I am a mother of two and a licensed clinical social worker. I love hiking, nature, yoga and meditation. Five years ago, my older brother Carlos died from kidney cancer. Since then, I have been on my healing journey to make sense of this identity changing loss. I would say that I’ve always been attracted to tragedy in the sense that I’ve always had a heart to serve and help others in need. Even in elementary school, the friends I would make were the ones who were going through challenges. I was always the friend who wanted to fix the bad things. I started off as an idealist, and by the time I finished my master’s program, I was very much a cynic.
Losing my brother prematurely has taught me so much about myself and caused me to embark on a quest for spiritual enlightenment. I have gotten very interested in theories of death and dying, end of life issues, cultural differences and the individual expression of grief. Over time, I have started to come to terms with my loss through formulating my own grief theory. In its simplest form, it is that grief is an expression of love and a strong catalyst to connection. It has taken me years to arrive at this point. I’ve always loved to journal but couldn’t write his name for the first three years after his death. Now I write it everywhere I can. Some times I still rage and scream and pout; at other times, I curl up into a fetal position and pray. I know that no moment is the same in the process, and I try my best to be present with whatever I’m feeling. My goal is always to make Carlos proud of me.
The grieving process forces us to be more mindful by compelling us to be more tuned into our senses and our bodies. When we are entrenched in the raw feelings that accompany grief, it is difficult, if not impossible, to go on autopilot. Autopilot and stimulus adaptation are evolutionary developments that help us survive. However, when we rely on them too heavily, we can become tuned out, complacent or even robot like. So when we are consumed by our grieving process, stimuli that we would normally tune out are suddenly in the forefront. I remember looking up toward the Heavens asking God to please take away my pain. When I did, I was struck by the shapes and movements of the clouds in a way I can’t remember ever being before. I felt like a child. How can such an amazing, omnipotent universe that created the clouds be the same source that robbed me of my big brother? And how do they do that? Moving constantly; shape shifting; dense and light as a feather, all at the same time. You can’t deny the sensations you’re feeling when your body is wrought with grief. We become so practiced at ignoring the sensations in our bodies and pushing through the knots, the tightness, the butterflies — whatever it may be. Grief knocks you on your ass with a huge tidal wave of feelings and dares you to try to keep stuffing. I became so aware and present in my body after a prolonged grieving process; it was hard to stop feeling things even when I tried. It burned every defense I subconsciously worked to build down to the ground. I felt exposed, out of sorts, like a feather being blown from stimulus to stimulus with no sense of center. Everything needed to burn down for me to take an honest inventory of my coping mechanisms, adaptive defenses and presence in my life. All of the things that I relied on so heavily didn’t seem to serve me any more. The mask of cynicism, the chip on my shoulder, the judgmental attitude … none of these were the real me. That’s when the rebuilding began. And no, we are never the same again. Let the burning and rebuilding continue until the divine birthright bestowed upon me by my Creator is reclaimed. This is my solemn prayer. Let me reclaim all that was taken from me. Let me be more present, more aligned, more in tune and more authentic. Let me shine my light so bright my brother can see if from Heaven. Amen.
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