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Does anyone like attending funerals?

No?

That’s what I thought.

No one likes funerals. But ever since my brother passed away a few years ago, I basically avoid them at all costs.

However, that clearly poses a conflict every so often. You see, in my family, we were raised that no matter how difficult the situation, you show up and pay your respects. And although that’s easier said than done, it’s something we take seriously.

While i’m hesitant and protective over what I expose myself to, my sisters have stepped up to the plate more than their fair share. But this week the tables turned on me when I found out a childhood friend’s dad passed away and the services were coming up.

Immediately I thought, “I’ll send a card. I’ll make a donation. I’ll reach out, but I just can’t attend the funeral. It’s too much.”

Physically I wanted to be there. Mentally I wasn’t ready.

But when my twin sister wasn’t able to make it, I knew it was my turn to step up like she has so many times before.

Because my childhood friends are my family. They always have been. They always will be. My hometown is special and that’s how we were raised.

So I went.

And I’m so glad I did.

Because even though I fought back tears during the service and then let them out on my drive home, it was important to be there.

And here’s why.

First of all, you can’t avoid funerals forever. Death is a part of life (as my Dad has so wisely taught me).

But more importantly, sometimes you need to put your own shit aside in order to show up for the people who matter.

It’s important to be there for your friends, your family, and your community.

It’s important to pay your respects.

It’s important to honor those who have passed.

Because after all, those who are no longer living teach us how lucky we are to be alive.

And that’s worth showing up for.

 

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What else?

Tomorrow marks four years since my brother passed away by suicide. And as I write that first sentence, I can’t help but feel like I’ve written it before.

And quite honestly, it’s probably because I have. Well, sort of.

You see, each year on the anniversary of his passing, I’ve had this gut-wrenching push to use the cathartic outlet of writing to find a lesson amidst the mess.

I’ve talked about the traumatizing grieving process and the message he always said that is still stuck with me, how we must push ourselves to keep going, remind ourselves that life is truly of the essence, and to lean into our feelings, even when it’s challenging.

But this year, i’m frustrated. Because after four years, it’s exhausting to have this be “my story”.

Maybe it’s my own fault, but I don’t want to just be the girl whose brother passed away by suicide. I don’t want to be the one who has triggers that bring me to tears. I don’t want to be the one who’s hyper-aware of mental health issues in today’s society and how they impact every single person. Yes – every. single. person. But I am.

But here’s what else I am…

I’m a daughter to parents who still get up every single day, make the most of the crap hand that’s been dealt to them, and who still give their heart and soul to three daughters and countless others. They are warriors and I am in awe of their ability to continually push forward, no matter how small the steps can sometimes feel.

I’m a sister to my twin sister Emily and my older sister Mary, who have gotten me through more rough days than I can count. They remind me to be kind to others, not to be scared to discuss the “stigma’, and to fight for a cause that’s so much bigger than ourselves and our family. They are the glue that often holds me together and the light at the end of what can often be a very dark tunnel.

I’m a girlfriend to a hilarious, hardworking, dream of a man. We have goals for our lives individually, and exciting plans for the life that we’re building together. We prioritize our happiness, laugh often, and bond over the sting of losing someone too soon. He makes the good days great and the bad days bearable, and I truly feel he’s the counterpart I’ve always hoped to have by my side.

I’m a coach to a team of goofy, driven, potential-filled cheerleaders who time and time again lift me up without even realizing it. They’ve helped me share my passion for not only the sport, but for everything it stands for: teamwork, confidence building, and achieving a common goal that you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into.

I’m also a friend, a coworker, a writer, a book worm, a wanderer, a loyal sports fan, a college graduate, a former Buffalo and Chicago resident, a heartfelt fan of Friendsgiving, and most importantly, a family girl.

So while I am certainly someone who constantly misses her brother to tears, I am also much more than that.

I tell you this to make you realize that you can be defined by more than one circumstance.

You can miss people and still live with proud moments and a full heart.

You can fall on your face and still stand back up.

You can make terrible mistakes and still put the pieces back together.

Yes, there are some circumstances that will partially shape and define your story. We all have them.

But I urge you, push you, beg you to try and think beyond those circumstances and ask yourself, “what else makes me who I am?”

Think long and think hard. Put your heart into the reflection of it all. Lose the guilt. Be honest with yourself.

What else?

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