The last month has been one of the most incredibly difficult, painful and challenging months in my 33 years. I don’t think I’m quite ready to share all of the details yet, but there are some takeaways that I want to journal through because I have learned that there is beauty in connecting with others and if I can help someone by sharing my journey, I am all for it.
On January 8th, I got the phone call that my brother had passed away very tragically and unexpectedly. We still know very few details and honestly, the “how” is not important. What is important, however, is the way I’ve found peace moving forward as well as the strength in knowing that my brother is finally free from the suffering he lived with for many, many years. As we all know, grief is a tricky thing. One minute you’re stable, the next minute you’re in the fetal position crying and questioning God and how he could let this happen.
I didn’t always have the perfect relationship with my brother, but in his last year of life on this Earth, our relationship was beautiful. We loved each other a lot and I knew that I meant the world to him and vice versa. We had seen each other through some dark times and some happy ones. We experienced loss together, we felt pain together and we laughed together.
My brother taught me a lot of things, but one of them was to never assume you know what anyone is battling behind closed doors. He didn’t teach me this explicitly, though. He taught me this as I watched him struggle in silence. He taught me this as I went days and days trying to get ahold of him only to hear that he’d spent a week on the couch in writhing pain.
Last week, I was unexpectedly hit with another heartbreak and though the feelings are still very hard to put into words, the takeaway is exactly the same. Life is a very beautiful journey if you let it play out and keep your attitude as optimistic as you can. Will there be times where you are struggling to make it through an hour of work without running to the storage closet and crying your eyes out? Absolutely there will be.
I’ve lived for 33 years and in that time, I have seen some things. I’ve lived through some difficult trauma. I’ve lost people I care about. I’ve let friendships fall by the wayside. But, you know what? I’ve also seen some amazing things. I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve lived through beautiful seasons of life. So, really, what DEFINES me is not what has happened to me, but rather, how I’ve grown from it.
As humans with free will, we get to choose what we do with pain. We get to choose how we let heartache and disappointments manifest and ultimately, we choose how we enter into new seasons of life. Isn’t that the most amazing gift? We have the ability to choose. So often though, we are so overcome with the grief and the pain that we don’t see the opportunity in the healing.
I want you to know that it’s okay to feel not okay. It’s okay to feel okay. It’s okay to feel okay for 5 minutes and then not okay for 5 hours. It’s okay to laugh through your struggles — it does NOT mean you are not still hurting. It’s okay to tell people that you’re having a horrible day and you just want to be alone. It’s also okay to go out and be with people who want to lift you up and laugh, smile and feel good for a night. It’s okay to grieve and feel in the way that you grieve and feel. Absolutely no one has the power to tell you otherwise.
Moving forward, I am promising to give myself grace. I’m promising myself that if I need to cry, I will cry. I am promising myself that if I need a mental health day, I will take one — without question. I will let any and all pain, heartbreak, sadness and fear wash all over me. I will feel every single feeling without guilt and when I’m ready, I’ll begin again.
As humans, we interact with people every single day. We learn to make associations, judgements and assumptions based on a set of instincts we sometimes refer to as “gut feelings.” While I do believe in trusting that intuition, I also believe that our judgement can become cloudy from poor boundaries, unresolved past issues, lack of self care and many more factors. That being said, is it really fair to assume you know someone’s story having maybe only read one page of it?
I challenge you to recognize that just as you’ve got a very detailed story that’s full of ups, downs, twists and turns, things you’ve shared and things you keep locked inside your heart, that every other soul on this Earth does, too.
Think before you speak.
Love without hesitation.
Pray for people who are weathering their storm.
Make a habit of random acts of kindness.
Show empathy even when it’s difficult.
…and for the love, remember that we are all on this journey together.