The Forgotten Siblings…. (Link below to Radio Interview with Gene Mueller, Newsradio 620 WTMJ on the siblings impacted by loss)
On December 12th, 2016 my brother, Mitch, passed away from a heroin overdose. I know there are many siblings who also split their life timeline from a date like this one. I was awakened by a phone call that was news which I thought I prepared myself for, but I truly have never felt so unprepared for anything in my entire life.
During this time I was just 19 years old, working full time and attending my local community college. Classes for Spring term started just a day after what would have been my brother’s 28th birthday. I didn’t go to classes. I spent my time away from everyone. Being around my parents made me feel inadequate and weak because, I mean—how selfish is it for me to be this upset when they just had to bury their son? I had to learn that my grief was just as valid as their grief—just different. My friends were living the best years of their lives in college, why would I want to bring this grey cloud of sadness anywhere near them? I had to give myself permission to be in my grief and not cover up my feelings for my friends. The guilt I felt that I couldn’t help Mitch more before he died overwhelmed me every second of every day. I lost myself, who I was, completely.
Here’s the thing, we all know of someone who struggles with addiction, whether it’s one closest to our hearts or one we pass by in the community on our daily commute. We’re ALL affected by it in some way, in some relationship, close or more distant. Therefore, we all have a different perspective on addiction.
Before December 12th, 2016 my perspective on addiction was that I believed addiction was the devil himself taking form on this earth. Addiction robbed me of a relationship with my grandfather, uncle, and two brothers. It has shaped the relationship I have with my father, which is the most important one in my life. Addiction is a constant uphill battle for everyone involved and can rip whole families apart. It changes people into something they aren’t and sucks every ounce of hope they have out of them. My brother, Mitch, was 9 years older than me and he struggled with addiction for 10 years before his passing. The majority of my memories are filled with Mitch the addict, not Mitch my cool brother, because of his disease of addiction.
After December 12th, 2016 my perspective on addiction has shifted to allow me to see the love in everything as well. For example, the patience my mom shows my dad through his battle to maintain recovery every day is love. When my dad answers the phone every single time my struggling uncle calls, no matter what the time of night, that is love. All the time, money, energy, sleepless nights, and tears spent on all of my brothers struggles with their addiction were coming from love.
I have now accepted the fact that love is painful. We will all go to great lengths for those we love, no matter what the circumstances. Not a day goes by that my heart does not ache for my loved ones who struggle with addiction. Some days I feel inspired by them, but other days I just want to lay in bed and allow my overwhelming feeling of sorrow take over and truthfully, some days, I do. No matter what kind of day it is though, I always believe now that I would not have loved as much and my family would not be as close today if it weren’t for the disease of addiction challenging us to love each other more.
The morning of December 12th, 2016 is the day I began walking in a new light on this Earth. I’ve began to see this new light as a loving one because my grief is the proof that love is still here. I want you to know your grief should not be overshadowed by your parent’s grief or anyone else’s grief in your family. You do not need to feel the need to be strong 100% of the time for those around you. Allow yourself to feel the pain, because that is the love you feel for your lost brother or sister! There are resources available to all of us siblings who are grieving. When I moved to Milwaukee, I began attending a support group, GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing – www.grasphelp.org), in which I have grown in this new life after Mitch’s passing. Our words have such an impact on others and I believe that sharing my story will help other siblings; just as hearing someone else’s story will help you.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story and for allowing Mitch and I to be voices for change,
Mitch’s sister, Lex
Please take a moment to list to the WTMJ, Gene Mueller Radio Interview with Lex St Cyr and Erin Kocovsky (women impacted by the loss of a sibling) – link here –