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THE HIDDEN BURDEN OF GRIEF AND LOSS: 17 THINGS TO KNOW

Just over seven months ago, my world was shattered when I lost my brother suddenly. I was on the phone with my sister when we received a text from my dad—one that would forever change our lives. Rushing to my parents' house, where my brother lived, felt like a surreal nightmare. My son and I were filled with questions and disbelief, a state that lingers even now.


Seven months later questions remain unanswered because the only person who can answer them is gone.


My brother was the youngest of five and lived his life, mostly, caring for other people. He was our go-to guy for literally anything in the world. As a single mom, he was one of the role models for my son growing up. He was always there for me and my son.


During times when I fell ill, he'd drive an hour to come to get my son so I could rest. He'd pick my son up from school whenever I couldn't. He'd make sure my son had something to eat and play with him or take him out until I'd come home from work. This wasn't an occasional thing either, it was anytime I needed him and for anything, he was there ever so willing. He never said no.


He played such a big part in my son's early years and I will forever be grateful to have had him there. He was always respectful, helpful, gentle, kind, and fiercely protective.


My mom and dad, who are 70 and 75 respectively relied on him for so many things. He was their extra arm, leg, and brain so to speak. I was always so so grateful he was there for them when the rest of us couldn't mostly because we had families of our own.


grief and loss

His life was a life of service. He gave so much of himself to others. He was so much to so many. His passing was a loss to so many too.


I've never experienced grief before my brother passed and I wasn't prepared for the emotional, heart-wrenching, mentally draining rollercoaster ride that I am on.


Grief doesn't come with an instruction manual. The world expects you to push through grief and move on and live like your normal self a week or two after. You probably felt the same too before you experienced the loss of a loved one. But it's not as simple as that, especially when you've just had a piece of your heart ripped out of your body.


Here I share seventeen things about grief and loss that everyone should know, but let me just preface this and say that grief and loss is an extremely personal journey and will look different to different people.





17 Things About Grief And Loss


1. What you feel in the first few days is shock

The first few days after a loved one passes is not truly grief. It is - shock. I didn't cry as much then as I do now. My mind was hazed, filled with funeral arrangements, endless condolences, and a surreal disbelief. It felt like moving through a dream, with my emotions numbed by the sheer enormity of my loss.


Especially if the loss is sudden, you're left with so many questions that you want to get answers to, and you want those answers now!


It might seem as if you're in a dream and you're just going through the motions, and you might even feel numb - it's shock.



2. The funeral will feel like a play

For me specifically, my brother's funeral seemed like I was part of a play. It never really sank in that we were burying a brother, a son, an uncle, a cousin, a grandson, a friend that we thought would be here until we weren't.



3. You'll want them to come back

It may seem ridiculous to some, but when dealing with sudden loss, especially suicide, you'll want your loved one to come back so you can help them. Their passing doesn't;t seem real. It would seem as if they went away and now you've got solutions for them and things are going to work out.


You want them to come back so that you can try and fix them and whatever problems that they may have been facing.


They never said goodbye, you don't know the real reason why they left, you don't have closure.


With suicide, you never will get closure and those questions you have will remain questions that you'll never get answers to.


This is why your need for them to come back is so strong.





4. You wonder what their thoughts were just before death

What were they thinking? Were they at peace, scared, or sad? Were you one of the last people on their minds?


I think about this all the time. It just breaks me if he was in pain and scared. But I'll never know.



5. You expect them to walk in the door

It takes time to come to terms that you lost a whole person so suddenly. One day they're there and the next they are not.


I still expect my brother to walk down the stairs when I'm at my parent's place. I still see him standing in the middle of the staircase, leaning against the banister and looking down at everyone.



6. You question the workings of the universe

The whys will never cease. Why gone so soon? Why him? Why at this moment? When they had so much to live for.


This will play in your mind on a loop. You ask God for an explanation but your questions are answered with silence You'll never know the reasons as to why but then again, even if there was some explanation, it still won't make everything okay.



7. It's lonely

Everybody goes through grief differently. Even if you're siblings and have lost the same person, you will experience grief differently from your siblings and it can be lonely. Your experiences with your lost loved one are different, your relationship is different therefore you grieve and mourn differently.


You might feel that nobody quite understands what you are going through and that's probably true. Societal expectations tell us that they're gone, they've been buried, take a few days to grieve their loss, and move on. But the truth is not as clear-cut as that.





8. You'll be 50% happy and 50% sad at any given moment

You can be smiling and happily engaging in conversation and even laughter at times, but beneath that facade, you're carrying a broken heart. The sadness is always there, lingering just below the surface.


You carry this sadness with you everywhere, no matter what you're doing or who you are with. People around you might not notice; they might think that you've moved on, but you haven't and you most probably will never.


The grief becomes a part of you, intertwined in your daily life. Even in moments of joy, there's a part of you that remains profoundly sad, grieving the person you lost and longing for their presence.



9. You'll want to know where their soul is

Yes, you question if they are around. You want them to be around. You wonder if they are safe. if they are hurting, if they are happy if they are with other lost loved ones.


You read up on every single article and posts about where souls go and their journey. You resonate with explanations that comfort you the most and throw the rest.


This is all part of you looking for comfort. Comfort in knowing that they are okay. Comfort in knowing that though they might not be there with you physically, they are there with you even if you can't see them.





10. You'll look for signs

You'll be highly alert in looking for signs. Signs that your loved one is with you.


It can be the most mundane of things - a bird on the windowsill, a pink sky, a dragonfly in the house, their birthdate causally being mentioned on TV.


