It was something that happened to other families.
Until it wasn’t.
When my brother died suddenly, nearly 17 years ago, one of my first thoughts was this is something that happens to other families. But, no, even through the thick buffer of shock, part of me knew that it was my family that was shattered. My family—trying to decide what to do with my brother’s body and what to write in an obituary for someone who was only 21 years old.
My family was faced with the infinite set of nevers that my brother’s death meant: I would never again have my brother to reminisce or fact check my childhood with. We would never have another holiday with him. I would never be the aunt to his children, and my own children would never know their uncle. My parents would never be who they were when my brother was still alive.
Never, never, never. Perhaps that is the worst part of grief, the brutality of all those nevers.
Slowly, heartbreakingly, my parents and I walked through the first days, weeks and months without my brother. Somehow, we stumbled through the first Christmas without him, though it felt wrong and raw, empty and pointless.
With time, we connected with other people who’d experienced the loss of a child or sibling. It didn’t eradicate the pain, but it made us feel less singled out, less unholy.
Unfortunately, we were definitely not alone. The Club That No One Wants To Join was more populated than we could’ve imagined: 19 percent of parents experience the life-altering death of a child. 22 percent of people survive the death of a brother or sister.
Tonight, the Compassionate Friends, a non-profit that supports parents and siblings following the loss of a child of any age, hosts a candle-lighting to honor and remember all those who have died.
On this night, one of the longest nights of the year, consider lighting a candle for someone’s child or sibling who has died, or for those who remain.
But better yet?
Let them know you remember.
Because after the loss stops aching so much, when it doesn’t sear every moment of the day and night, we’re scared that you’ll forget our dead, our dear.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Natasha BIshop/Flickr