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Lean

1,095 days since my brother passed away. Three years.

Three too many. Three too heartbreaking. Three too surreal. Three too confusing. Three too stressful.

Three years. 1,095 days.

There’s a piece of me that is permanently sad without him. Most of the time it’s a small piece that I can compartmentalize and keep control of. Most of the time it’s manageable. Most of the time I can keep going.

But I’m human. And sometimes I can’t.

Last night I cried so hard that I had a headache within minutes and it took all the restraint in me to not rip my hair out. I missed him hard. Maybe the hardest since the day I found out he was gone. I thought about the specific instances where looking back, I could have done more. It was daunting. I couldn’t breathe. I broke down… I just completely broke down.

But after awhile, I slowed down. I kept breathing. And then I did two things: I accepted the comfort of my boyfriend, and I called my twin sister.

I leaned on someone else so that I could stabilize myself. Stabilize my mind, my aching heart, and my battered body.

The tough part about grief is that it’s so sharp that you don’t want to share it with anyone else for fear of hurting them. It’s too painful. It’s too risky.

But surprisingly, grief also gives us a great opportunity. It allows us to connect with others in a way that is so raw and so real it’s practically impossible to ignore. If your grief is honest and true, it can bring you closer to those you lean on.

Grief can even bring us closer to those who are gone, because in a way, we lean on them, too.

We lean on them to give us signs that they’re still with us in some way, even if they’re signs that no one but us understands.

We lean on them to talk to when we have our quiet, private moments of prayer or reflection where we are absolutely sure that they can hear us.

We lean on them to still be here for us in those milestone moments, even if it’s in a way that’s not what we originally imagined.

We lean on them to protect us as guardian angels in times of strife and hardship.

We lean on them all of the time.

So the next time you find yourself in a dark moment of grief, lean into it.

Let it catch you and cleanse you and bring you closer to whatever and whoever it is that you need to keep yourself going in that moment.

Go ahead, lean. You’ll find yourself standing soon after.

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Keep going

Tomorrow, January 11, 2015, marks the one-year “anniversary” of my brother’s passing. While no time frame or date on a calendar could ever justify or help make sense of the loss my family has endured, I can’t help but to take a little more time than usual to reflect on what a whirlwind of a year it has truly been.

Surprisingly, losing Thomas made me more independent than ever before. It’s not that I don’t lean on friends and family when I need to; I’m grateful for the support and comfort that’s shown, and most days I embrace it. But death has had a way of making me not only realize, but truly believe, that I am the only one who controls my life. No one else. Not my parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, no one. Just me.

So in this past year, I stopped – to the best of my ability – over analyzing what others thought of me, my choices, my actions, all of it. I reminded myself that what others think of me is none of my business.

I invested more time into the power of my mind and all of its possibilities through the practice of yoga and also through the rapid consumption of content. Yoga helps me to focus on one thing at a time, control my anxiety, and continue to keep a positive state of mind. Additionally, I’ve stayed true to my personal goal of reading at least one book a month, and have made a more conscious effort to read publications and articles that are outside of my usual wheelhouse.

On top of that, I slowly but surely am figuring out the limits that I want to set for myself. I left a job that I didn’t enjoy (which led me to one that I love), I turn down plans that deep down I know I want no part of, and I’m more diligent about who I’m willing to share my time with. Overall, I’m smarter about when I say yes and when I say no. 

Not all of these shifts of control were a product of some magical revelation I had when Thomas passed. And it doesn’t shed light into the cracks of sadness and honest depression that inevitably come from an unforeseen loss of a loved one. I still cry, throw questions out into the universe that can’t be answered, wish people were more compassionate and just nicer to each other (because why wouldn’t you be?) and wish that I had more than memories to hold onto.

But because I know that I only have control of myself, I choose to take care of my own life to the best of my ability. And on the one-year mark of his loss, I’m going to choose to celebrate Thomas and all of the quirks he had which I love and miss so dearly. I’ll watch the Cowboys game and hope they kick Green Bay’s ass. I’ll wear his Dallas scarf and sleep with his Dallas blanket and smile at old photos that I now cherish.

But i’m also going to make sure that I take a second to give myself some credit. Because for 365 days, I chose to keep going and not let something that happened to me dictate my next steps. To continue on despite hardships, no matter the kind, is something we should all be proud of.

So here’s to you, and here’s to me, and here’s to my brother Thomas. May we all choose to keep going.

Miss you now. Miss you always.

Miss you now. Miss you always.

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