without air conditioning, we often slept with windows open, and I was convinced the lightning would strike me through that one window. My initial idea of comfort was creating a sheet-tent over my bed, burrowing deep beneath the covers, and trying to will myself to sleep so I could forget the storm was happening.

This memory has come up a lot recently as we have had numerous powerful thunderstorms and drenching rain. In recalling this memory, I have considered the illogical thoughts of my younger mind. Perhaps the egocentrism of it all as a child, believing that a sheet would somehow stop the lightning if it were to strike, or the desperate need for control in the face of fear, planted the seeds for learning to tolerate distress and seek support and comfort in a storm.

You see, beyond my perception that some bedding would keep me safe, the only other thing that would truly allay my fear was when my older brother, Tony, would come check on me. He’d either invite me to play quietly – without waking our parents – in his room until the storm passed or he would simply reassure me with a smile and a hug that everything would be okay. I preferred hanging out in his big room with his orangish brown shag carpet. It didn’t matter that he had two windows in his room; his distraction and big brotherly love were enough to calm my fears as the storms raged outside.

Polar Opposites, Bound by Love

Tony and I were polar opposites in as many ways as we were similar. He was easygoing and reassuring, while I was anxious and prone to worry. I liked to dance, and he liked to play soccer or baseball. We both loved being around people, laughing, and eating chocolate. We definitely look a lot alike.

Our differences along with our similarities seemed to strengthen our bond. I miss him dearly – the similarities, the differences, and especially his comforting presence during life’s storms.

Storms of the Past Month

The past month or two have been full of overwhelming stress and challenges – storms of a different kind. I’ve felt unsteady, wanting to curl up under the covers and hide until the storms of life pass.

In a moment of vulnerability, I confessed to my mom my deepest fear of facing future losses alone, especially the loss of her and my dad. As an only child, she couldn’t grasp the profound impact of losing Tony on my future grief. I would love to talk to my dad or his last living sibling, my aunt, about it but haven’t yet done so. I’ve talked to Tony in my heart, and while doing so has provided comfort, it has also reinforced my fears of being alone and abandoned in grief, along with my anger at him for dying.

Check out the podcast episode with Kate as we discuss and normalize anger in grief.

Why haven’t I talked to Dad or my aunt? Well, avoidance is a familiar dance partner for me.

Dancing in the Rain

Yet, I’m also striving to dance despite the storms. Inspired by dancing in the rain with my own child, I’ve learned to find joy amidst fear and sorrow. When my now adult child was young, we would dance in the rain and watch the lightning. It was through these joyful moments, despite my fear, that I learned to embrace the full spectrum of emotions, finding strength and resilience in the face of adversity.

But embracing joy in the face of grief feels so much harder.

A Shared Fear

Through our interactions, I’ve realized that many of you share this fear of facing bereavement of other losses alone. So, how do we dance in the rain?

I’m referring to both literal and metaphorical storms. There’s nothing like the sensation of being drenched in a downpour to connect us to the present moment, jolting us out of thoughts of the past or future. Just as a physical storm can shatter our world, so too can grief, leaving us to rebuild in its aftermath.

Three Steps to Dancing in the Grief Storm

1. Acknowledge the Dance: Dancing doesn’t change the storm or its destruction. We can still grieve and mourn while learning to live despite the pain.

2. It’s Okay Not to Dance: Some storms are too overwhelming. It’s okay to try and fail, or simply to rest.

3. Dance Together: You don’t have to dance alone. Build a supportive group of friends, loved ones, and other bereaved people. If it feels right, invite your sibling’s spirit to join you. Find comfort in shared experiences. For one way to do this, join us in August!

4. (Bonus): If it rains, go outside regardless of how you are feeling and maybe in spite of it. As Natasha Bedingfield said so well in her song “Unwritten”:

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken

Rebuilding After the Storm

Grief is a process of reconstructing meaning after it has been shattered, changed, or transformed by loss. With that rebuilding after such a storm, there will certainly be difficulty, pain, and tribulation. There will also be opportunities to incorporate that loss into the new. In no way does this mean we are happy about the storm that leveled our world. Yet, we can build in the ways we want- whether that is to honor, carry, or hold our loss with us or not.

Doing so takes time, practice, patience, and guidance. Stay tuned! I have some opportunities coming soon for you to do so.

In the meantime…

  • Listen to the podcast. We will be taking a break for the summer which leaves you time to catch up!
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  • Reply to this email to check in!

Warmly,

Angela

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Podcast

The Broken Pack™: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss

Want to learn more about the podcast episodes? Did you know each episode has its own page? Season 4 has just finished!

Check out the podcast →
Pale blue background with blue wheat like plants. a teal blue circle sits in the middle top with quotation marks. The text says, “I feel like grief has really shown me a lot about people. I feel like I had a lot of friendships fade away […]I had to focus on getting myself through the day […]I felt like a lot of people were just avoiding me, too, and I don't blame them. If I could have avoided me during that period I absolutely would have.~ Kate ChertikSeason 4, Episode 9 guest”In the bottom right corner The Broken Pack logo with a howling wolf in front of a bush on a blue circle with a teal moon is shown.
In white text on a teal background with varying shades of teal half circles, white headline text  in reads, “Sibling Grief: A Lifetime of Remembering and Forgetting”followed by italic subtext that says, “Sibling loss is marked by a lifetime fear of forgetting their quirks, their jokes, their essence—especially when they should be helping you remember those very things about your parents and ancestors.It's a constant tug-of-war between vivid memories and the terrifying blur of time, a struggle to hold onto precious moments from the very beginning of your existence to the end of your life. This is the face of overwhelming grief.”A circle showing the Broken Pack logo is on the right with a howling, crying wolf is also shown.
Pale blue background with blue wheat like plants. a teal blue circle sits in the middle top with quotation marks. The text says, “I now understand why they call it heartache. I have had many instances where my chest literally hurts. […] I thought I knew heartache, but I did not actually know that physical pain.I don't use that word as much anymore because now I know what it really means.~ Beth Hoffman, PhDSeason 4, Episode 8 guest”In the bottom right corner The Broken Pack logo with a howling wolf in front of a bush on a blue circle with a teal moon is shown.
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