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A weekly newsletter delivering sibling loss specific grief resources, support and validation, coping strategies, sibling loss stories, news from The Broken Pack, and much more- including exclusive content and opportunities for subscribers.

Hello, Reader!

I’ve always found the turning of the calendar as an arbitrary date with such pressure to make resolutions or to forget the terrible happenings of the year prior.

The most excited I have ever been around a new year starting was in my youth. Our mom would purchase us new calendars for Christmas. She always managed to pick the perfect wall calendar for me and for Tony. I refused to open mine until January 1st and then when I did, I looked at those twelve photos over and over. A few times, she would purchase the Far Side desk calendar for Tony, and there was some joy in sneaking a peek at the days ahead for the comics. What I rarely focused on was the dates themselves.

While I still am very excited about my new planner, it is now just a tool to plan the first quarter of the year. It is a necessity to accomplish all I want to, rather than a plan to make resolutions or have a better year than the last.

What 2020 Taught Me

Four years ago, I remember talking with my brother, Tony, about the wildfires in Australia where two of our cousins live. We also discussed my health as I was recovering from a massive surgery. That January we talked of a virus in China that my brother would never know as COVID-19, the worldwide pandemic. We discussed the losses of Kobe Bryant, a high school friend of mine, and a dear friend of another cousin. We discussed my brother’s hopes for 2020 and beyond as he was in the beginning of a divorce and was very hopeful to find joy again. We discussed Tony’s hope to reconnect with our heritage and family traditions he felt badly abandoning years ago. He shared his fears about our parents aging, but only briefly as he felt unable to handle thinking about where they would be buried.

One thing my brother said several times in those conversations was that “2020 had to be a better year” than 2019, a rough year for him and others he knew.

This kind of thinking is common. Think about how many people blame a year for taking one or many beloved celebrities. In 2020, it became somewhat of a joke as to what each month would bring with viral internet bingo cards of unexpected phenomena (e.g. murder hornets, success of The Tiger King, toilet paper shortages).

But this magical thinking or attribution of power to a measure of time – a year or even a month- has always struck me as odd.

I’ve long accepted that many things are out of my control. When and who will die in my life has been one of those things that I cannot blame on a measurement. But nonetheless, even I held onto some hope that each year would be better than the next.

Then 2020 happened.

When Tony died in February, before the pandemic reached the United States, my worldviews shattered in every way possible. This included how I perceived time.

I dreaded each time the phone rang wondering who had died, even if it was just my mom calling to say hello. I had difficulty sleeping, fearing I, too, would die in my sleep. I convinced myself that certain people would not be alive to see 2021 or beyond. I played the “this time last year, Tony was…” game repeatedly.

To find some way of living with and moving with my grief, I had to learn that so much was out of my control and no amount of worry, anxiety, or fear could change that. I began to reconnect with living in the moment – as hard as that was.

I realized that with each day, I would get farther and farther in time from my brother. This hurt. It still does. With each ticking moment, I am living longer and longer than my older brother ever did. In this way, time is painful and not overly happy when marked by a new day, a new month, a new year, birthdays, or anniversaries.

What I learned in 2020 is that time is both a blessing (that I get the opportunity to live, love, and impact others) and a curse (that the time my brother and other deceased loved ones walked the planet is more distal).

Living in the Present When Our Siblings are in the Past

As painful as living in the present is when we realize our siblings aren’t here, we can choose to move forward in time, with our grief, and with them through our continuing bonds.

We can be present with all the emotions- positive, negative, and neutral- from moment to moment.

None of this is easy. In fact, at times, it feels just as or even more painful than when we lost our sibling.

So how do we practically live in the present while continuing our connection to our siblings? We will talk about these in more depth in the next few weeks.

Some of you may have reason not to want to continue the bond. This is okay, too. If that is the case, just focus on the tips on living in the present.

This Week’s Tip

Today, just focus on what emotions, thoughts, and sensations come up for you when you hear “Happy New Year” or “This year has to be better than the last one.”

Write these responses down.

Look them over. What do you notice?

Now, in response to these observations, write a letter to yourself that is loving and compassionate- as if you are writing to a friend. What does that friend (a.k.a. you) need to hear for the new year.

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