“BE STRONG NOW BECAUSE THINGS WILL GET BETTER. IT MIGHT BE STORMY NOW, BUT IT CAN’T RAIN FOREVER.”
One year later. I remember June 18, 2019, like it was yesterday. My entire world came crashing down. Jaw dropped, froze in time, my whole body trembling with disbelief while tears poured down my face. The shock, the unbearable sadness, the fear. A moment I was overwhelmingly unprepared for. My best friend, my protector, my big brother, my “DD”. How could I possibly carry the weight of what was ahead of me after such a tragic loss as this?
As I reflected on the past year and all it has held for me, I was called to share my heart and my journey thus far from my season of grief beneath the surface. Beneath the surface of my seemingly joyful Instagram pictures, beneath the surface of the makeup or the smile you might see on my face. Just the raw, real emotions that I’ve experienced behind the scenes and the strength I didn’t know I had to pull myself from some dark places. By sharing my own personal journey, which I am still embarking on today, my intent is to bring a sense of hope and comfort to anyone who may also be experiencing such a heavy loss. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. You are so strong. You are loved. You are worthy. You are capable. This is NOT the end for you; in fact, it’s the beginning.
My brother was our giant teddy bear. Someone who never met a stranger, he’d light up any room he stepped in, and he was the BEST at making you smile. Whether it was his jokester personality or his big caring heart, his energy was always contagious. Family meant the absolute world to him. He’d be ready to go to war with anybody who hurt us. He’s literally been by my side since day 1, as my lifelong personal bodyguard and best friend. The extension of our memories together is immeasurable. One of my favorites being his love for music and teasing me for being so behind on new songs that would come out. (LOL) He began to just frequently send me new songs and playlist to help keep me up to date. One of the last messages he sent me was a song called “The London” by Young Thug. I’ll now listen to that song (amongst the many others he’s sent me) and just think of him and all the goodness he brought to our lives. These are the memories I cling to that bring me hope, strength, and courage to live a meaningful and purposeful life in honor of how he lived his.
There are no words that could describe the pain I have endured. A void that could never be filled. He was only 29. Why him? A sudden and unexpected loss that I could have never in a million years seen coming. Still to this day, it is excruciatingly painful. It is heartbreaking. It is lonely. It is life-changing. It is so overwhelming. I’ve spent a lot of this time battling between depression, anxiety, and suppression while most people didn’t even know it. I had no clue how to grieve or how to manage my strong emotions so instead, I avoided them. Avoided them by staying busy or distracted with work or spending time with family and friends. Constantly fighting back the tears and doing anything to steer my mind away from the memory of that day. It was too big of a mountain to face head-on. I wasn’t ready to accept the reality of what happened and release all the emotions I’d been holding in for so long. But over time, this was only making things worse. My faith was completely diminished. I CONSTANTLY questioned God. I was weak. I was angry. I’d blow upon the people closest to me over things that weren’t even important. But it wasn’t until I noticed how often my mind wandered to the thought of not wanting to be here, not wanting to do life anymore. It honestly began to scare the hell out of me and made 1 thing clear. I needed help…and I needed help fast.
For anyone in the midst of going through a tough loss, please know that anything you are feeling is VALID. It is ok to cry. It is ok to scream. It is ok to be angry. Give yourself the grace to feel those emotions. Believe me when I say I have been there! I know this feels far too heavy for one person to carry. I know you feel like nobody understands or gets it. But if there was one thing I wanted you to get from this post, it’s to never never never never never give up. PLEASE SEEK HELP! A lot of times these feelings stem from us trying to figure it all out on our own when in reality we don’t have to. There are people out there that will love you just as you are and help you to see the strength that has always lived inside you. Do not underestimate the power of having a grief counselor or therapist to talk through what you’re going through. I have seen God WORK and do some pretty miraculous things for me since I started therapy and my only wish is to have started sooner.
I am in no way, shape, or form saying that therapy will suddenly make everything your feeling disappear. I’ve come to terms that grief never really goes away, but it does lessen over time. But what I can say is that my mental health has improved tremendously, and I have completely shifted the way I view my life. I now have more desire than ever to KEEP GOING. I have decided that rather than clinging to the way my brother passed, I will celebrate the way he LIVED. From his gracious heart, the impact he desired to make on his community, his joyful spirit, etc.; I am choosing to incorporate these qualities into my own life to allow his legacy to live on. For example, starting this blog to impact my community and share my story to help others. I know this will take daily discipline of reminding myself at the start of each day who I’m doing it for. But I also know Derek wouldn’t want it any other way. I know for a fact he would not want me to spend the rest of my life grieving. And although I may not know the loved one you have lost, I am almost certain that they too wouldn’t want you spending the rest of your life grieving theirs.
A Gentle Reminder:
It is in our weakness that we are made strong. As diamonds form under pressure and as seeds grow in the darkness. We are blessed in this hardship because I know we will find meaning in it and come out stronger. Remember God is faithful even when we are faithless. He is greater than any of the giants we face, He is our provider, and our comforter. So, I want you to know I am praying for you. Each and every one of you. I pray that God will bless the lives and families of those affected by any tragedies. I pray that he brings hope, comfort, and healing to your hearts and minds. You are worthy. You are valuable. We are in this together.
If you’re interested in digging deeper into ways you can improve mentally, be sure to check out this post where I share my top 10 tips to manage your mental health! You’ll also want to subscribe to my newsletter to follow along with this series. I have so much more to share and so much more to give. This journey has only begun.