Teri Vance: Advice to my cousins on loss of their brother
April 6, 2018
An open letter to my cousins:
My dear cousins, your world has been rocked to the core this week. Your baby brother — the "good son" who always made right choices — was taken too soon from this world at 34 years old.
There was no reason. No logic. Just the cruel and indiscriminate hand of cancer that came quickly with aggression and terror. Buddy didn't stand a chance. And there was nothing you could do. I can only imagine the helplessness and horror of that situation.
My heart breaks for you. My heart breaks for your parents who should never have to bury a child.
The point is: There’s no wrong way to grieve. Whatever you’re feeling at any given moment
— and that could fluctuate wildly throughout a single day
— is valid.
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I don't know how you'll process this moving forward, what your individual experiences will be. But I do know something of loss.
My dad died in June 2015, and it felt like the world stopped spinning.
I can tell you what I learned from my experience in hopes it will help what you're going through right now.
When it first happened, people told me over and over, "It will get easier over time."
I remember thinking, "I don't want it to get easier. He was my dad, and I will mourn him for the rest of my life. That's the least he deserves."
The point is: There's no wrong way to grieve. Whatever you're feeling at any given moment — and that could fluctuate wildly throughout a single day — is valid. There are stages of grief, but you probably won't move through them laterally. You'll likely move in and out of them, perhaps for the rest of your lives.
You'll laugh again. You'll be happy again, but I don't think you'll ever get over missing him.
When you lose someone, there's a physical void. It's kind of like in elementary school when you'd save a place for your friend in line. Rather than just making space for them once they came back, you'd most likely stick a foot out to save an actual area for them to return.
Now, it's like you're forever holding a place in line. You'll feel an empty hole during family gatherings. Sometimes it'll be as subtle as an intake of breath. Other times, it'll be as if all the air were vacuumed out of the room.
That dull ache that seizes your chest and sometimes seeps into your bones reminds you of how much you loved him. And sometimes that love is enough to push the ache aside.
Other times, it's too much to bear.
Those are the times it's especially important to reach out. Talk to each other. (This can be difficult. Your greatest support system will be suffering right alongside you, and their suffering can be too much to handle on top of your own). Go out with your friends. Speak with a professional. Just don't try to do it alone.
But sometimes solitude is a comfort. With best of intentions and in an effort to empathize, people will choose this time to share their own heartaches. But you may be too raw to hear those things, to commiserate. Rather than alleviating your pain, it seems as if they're dismissing it. Feel free to tune these people out, or even walk away.
Likewise, feel free to take any of the advice I give that's helpful and reject any of it that's not.
Just please remember I'm always here. I'll be holding space for each one of you. And I'll forever hold a space — right alongside you — for my cousin Buddy.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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