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Helping my husband cope with the loss of his younger brother


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My husbands younger brother died very tragically and unexpectedly the morning on June 1, 2009, he was 29.  It was my 30th birthday.  The night before my husband threw me this fantastic surprise birthday party. I was so surprised.  My brother in law was there, he was having a great time.  We laughed together, we took pictures together, he played with and held his 21month old nephew.  We left each other with kisses and hugs and smiles.

7am the next morning my sister in laws boyfriend was banging on our door and ringing the door bell over and over to get us out of bed.  My mother in law was calling us and when I answered she was hysterical saying "Michael is dead" over and over.  It was the beginning of this surreal new life without Mike.

Mike was traveling on the interstate at 430am, on foot. He was hit by a truck and then by a van.  We dont know what he was doing out at 430 am without his car or his cell phone, let alone on the interstate a good ways from his home.  We'll never know or understand.  His injuries were so extensive we were not able to have an open casket for him.  My husband was never able to see his brother and say goodbye.  Many people say he would not have wanted to see him like that, but I really think my husband would like to have seen something, even if it was just his hand to hold.  But he couldn't even have that.  I often feel like he is still in some denial.

My husband and Mike were 15 months a part. So they grew up close.  He was the godfather to our son. 

I lost my grandfather a few years ago to cancer, but he was old.  He had lived an amazing lift, traveled the world and was proud of his family. I know he didn't want to leave us yet, but he was happy with his life because it had been a long one and he lived it so fully.  I loved my brother in law and am saddened by his death, but I know it doesn't effect me the way it does my husband.  I dont know how to help him grieve because this is so different from my loss.  Any advice would be appreciated.

We run our own photography business and have become very successful in our area.  Unfortunately just because we have suffered this loss does not mean we get to take a time out from our business.  Potential clients still want to book, current clients still want to set up shoots and get their albums. Some of them are very understanding and some are not. 

I am trying the best I can to take over some of the work my husband had done so he can have time to grieve.  I dont know if I should encourage or push him to jump back into work.  I just dont know what to do, but I want to do whatever is best for him.

How do I help him grieve?  How do I help him still run our business?  How do I make sure he doesn't fall into a depression? 

Any advice would be appreciated.

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hi there beesgirl,

I have just read your touching message for help. You are a great support to your husband by trying to help him through this horrible time. I lost my brother 1 year ago and can only say that everyone grieves diffrently their is no right or wrong, Losing a sibling is heartbreaking and no one can understand the loss unless you have experienced it. Please try to just listen when he wants to talk and just be their for him. My husband listened and just let me be. When I lost my brother I felt, and still do, feel as a part of me went with him and the person I was will never be again without him. I can only go by my experience and dont want to advise you, as we are all different. Seeing a grief counsellor may help for him to vent and express the deep pain with someone out of the immediate family, depending if your husband is up to that now ,he may still be in denial. Being around family and talking about his brother may also make him feel some comfort. Hope I have helped a little take care.



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Dear Members,

We are excited to mention that we are moving to a more new and improved message boards on MONDAY MORNING AUGUST 9th! The boards will be done for a few hours while we are making the conversation. Remember we posted information about this move a month ago. For some of you this might seem a bit sudden,  but when we were reviewing the site we determined the current message board you are using is out of date and the company that designed it is no longer in existence. The good news is this new message board will have new features that have been requested in the past like more fields we can add to your profiles and a chat room up to 20 people at one time. If we find the chat room is bursting at the seams we will add additional room for extra people. All your old posts, private messages and such will be migrated to the new message board. You might have to put up your profile picture again but not sure. The new company will be doing the migration for us. Here is a short list of some of the new features on the board:

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The bottom line is the new board will give us room to grow our community and more options to interact better with each other. 

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Bessgirl...it is good that you are trying to help your husband and woderful that you have come here for advice. You can not make sure he doesnt fall into depresson. You can be there for him to listen...to anything he has to say. Be careful not to push him or judge him. His whole world has been turned inside out forever changed. I lost my brother 10 years ago...I have worked very hard to keep myself from depresson..I have cried oceans..gone to two support groups and recently found this online support...becuase my grief is resurfacing due to the ten year anniversary of his death comming up. I will never be the same, but I am becomming a more loving , caring person, than I was before. My whole world and view of life is completly differant then it was before Billy died. My Grand mother just past away last year, I was taking care of her...I loved her very much...she was 95 years old..it made sense. The loss is completly differant, I expected it she is happy now and I am happy for her.n though I do miss her.


