When Kyle died, I was cracked open more widely than I thought I could survive. On October 3rd, 2016, thirteen days after Kyle died, I freaked out on an airline agent. She told me I would have to check something because I had too many items.
I was carrying a suitcase, a backpack, and a giant poster board a dear friend had made me for the funeral collaged with beautiful pictures of Kyle and I, everywhere. Kyle and I snuggled up on a bed as toddlers. Kyle and I dressed up to go dancing. Kyle and I making ridiculous faces with our nephews. Kyle kissing the top of my head, holding me.
“This is my brother who died!” I held the poster board up to her face, my eyes wild and my hair greasy and unwashed. “He died two weeks ago and I’m just coming back from his funeral.”
She checked my suitcase for me. I wonder if that’s the kind of thing airline attendants see a lot.
On the plane, I was sweating and my hands trembled. I took out my journal, a small hard-covered notebook with a yellow elephant on the front.
I told myself I would be a better person in your honor, I wrote, but so far I’ve just been alternating between angry wrath and debilitating depression, with long bouts of numbness in between.
So it went for quite a while. My friends got used to talking me through heaving sobs—with a compassion and kindness I am eternally grateful for. Every day was hard, a unique battle, a million different ways to be reminded of all that had been lost.
Something has shifted now. I am still cracked wide open. I don’t think I will ever be sewn back together, at least not in the same way as before. But I see things differently than I did before. I don’t want to sound like a cliché, so I will give an example.
I often stop in the middle of my days and take a deep breath. I might close my eyes or look around, and I breathe in and out my gratefulness for the moment or for my surroundings. Sometimes, this is when I feel Kyle like a jolt of energy or a warmth or just a feeling. Sometimes, all I feel is calm.
Recently, I was in the Netherlands visiting a family friend. We were talking about death (another thing I have started doing frequently recently), and she told me about several close moments of connection she had with loved ones who had died.
“When someone dies, your relationship with them isn’t over,” I concluded during our conversation. “It just changes.”
I am forever making lists—to-do lists, pro-con lists, grocery lists. Yesterday I wrote a list of guidelines for my relationship with Kyle A.D., after death. I decided he was probably there whenever I really tuned into him, and that he had evolved into a Higher Self, something I can’t really conceive of in this life. I vowed to always honor my relationship with him, and the many different forms it would take over the course of my life.
On October 5th, 2016, two days after I yelled at the remarkably patient airline attendant, I wrote in my journal again.
How will I face this? I will face this with an army of loving-kindness and compassion. I will be gentle with myself. I will generate strength through exuding loving-kindness to others.
It has taken me some time, but I am pulling strength and even gratitude out of this experience. I am allowing it to change my being. I guess this is what healing looks like.