Sometimes, at night, when I'm typing at my desk and look out the window up at the sky, I'm met with a full moon staring back at me and I instinctively smile because I feel like he's looking down on me.


I spent a month at my parents' place after my brother's passing just to keep them company. The day I came back to my own house, I finally had a minute to myself to allow myself to feel all the emotions I had been holding on for a month. I was sobbing terribly while cleaning my kitchen when I saw a small snake in my dining room, just chilling under the dining table looking at me!. Mind you I live on the second floor of an apartment building!


Anybody who knows me knows that I HATE, and despise snakes! It didn't attempt to run anywhere or do anything. It literally just chilled there looking at me. I of course freaked out. It took 45 minutes for animal control to get to my place and I could on their faces that they were surprised to see the size of the snake compared to the desperation in my voice on the phone. It wasn't poisonous or anything but they too were baffled by how this snake got into an apartment two floors up.


Some might say a snake in the home is a bad omen but To me, it was my brother's way of a sick joke, even from the afterlife! Not funny!!!



11. All the 'last's will play on your mind

The last time you saw them, the last conversation you had, the last word you said, the last smile will keep playing on your mind.


You'll also feel a lot of guilt because if only you had known it would be the last time you saw them, you would've hugged them a little tighter, said nicer things, or spent more time with them.



12. Grief fatigue is real

You'll be emotionally drained, physically and mentally exhausted. Headaches, stomach aches, nausea, and wanting to sleep all the time are part of grief fatigue. The simplest of tasks might prove difficult and overwhelming. It can be debilitating to some.


Even if you've had 10 hours of sleep, you'll feel tired and want to take naps during the day. It's plain exhaustion.


Stress hormones are playing havoc on your body. Your mind and body are run down and burnt out and you feel that way for weeks or even months or years.





13. You grieve for what never will

You grieve not only the person you lost but also the future you imagined with them. It's a sadness that extends beyond their physical absence—it's the ache for all the experiences, milestones, and moments they will never get to see or share with you.


You grieve for the birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings where their absence is a glaring reminder of what you've lost. You mourn the advice and support they would have given, and the joy they would have brought to everyday life.


The plans you made together, the dreams you shared, and the life events you looked forward to now seem incomplete.


You think about the weddings they won’t attend, the children they won't meet, and the simple, everyday moments that would have meant so much. Every achievement and celebration is shadowed by the thought of how they would have been a part of it, how they would have reacted, and what they would have said.


Your life will go on, day by day, year by year, but there's a constant undercurrent of grief for the things that will never be. You grieve the fact they will never be part of any of it.



14. You change

Nothing is the same when you've lost a loved one. You lost a whole person, just gone.


Family dynamics change, family photos are different, your role in the family evolves in ways you never expected.


But it's not just the family that changes - you change too. You see life through a different lens, and it alters you deeply. You might find yourself pulling away from others, feeling a disconnect that wasn't there before.


The world keeps turning, but everything feels different without them.





15. You'll feel guilt and anger

Especially when your loss is sudden, you're left with a flood of unresolved feelings and questions.


You'll replay moments over and over again, thinking about all the 'what ifs' and 'if only'. You question all your actions and decisions, wondering if there was something you could have done to prevent their death. Did you miss the signs they needed help? Should you have spent more time with them? The guilt can be overwhelming and relentless, as you blame yourself for not being able to save them.


This is how I'm feeling with my brother and every day I tell him how sorry I am for not doing enough for him.


Alongside guilt, is anger. YOu feel a deep sense of injustice that this person was taken from you so abruptly. No warning, just gone.


You'll be angry at the circumstances, at the world, at God, and even at your loved one for leaving you.



16. Triggers are everywhere

Triggers can be everywhere and in times and places, you least expect it.


The first time I went to the supermarket after I lost my brother, I completely lost it. I had a crying fit in the snacks aisle. I gathered myself, paid for my groceries, and continued crying in the car. For some reason, I wanted to give my groceries away. I didn't feel worthy. My brother's gone, never to return and I'm getting groceries! My life keeps going on but he's not here to live his - that's the saddest part.


Triggers are literally everywhere, in the car ride on the way to somewhere, when you're cooking, a song that plays, a scene from a movie, a restaurant they like, a certain food they couldn't get enough of, the silence of the night, the quiet in the early mornings.


Anything that reminds you of them will be a trigger. And these are everywhere and don't care for the time of day or what you are doing.



17. You don't just lose them once

Losing someone is a journey. Once you lose someone, you lose them over and over. You lose them all over again every time you wake up in the morning. Sometimes you lose them many times a day. When the realization hits anytime during the day, you lose them again. Grief is fresh every time reality hits you.


Losing someone is a journey of repeated realizations. Each time I encounter something that reminds me of my brother—a song, a place, even a random thought—I lose him all over again. It’s like a wound that never fully heals, reopening with every reminder and making the pain feel as fresh as the day he passed.


Grief isn’t something you get over; it’s something you live with, and each day brings another wave of loss.





Grieving a loved one is by far the hardest thing you'll ever experience in life. Nothing else can hold a candle to that. It is something that we don't wish for but is something inevitable, sooner or later.


I will carry my brother’s memory with me always, cherishing the moments we had and finding solace in the signs that he is still with us in some way. I'll not move on from grief because that's all I have of him and that's my way to honor him and I'll learn to live with his love differently, holding onto the lessons and love he left behind.


To anyone who is also mourning a loved one, know that you are not alone. Our grief may manifest in different ways, but the shared experience of loss can bring us together and help us find strength in one another.


Please feel free to share your own stories and coping mechanisms in the comments—let’s support each other in this difficult journey.

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