Tuesday, April 23, 2024


 "How are your mom and dad?"

I get this question a lot.  People mean well and people care. They cannot imagine how my parents are coping with the loss of their son, and frankly? Neither can I. I don't know how they cope with it. 

I usually say something like, "They are doing the best they can". Which I believe is true, but also I believe is insufficient. I don't have the right words for their loss and every day their best is probably different. That's okay. Best is best.

We all do our best.


Yesterday my brother Chris would have been fifty years old, which seems ludicrous because in my mind there is no possible way I'm knocking on the door of fifty years old. Surely I'm only twenty-five or twenty-nine and surely I have so, so many years ahead of me.

I like to imagine our conversation, if he was here and whole, on his fiftieth birthday:


Me: Welp. You're 50.

Him: That's stupid. Fifty is stupid.


In my mind I can hear him say those words. That was the only thing that made me laugh yesterday.


My parents have had a huge, horrible loss. My niece and nephew and great niece have had a horrible loss. I would never, ever diminish how horrible those losses are. I grieve for my parents and my nieces and nephew. My heart breaks for them. I wish I could take away their pain. 

Sibling grief is different, I know this.


It's loss of friendship. 

Loss of your childhood. There are so many shared memories that I have only with Chris and it sometimes terrifies me that I am losing them. Forgetting them. There is no one left to validate huge, enormous chunks of my life and the hollowness of that realization is daunting sometimes. Losing those links to your past means you lose a piece of yourself.

You lose your identity. I was the third child. Am I still the third child? I don't know. I don't know how that works. I don't know what to say when I meet someone new and they eventually say, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" The sisters part is easy. I never quite know what to say about my brother. I always worry I say to much, or not enough. 

"Stay strong for your parents" people say and oh, I try. I do. I try so hard to be strong for everyone, all the time. My grief is real though, and it's complicated and terrible and sometimes I just don't feel strong. Not at all.

I have no one I'm in cahoots with anymore. From childhood I kept his secrets. "Don't tell mom!" I never told. I still haven't told. Even in death, I hold so much of his pain and fear and even anger. It was easier when he was alive and we could talk through things. Now, I just carry it. It's very, very heavy.

Our brothers and sisters are our history and they should be our future. Losing a sibling is the most unique, terrible, life-altering grief and no one talks about how hard it is.


The truth is, I'm still hurting. 

I have become a different person, and there is no going back.

I'm forgetful. The brain fog is real. 

I talk way too much and I worry a lot that people will get so tired of hearing about my brother. I don't want him to be forgotten. I don't want to stop talking about him so we won't forget. I can still hear his laugh and his voice and I want to always be able to. 

I worry that people get tired of hearing about my grief.

Today? I'm really sad I didn't get to hear from him how stupid it is to be fifty.

In 540 days when I turn fifty, I'm really sad he won't be here to celebrate it with me by telling me how stupid it is to be fifty.

I don't gatekeep anything, especially grief. You feel how you feel and that's okay. I genuinely appreciate people asking how my parents are, and I know they appreciate it too. I know my nieces and nephew appreciate people caring for them and checking on them.

Check on me.

Check on my sisters.


Siblings grieve too.  


1 comment:

Jo Gragg said...

Stephanie, I am so sorry about the loss of your brother. I lost mine in 2001 to cancer. I still mis him. Then on September 30 2023, I lost my sister. Because of my illness, and her taking care of her husband until his death 2 years ago, I had only talked to my sister on the phone. Due to my weekeand immune system, I'm not allowed to go out much. I talked to her on the phone again for 2 yrs, then I realized she was keeping an illness from me. I got in touch with my niece. My sister was dying
Missy and Luke got me to her house. She had asked for Luke to give her an iv. He's an advanced emt. He called Missy to get me out there. I don't think I can describe, how she looked. We talked for a long time. When I got ready to leave she told me not to come back. I know why. She died 2 days later. My heart is broken. But, more than that I'm alone. I'm the last one in my family. And no one understands, why I'm grieving so long and hard. I know how you feel. Cherish your siblings. For they are closer than your own children. You shared the womb of the same mother. I'm so sorry. My prayers for peace and comfort are with you. As well as my heart.