There’s No Expiration Date on Grief

Every year, March rolls around. With each year that passes, the loss of my brother gets harder in some ways. It’s “easier” because I have gotten used to not seeing his name show up on my caller ID or in my texts. It’s “easier” because we have learned new patterns and new ways of organizing ourselves as a family of three instead of a family of four. But in a lot of ways it’s more and more difficult each year. There are fewer “thinking of you during this difficult time” cards. Hardly anyone sends a text or makes a phone call. There are more people in my life who never knew Tony – or even that I had a brother than those who did.

This is the biggest fear of everyone who loses someone close to them – that everyone will forget.

There is also a difference in the way people respond when they ask how long it’s been. As if there is a timeline on grief. As if it doesn’t still cut you to the quick some days when you wake up and remember. Or a song comes on the radio that perfectly captures something about him. Or you stumble upon an article in a magazine: “Conversations You and Your Adult Sibling Should be Having”.  It seems as though because it’s been 11 years – today – the loss isn’t as awful, as tragic. I should be “over it.” In fact, someone once said that to me…

This year I feel like I don’t have the right to grieve.

It’s been a difficult and challenging year for me; I’ve experienced a lot of changes in my life. I know that if anyone would have stood by me, it would have been Tony. He was always better at making peace with people and helping them see the other side of a situation, something I’m not always very good at!

What my parents are left with are memories of first born who only lived for 26 years. They are left with all of the what-ifs and who could he have been wonderings. And they are left with me – a daughter who chose the wrong person to marry. A daughter who is now divorced. A daughter who doesn’t want children. Their family name will end with me. They have a daughter who is so different from them in so many ways; we seem worlds apart, sometimes. It’s hard not to feel like I’m disappointing them or letting them down.  What a burden the surviving sibling carries.

I am not Tony, nor will I ever be.

It’s been eleven years since I received that phone call that would change everything in my life. It’s crazy to consider that when I woke up that morning, went to work, performed all the normal tasks of any other routine day, that on the other side of the world my brother was signing paperwork, shaking the hand of the salesman, strapping a helmet on, getting on his brand new motorcycle… and then laying on the side of a lonely highway, traffic re-routed because of an accident.

It’s been eleven years of no birthdays or Christmas celebrations. Eleven years of laughter, of tears, of moments of utter and complete despair, of pure joy and elation, of disappointment, confusion, and frustration. He’s not here and I am forgetting the sound of his voice. I miss sharing my big dreams and plans with him.

I miss him.

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