FTC Disclosure: Delicious Obsessions/Jessica Espinoza may receive comissions from purchases made through links in this article. Read our full terms and conditions here.
Over the last few years I have learned that as much as I like to think I can “control” life, I can’t. Life will unfold in interesting ways, often completely opposite from what I had hoped, intended, or planned.
And that’s all good…that’s the BEAUTY of life. As one of my mentors, Marc David, always says:
“Embrace the uncertainty.”
I’ve spent a lot of time and work on learning how to embrace the uncertainty in my life… It has not been easy and I know it will be a lifelong journey for me. The very concept of this goes against my strongest personality traits of being a Type-A, overachiever, perfectionist planner.
Must. Plan. Everything.
Must. Be. Perfect. At. Everything.
If I can’t guarantee it will turn out how I want then I just shouldn’t do it…
All of those are limiting beliefs that I based my life on up until 2015. Since then I have begun to learn how to relax and let go of my need to control life. I have practiced being perfectly imperfect — and practiced being OK with that.
But… Sometimes life throws you a curveball that you never, ever imagined would come your way. Something that you never prepared for. Something that would stretch you to limits that were beyond painful, overwhelming, and confusing.
That’s what happened to me shortly after the New Year (2017) rolled around and while the journey up to now has been heartbreakingly difficult, it has also been a thing of beauty because it has taught me lessons about myself and others that I would have not otherwise have learned.
It has stretched me to a point where I thought I would break, but didn’t.
It showed me just how much compassion I was capable of feeling, not just for myself, but for others.
And, most importantly, it reinforced that we simply cannot control this thing called life. Things will happen that we could have never predicted.
And when they do, we have to just roll with it, practicing grace, love, and patience.
The Day My Life (as I Knew it) Changed
A few days after the New Year’s celebration was over my life was changed forever. Around 1:30 in the afternoon, my phone rang and I heard my mother’s shaky voice on the other end. I knew immediately something bad had happened.
“Your Dad just found your brother’s body…”
In a split second, I felt like someone had ripped my heart out.
I could barely get the words out of my mouth when I said “What?!?!” about 17 times.
The room was spinning. I felt like I was going to throw up all over my computer.
I nearly fell out off my stool and into the floor as my brain tried to comprehend what my Mom was saying.
My brother was healthy. Active. Always there. A permanent fixture in my life that I knew would always be consistent. He was the very last person we would expect would pass away so suddenly and unexpected.
For those who are wondering how he passed, he suffered from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Since his passing, my family has found out how common this type of aneurysm is. For something that we had never heard of, it’s amazing how many people have known someone who has had the “Triple A” as the coroner called it.
I’ve experienced the loss of loved ones in the past, but it has been nothing compared to losing a sibling. Even as I write this, with 5 months between that day and where I am now, I have a hard time believing that this is actually my real life. In some regards, it still feels like a really bad dream that I just haven’t woken up from.
Little did I know, this experience would lead me down a path that would push me into a darkness that I had never felt before, and yet bring me into a new light unlike any other time in my life.
Grief is an Interesting Beast
I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for the loss of a loved one. We can read all the books and do all the personal development work in the world, but we don’t really know how we will respond to a trauma like this until it actually happens.
I can say that I firmly believe that all of the hard work I’ve done on self over the last few years has helped me cope with this loss a little better than I would have prior to that. Mentally I am so much healthier now than I was even 4 years ago.
Nothing could have prepared me for the journey this would take me on. I didn’t speak publicly about this until late April and even then I didn’t have the strength to open up on my blogs about it. Only a handful of close friends knew about it and I am forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support from everyone during this time.
The grief process has been a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Each day is a bit different than before. Some days have felt almost normal and other days have felt like it was happening all over again.
I still catch myself seeing something or thinking of something and thinking “I need to remember to tell William about that when we talk next.”
And then my heart drops when I remember…
I still catch myself looking for his truck in my parent’s yard when I go up to visit. He would almost always be there on the days I came up and the yard feels empty without his truck there.
