Somehow it's been almost four months since my brother passed away. Since then, and as expected, I've felt a whirlwind of emotions. While I absolutely hate that my best friend is gone, I've grown as a person a little bit. Here's what I've learned since my brother died:
1. People really are always there for you
I've had friends, professors, TAs, and so many others in my life offer to do anything for me — like make dinner for me — over the past few months. I have people check in on me almost daily, and while sometimes it's annoying, it's also nice to know people care.
2. Grief happens in weird waves, and never in the way people say it'll happen
Actually, I like to call it "healing" rather than "grieving." The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. None of these stages has happened in that order, and nor have I been angry. All I know is that switching between these stages has been very, very tiring. Author Cheryl Strayed said it best: "Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it's one thing and one thing only: it's what you have to do."
3. It's OK to tag him in things on Facebook
Without consulting my family about it, I sort of took over Andrew's Facebook page. I told my mom that I wanted to keep it there for his friends to be able to post things on his page or message him. In reality, it's really only been me tagging him in stuff like I normally would. Something I've learned is to not worry about potentially making people feel uncomfortable by tagging him in "Star Wars" stuff or Epic Rap Battles of History.
4. Anytime you hear a song that reminds you of him, you'll probably cry
I told this memory at Andrew's funeral, but one of my earliest memories is him locking me in a car and forcing me to listen to The Rolling Stone's "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Before he died, I would laugh every time the song came on the radio; now, I cry. There are some other songs, too, like a Fall Out Boy song, but that song is the main one.
5. There are days when all you can do is think about him, but also you can go hours without thinking about him
This is one I've really struggled with because it seems to be either I constantly think about him and I'm really upset, or I'm fine for a little while, and then get really upset. Sometimes I'll even feel guilty for not always thinking about him. (I know it's okay to not think about him, but that's just how my brain has been working.)
6. It will feel really weird to laugh and feel "OK"
Going off of the last one, it definitely feels really weird to go about my life as normal. I have my many extra curriculars, my job, and my friends, and again, I sometimes feel guilty for still doing everything. Trying to have fun with my friends is hard, and sometimes I can't fake it, but I know Andrew would want me to still do everything I love.
7. You'll think of any reason to talk about him
This is something I also struggle with. The way I've been processing everything is by either writing about it or talking about it. I somehow find the smallest connection between anything to bring up my brother in conversations with anyone. Sometimes I feel guilty about it; sometimes I don't. I'm sorry, friends, if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
8. Even though you'll find reasons to bring him up, it'll hurt when other people bring him up to you
I don't know why there's a difference between myself bringing Andrew up or others bringing him up, but there is. I know people care and all, but it's just easier for me to bring it up on my own terms, you know?
9. You'll sometimes feel him with you
Some people don't believe in stuff like this, but I do. I've been pretty vocal about how I sometimes will simply feel Andrew around me. For example, when I was writing my first creative nonfiction piece about him, I did. When I was meeting with people about starting up at Mental Health Monologue at UNCW, I felt him with me. When I was in the crown of the Statue of Liberty last weekend, I felt him with me. When I'm driving alone, here's there with me, too. (Car rides were our thing.) It's unexplainable, and some people may think I'm crazy for believing in the afterlife and what not, but I don't care. Andrew's too stubborn to completely leave this realm.
10. You'll want to do a lot of things to honor him
There's the basic stuff, like how I got a tattoo for him (and want to get another, but that's beside the point). I also decided to declare a psych minor and become an advocate for organ donation, as well as write a memoir about our relationship. This one is completely normal, and honestly I feel like Andrew would be rolling his eyes at me sometimes, everything I do in honor of him makes me happy.
11. You'll do everything you can to make him proud
This one kind of piggy-backs off the last one, but at the same time it's separate. There's been a lot of things in the past four months I've done that I know makes Andrew proud of me. For example, a lot of people asked (and recommended) me to take time off school after he died, but I knew Andrew would kill me if I did that. (He was always so proud of me for being the first in my family to go to college.)
12. Everything will be okay in the end
This one is still hard to believe, but I know it'll be true eventually. I'm a big believer in the phrase "everything happens for a reason," and while it may suck tremendously to not have my brother, I know that everything will be okay in the end. Andrew isn't struggling anymore, he helped save five peoples' lives (one of whom I've met!), and I'm becoming a better person because of this as I'm becoming more of an advocate for mental health and organ donation. All I've got to remember is that while it sucks now, one day, it won't.