Today marks three years since my brother Manny died. Trying to explain the heaviness of those words is impossible for me, but I hope to peel back the layers a little bit for those who have never experienced this type of loss. I hope that my words, at some level, resonate with you. I hope that you feel enlightened and encouraged. I hope that you take action to mend fading relationships in your own life. I hope that your level of empathy grows. I hope you begin to look at life through a different lens. For those who understand the throes of emptiness that I am about to touch upon, know that I am with you through all the murky emotions that you experience. You are human and loss is one of those experiences that both destroy us and build us up all at once.
Grief does not have a destination
Throughout this loss, I’ve experienced different pockets of emotions. From sheer and utter heartbreak to a sense of renewal, I’ve learned what it means to feel as though a part of yourself has disappeared with the loss of someone you love. I am a different person than I was three years ago. Throughout the last three years, I’ve found myself questioning my faith, the unfairness of the cards I’ve been dealt, the amount of time and love I expended on my relationship with my brother, my mental state, the suffering he experienced, and the way grief has changed my path astronomically. I have watched grief unfold in the life of my mom and my brothers, in a very different way from my own. I have gone from a state of full helplessness and fear to a place where I am broken, yet restored. I now understand that the brokenness I felt three years ago won’t vanish one day out of the blue, but, instead, come back and hit you like waves crashing the shore. One day, you could be enjoying the sunshine on your face not realizing that the next song on the radio will knock you down to your knees. Grief is a part of who I am now and will ebb and flow through the entirety of my life.
You establish your soul purpose
The most important parts of our life involve our soul. Most people are disconnected from their soul’s intent in this world. Through a major loss in your life, you gain your understanding of your purpose in this world. Through the darkness of a tragedy you begin to understand that every piece of your life matters. Once you regain your footing you search for the light of what remains. Because you’ve felt bitter and suffocating pain you now understand what pure happiness feels like. You rid yourself of the people, situations, places and facets of your life that don’t bring you joy. The pieces of your life that are sucking up your time and energy don’t matter anymore, so you clear your agenda to pursue what was always meant for you. You chase your dreams unapologetically, fearless in pursuit, because you’ve already faced the hardest moments of your life. Your grief transforms to gratitude as you understand this loss was meant to push you to the brink of your intended purpose. I believe that my dreams are being guided by Manny with every step that I take. I know that I am safe to live boldly because of the impact he had in my life.
Words can be so lonely
Saying the words, “my brother died,” always come with a pause before and after the word “died.” I find myself searching for other words to use and feel a punch to the gut when I speak it out loud to anyone. No matter how long it’s been, memories, from the moment I found out, consume me. Speaking about it is necessary for my growth, but never easy. By the way, whoever said you can “heal” from a death is lying to you. There is no point where you think, “okay, I am fully healed.” There is no scar, but more so, an open wound that stings whenever you try too hard to “heal”. It is necessary to feel, so let the emotions flood over you instead of avoiding them. I use the immensity of this loss to connect with him on a spiritual level, while despising the month of August every time it approaches. There are going to be many moments where you feel like you just can’t move forward or take another breath, but your strength comes from the connection you made here on Earth.
I am three years into the greatest loss of my life.
I am three years into wishing I could hug Manny one more time.
I am three years into trying to convince myself that things happen for reasons outside of my understanding.
I am three years into trying to move past the looming anxiety that someone else I love deeply will die.
I am three years into learning how my mental health has been affected greatly by this loss.
I am three years into sharing his story, trying not to fall apart as the words tumble out of my mouth. The use of, "was," and "did," often flash before me with the realization that all of our experiences together are past tense.
I am three years into replaying conversations in my head, terrified that I will wake up one day forgetting what he sounds like.
I am three years into grieving the loss of a piece of my soul.
I am three years into navigating this world without Manny.
I am three years into learning who I am to my soul.
I am three years into connecting with Manny on a spiritual level.
I am three years into abundantly loving my family who experienced this same loss.
I am three years into not taking the most important things for granted.
I am three years into standing up for those who suffer from substance use disorder.
I am three years into discovering that love will mend your brokenness and lead you out of a depth of darkness that you can't fathom until you've experienced it firsthand.
I am three years into being grateful for my strength and the tenacity of my heart and soul.
I am three years into living my life as my genuine self and chasing my dreams without fear.
I am three years into thanking Manny for all that he’s taught me over the last three years.
I am three years into the most beautifully broken awakening of my life.
Until we are together again, I hope to shine a light on the world, through words, and make people feel deeply about things that matter. My journey became clear the moment a piece of my heart slipped away on that horrific August day. I will continue to find solace in the butterflies that prove there is a thin layer between this life and the next.
Three years in, forever to go.