Thursday, September 22, 2022


 There is a place that is simultaneously broken and beautiful. I live there now.

The broken part is really hard. I am the girl who lost her brother. Never mind I'm fully forty-six years old, almost forty-seven. I haven't been a girl for many years. This pain reduces you. It takes you down you to something small and scared and weak. I'm not a grown woman here, in this grief. I'm a little girl, crying out for her lost brother. Aching for what used to be and what could have been.


It's beautiful here too. That's also part of why it's so hard. 


Part of me doesn't want it to be beautiful. Part of me wants to be angry. I want to rage and scream until I'm hoarse. Why my brother? Why did it have to be him?  He was good and kind. He was important to me. He was special. Why him?

I want to be angry. I want to vent this fire that keeps building in me, let the steam out before I burn into ashes. I can't stand how much it hurts sometimes. 


Hurt isn't anger though. This is something that I've had to make myself learn. 


I'm not angry. I know it's one of the stages of grief, but I'm just not there yet. I don't know if I'll ever be there. Partially because I just feel like I can't be mad at someone who had a broken brain. I can't be mad at someone who  was so deeply wounded that they saw no other way. I have felt that sorrow. I have both dipped my toes in and touched the floor of that ocean of pain. The current sucks you under so quickly that in an blink of an eye you could be gone. I get it. I do.

The hurt isn't beautiful. It's ugly and jarring. It catches me off guard sometimes. A song lyric, a smell. I'm gone. Just completely gone. 

Somehow, at the exact same time, I both have no idea who I am and know exactly who I am. Which, in case it's not obvious, is also really jarring.

It's the beautiful part, though. This part is beautiful.


Never have I felt more lost. Never, ever have I felt more alone. Never have I felt more like an alien from another planet.




Never have I felt more loved. Never have so many people enveloped me in the warm blanket of their care and concern. Never have I been more sure of how I treat people and what I want to be to the world around me. 


I have regrets. So, so many regrets.

At the same time,I don't.

I knew my brother was mentally ill. I treated him with dignity and respect.

I knew my brother was an addict and I loved him anyway. I felt sorrow for his addiction and even more sorrow for his pain. 

He was not his addiction. 

He was not his pain. 

He was the fullness of a billion stars and sometimes he was the intensity of a red-dwarf; a superflare of emotion. That intensity scared me sometimes.

The intensity of all love scares me sometimes.


The world is ugly. It's harsh. It's terrible. My house is not ugly, harsh, or terrible. It will never be.

 I fell apart, more than once. I don't have the time or the inclination to fall apart so the falling scared me. Terrified me. I don't do that. That's not me, that's never, ever me. I get things done. I work. I problem solve.  God  gave me certain talents and gifts and one of them is that if the world is burning around me I walk straight into the flames. I throw every light on in the haunted house because we are going to deal with whatever the monster is. Hide it under a bushel, no. I'm gonna let it shine.

 That's always been me.

Until February that's always been me.


There have been moments though, in the last 218 days that I have said to my husband and my grown-adult children, "I'm tapping out". The sorrow is heavy. So heavy. Sometimes I just can't. Sometimes I think about the things that have transpired over the last 218 days and I simply cannot believe that I survived this pain. I cannot believe the things I've seen and had to deal with. I cannot fathom how a heart breaks in a chest and keeps on beating. 

I could not be me. Sometimes I still can not be me. 

They love me anyway. My son took my hand to steady it as I signed my brothers death certificate. When I have wailed in anguish at the heaviness the three people in my home have sat quietly and let the grief pour out of me so that the lightness could come back in. When I dropped my daughter off in Montana I wept and she drew her back up bravely and said, "I'll be okay." She has been okay. When I said to Jason that we had to get a divorce because I was a horrible wife and failing at everything and didn't even know who I was anymore he said, steadily, "I love whoever you are". They caught me in this downpour and offered me every umbrella they had. That is love.

Love is beautiful.

The last few years have been awful. The world is ugly and harsh. People I thought I knew? I didn't know at all. These seasons...they hurt sometimes. They are so, so dark sometimes.

This world is full of people who are kind. I know a lot of them. 

I want to be one of the kind people. I will be one of the kind people. 

There is no darkness that will take that away from me.


I am unbecoming all the things I've learned that don't serve me. As for me and my house, we will be different. We'll make a better way. A kinder way. We'll deal with the pain, we'll deal with the hurt, and we'll grow. We'll grow from it, always. 

That, my friends, is beautiful. 


That's the beautiful part.


Meredith said...

Steph, I've followed you for a long time. Like since the beginning. And you have been though some shit in your life. Some hard shit. There have times when you didn't know how to move forward. The loss of a brother - for any reason - is awful. The loss of a brother for the reasons you've described is it's own special kind of hard. Please know that I'm holding space for you. Your family has been, but many of us are too now that we know. Grieving is hard and complicated and messy. Death, especially sudden death, changes you in ways you never could have imagined. You are not alone. Even in your darkest moments. You are in the hearts and minds of so many who have loved you and laughed and cried with you over the years. I hope you feel us hugging you from afar.

Mae Wagner said...

Oh my lovely friend... It is an incredibly raw and shattered place in which I sit, as I read this post. I get so much of all of it, feeling it seep and sting throughout my core... but also I don't "get" it entirely... not really. What you're navigating–this horror that changes and shapes you is unfathomable.
Just know that you are braved and you are loved. I am so sorry for this agony but so grateful for your heart to share.