I haven't written in a long while. Like I have said, writing helps me get through hard times...and I have been living it up and feeling good! But, in honor of a very good friend of mine starting a new position at Ele's Place...I wanted to share a story to highlight how amazing, wonderful, and necessary this organization is. Ele's place is one of my favorite nonprofits, as they help grieving children and families through unspeakable heartache. I don't normally talk about the story I am about to recount, because I honestly feel that it isn't always my story to tell. But I will give you the timeline through my point of view.
**I have two older brothers. I will refer to them as "older brother" and "oldest brother."
Let me start by saying that my oldest brother, who is almost seven years older than me, has always been my protector and my hero. Being the baby of the family, and the only girl, I always looked up to my brothers. My oldest brother was my lifeline - when I couldn't sleep...he would do shadow puppet shows for me, we had a knock language when our rooms shared a wall, and he was always my security blanket when I was sad. So growing up, I thought he was invincible. I have such a strong memory that I fondly look back on - I was probably around 7. I had some friends over and we were in the back yard telling ghost stories, or something equally weird that had us all freaked out. So I said something to the tune of "don't worry, my brother will protect us" then proceeded to go over and tap on the living room window where he was and asked him to flex. He obliged for his baby sister and with his strong sportsman arms, instantly absolved my friends of their fear. He was, and still is, one of the strongest people I know. Which is what made April 16, 2002 that much more difficult.
On that day in April, my dad was coaching a JV lacrosse game across the state. My oldest brother was at Varsity lacrosse practice. And my mom, older brother, and I were all at home with dinner on the table waiting for my oldest brother to return before eating. It was getting later and later, and no sign of him - this was in a time before every kid, person, and dog had a cell phone. Our landline eventually rang, which resulted in my mother collapsing to the floor in grief. Somehow, I already knew what had happened. The next few days were a bit of a blur, but here is what I remember...
(Comic relief - my older brother was wearing boxers at the dinner table that night. The first words that came out of my mouth after the phone rang were "GO PUT PANTS ON!" It is still a memory that I look back on and smile - simply for the fact that it is a small bit of light in an otherwise dark story. And that is why I love my older brother so much - I can always count on him to make me smile.)
My oldest brother was 16. A good friend of his asked him for a ride home from lacrosse practice. A friend who lived at a left turn, at the top of a hill. My brother took the turn without seeing the truck that was just below the ebb of the incline and he was hit directly in the passenger side door - where his friend was sitting. The way it was later described to me was that the passenger side of the car was so crushed, that the only space that would have been left was the size of a small cube. In what was already a nightmare situation, my brother was then told that his friend didn't make it.
April 16, 2002 was a Tuesday. I remember because I woke up Wednesday morning on my own and wondered why I hadn't been woken to get ready for school. I walked downstairs where my parents were waiting to fill us in on what had happened. My older brother and I were 11 and 8 respectively, so clearly there was only so much we would understand. But here is what I did know - My invincible, strong, loving, hero of an oldest brother was in an accident, he was hospitalized with internal injuries, and his friend had died. That day I got to see him in the hospital, but my parents only allowed us to be there for a short time. I think they were trying to shield us from the hurt and devastation that often happens within the walls of a hospital. I didn't see him again until he was discharged, which seemed like, an eternity later.
In the weeks following his accident, my family had a lot to do in terms of putting back together the puzzle pieces of life. (Side note - we had SO MUCH casserole. Casserole for DAYS.) With a funeral to attend, insurance to tend to, children to care for...my parents had a lot going on. BUT one thing that was at the top of the list - grief counseling. My entire family attended counseling in some form or fashion to help us work through what had happened. I remember attending counseling with my parents and then again with just me and my older brother. My oldest brother, at only 16, also attended counseling. He, understandably and expectedly, was working through the most.
Ele's Place Grand Rapids was not yet prominent in 2002 when my family was going through our hardship. But I am thankful every day that my family had the resources available to seek out counseling. Whether you visit an organization like Ele's Place, talk with a trusted family member, or seek professional help elsewhere...counseling and therapy is a necessary lifeline for grief.
That is why I am so proud to support the amazing organization that my good friend works for. And why I am, and always will be, the biggest advocate of therapy.
P.S. My oldest brother is also a writer! Check out his blog here. He shares even more about his struggles with grief and his turn to therapy - "Through therapy I came to terms with the guilt of my friend’s death. Through self control and determination, I stopped turning to alcohol has a bandage. There are relationships that I’ve broken beyond repair, but I’ve learned from my mistakes."
P.S.S. If you are interested in finding counseling or therapy, here are a couple really great resources...
Find online counseling here. Find a therapist near you here.