life after loss

I have so many words to say, and yet I have this desire to keep them crammed up inside of my head. I know I need to let myself write and feel, but I am fighting with this deep seeded instinct to stop feeling things when they hurt so much. I keep wishing that I could somehow pretend it didn't happen, that I could mourn in secret but go about my life as though nothing had changed at all.

At 2:00 in the morning on December 26th I woke up to Dan picking up his cell phone and running out of the bedroom. I had been in a deep sleep so I was a bit hazy. I remember walking to the top of the stairs and listening as he stood below. I heard a voice sobbing loudly through his phone but I couldn't make out who it was or what was being said. I assumed it was for him. I assumed something terrible had happened to someone in his family.

When he hung up the phone I went to him, expecting to comfort him. He wrapped me in his arms.

Babe, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. He said. He held me tight. It's James.

I shake a lot. When I'm nervous, when I have to speak in public, when I'm extremely upset. I shake uncontrollably. I shook uncontrollably for the entire first day. I couldn't stop it. I shook uncontrollably at his funeral. I'm shaking uncontrollably now as I type this, remembering that moment. It is so awful, remembering that moment when I first heard those words. I hate it with everything that I am.

To this day, that day, the 26th, was the absolute hardest. The guilt and sadness that consumed me was unbearable. When I woke up the next morning, on the 27th, my eyes were so swollen from all of the crying that they wouldn't hardly open. I had to ice my eyes all day to help the swelling. But it didn't help the swelling, because all that would happen is that I would cry into the ice pack. I couldn't stop thinking. I couldn't stop crying. The pain in my chest was real, a sharp ache that pushed against my rib cage incessantly. Those were the very worst, very lowest days of my life so far.

We spent the entire week with my family. Every single day we had family to our house, or we were to their homes. We clung together. We needed each other in the same way that you need a glass of ice water after being stranded in the desert. Through all of the pain and the tears I saw a new light around my family. They were everything. Family is everything. I always knew that, but I never truly knew that. Why did this have to happen for me to truly know that?

I can not wrap my mind around it. It is still one hundred percent surreal. I saw his body in that casket. I grasped his stiff arm and whispered I love you. I stared at his face, never wanting the memory of his face right then to fade, while they closed the casket lid over top of him. I sat on a church bench in our childhood chapel with all of his family and his friends and I cried and cried while we celebrated him. I sat at the cemetery while taps played on the bagpipes and I kissed the top of his casket before I walked away from it, knowing it was the very last time I would see or touch the thing that carried his body again. And even after all of that, even after all of that, I can not wrap my mind around the fact that he won't be walking through my front door at our next Sunday dinner, or at my boys birthday parties. I see a picture of him or watch a video and I can not wrap my mind around the fact that he is not here anymore.

The stages of grief are insane. Initially is was all guilt. I was consumed with guilt. I went over and over again what I did and said the last time I saw him. I couldn't stop thinking about how selfish I have been, how focused I was on my own life, that I would fail to see any pain in his. How did this happen? The guilt I felt that first day was a killer whale that could have swallowed me whole.

The second day was when I started receiving this miraculous comfort. It was strange. It came in waves. I would be sitting there and it would hit so suddenly, so perfectly, like someone was standing behind me and draping a blanket over my shoulders. I would stop and stare and just soak in the peace that I found myself in. One time I remember sitting alone on the couch in my living room when it hit me, and I closed my eyes and pretended that it was James. Maybe he was there in that room with me. Maybe he was? Maybe he had come up behind the couch and kissed me on the top of my head. Maybe that's why I felt so suddenly, inexplicably comforted. Those moments of comfort are the most beautiful and the most needed moments.

Now, just over one week later, I'm not consumed by any one emotion. The wide array of different feelings that I can feel so intensely all in one single day are terribly alarming. I feel it all. Sadness, happiness, discouragement, comfort, anger, hope, emptiness, solace, guilt, heartbreak, numbness, contentment, pain. Over and over and over again, all of these feelings come and go and come go in this vicious cycle. I feel as though I'm in the ocean, caught in waves that sweep me up and threaten to drown me before they throw me back on the sand, where I can breathe fresh air, if only for a moment before the next wave takes me out again.

The biggest reason that I write is so that I don't forget. So that years down the road I can look back to read something and I can remember moments and details that would otherwise have been lost somewhere. So although I am still fighting the side of me that wants to bottle this up and not let any of it out, I am going to work my hardest to feel instead. I'm going to write what I need to write and say what I need to say and feel what I need to feel. I'm not going to run away from it.

Some days I might run away from it. But I'll try my hardest not to.

Grief has given me new eyes through which to see the world. I'm getting by a day at a time, but I miss him so much. I've never longed for a time machine as badly in my entire life as I do now. I love you, little brother.


  1. Meghan- I know there is nothing I can say to ease your pain but please know that I am here for you, whether it be for a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or anything you need.

  2. Meghan you are so amazing with words, thanks for sharing. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you, you're in my thoughts and prayers.