What I Learned from (Losing) My Brother

As a writer, one of the scariest places to go is deciding how close to the edge of your personal life you choose to go and share.

But I just had a profound moment that I knew I had to write about. As I was reflecting on extraordinary love and my experience of it, I couldn't help but want to digress off topic from romantic relationships, and make an exception. I would like to talk about family, and I'm dedicating this post to it.

Let's call it (non-romantic) extraordinary love. It's a league of it's own, yet so influential to how we learn to express and experience love, that as a relationship coach, it's nearly impossible to talk about someone's romantic life without exploring family dynamics...be it our own, our partner's, and often, both.

After all, it was my brother who suggested I teach people about love and compassion because that's one of the things he learned from me. I was surprised when he told me that, and it ranks as one of the most heartfelt compliments I've ever received. It was an influential moment that nudged me down this path, and for that, I'm grateful everyday.

Anyway, back to my story...I had just made dinner, and I sat down with a semi-conscious attempt to be present with myself. Only a few moments has passed when I said the title of this post out loud. Hearing those words made  tear up, and I've done enough work to know that it was something I needed to explore. So, I decided to write about it. I reached for my laptop, began a draft, and here I am.

Over the last six months, I've lost my relationship with my brother. Despite typical sibling rivalry, I was lucky enough to also know him as one of my best friends. Over the last year, he's decided to explore himself outside of his identity as a brother and a son. I respect his journey, though to say that it has been devastating is an understatement. 

To offer some context, he expressed that our family has been so closely-knit that the only way he could establish himself as a man, on his own, was to be completely removed. We still talk; though much less often, and much more strained. The change has been drastic enough that I wonder if we'll ever really be close again.

The thing is...as any one who considers their sibling as one of their best friends can understand...your relationship may fade, but your bond never goes away. It hasn't been years yet, but I know that will never be completely gone. 

In light of allowing our pain and heartache to drop our guard, and to allow myself to explore (and even choose to express) my vulnerability...here I am.

This is what I've learned about love from (losing) my brother:

  1. No matter how much it hurts, you always want the best for them. I want him to be happy, and that will always take precedence. I would never want to interfere with what makes him truly happy.
  2. Linear time does not apply. A year can feel as long as a decade...just as 10 years can pass, and you can pick up right where you left off. Time is fascinating that way, isn't it?
  3. You hope one day things will change. As much as you know things will never be the same, there's always the part of you that holds on to the possibility that one day, things will be different. From time to time, you wonder what that day would/will be like.
  4. You know things will never go back to the way they were. At the same time, you know that your relationship will forever be different for what has happened. There's no going back.
  5. You realize your limits as a human being. When you've done all you can, there comes a point at the end of the day when you have to accept that you are enough. This is a beautiful blessing in disguise. 
  6. You have to choose how your heartache defines you. The past is the past. What keeps it alive is how we choose to let it define us. Our heartache is a teacher, if we're willing to take a step back, and see things differently.
  7. Every loss is a lesson in love, acceptance and forgiveness. There are nuances to losing someone, be whether it is temporary, forever, or somewhere in between. It is in these painful experiences that no matter what, we have the opportunity to delve into what love, acceptance, and forgiveness truly is. It is a way in which we become more closely acquainted with ourselves, and the human experience.
  8. Never short yourself the opportunity to grieve. Healing is only possible through feeling the feelings, sitting with them, and allowing them to exist. It's true...we have to feel them to heal them. It can be terrifying at first, but you will reach the other side, and from there, you'll know it was worth it. 
  9. You may never stop missing them. It's ok that the void doesn't fully go away. It's a sign of the love that was once, still is, and will always be there.
  10. Part of resilience is honoring your pain by giving yourself full permission to live. The only way I've found strength to move on from trauma, heartbreak, and tragedy is by choosing to live MORE. I refuse to let my capacity to feel love, joy, and excitement be hindered by pain endured. Blessing in disguise #2: The pain has also made the depth of incredible experiences that much greater.

I hope by sharing this with you that my story may connect with someone who maybe has or is currently experiencing something similar.  

As an older sibling, your love and sense of responsibility for your younger sibling(s) becomes a part of who you are.  It shapes us in countless ways. A sibling relationship is complicated at best. There are layers upon layers. I felt responsible for him, resented him, yet loved him, and growing up, thought tone of the only important things in the world was making sure he was ok. Then I'd be so annoyed with him I could scream (and I certainly did on occasion). For so long, I put so much pressure on myself to be a good example, and when I crumbled, I was disappointed in myself, but even more, I was disappointed in what it may mean in the context of him looking up to me. I had pride in that, and having that feel jeopardized has felt like 1000 life lessons in one. 

If you're reading this, and reflecting on your relationship with your family, I'd encourage you to reach out and connect with them. Honor the moments you get to spend with them. Appreciate that you can reach out to them, and know everything is ok. If it's not, I'd suggest asking yourself if there's anything you feel compelled to mend. You'll know when the time is right. That doesn't mean your heart won't race, or you won't feel scared to reach out and have a conversation, but that begins to feel worth it when you get to trade in not knowing for knowing even a little bit more. 

Each day is a new beginning. I choose to forgive myself. Forgive others. See the beauty in who we are. Each morning, I honor myself, my life, and those in it by consciously deciding that I choose love.

What about you?