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What My Brother's Death Taught Me About Grief

Ashley Cebulka
mbg Contributor By Ashley Cebulka
mbg Contributor
Ashley Cebulka is a life coach, motivational speaker, and writer based in Charleston, South Carolina.

It’s an experience we are pretty much guaranteed in life. Yet when it hits us, it can feel like we were just bulldozed by an avalanche, wondering if we’ll ever breathe again. The world as we know it seems to stop, and the crumbling inside our hearts can feel paralyzing.

I can only write this to you now, because I’ve been there. I want to share with you a few things that were incredibly helpful to me in the process.

My oldest brother passed away four years ago. The news hit me in a way that is somewhat indescribable. He was and still is one of my best friends and one of the greatest heroes in my life.

I didn't write about it for a long time because in all honesty, I didn't want sympathy. I wanted to be alone in my pain and stay connected to my brother in any and all ways possible. The opinions and, "Oh my gosh I can’t imagine" moments were not all that welcome out of what seemed like self-preservation.

I was enraged, overwhelmed with sadness, lost, worried about my parents, lonely, mad that I wouldn’t see him again, relieved he returned to love, then angry and sad again. This roller coaster of emotions continued for a long time. I was confused often. I desperately wanted to ‘figure it out’ and understand the great meaning so that somehow I could experience peace and love in my own heart again.

As time passed I realized there is actually so much beauty in grief. It helps us realize just how enormous our love can be. Which is ultimately why it can hurt so intensely to say goodbye to that person in the form that we knew them.

Eventually, I opened up and spoke very, very honestly about it. I began to realize that if I trust everything happens for a reason, death is not excluded from that. While it was painful to lose my brother in his physical form, there are countless miracles that have happened since his passing.

I now see that it was simply time for his spirit to move on from the body he was in. His spirit is still very much alive, to this day, and I experience evidence of that regularly. The key is for me to stay open to see it.

This inner-knowing brought a different kind of peace and understanding than I had ever experienced in life.

So why am I sharing this?

To let you know you're not alone. Grief is a different and unique journey for everyone. We all deal with it the best way we know how in the moment. And it is a moment to moment process of healing.

I am not claiming in any way to be an expert on grief, I simply want to share some things that helped me during that challenging time, with hopes it may be helpful to you.

1. Forgiveness: for the situation, the person, the things not said, the moments you wish you had, the ones you wish you could get back. Forgive.

2. When I was ready, choosing to focus on the love shared rather than the current pain.

3. Realizing and trusting that this too shall pass, while also trusting it’s happening for a reason.

4. Being open and honest about where I was emotionally rather than trying to hide it. Expressing my needs to my loved ones, letting them know the times that I simply needed alone time.

5. Asking for help from the people I trust and love, while allowing myself to receive it.

6. Giving myself the time and space to feel and heal the way I uniquely need to.

7. Expressing gratitude for the gifts I received, for having my brother as a part of my life for as long as I did, celebrating our endless memories. While realizing that his spirit is forever with me, as long as I stay open to experiencing it. I also wrote down all of the incredible memories we had together, which was so healing.

8. Then eventually focusing on what I love and doing more of that everyday.

I write this open letter with so much love in my heart to you reading this right now.

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