“My little brother, Dayne, passed away almost 3 years ago from a drug overdose. He was 19 years old. The past 3 years have been a whirlwind of emotions. The first year, I was a walking zombie. I was in so much pain I honestly could not foresee a day where I would smile and it would be a REAL smile. My brother’s death destroyed my family at the time. We all were carrying our own hurt, our own guilt, our own ‘what-if’s.’ You would think when you lose a sibling or a parent, that the family comes together and everyone leans on each other and ‘gets through it.’ Nobody can really understand how deeply a tragic death affects and changes a family until you actually go through it.
I was an only child for the first 8 years of my life so when I found out I was going to get a little brother, I was SO excited. I carried a lot of guilt after my brother’s death because since we were so far apart in age, when I became a teenager, I was 95% of the time ‘too busy’ to play with him or pay much attention to him. But despite my own demons that I battled with throughout high school, I never forgot that he was my little brother and I was his big sister. My brother would often come knock on my door at bedtime and ask if he could sleep in my big king-sized bed with me because he didn’t like sleeping alone. As much as I felt it was an interference with me trying to be on the phone all night with whatever high school crush it was at the time, I always let him come in. I was his big sister and if sleeping in my room made him feel safer, then that was ok with me.
I moved to Los Angeles from Boston when I was 19 because as I said, I struggled with my own demons when I was a teenager and I was trying to make a change for myself, which I did. It always did and still does to this day bother me that I was 3,000 miles away and couldn’t physically be there for my brother who was also entering his teenage years. I believe the signs were there at an early age for my brother that he had a lot of internal struggles, so when he started doing drugs and constantly getting into mischief, it didn’t come as much of a shock to my family. I would reach out to my brother and try offering support but there is only so much one can do via phone calls and texts. Even though I was 3,000 miles away, I was finally becoming the positive example that I always wanted to be for my little brother – unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save him.
My brother’s overdose didn’t come as a shock to me. My brother had been in an out of treatment for years at this point and had already overdosed twice. I’ll never forget that morning of July 25th, 2015, as long as I live. It was 5:30 a.m. on the west coast and I saw that my Mom was calling me who was obviously on the east coast. I feel like God was mentally preparing me for what I was going to hear on the other end of the phone because the second I saw my Mom was calling, and what time it was, I knew what I was about to hear. I knew my brother had died before I even picked up the phone. The type of crying I heard on the other end of the phone was a type of cry I have never heard from my mother in the almost 30 years I’ve been on this earth. I completely lost it and I remember my throat hurting for weeks after that day from my own screaming, crying and hyperventilating.
After Dayne’s death, I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to go through life with him being gone. I started to think about how he’d never meet my future children, how he wouldn’t attend my future wedding, how he wouldn’t be there as my lifeline when our parents pass. I wish I could put into words the amount of pain I was in for a solid year. I was angry, sad, depressed – you name it. On top of my own depression and pain, I began to feel like my mom valued my brother’s death more than me, and I was still here. I don’t even think she realized she was doing it because she was in so much pain, but she’d also start comparing memories. ‘Well Dayne used to do this… but you never did.’ ‘Dayne used to do that… but you never did.’ I began to feel like I was in a competition with my precious little brother who was now in heaven. It bothered me that my mother wasn’t grieving in the way that ‘I’ thought she should be. I would take it personally when my Mom would lash out or wouldn’t want to remove herself from the couch. I began to judge and resent my mother for not being the mom she used to be, for always sounding so depressed every time I spoke to her, for not wanting to talk about anything except my brother, for constantly bringing up memories of my brother and for forgetting to ask what’s going on in MY life.
I was always wishing I could have my old mom back, until I had my own baby boy. My son was born February 18th, 2018, and my mom was right by my side. That night when me, my baby and my boyfriend were all settled into our hospital room – I remember looking at my baby as he slept peacefully in his bassinet and then it hit me: I wondered how in the hell my mom gets through each day without her son. I finally got it. I finally understood what it means to have a child and to love them more than life itself, and my baby was only a few hours old. Even the thought of losing my baby boy sends a gut-wrenching pain through my body. I had a whole new understanding and compassion for my mother.
Each day, as I grew to love my baby more and more – I started seeing my mom in a new light. It was like a switch went off and it all made sense. My mother lost HER baby boy, how dare I judge her with how fast she is or isn’t grieving? I began to see the strength in my mother instead of a weakness. I understand the love she has for my brother. I understand the FEAR of possibly losing this little human who you grew in your belly for 9 months and gave birth to, nevermind ACTUALLY losing them.
After my baby was born, we had a lot of good laughs while she stayed with me for 3 months. My mom is a real trooper and is working hard to find healing in her life. I admire my mother for her strength and drive to find peace again. I share this because not in just my situation, but any situation – we judge and resent when we really may have no idea what that person is going through. It took the birth of my beautiful son for me to understand the love a mother has for her child.”