coping

An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, September 2017

Hey Connor,

It’s been a while.

I was perusing the three Facebook groups that were made in the wake of your death earlier tonight. Rumor has it you were electrocuted at age five, and it caused you to have an abnormally high voice. Less creative was the rumor that you died in your bedroom closet of a drug overdose. I forget sometimes how vicious thirteen-year-olds’ imaginations can be.

At peak novelty, the most popular of those groups had over 1,000 members. Now, their membership count is down to sixteen, six, and five. Funny how bandwagons work. (more…)

An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, March 2017

Hey Connor,

Today marks exactly eight-and-a-half years since the day you died, just over a week before your 22nd birthday. I’ve been thinking about you a lot these past couple of weeks. Google says you lived about 75 days shy of 5,000, or about 7.1 million minutes. Each year since you left is a smidge easier than the last, but the loss of you will always ache. I’ve cried for days writing this letter. (more…)

An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, April 2016

Dear Connor,

As I drove home from work this past Monday, I began to reflect on a photograph shown on the news last weekend of a small child hugging his father’s gravestone. I imagined what it would feel like to try to explain to my office manager every September 23rd that I would be unable to come into work because I was visiting your grave… except for the part about how we did not bury you. (more…)

That Time I Was Called Out for Being Too Happy at Work

A coworker commented today on my perma-cheery demeanor. I’ve worked at this job for almost a year now, and my coworker joined about six months prior to my arrival. She remarked that when she started, she was cheery like me on a daily basis, but since before I started working here, she has been under such constant stress that she wants to start pulling her hair out. (Figuratively. I checked.) (more…)

An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, December 2015

Dear Connor,

These letters are always draining to write and often come after nights of ruminating and self-reflection. The days when I forget you’re dead are few and far between, and they leave a bittersweet aftertaste when reality sinks back in. I’m somewhere between happy and content on most days, but the ache of your memory is a residue that’s always present in the back of my emotional psyche, whether I remember to realize it or not.

The other day, I started thinking about the implicit guilt that accompanies grieving and realized that part of the guilt over your death of which I haven’t been able to let go is because of a conversation we had. (more…)

An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, September 2015

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the worst day of my life — the day you made me an only child. I have not forgiven you.

I feel like I’ve coped adequately, but some days are a lot harder than others… not that I’ve ever minded a tearful drive home from work, but still.

It’s odd; I would have thought I’d be more sad on your deathday each year than your birthday, but that got me thinking. Your deathday reminds me only of death, but your birthday reminds me of the life you lived and surrendered. Your birthday feels much more morose because it leaves an ache in me, a longing to celebrate your existence with you, not simply of your memory. (more…)

The Breakup Artist(s)

My partner and I broke up two weekends ago, and although we both feel the release and pseudo-freedom of a typical breakup, neither of us feels particularly sad. Our mutual friends are more upset about this than we are. I can honestly say that our breakup was entirely mutual. It was simply time to let “us” go.

Liberally throughout our relationship, we had progress evaluations, similar to those which people experience at their places of business. We would talk about the way things had been going, what we liked, what could use improving, and what direction we wanted to be heading.

Sometimes, we would have these talks because one of us had an improvement to suggest. Other times, it was simply because we hadn’t had one in a while. With both circumstances, we each appreciated that the other cared enough to listen and actively participate. It always felt collaborative and made our relationship stronger.
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An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, June 2015

Dear Connor,

I had another dream about you last night, this time that I pushed you against the upstairs banister, causing you to fall through the bars, face first down to ground level. You were dead, it was all my fault, and you looked a lot like you did when I found your unconscious, damp body in real life. I woke up shaking and wide-eyed. Needless to say, it was a rough morning.

Mom just vividly described Gran’s gaudy, pink-nightmare of a casket to Aaron and, in doing so, reminded me that she and Dad couldn’t bear to put your ashes in the ground. Your cremated remains are held in a polished, wooden, latched box in your room. (more…)

An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, April 2015

Dear Connor,

The first of April has come and gone, so happy 20th birthday, little brother. When I had originally drafted this piece on February 23, and it had been exactly six years and five months since you died. Google says that’s about 2,344 days — or, as you would prefer, 202,490,275,166,666,688 nanoseconds. Sounds like a long time, right? Some days, it feels like it. Other days, it feels more like just a week has passed.

I’m still mad you’re gone, but over the past few years, my anger and frustration have started to feel more… empty.

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The Eight Year Old Who Couldn’t Eat

In fourth grade, I stopped eating. I was terrified of throwing up, so I stopped eating altogether…. mostly. I was never hospitalized, but I started to severely limit my daily intake of food. The sight of food made me queasy, even foods I loved. I was stuck in a perpetual state of nausea, especially when I left my house and went to school.

The logic was beyond me. I had thrown up before. It was never pleasant, but it usually didn’t last too long and didn’t happen very often, either. Not a big deal, right? But suddenly, and without warning, the thought of vomiting began to petrify me. (more…)