Author: Naomi Harlow
I still recall every detail about the day I found out we’d lost my brother. I remember waking up at 6 am with that strange awareness that people talk about after the event – that something had changed in the world. I remember speaking to my mum and hearing how he’d gone.
I remember having to call my dad and my sister-in-law. My cousin called me and I knew that he would stay by my side. I remember breastfeeding my 7-month-old baby while I spoke to the police and coordinated a cleanup company to go to his flat. I remember the warmth of an August day was contradictory to the event. We drove for 2 hours that day to get to my dad so we could all be together. In shock and disbelief together – the beginning of a process that never truly ends. Sitting in a sunny garden, feeling this seismic shift.
My brother and I hadn’t spoken for over a year before his death. The fierce and necessary closeness of our childhood was marred by mental health, addiction, and anger. It felt that I had chosen one path, he had chosen another – and I resented him for not fighting harder, for not being better, kinder, and stronger. Sometimes, I still do. I wait for a moment when I make peace with his choices, with who he became, but that peace has never really come. Maybe it never will.
When people try and comfort me, they’ll often tell me how he’s looking down on me, how much he loved me, how proud he would be – but I don’t believe that. They didn’t know him. They don’t understand the complexity of the relationship or the grief.
I don’t want to say that you never recover from this kind of loss, because that isn’t true. You do. But I do want to say that it’s okay if grief is never easily boxed up if it doesn’t fit into a neat set of platitudes.
It’s okay to not resolve every feeling, to have grey areas and mess. It doesn’t mean you’re not grieving, it just means it’s complicated. It doesn’t mean you’re not healing. It just means you’re human.