12 Hard Lessons I Learned From Losing My Brother

If you're someone who's lost a brother or sister, then we have something in common. At 13 years-old, my 16-year-old brother died in a car accident. Even though it's now been 16 years since I lost him, I remember the day like it was yesterday. Ever since the day my brother was taken from us (it's now just me, my sister, my mom, and my dad), our family dynamic changed completely. By no means were my parents experts at dealing with sibling grief; after all, they were trying to figure out how to live and cope without their child. But I was lucky enough to have them guide me through each day. My brother's death, which is something that still affects to me this very day, was — and continues to be — a learning experience.

I'm hoping my words here — which I do not consider "words of wisdom," but definitely a helpful tool — will aid fellow siblings who are dealing with the death of a brother or a sister. Sometimes, it's best to listen to someone who understands what you're going through.

With that said, here are 12 things I learned after the death of my brother that I hope might help someone out there going through the same thing.

1. There's No Right Way To Grieve

You know how everyone says there are five stages of grief? I think that's a load of crap. Those steps might work for some, but there is no set way to grieve. Everyone deals with grief differently, so don't let anyone tell you how to mourn, especially if they have no idea what you're going through. As long as you aren't harming yourself, then keep grieving how you see fit.

2. You Should Never Be Ashamed To Cry

Tears are one of the best ways to relieve yourself of all those emotions you're feeling. Crying is not a sign of weakness. It's an emotion that also doubles as a type of medication. I always feel better after I express myself and have a good cry. Plus, it's not good to hold in emotions, because they build up and one way or another, and they will escape. Which brings me to...

3. It's OK To Get Angry

I still get angry to this day that my brother is dead. Anger is another normal part of grief that you're going to feel. It will come and go, but never feel ashamed about being angry. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

4. You'll Hear A Lot Of Stupid Things

Here are just a few things you might hear when a sibling (or anyone) passes: "How are you?", "He/she is in a better place," "God needed her/him more than you," and "I understand," among many others. Yes, these questions and statements are idiotic, but most of the time the person is trying to show compassion and have no idea what to say.

As irritating as it might be, you'll grit your teeth and just get through the conversation. On the other hand, you might even explode, because you just can't take it anymore. Trust me, that is all normal. Try to explain to the person why you’re upset, and hopefully they will learn how to treat someone who's grieving.

5. Being Selfish Is Necessary

As much as you might want to be there for others in your family and be a people pleaser, you can never forget about you and your needs. It's OK to be selfish. You need to make sure you're making yourself happy and staying healthy, otherwise you're never going to be able to function and live your life.

6. Sometimes, You Will Be Forgotten

I like to call siblings dealing with the death of a brother or sister "the forgotten ones." Now, I'm not saying everyone forgets us, ignores us, and disregards that we've lost a sibling, but sometimes, parents get more attention for losing a child.

At times, we're overlooked and people forget that we're also dealing with a loss and grieving. My suggestion? Let your voice be heard, because you might be able to open someone else's eyes to sibling grief.

7. Extended Family Might Let You Down

This might surprise some, but more often than not, extended family doesn't stick around during a major loss. Some are afraid it might happen to them, while others just don't understand why you're a different person. Death changes a lot, and sadly, this can be a harsh reality.

8. The Most Surprising People Will Lend A Helping Hand

In my experience, I've found strangers and the most surprising people are there for you. It's a nice surprise to know that even though some family might not be there, that others will want to try to understand, lend a helping hand, and give you a shoulder to cry on.

9. You'll Never Be The Same ... And That's OK

Ever since my brother's death, I haven't been the same. Death changes you, and that's OK. You'll grow, learn, and adapt as the years pass by. Don't ever think that you need to be the same person before your brother or sister died, because that's not healthy, logical, or realistic.

10. You Shouldn't Have To Feel Guilty When You're Happy

It's OK to laugh, smile, and be happy. Just because you aren't crying or sad every day doesn't mean you've forgotten your sibling. It just means you're adapting and coping. Trust me, in the back of your mind, your brother or sister will always be there.

11. Things Will Never Be Easy — But They Will Be Different

Does it ever get easier? No, but it does get different. You'll also have your bad days, because the pain that comes with the death of a sibling never goes away. It's hard to explain, unless you know what I'm talking about, and "different" is the best way to describe it.

12. It's OK To Live Your Life

At first, your life might feel on hold or you might feel like you'll never able to do anything ever again. However, as time passes, you'll get back into the swing of things. You still need to live your life, do what makes you happy, and follow your dreams. Just because you're thinking about you doesn't mean you've forgotten your brother or sister.

Not even close.

Images: Allyson Koerner; maliahales, pegcartrs, iamnotperfectiamsorry, f*ckyeahthebravermans, owenselliot, acceber74/Tumblr; Giphy (6)