Sunday, Aug. 20
The woman just turned 20 only a couple weeks before. She woke up in her bed in Bloomington ready to attend church. She went through her normal get-ready routine: makeup, outfit, jewelry.
Though getting ready was normal, the day was far from it. The readiness she felt was more of a need, a need to get closer to someone she couldn’t physically. She was thinking of her brother.
The morning walk to church was different that day, even though her route wasn’t. Walk down Second Street, turn right on Indiana, then make a left on Kirkwood. But the sun didn’t have its morning warmth and glow and all the outdoor noise was deafened by the thoughts in her head.
As she stood during service praying, she made sure to include her brother. Surrounded by people, she stood there with this enclosed feeling, like life was closing in on her.
After the service was over, and the organist continued to play, she walked up to the prayer candles at the front of the church. She had never lit a match before. Two matches in hand, she pondered how to go about doing it. She could feel that people were watching her nearly burn her fingers. Giving up, she kneeled down on the cushion at the prayer table and began to pray.
She prayed until she felt there was nothing left to pray for. She prayed until she felt like God heard her. Embarrassed by the candle mishap and feeling flustered, she walked out the side door and headed home without looking back.
She began to scroll through her camera roll and Snapchat memories that night, all she had left of her brother. Then she moved from her bed to her bare wooden floor to pull out one of her memory boxes. As she sifted through it, she found a journal with photos in it. “20 Memories for Your 20th Birthday” – a gift to her brother for his 20th birthday.
And then it hit her, like stubbing your toe on the edge of the bedframe that came out of nowhere. She’s 20. He was 20. This was the gift she gave him when he turned 20, but where’s hers? Where is he?
Friday Sept. 1
Classes have started and about a week has passed since the death anniversary on Aug. 20.
There was a break from pain. A moment in time when the hurt was there but felt like a long-ago memory. Hurt that you realize was painful but can move on from and accept. But the scab that was reopened on Aug. 20 was back to being a scab. The scab would tear again Sept. 1, her brother’s 26th birthday. The day that would have seen brother and sister living in their 20s together. The pain was back, like being chained to a weight she needed all her strength to move.
She made her usual birthday post. “Choosing a photo was difficult since now I have blonde short hair and it became a reminder how I have no recent pictures of us. It’s been two years now, but it still feels like I was your little sister in high school making you take pictures with me.”
See, the thing is, it never goes away. The saying “time heals” is dependent upon the situation and the different variables involved. Time can give people an opportunity to figure out their next step in life after dealing with loss. Time can give people a chance for retrospection, about how they want to live their life. But time doesn’t fix everything.
There's no guidelines, there's no rulebook, there's no rubric. You are thrown into grief, like getting thrown into a pool without knowing how to swim, just hoping not to drown.
There are also no levels of completion. It’s not like Alcoholics Anonymous where there are 12 steps and after each step is completed you move onto the next. That’s the part that is misunderstood with the five stages of grief. The five stages of grief can happen all at once, throughout days, months, years. It can be over, but then come back when having to live through a day where the celebration of life is supposed to occur.
Damon Salvatore said in “The Vampire Diaries,” “When you lose somebody, every candle, every prayer is not going to make up for the fact that the only thing you have left is a hole in your life where that somebody that you cared about used to be.”
You can do everything you can to move forward, and even use the loss as fuel to live your life to the fullest and have no regrets, but that hole will always be there. Sometimes the pain is small. And sometimes it’s really big.
Natalie Fitzgibbons (she/her) is a junior studying journalism with a minor in American Studies. She hopes to inspire people with her words and make a positive impact in people’s lives and the world.