This may be the most personal post I ever write on my site. Please read it to know me better. It represents my honest opinion and thoughts.
On April 3, my brother was murdered in Minneapolis, MN. I’ll spare you the details but you can read about his life at the link if you want to know more. He wasn’t in the streets. In fact, he was an advocate for social justice. I’ve been silent because there’s been so much I wanted to say and so much I couldn’t. His murderer was arrested but it’s just the beginning of a long process. In the last 105 days, my life has totally changed. I have had a variety of emotions at different points in time.
But what I want you to know most is that living through grief doesn’t make me strong.
As siblings, we all had our roles in life. I’m the oldest (“the responsible one”), my sister was the middle (“the dreamer and risktaker”) and my brother was the baby. My youngest sister is the real baby because she’s 14 years younger than me. I recognize he was a father of 4 and 33 years old but in a lot of ways, I still saw him as the 11 year old boy from when I went away to college 22 years ago.
We never lived in the same city ever again so I didn’t get the chance to know him as a man. I knew him as my baby brother. My sister and I had lived in the same city and as we had challenges in our relationship, she asserted herself with me. I really know who she is as a woman outside of just being my little sister. For the record, she’s still a dreamer and risk taker but she’s also an amazing visionary and accomplished businesswoman.
I’ve not been strong. People who don’t know me well will often describe me as strong. Honestly, even people who know me well do. I have heard from sooo many people variations on me being strong. From family glad I stayed in MN for an extended period to help my family, “I’m glad that you’re here to be strong for your mother.” Extended family, “I know that you’re the strong one, so you’ve got this.” Friends have said it. Even in emails, people have said it to me. I get it. I’m the responsible one. The strong one.
I know it’s meant as a compliment but I HATE it. It’s just this horrible trigger for me personally because it feels like a reminder to “get back in line and assume your role”. I’m supposed to be the one who takes care of everything and fixes it. But I can’t fix this and our roles are all jumbled up. For my family, please consider this notice: My sister is now the strong one because her role as a risk taker means she’s ready to fight. She’s led charges with things that I haven’t been able to. I won’t say that I’ve slacked off but she and I together have made an incredible team.
I hate being called strong because it doesn’t feel like a strong person would need to take a little pill every day to help me function. (And big secret, I was taking it before, the dose has just increased over the last weeks.) Prayers are always welcome but a strong person wouldn’t have to cry out to friends for help because I just couldn’t get out of bed. I’m sure it doesn’t look like it if you follow along on social media. Social media is fabulous but it’s not always 100% honest. The Disney trip was fun and amazing but there were a few times when we realized my brother was missing. Like when my 6 year old son said, “I wish Uncle was here” to my mother as we got off Space Mountain. It was unprompted but I guess he felt it.
Every time you call me strong, it feels like a slap in the face. Because strong people don’t need friends to support them. And some of my closest didn’t, so I suppose I’m still a little hurt because of that. Strong people hold everything together. Strong people aren’t broken. I’m still broken.
Total side note: in the midst of writing this post, I was called by the Victim’s Service Office of the District Attorney for an update on the case. It is so draining to take a call in the middle of the day with news. You hope it’s good but there’s really no good news in the case. Anyway it goes, my brother will still be dead.
Being called strong doesn’t leave me the space to be vulnerable and grieve. I know that it’s incredibly far from the truth but please don’t call me strong anymore. It’s not a choice to be strong. I’m living through my grief. And to be honest, I almost feel that living is a privilege not to take for granted.
Living through my grief means that I still need to lean on people. The funeral was over April 14 but there are so many more days that we lived through. My sister’s birthday might have been the hardest for me because I was there. I wasn’t supposed to be there. He was. Even her lifelong friends were surprised to see me that night.
As a family, we will continue to travel and homeschool and do life but it’s us living through grief. Please just understand that I’m living through my grief. It’s a new normal but like a friend says there is nothing normal about this.