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my husband lost his baby brother this past June 9th, he was 29 years old youngest of 4 siblings.....they were 8 years apart......he had struggled with addiction for many years as he had a very traumatic childhood without love and very little guidance......still he really wanted a good decent life, he went to school to become a chef and was a personal trainer.  He had a girlfriend of 10 years, currently she was studying to become a nurse and planning for their future. We are a very close nit family but none of us ever acknowledged his drug addiction, it was just something you ignore and don't talk about in some ways we just all told ourselves its just recreational here and there but I did talk to my husband about it alot and we would try to think of ways to "save him".  My husband recently relocated from Toronto to Edmonton for his job, he thought if he brought him to Edmonton he could start a new life since there is so much opportunity in Edmonton......we thought even if he has a criminal record he would be able to find a job.  His girlfriend even sent him to Edmonton to stay with my husband for 2 weeks in the hotel he was staying in, she said she felt that he should get away for a while and that he was in a deep depression which was also evident due to his weight loss and sleeping all day.......the 2 weeks he visited my husband those were amazing for the 2 brothers, they got to spend real quality time together, time they did't get to spend in years since me and my husband got married so young 15 years ago, my brotherinlaw was only 15 when we got married but I knew him since he was 12 years old, he was like my siblings in alot of ways.  He died of a brain aneurism probably due to drug use, we won't know till the toxicology report comes back but we have a pretty good idea after tracing his last steps what happened, his girlfriend found him in his room.......when we all got that call it changed our lives forever........my husband had to be flown back immediately from Edmonton........we spent 3 weeks in Toronto, since we had sold our house already due to relocating to Edmonton we stayed at my inlaws house, also my motherinlaw could not be alone and we wanted to be available to support our family, it helped being around them the weeks after he passed away.  My daughter who is 18 was especially close to my brotherinlaw as I said we are a very close nit family........but she ended up staying with my inlaws for the summer.  It was very hard to leave to come to Edmonton, before we left we sat in his room to feel his presence, I guess we were trying to say goodbye even though we went through the viewing, funeral, cremation, scattering his ashes it was another goodbye among so many........we flew back to Edmonton Canada day.  My husband has not been the same since we came back, one minute is he doing fine the next he is down, he has a really upbeat personality normally, everyone says he always had a smile on his face but that smile is no longer there......I see sadness in his eyes, he's a very unemotional person as it is so he rare he cries......just thinks and thinks, I try to make him talk,  he usually says he feels nauseous when he tries to talk about it,  I tell him should cry but I guess that is easy for me to say.......since we've been here I have had a chance to kind of realize that I can also now start to mourn, I feel like I put myself on hold to be there for my husband, daughter and inlaws.......the funeral is like a fog to me like I floated through it.......but I don't let my husband see me cry.......as I feel like I have to be strong for him and focus on him.  I have anger towards my brotherinlaw that he would go like this but I also have so much sadness that I wont get to see him get married or have children.  So much has changed we lost a big part of our family, moved to a completely different province, my daughter is not with us who I am very close to, I quit my job in Toronto.........I am just online trying to find ways to help my husband as he is such a closed person emotionally, any suggestions?

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Hi Evergreen,


I'm sorry you've had to experience this loss, for yourself and your husband and family. 


I want to give you as much as I can but do remember this is a female perspective and, by all accounts, men express differently.  Not feel differently, but sometimes express differently than women.  Also, I am only one person and others, I am very sure, have a different experience.


For the first, horrific, shocking, horrible, remain-in-my-mind-as-trauma-for-months moment that I was told that my sister died, I had a friend who was my savior.  I didn't have to be strong and experienced an instant shattering of my soul.  I wavered between inability to do anything and strong for others for the first couple weeks when I was with family.


Once I got home and away from all that was my family and my history and my sister, there is nothing that anyone in my family could have done that would have helped me.  I wanted to be alone because it's was very, very hard for me to grieve around people who were suffering the same loss.  I have learned since how to softly share my grief with my family but at first, I had such a great fear that my suffering will hurt them more; plus the loss of MY relationship, this piece of myself that was part of my whole world and whole understanding of who I was, was mine and I didn't want to share it with someone who might invalidate it - unknowingly, of course, and completely reasonably... because they lost something that was just a precious to them.


