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The Comforted Mourner

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

When my brother died three years ago, my world changed immediately. As time continued, people spoke less and less about him. The inquiries eventually dwindled regarding how I was adjusting. I can’t fault people. It's normal behavior. I don’t expect others to hold onto the memories and grief as I would. It’s also common for others to overlook the emotional struggles that a surviving sibling goes through following the loss of a loved one. The surviving sibling is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten mourner” because their pain is often disregarded and not acknowledged.

Each family has a unique story and mutual bonds that help shape their history. When a sibling dies, the bonds are fragmented, and the story forever struggles with an abyss that can’t be filled. I think the hardest part of losing Andrew was losing our history. We often joked about aging together and having grandchildren. When I had my first grandchild, my brother talked about the future times when we would have family occasions with our grandchildren. Recently, my niece had a son, and seeing this beautiful child made me remember my brother. I envisioned his jovial smile beaming down at his first grandson while I struggled with survivor's guilt.

I experienced this same guilt each of the half a dozen times I visited Jamaica this year. Though these visits fulfilled a deep longing to connect with my parent’s homeland and my extended family, I harbored a deep sense of guilt that I would never experience the joy of the visits with my brother again. Still, I enjoyed introducing my children and husband to places and relatives who tell the story of my family. It’s amazing how much there’s to be learned from the stories of our ancestors.

When visiting Jamaica, I heard stories about Andrew, my deceased parents, and my grandparents I hadn’t heard before. By learning about the lives of my loved ones and discovering untold stories of their existence, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of myself and my place in the world. Though it may be heartbreaking, we each can find inspiration in the realization that our loved ones’ legacies continue to live on through us and the fresh stories we write. Despite the mourning I've experienced over time, I'm also grateful for the comfort God has also blessed me with. I'm a "comforted mourner."

When our parents die, it’s said we lose our past, and when a child dies, we lose our future. However, when our siblings die before we do, we lose a part of our past, our present, and our future. Because of this immense loss, it’s vital we work together to create new memories while cherishing the old ones to build a path toward healing and hope.


Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask you to heal the broken places in my life and heart. Though there are people I miss, I ask you to comfort me and help me rewrite my story with old and new memories. Amen.

Your turn: Have you ever struggled with loss or grief? How do you cope? What works for you?

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