Five Things I’ve Learned from Loss

I’m sorry I’ve been off the grid, our family has suffered a great loss.  My brother-in-law Terry, my husband’s identical twin brother, passed away this week, after a brave fight against cancer.  While he had been fighting cancer for many years, he had always come through his treatments, so this was an outcome that was somewhat unexpected in many ways.  He had always fought through and come out on the other side.  Cancer aside, he was a healthy, active man, and still relatively young, at 51 years old.  It’s been mentally and physically exhausting for the entire family, and the worst of it is that he leaves a wife and three teenagers behind.

That said, I have always found writing as a way to process difficult situations such as this.  I’ve never had a front row seat to this disease before, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  But I will say that I did learn some things throughout this process that I will carry with me, and thought they were worth sharing.

1.  Savor the Times of Good Health

My brother-in-law fought this disease over a period of years, and was always a picture of positivity, regardless of what he was going through.  He took never took periods of good health for granted, and didn’t dwell on his diagnosis or get mired down in the negative, and always made a point of saying that you enjoy every day.  We vacationed with him and his family.  We celebrated holidays and we witnessed milestones in our children’s lives together.  We lived LIFE.  HE lived life.  He recognized that life is gift and that it’s fleeting.  There are no guarantees, and he made the very most of his time on earth.  Sadly, I think a disease like this gives you a perspective that you can only appreciate if you’ve walked in those shoes.  And he was sure to incorporate this perspective in the way he lived his life.

2.  I Believe in Twintuition

I have to tell you, I’ve heard about the “twintuition” thing, but I have never quite seen or experienced it with my husband and his twin the way I did through this experience.  Before we knew that things were starting to take a turn for the worse, my husband was up in the middle of the night.  He said that was the first time that he had ever had the feeling that something wasn’t right.  That continued through this process, and as my husband was on his way to the hospital on the day his brother died, he had stopped at a rest area, and when he came out, he said that the clouds had parted, and the sun shined down on him.  At that moment, he said he knew his brother was gone.  Then he got the call from his sister that his brother had passed.

My husband is on the right, Terry is on the left.

3. “God Nuggets” Gave Me Comfort

After my brother passed away, I asked for a sign that he was ok, and saw a sliver of a rainbow on that day.  That has always been a special symbol for me, and it has shown up in ways that I just can’t explain.  I experienced that phenomenon again with Terry’s passing, and I know his siblings have too.  I find a great deal of comfort in that.  In fact, this is the artwork that was in his ICU room at the hospital.

Rainbow kite

4. Make Your Wishes Known

Truth be told, I don’t think that Terry ever thought that death was a possible outcome.  I don’t think any of us did as he went into this final treatment.  Heck, no one wants to contemplate their own mortality, especially at a young(ish) age.  But making your wishes known, to your family, to your spouse and children, both verbally and written down, takes some the guesswork out of things in the heat of a crisis.  While I have some things in place already, I feel the need to write it all down.   Letters to my husband and children.  What I want in a funeral/memorial service.  Maybe even record a video so that everything is crystal clear.  

While the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is necessary.  Ask questions, find out where important paperwork is.  I’m working on a one sheet reference guide so that I know what to do after the worst happens (God forbid).  This whole thing is hard enough as it is, there is no reason to make it any harder.

5.  Take Care of Yourself

It’s very easy to get caught up in everything that’s happening.  The hospital, the health decisions, the arrangements, etc…  These are all important things that need to be attended to, I know that.  But if you don’t exercise some self-care, you won’t be of use to anyone.  Take a walk, listen to music, watch a movie, get a manicure, and yes, even laugh with friends and family.  The stress of the situation can reach a fever pitch if you let it.  (I have found that slamming medicine balls to be highly therapeutic.)  Just remember, you’re of no use to others if you don’t take care of yourself first.  

Please keep our family in your prayers.  Terry’s wife and kids, in particular.  This loss is beyond devastating.

Jenny

 

42 Comments

  • Reply
    Tracey
    September 14, 2018 at 7:18 am

    So very sorry for your family’s loss Jenny. I pray for peace and comfort for all of you during this difficult time.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 14, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Thank you so much Tracey.

