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It Took My Brother Passing Away To Realize I Need To Get My S**t Together

“Grief is love with no place to go.”

The first time I heard this statement was December 4, 2019, the day after I shared that my grandmother, Nanny, passed away. It became my mantra for anything I lose in life whether it be an opportunity, a friend, or a family member. This was the first thought that came to mind when I got the call on July 21 that my older brother Gregory, who I called “GG,” had passed away. No matter how many times I may have ran the scenario through my mind that one day he would not be here, I still wasn’t ready when the moment arrived—especially around the planning for their final affairs.

Recalling when my grandmother passed away, things were already set in place. In October 2019, she was placed in home hospice care with my mother and me as her main caregivers. Although we didn’t know the day or time she would leave us, we knew that we had to be prepared for it—and for it we were. She had life insurance which covered the funeral and then some. We had a power of attorney to handle the estate and all the assets that would need to be divided. The family had also decided for me to serve as executor.

I now realize that the preparation for her death was in many ways a form of self-care. Preparing for her final arrangements allowed space for grieving and executing a beautiful homegoing service with no real loose ends to tie up afterward. However, after the passing of my brother, this time was a lot different. The passing of my brother hit us all like a shockwave, especially the unpreparedness around it. There was no will and many of us weren’t sure of the whereabouts of the important documents. It was something that we never discussed.

It’s interesting how death became such a taboo subject for us to talk about or even discuss with our parents and grandparents. There is a fear that if we talk about death including our own that we are “speaking it into existence.” When in reality, the ignorance of the truth only delays our preparedness for it when it happens. Even in talking with friends, many of them don’t have a clue about their parents’ important documents like insurance cards, blood types, social security numbers, life insurance and more. We are often left to clean up the mess after the fact which in turn only exacerbates the grieving.

This was also when it really hit me—as someone who is single and 36 years old, I haven’t done what I need to do for my loved ones if something was to happen to me. My parents don’t know where my important papers are. My beneficiaries aren’t set up on my bank accounts. We aren’t taught to think of the unexpected when it comes to life, especially our own but moments like this become the reality check we all need to recognize the importance of planning.

This also sparked how normalized we have become to death. With over a million people in the U.S. dying of COVID-19 in the last two years, you would think it would trigger the notion of preparing for death; instead, it’s made us quite numb to it. We watch mass shootings happen and we get up and go to work the next day, leaving grief at home.

These last two weeks have been the moment I needed though. Fortunately, my family was in a place where we were able to take care of the funeral expenses. If anything, my mind is now prepared for as much of the unexpected as it can—taking resolve in giving grace to myself for things I can’t prepare for and knowing the difference between the two, a spin on the Serenity prayer if you will.

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