What Experiencing Grief Taught Me

Saturday, February 16, 2019

When I was 15 years old I had an experience happen that changed my entire family. It guided me on the path that has led me to where I am today. My younger brother passed away. 

Sam had multiple health complications and was not supposed to live the 11 years that he was able to live here on earth. Yet, he did, and I am so very much grateful to have had him in my life for those years. The lessons that I learned from him continue to be with me, even now. He taught me so much about what is truly beautiful. He taught me how we can find joy in the simplest, most natural things. He taught me to love and appreciate life in a way I would not have learned otherwise. And losing him also taught me some lessons that impacted me deeply. Those are the things that I want to share with you now.

I remember the night before Sam left this earth, waking up and feeling a strong prompting to go see him. I went to his room and just watched him for a few minutes, thinking of the impact that he had had on my life and whispering “I love you,” before heading back to bed. In that simple moment, though not realizing it yet, I was taught that God is mindful of us. His tender mercies are all around us and often it is just a matter of looking for them, opening our eyes to see them. This was the first lesson because now I can see that my Heavenly Father was allowing me time before Sam would leave me to appreciate him.

On the day he died, I remember that I had stayed home from school even though I don't actually remember feeling sick that day, but sometimes we forget details like that when an experience of grief happens. Things can be so hazy and yet other things stand out against the haze. But, here’s something else that I do remember, I remember the feeling that I had as my parents got ready to take him to the Children’s hospital. I didn’t want to admit it then, but I knew that he would not be coming back. The grief and pain were already filling my heart and mind.

It is heartbreaking to lose someone you love. And I still have tears in my eyes, years later, as I write about him. In some ways the grief never really leaves, though with time it gets easier, the pain not as strong, but it is easy for me to bring up the ache that comes with remembering him, as well as the simple joy of the memories with him. I love him, I still do and because of my love for him, I will always miss him.

Grief has a tendency to affect people in different ways and seeing how my family dealt with their grief showed me that. I have since learned that we cannot expect someone to have the exact same experience as us. We are all different and each member of my family dealt with Sam's death in their own way. 

In my experience, I felt several of the emotions that accompany grief: Denial, fear, anger, sadness, depression, and pain of heartache and loss. Yet I also learned some lessons, and I am thankful that I was able to turn such an experience into a learning process. For example, I allowed my grief to lead me to turn to the Lord. I found peace as I read from the scriptures. I enveloped myself in them because of the feelings that I received from reading them. The words of the Lord gave me insight, purpose, comfort, and hope. I gained a greater perspective on life and a better understanding of my purpose here in life.

Through my experience of losing someone I loved, I began desiring to help others find the peace and hope that I found. Because I learned that I could survive such a difficult time in my life, it caused me to have a deep desire to help others through their difficult times. I wanted to reach out to others and help them in any way I could.

My mom at the time was studying to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. Through this experience of losing Sam, we bonded as we shared an interest in psychology and we had multiple conversations about being psychotherapists stemming from this shared loss. Our love of people and our desire to help others is a bond that we still share, years later.

Through my experience, at 15 years old I made the decision to study psychology in college and work towards becoming a Marriage and Family therapist. It gave me a goal to work towards and I did work towards that, earning a degree in Psychology and a minor in Recreational Leadership. Which by the way is the best minor. I took backpacking and canoeing for my classes and I was able to combine my love of nature with lessons on leadership.

I came to understand how trials can shape us, how we can learn and grow in ways we would not otherwise. I learned how through facing our trials, they can help us to be better prepared for helping others who are going through trials. They help us develop a greater empathy, love and concern for others, as long as we allow that learning to occur. And through sharing our stories we can inspire others. Because life is not easy, it was never meant to be easy. We are meant to experience trials.  

But that's not the end of my story. I may have learned some great lessons about trusting in the Lord, about how trials can shape us into who we have the potential to become, about how we can learn empathy through them, but I also know that we can forget these lessons or lose sight of that perspective when we are in the midst of other struggles. We can forget that there's more to this life and the things that we are currently experiencing. Yet even when there are experiences that may seem to break us, there is still beauty, there is still hope.

And that is the next part of my story, which you can read about here 

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