  • Reply
    cassie bustamante
    September 14, 2018 at 9:07 am

    oh jenny, i am reading this and crying for you. i am so so sorry for your loss, but i whole-heartedly agree with everything you’ve said. life is a beautiful gift and we have to make the best of it for the time we are here. much love to your husband and your family.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 14, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Thank you so much Cassie. Life is such a beautiful gift that we so often taken for granted. Seeing his example of how he lived life is one that we can all learn from and aspire to in our own lives. It’s just so darn difficult to understand life sometimes, isn’t it?

  • Reply
    AliJ
    September 14, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. And I agree with everything you said. As a cancer survivor myself, you do go through life looking at things a bit differently and realize what is important and what isn’t. I also agree about the twin thing. My parents each came from large families where they had siblings who were twins and then I have identical twin sisters. My aunt was dying and her twin, had not even gotten the call yet that her sister had died, but called in to her work and said her sister had died. To this day, she can’t explain the feeling she had but she knows she had it.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 14, 2018 at 11:54 am

      There is something truly unique and special about the twin bond. They were twins, but they were also best friends and confidants. I know my husband felt most at home and comfortable with his brother, and that void is a big one.

  • Reply
    Laurie Zivkovich
    September 14, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Jenny,
    I am so, so sorry for your families loss. Fifty one is very young and there really are no words to make this any better. He sounds like a great man with a great perspective on living life. Thank you for sharing what you have learned through this process. My 46 year old brother is going through an awful chemotherapy regimen and it is so hard to watch them suffer.
    Please know that I am praying for all of you.
    laurie

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 14, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Thank you Laurie. The suffering is the worst part of the entire situation. So much suffering on his part toward the end, and now watching his family suffer, it’s truly unbearable. Thank you for your prayers.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    September 14, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Jenny you and your family have constantly been in my thoughts this week. I am just so very sorry for your hearthache and how raw and painful this time is for all of you. I hope you all find comfort in knowing he is no longer suffering. Keeping you all in my prayers and sending you lots of love.

  • Reply
    Patricia
    September 14, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Deepest, heartfelt condolences on your family’s great loss…. I know there are no words to ease the pain right now – keeping you and your family in our prayers.

  • Reply
    Mary
    September 14, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    You and your family are in my prayers.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 14, 2018 at 5:48 pm

      Thank you so much Mary.

  • Reply
    Debbie
    September 14, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, will be keeping you and your family in my prayers.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 27, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks so much Debbie. 🙂

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Bowen
    September 14, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Jenny, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband’s twin brother. Sending prayers and deepest sympathy to your husband and entire family

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 27, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks so much Elizabeth.

  • Reply
    Lynn
    September 14, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    Jenny – So sorry to hear of your family’s loss. I send you all a big hug of comfort. I will take your words to heart because you know from experience.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 20, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      Thank you Lynn. Big hugs do wonders, don’t they?

  • Reply
    Sue Sullivan
    September 14, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Jenny, Sending condolences to you and your family on your loss.

  • Reply
    Diane
    September 14, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost both my parents to cancer and just 3 weeks ago my fur baby. I found it helpful after my Mom died to read the book Forever Ours. You mentioned seeing a rainbow and that reminded me of the book. The second book is Beyond Knowing. Wishing you and your family peace and healing.

  • Reply
    christianna1
    September 14, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Having lost my brother at 55 to colon cancer, I know greatly of your family’s pain. While my brother and I were not twins, we were just over a year apart and I always felt closer to him than my other siblings. The day he died, I felt like my heart literally broke in two as he pain was just so terrible. But before he passed away, I made him promise to send us rainbows. The first one appeared the very next afternoon at the church where his service was to be held. There was a storm and then this huge rainbow was shining as my other brother walked out the church doors. I wondered how often I would get a rainbow as they are sort of rare with storms. But something would catch my eye and suddenly a rainbow appeared– not in the sky, but a swirl in my sink. A crystal reflected a rainbow on the wall. Something would reflect one on the passenger seat of my car. An advertisement on a billboard. Or driving along on a road a window said Rainbow Learning Center–with a huge rainbow painted on the window. Suddenly, I was seeing rainbows EVERYWHERE! The one that really got me was a year later. I live 6 hours away from our family home, but went for a visit. I decided to go to the church and see the tree we planted for his memorial. It was a very grey day and was hoping for a rainbow, but it just remained grey and overcast. As I was walking back to my car with my siblings, we stopped and were talking and I said how disappointed I felt that there wasn’t a rainbow from him….but wait for it…. I looked down at the sidewalk and we were standing on a rainbow. The children from the church had been chalking on the sidewalks and just under my feet was a chalk rainbow. It literally took my breath away! I’m sorry this was so long, but I had to share this with you after seeing that picture you posted about the rainbow. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. May God comfort you all and may you all see many rainbows.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 27, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story Christianna. I love the rainbow stories, and I can relate to them on so many levels. Like you, seeing the rainbow upon returning home from my brother-in-law’s funeral, literally took my breath away. Losing loved ones so young is such a tough pill to swallow, but there is some comfort from special symbols out there, isn’t there?

