My close circle of friends knows that my family lost my younger brother when I was a child in a car accident. We were living in a suburb of Japan. My brother was five, my sister was nine, and I was twelve.
Now I look back... after becoming a parent, I know that losing a child was one of the most heartbreaking challenges that my parents endured and probably are still enduring. I felt this back then nearly 30 years ago, but I relate to their grief and pain they had to go through more now.
After my brother's accident and his passing, I think I did what any kids at the age of twelve would do. Just get through the day to day routine and hold onto any normalcy I could find. Consciously and subconsciously, I breathed the rest of my childhood witnessing and living through my parents' grief while feeling that I was not good enough to make them happy again. "If only I could do more of ..., they would be happier." was a subconscious motto I lived with. Today, I understand the logic makes no sense. But for a kid, the life equation was too complicated to figure out. It wasn't until my 30's that I tried to face the trauma of the grief. The grief of losing my parents to their grief. Some of my dearest friends and Frido know that the process wasn't necessarily pretty or celebratory. Processing past takes time and commitment. There is no going around it, and sometimes it's plain difficult. For many years, I moved through a spectrum of emotions - anger, denial, sadness, to name a few - about what happened and how it affected our family and my life long-term until earlier this year when I felt that I came out of the long tunnel literally what felt like as an overnight transition.
I am not a trauma specialist or psychologist so I can't share a prescribed process that works for everyone else, but I want to share what I think has helped me because I know how it feels to be in the long tunnel for many years.
Finding a reason to be a whole.
When we are stuck in the past, it's hard to feel like we are a whole today. At least, it was for me. Before I was able to reconcile the past, there was always a part of me that was counteracting who I aspired to be. Like somehow I wasn't quite 100% myself. As I grew more as a mother, I felt the urgency of wanting to parent as a whole person. My kids and Frido deserved it, Baum-kuchen we pour so much love to deserved it, and most importantly I deserved it. I think we can all find personal reasons to see it through. Start with why... as Simon Sinek would say.
I started meditation 4 or 5 years ago using Headspace. Through this, I have learned that feelings change. We could feel negative about something today, and we can trust that it can and will change in the future if we stay open-minded. Acknowledging that I had certain feelings about my past whether it was positive or negative and reassuring that some of these feelings would pass over time helped me embrace each phase and gave me the necessary time and permission to take in without needing to rush through. There is no good emotion nor bad emotion. They are all just emotions.
Writing regularly without editing.
Baum-kuchen believes in personal writing, and I wholeheartedly stand behind it. It is not about a fancy pen and notebook but just the act of writing, writing and more writing. I rarely read back my past entries but I know I have written a lot in the last five or so years and watched myself evolve as more words poured out on the page. My pages never judged me nor tried to correct me and I am thankful for that.
Saying thank you to the past.
The last push came when I was watching Netflix series, "Tidying up with Marie Kondo". The idea of having gratitude even to the items that no longer fit in our lives resonated with me.
I recognize that my brother's passing and what happened after left a deep mark on me. It has been challenging and beautifully insightful at the same time. Over time, I have grown more aware and thankful that my parents probably did the best they could for me and my sisters, "the remaining siblings" despite the heartbreak they went through. None of us were perfect nor acted perfectly, but I now trust that all of us involved in our story was well-meaning and have done our best.
Most importantly, I have learned an early lesson about life's impermanence as a twelve-year-old. The true but easy to forget concept "we have no control over when life begins and how and when it ends" has been deeply engraved in my bones. Because of this lesson, I believe in the optimism of living life in the moments. The spirit of living today because today truly might be the only day.
Without this insight, I would have led a very different life. And I can say that truly and honestly, I would not have lived my life in any other way. No matter what happened, my past belongs to me. I believe in embracing the lesson and letting who I have become shine.
I never knew that letting go would happen until it just kind of did. I suppose we can't really plan for these things but just trust the process that it will happen. I don't have any secret sauce in life and will always be work in progress, but I am sending much love to everyone who carries a weight of the past on the shoulder. May we all experience our personal history in the tender part of our hearts someday instead of as a burden on our shoulder.
Trust the process.