I have a confession to make, I am a perfectionist. I want to be up front about this characteristic of mine because right now all I want to be doing is reading blogs about how to write the best blog introduction and watching videos on how not to fail at blogging... But I have decided not to. I have decided that instead of doing this the "right way" I am going to do this the way that I want to and then figure it out as I go. I don't know what to write about on a website that is dedicated to raising funds to bring about suicide awareness and education in honour of my late brother. I don't know if there is a perfect way to go about blogging about grief or the things I have learned through being a survivor of sibling suicide. But I do know that I want to blog, I always have. I have a lot of things that I would like to talk about and a lot of sharing that I feel may be helpful to myself if I were to do so.
I am a perfectionist and so grief has been grievous, to say the least. There is no handbook on how to grieve the best way. There is no contest on who will grieve fastest and make it through the least damaged or most changed in a positive way. Grief has changed me and molded me and the seasons where I feel my brother's absence most have become my favourite. This is surprising to me because when I first lost Cody I thought the goal of grief was to move past, but as I learn more about sibling loss I am learning that there is no moving past. There is still a path for him and I, we never parted ways, just the way we are travelling together is not defined the same as before.
This year is the first year that I have the responsibilities that I do with the Memorial Walk and I will be honest with anyone who is taking the time to read this blog, this is the hardest thing I have ever done. The organization aspects, the emotional aspects, and the facing of reality that I don't necessarily have to when I am living in my own little world. It's overwhelming at times because I still feel like in some ways I am not Erin. I am just Cody's sister, someone who is grieving and needs to be sheltered or not sheltered? or helped or left alone to figure it out? When Cody was alive I spent so much of my time and efforts trying to make sure that he was okay, worrying about him or trying to take care of him. When he died I felt like I had lost my identity because I no longer had that responsibility. I had to figure out how to be a healthy version of myself and not just try to help him anymore. The guilt I felt (and maybe to a point still feel) about not having to worry about him was horrid for the first year. I thought I was the worst person that had ever lived because my best friend had died and there was an aspect of relief because I knew that he was in so much pain and I had no idea what to do to help him. Rebuilding who I was, Erin Duhaime, without the anxiety of knowing that at any moment I may have to drop everything to rescue him was an impossible task at the onset. After hours of research I now know I was not alone in this feeling. Many people with siblings who have depression feel that way and the guilt that is caused by suicide is similar in many cases.
Being asked to help with Cody's walk has been beneficial in my grieving in many ways. I have gotten to reflect on how I felt around planning and attending his funeral which I refused to do up to this point. In reflecting on these events I have been able to know how much I have changed and grown in the last four years. I have gotten to appreciate the long hours and deep connection to Cody that my grandmother and aunt have felt by building this fund. The most beneficial aspect of helping this year has been understanding the importance around the need for funding education and treatment. I was an absolute wreck after my brother's suicide. Without my family's support, financially and emotionally, I would not be here, writing this blog, signing up to continue my journey as a perpetual university student, or getting to fight with my dad about how millennials are clearly the generation this world has needed all along. I was incredibly fortunate and now I get this opportunity to help others who need funding and education just like I did.
Those realizations are bittersweet. There are these aspects that I know I get to help and make a difference and isn't that what we all want? But it's hard. It's hard not to be sad and selfish and run away because I am scared that I don't know what I am doing because I am a perfectionist after all. I want everything to be a certain way and for things to run smoothly and for people to perceive and think that I know what I am doing and that the way that I have been grieving has been healthy. I don't know if it always has been, but I do know that the journey it took me to get to where I am today took a lot of honesty and reflection and anytime that I was scared I didn't run away from it, I persevered and that was a good thing.
So, I will write this and allow you to see that my grief is messy and that being supported by others has been the one thing that has held me together. I still cry often because I miss my best friend. This last six months I have come to terms with my brother really and truly being gone and that is uncomfortable. I lost a huge part of my life when my brother died and the reality of his absence may always take my breath away. I no longer feel like I have to have my grief figured out or put together for anyone else; I can allow myself to feel the joy that comes from remembering how he made me laugh and the heart break that comes from knowing that my partner will never get to know his sense of humour first hand. I will appreciate all aspects of grieving because that is how I will always be connected him.
How much I miss Cody will never go away, but I didn't lose my identity when I lost my brother. I know who I am because I am his sister and that won't change even as the years that he is away continue accumulating. I know who I am in Cody's absence, but I didn't for a long time. So today I am proud of me and the imperfect and messy way that I have grieved. I am proud of the woman that I have become, despite the tragedy of losing my childhood playmate and confidante. I know that there is life after loss and that is why I believe that having to grieve perfectly isn't an appropriate goal. Grief isn't perfect. It's messy and beautiful and it shapes a person in ways that they never believed possible at the onset, but through the journey, there is hope and life like I never even knew was possible.