  • Reply
    Sue
    September 15, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    I’m so sorry, Jenny. I prayed for your family after you mentioned your brother-in-law in your last post. I will keep praying. Cancer is a sickening disease and I’m so sorry that you and so many people you love are suffering because of it. I hope you all continue to experience those “God nuggets” and that they give you some small comforts in your grief. Thank you for the important reminders and perspective.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 20, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Thank you Sue. The “God Nuggets” have continued throughout all of this, and that brings me much comfort.

  • Reply
    J Mantha
    September 15, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Jenny, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your brother in law. My heart goes out to each of you. I hope you and your family find yourselves comforted by friends and family when in need and given solitude when needed. I will hold you in prayer throughout the coming months. Thank you for taking the time to post this much needed and well thought out advice.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 20, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words and prayers. I find so much comfort in friends and family and consider myself lucky to have that outlet through all of this.

  • Reply
    Pamela Bolton
    September 16, 2018 at 1:09 am

    I cried while I read your post this evening. I lost my brother and sister while they were in their early 50’s to cancer and fought that blasted disease twice myself. I agree with everything that you wrote and wish your family peace and comfort through this time of sadness. My prayers are with you and your family.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 20, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words and prayers Pamela. Cancer is such a horrifying disease that takes too many too soon.

  • Reply
    Teresa Heim
    September 16, 2018 at 1:59 am

    I had missed your posts this week and had wondered where you were. Cancer is so horrible. I definitely believe in symbols and signs from God. Prayers for you and your family.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 20, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks so much Teresa. The symbols from God continue, and bring me so much comfort.

  • Reply
    Christine
    September 18, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Reply
    Gwen Wright
    September 18, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Dear Jenny,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I just lost my mother to cancer in August and I feel the pain. I am also a hospice nurse so I witness the brevity and unpredictability of life often. There is nothing fair about how our time here gets doled out, but it is up to all of us to seize life and wring all we can from it. Relationships being the most important thing of all. Wishing you comfort.

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 27, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Wise words Gwen! I think that my brother-in-law really did seize the life he had, and did his best to wring all he could out of it. But boy, we will all miss him.

  • Reply
    Jules
    September 18, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Sorry for your loss; will keep you in my prayers . . .

  • Reply
    Ella
    September 19, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Thank you for the words of wisdom & I am sending prayers for your family.

  • Reply
    Robyn
    September 25, 2018 at 11:57 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about loss. Sending prayers of comfort

  • Reply
    LORI GREEK
    September 25, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Jenny,

    I just read this and it brought me to tears. I knew you had suffered a loss, but wasn’t aware of the details. I am so sorry. Prayers of peace lifted up for your family!! <3

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 27, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you Lori. 🙂

  • Reply
    Barbara T Whitaker
    September 25, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    So sorry for your loss…my husbands sister died 4 years ago this November and miss her terribly. She had a leukemia diagosis 26 years ago with no chance of survival. She did but it returned. You are a great decorator and I’m sure a great attorney when you practiced. Just a reminder to all of us: get a will, life insurance if needed ad make sure plans are in place. A gift to leave your love ones…

    • Reply
      Jenny
      September 27, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks so much Barbara. I appreciate the thought that I was an attorney, and I can certainly argue like one at times, but alas, I’m not. But in seeing how things play out when someone dies young, it just underscores the need to have all of your ducks in a row. Grieving is hard enough, why make it any harder, right?

  • Reply
    calypsointhecountry
    November 5, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Jenny, I am so sorry for your loss. I missed a bunch of posts while my computer was getting repaired recently. Your advice really puts things in perspective. I am glad to hear your brother in law savored every day. We all need to learn to do that more. Sending prayers to you and your family,
    Take care,
    Shelley

    • Reply
      Jenny
      November 6, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Thank you so much Shelley. It’s been so difficult, and now the reality of the finality sets in. Live every day!

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