What do you not get about grief? You can’t think about it. You can’t see or listen to the playlist you made of their top songs that you wanted for yourself and had to put together for their memorial service. You can’t look through the photo memories that pop up on your phone or on Facebook highlighting your loved one. You can’t hear your child excitedly shout their name only to realize they’re talking about an uncle on the other side of the family, not your brother who they met once as a baby.

If you want to function, and you have to at a certain point, the only option is to avoid these triggering moments and become desensitized to the ones you can’t. But what no one tells you in the rush to be more than just a sunken mess is that you will inevitably become less triggered by these moments and the thought of your loved one whether you want to or not. And then you might just wish you’d let yourself dive into and crumble in each of those painful moments.

Realizing this, all I can think is … what the f***? I don’t think I’ve ever written that word down before (came back and deleted part of it 2 years after first writing this). I can promise you I’d never thought it or said it as much as I have since losing my brother.

More than a year and a half later, I find myself wishing I could be back in the days where it was hard to go a day without a massive breakdown. If I can’t have him back, can I at least have the raw pain of him being gone? At least then I felt like I was still holding him in my grief. Now, he’s like water that continues to dissipate no matter how hard I try to cup it in my hands. No matter how tight I keep my fingers held together, the water continues to slip through or evaporate in spite of my efforts to keep it.

I’m reminded of this crappy reality each time I’m asked how I’m doing because my honest response is the thing I hate most about grief: “I’m fine; I’m doing better; I’m not struggling like I was.” I hate those answers. I want to respond in tears and agony because he would feel closer if I did that. If I could honestly do that, then it wouldn’t feel like I am losing him entirely.

Yes, it only takes a moment for everything to rush back and bring me to tears – a song, a lyric, a CED truck passing, a person, a feeling, a picture, a thought, a memory, nothing at all. But those moments have become few and far between.

“Getting better” sucks. In my opinion, it sucks more than the crying and the pain of first grappling with and through the loss of someone you love because at least then you still held them, a piece of them, in the pain. It’s not that the thought of him being gone doesn’t hurt terribly and suck still, it’s just that I don’t feel it every time anymore. And I want to.

I want Zac to know that I will forever be deeply hurt and wounded by losing him too soon. He is supposed to be here. He is supposed to be meeting my babies. He’s supposed to be holding his baby! We’re supposed to be creating and cherishing memories as siblings in the same stage of life. But we are not, and that’s wrong.

You know what I do feel? Angry. More easily irritated by everyone, including strangers. That was never me. Empathy used to be one of my strengths. At one point, I could be brought to tears just looking at a stranger that I thought may be experiencing emotional or physical pain. Now, I am often too impatient and irritated with people to even consider what they may be experiencing. I’m the driver getting pissed at a perceived cut-off on the on-ramp or the shopper casting irritated glances at a stranger whose situation I don’t know or care about.

I’m sure there’s some textbook, psychological reasoning for this anger as it relates to my grief and how it is probably the current expression of the pain. But, again, that sucks. The tears allowed me to still feel close to Zac; the anger doesn’t.

Ultimately, I know what I need. I know that I cannot possibly continue loving or caring for strangers if I don’t allow, welcome, invite, plead on my knees for God to show me His love. I know that I don’t have to plead with Him, He gives it freely, but maybe that posture is the only place where my heart and mind can actually receive it.

And, I suppose the only way I get to continue feeling close to Zac is by remembering heaven and drawing near to the One who is with Zac now.

So, as I find myself listening again to my “Zac Memories” playlist on Spotify (I don’t like writing that), I am given the gift of tears, of feeling again, and I’m reminded by the songs that he listened to most to give it all to God. Please consider these thoughts before you rush someone to start “getting better” in their grief. Inevitably, we are “getting better” and losing our loved one more and more in the process.

Nobody said it was easy

It’s such a shame for us to part

Nobody said it was easy

No one ever said it would be this hard

Oh, take me back to the start

“The Scientist” -Coldplay