And then my heart drops when I remember…
I still find myself closing my eyes and listening for his voice in my head…I don’t want to forget his voice… I can still hear the way he always said “Hey, Jess…”
To be brutally honest, there have been many moments during the past 5 months that I have felt completely out of control. My emotions will swing from extreme sadness to extreme anger to feeling physical pain throbbing in my chest.
That whole broken heart thing is real. I am a firm believer.
The death of my brother has required me to dig deep and soul search like never before. To try to find meaning in something so sudden and so random. To help my mind make sense of a trauma that I never expected.
The grief process has shown me just how important self-compassion is. It has forced me to be extra super kind to my mind, body, and soul. It has forced me to let go of my “must get everything done on my to-do list today” mentality and just let myself lie on the couch all day and watch Netflix if that is what I needed to do.
The desire to work has been sporadic at best. Even though there are a million things I “need” to do, finding the energy and motivation to do them was difficult, if not downright impossible at times.
And that’s OK. I have learned to meet myself where I’m at in this moment.
This process has also featured a resurgence of my eating disorder and body image issues unlike no time in my life before. There was a lot of eating my feelings and I fully embraced, honored, and respected that urge. If that is what would make me feel better in the moment I went with it. The difference with this resurgence though was the level of awareness that I was able to bring to the situation…proof that my hard work in healing my relationship with food and body has worked.
I have also discovered how grief is such a personal and individual experience. Everyone affected by this event has responded differently. They have all processed things at different speeds and in different ways. For some, things have moved more quickly and for others, it’s moving more slowly.
Each one of us is exactly where we need to be in this moment. Grief is unique to each of us. Honor and respect that.
For me, each day is a little different. I have found that grief comes in stages and each stage looks different than the one before. Sometimes it still can feel rather painful, but other days can feel much more hopeful than any other time in this ordeal.
This process, albeit the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, has taught me so much about myself and about others. It’s given me a new perspective on life (like not taking your life and the life of your loved ones for granted). It’s taught me the value of being kind and patient with yourself and others. It has taught me that grief is not a one-size-fits-all event…
Most of all, it’s taught me that we never know when our time on Earth is up. Each day that we get to wake up and step out of bed is a gift. So let’s start taking action on our dreams and not wait until “someday.” “Someday” may never come.
I would give anything to have my brother back. But I also know that we can wish all we want over the past, but we can’t bring people back. We can’t change what happened. All we can do is pick up the pieces of our soul and our life and move forward, finding strength in knowing that we may have been dealt a shitty hand this time around, but the game will always change and evolve.
It won’t be shitty forever.
Here’s to you, sweet brother. I miss you more than words can describe, but you will always be in my heart and will be a driving force in my life. Thank you for being such a great brother for the time that I was lucky enough to have you in my life. <3
And here’s to all of you, beautiful friends. Thank you for being here on this journey with me. May your heart never have to experience this type of pain, but if it does know that you are not alone. Be patient with yourself. Be kind. Be compassionate. And please, please, please, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
To your health, with love,
My friend Kate, from Kate’s Healthy Cupboard, shared Dr. Warburton’s video with me after I published this post. Then YouTube took me on a journey through a vast number of Tedx Talks on the topic of grief and loss. I wanted to share a few of the talks that resonated deeply with me in hopes that they will help just one person.
The Adventure of Grief: Dr Geoff Warburton at TEDxBrighton
“We honor the dead by choosing to live well… If we can just let grief open our hearts, grief can illuminate your life… Loss can be a life adventure.”
“The more comfortable we get with mourning, loss, and grief, the more space we can provide for people. We need to take death out of the closet and talk about it.”
“Grief takes up a lot of space in the body and mind and those who don’t deal with it, loss can become intolerable, rather than just painful…The great healer of grief is validation. All grief needs to be heard.”
“We’re all going to have big losses in our lives…These kinds of losses are out of our control…They’re unpredictable and they bring us to our knees. And I say let them. Fall to your knees. Be humbled. Let go of trying to change it, or even wanting it to be different. It just is…”