Coping With Grief During The Holidays Written for The Evolving Woman Magazine By Ghandi Knowles-Thompson

I remember it like yesterday.  It was Friday, November 24th, 2006 when I got the call asking me if I heard anything about my brother. That call made my heart sink. Although the caller did not say much, I just knew something terrible had happened. Perhaps it was the sound in her voice or the lateness of the hour, whatever it was, I knew the next call was about to bring bad news. A few seconds passed and then my phone rang again and this time the caller explained that they got the news that my brother had been involved in a terrible motorbike accident.

I was home alone because other family members had traveled for Thanksgiving so I tried to hold it together. I called a family friend who was periodically checking on me and we drove to the accident site. The area was spotless. Clearly, the caller had it all wrong because there was little to no evidence that an accident had occurred when we arrived at the location the caller described. My friend was also confused, he said, “call your brother’s cell phone again” and I did. Still no answer, I just knew then I had to go to the hospital. 

He drove as fast as he could. When we arrived at the hospital and asked if the ambulance had just brought a patient in who was involved in a motorcycle accident, the nurse looked at me and although he said no, no one had arrived, behind his eyes, I could tell there was more he wanted to say. 

I couldn’t just go home, so I thought to drive to the hospital’s morgue. As we pulled up, we saw a security guard locking up. He looked at us very confused and so I asked him if he received any bodies tonight. Not prepared to answer any questions from some random lady he politely replied, “Mam the morgue is closed, you can inquire on Monday?” Monday? Sir, it’s Friday you can’t possibly expect someone to wait until Monday to inquiry about their loved one. 

I began to rationalize what has happened. I understood the importance of confidentiality in such a scenario but I also knew I needed confirmation. I needed to know if my brother had just died. I looked at the gentleman and explained my mother had two children and that I had just received a call that my brother, was in an accident and had died. 

He looked at me and I knew he felt my pain. He didn’t say a word but I knew he felt my pain. I locked my eyes on his and said if I write a name on a piece of paper, would you nod to confirm that is the body you just received. I don’t remember how I got the paper but when the guard read the name on the paper it felt as if he took a minute before looking back at me. When he did look at me, he simply nodded his head and looked away. I fell in my friend’s arms as the tears rolled.

The days, weeks, and months ahead were difficult. So many questions, so much pain. Why Lord, why him and not me? As time passed the support dwindled, questions remained unanswered, my brother was buried and life went on until it was Christmas Eve 2006. 

How could the holidays come and my brother be gone? Why didn’t the world stop to mourn my brother’s death? It was then that I realized that even during the worst tragedies, life continues. I wasn’t ready for Christmas. What was there to celebrate? How do I wake up on Christmas day without being able to call my brother?

Despite my reluctance towards Christmas, the sun arose Christmas morning as it did every other day before. I could hear the laughter of others and the excitement in the air but I was empty. I hesitantly went downstairs and cried, and cried and cried. Family support was great but there was a void that no one could fill.

In case you didn’t know, coping with loss during the holidays can be emotionally exhausting, and downright hard. 

Some days it is difficult to pray. Somedays you want company while other days you just want to be alone and then there are days where the loneliness is overwhelming because even though you are among others you are occupying a space that not many others can relate to.

In retrospect, my process of healing took time. I prayed when I could, I cried when I could and I forced myself to get out of bed and shower when I should. 

I looked for the good in those who called, stop by, or checked in via email/social media. I went to church when I wanted and when I didn’t want to, I stayed home. I focused on good memories of my brother and gradually accepted that he was gone and I too had to move on with my life. I resisted jealousy whenever I saw other siblings enjoying each other. I repeated the one scripture that kept coming to me, “I will bless the Lord at all times his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

I went to work even though I didn’t find joy in working. I asked God and others all the questions I had surrounding my brother’s death. I shared my feelings with whoever asked and I accepted the offer to see a psychologist when a dear friend offered to pay for it since he realized I wasn’t my usual self. 

Therapy was good for me. It was vital to my well-being. I specifically remember one session that completely catapulted my healing. Somehow we got talking about love languages and in that session, we unpacked that I had a lot of guilt about not expressing the full extent of my love for my brother, to my brother while he was alive. 

In that session, I accepted that verbalizing our love wasn’t something my brother and I did, but there were other ways we expressed our love to each other. I felt a physical weight released from me that day. Although after the session there were times thoughts arose doubting that my brother knew how much I loved him but each time I chose to accept he did and if he didn’t know, as long as I had life, I had a lifetime to ensure others closest to me knew how much I cared. 

Weeks turned, into months, months turned into years, and although I previously hated both Thanksgiving (since my brother died the day afterward) and Christmas (the first holiday after his death) I chose to celebrate fond memories of him and the gift of life I still have. 

With unanswered questions and all, I realized that little by little, every small step I took to receive the grace, love, and healing extended to me were steps that brought me closer to my healing. 

Holidays without a loved one are difficult but you can survive and in time you can celebrate them again. Acknowledge and share your thoughts and emotions when you care to. Know that it is okay to ask for support or seek professional help. Be patient with your process, resilient in your forward steps despite how small and positive in your thoughts; never losing hope and if so, not for long. 

Healing comes to us in different ways and times but remain open to live, love and laugh again.

 

To read the full content in The Evolving Woman Magazine Holiday Edition click here: https://issuu.com/duquesab/docs/evolving_woman_magazine_2021?fr=sOTBiNTQ0Njg1NzU

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