The things that gave me the most relief during the first year and a half of tortuous grieving was when someone was there for me and only for me.  Someone asked me about my relationship.  Someone asked me about my sister and I didn't have to share her with anyone, she was all mine in those moments, my relationship with her was the most important right then and there.  Someone allowed me to have the fullness of my pain without justification or question.


I've learned so much in the last seven years, with the addition of my dad dying in that time.  I've learned that the best thing that anyone can do for anyone (besides physical chores and such when that can't be done initially) is to be an understanding witness to their grieving process.  It is so simple but it is extremely hard to see someone you love in such pain.


I had another friend that a year ago, was there for me when I had a real downturn.  A year after my dad died, six years after my sister died.  Had a crazy, crazy day and couldn't calm down.  I texted a friend and said I was freaking out and he came and held me while I cried.  That's it.  Didn't try to change me, just let me feel safe enough to break down.  And I did and fifteen minutes later, I was better than I had been for weeks.  That was the only time I ever had to do that but I was insanely grateful that I knew there was someone in my life that it didn't matter if I was crazy and just let me be what I had to be.


I guess the point I don't know if I'm getting to with all this crazy female reactions is: he's going to be what he's going to be and, from my experience, the best that it can be for us who are within tortuous grieving is the knowledge that there is someone outside of ourselves who is ok with us being exactly how we are, no matter what it is.


It's still very early for your husband.  These are the early, crazy times so he's exactly where he's supposed to be and I think it's wonderful you are looking to see the ways that may work for you to help him know that too.


The other thing I was thinking is that there is a lot of people who are experiencing grief and loss who worry about whether they should be feeling a certain way or worrying about the thoughts they're thinking.  This happened to me too and I devoured the internet.  Not that it was much help but it's a search that is very common.  I was thinking that if you continue reading or writing in these or other forums, maybe share what you're learning with your husband.  It's ok to talk about the knowledge of grief, even if he doesn't want to share his specific feelings.  Just maybe gently tell him how you're learning about it and maybe there will be times he will be able to relate to something that helps his internal chatter.


Finally, my grieving was made worse because I kept berating myself for not being able to be the person that I used to be.  I started to truly get better because I finally realized that I am a different person and can never be that person that I was again.  The world changes, and that includes you, when you lose someone that deeply connected to your soul.  Instead, I allowed myself to have new preferences and new choices and new priorities and started looking at the world with the intent to find out who I was now, instead of trying to force myself to be the person that I was when my sister was alive.  I finally realized that that was impossible.  I have seen this realization come to almost everyone in their own way and for you to allow him the space and understanding when or if you see these types of changes would be a blessing.  At least, for me it would have been, had I a spouse who was trying to support me.


I hope this is even a bit helpful.  Know that even though I am infinitely better than when I was in the first year and a half, I still had tears pouring down my face while writing this.  Our loss never really ends, it just becomes different.  I will always have deep sadness for my sister and dad, but now I can feel love again too.


Be patient, with yourself even.  Allow yourself to grieve how you need to, also, because there's really nothing that can hurry this along for either of you.






Since I wrote this, I've tried to put myself in my sister's shoes if it would have be me and she had to live with the loss of me.  She is 8 years older than me and I am the youngest of 5.  I am very privileged to know that when I first came home from the hospital, Traci's first thoughts when she saw me were, "She's mine."  From that moment on, she did have a huge, huge part in raising me and making me feel ok no matter what I did or how I screwed up or whether I was down, etc.


I can imagine that if Traci lost me, she would be plagued not only by the loss of our relationship, as I am, but she would also have all those innocent memories, those memories when she, in her young self, was pledging to always be the best sister she could for me.


I can imagine that your husband, being the oldest, probably has much of these types of memories drowning him also.  You can't change that.  Just reach out a hand so he has something to grab when he's ready.

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Thank you Heartlight that was so nice of you to share your experience……my husband seems to be doing alot better, he has his moments but better then the first 2 weeks we got to Edmonton.  I feel like I am finally getting to grieve the loss of my brotherinlaw since I had such a special relationship with him…...

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