I’ve tried to write this post a thousand times. I write something and then I backspace. I write something else and I backspace again. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to say. It’s that I don’t know how to say it in a way that will make you understand. When something so big happens, it’s hard to write about it. It’s hard to share it with you. A lot of you reading this will be friends. Friends of friends. But some of you are strangers. And sometimes I feel like even my friends are strangers after this. You haven’t changed but I have so drastically that I feel like a different person than I was just a few months ago. I look in the mirror and I wonder how I can look the same but feel so different. I still haven’t figured that part out.
Two years ago, I started working straight after Clemson. I didn’t have any vacation time for six months though, so any trips I took had to be weekends only. I remember a Friday in July and my brother texted me and said “Mom’s down, come home and let’s go to Disney for the weekend”. I sort of thought he was crazy but if they were going, I wasn’t going to miss out. My boss let me leave a couple hours early so I arrived in Lexington just as Daniel was getting off work. We piled into my mom’s Rouge and we drove the seven or eight hours to Orlando. By the end of it, I thought I was going insane. All Daniel wanted to talk about was Widespread Panic. Panic this, Panic that. For. Eight. Hours. I actually wanted to shake him to shut him up after a while.
We woke up in time to be at the park around 8 am. We only had a day which was more of a “challenge accepted” moment for us than it was a limitation. We raced around the parks, from ride to ride, just being two kids again, flying high above the crowds below. We drank our way through Epcot, got soaked on Splash Mountain, and ate Mickey Bar’s. Just over 12 hours and we hit all four parks.
One day in June of this year, I woke up and I got ready for work. I packed some clothes because I was going to a Death Cab for Cutie concert and didn’t want to wear the same thing to the concert as work. I was singing I Will Follow You into the Dark all morning. My teenage Death Cab dreams coming true.
I never changed into those clothes. I never drove to Charlotte. I didn’t see Death Cab for Cutie. I went to work that morning and then my dad called me. At 8:47 am.
That moment is really interesting for me to look back on because I can see myself, in my cubicle, where I work, falling into this puddle of distress on the floor. Having every ounce of strength pulled from my body. 8:47 am on June 16th and instantly I was a different Jacqui than I had ever been.
I remember being picked up from work and taken back to my apartment. I remember trying to pack but not being able to because I didn’t want to pack clothes to bury my brother in. I just couldn’t do it.
The week after is a blur. There were people. And text messages. And phone calls. There was food. Lots of food. I couldn’t sleep. I would try to sleep but wake up, wailing. There was cleaning. Family in town. I took a trip to Khol’s because I wanted to wear something to the funeral that I had never worn or would ever wear again. I wanted to wear it and burn it. There was sadness. Unbearable, heavy, ugly sadness that engulfed me.
I could run this blog for years and never tell you about that week, or the weeks that followed. I could just tell you about my trip to Seattle and never mention that it killed me when I wrote a postcard to my parents but didn’t get write “Dear Mom and Dad (oh and Daniel)” the way I had before. I could write packing tips for moving cities but not mention that this was the first time I’ve moved where he wasn’t around to help. He helped me move into my Church Street apartment but he wasn’t there to help me leave. Jacqui Travels isn’t just about my journey across the world. It’s my journey as a person, my manifesto of life, my declaration of who I am and what I love. And that means it’s also my journey through grief. The messy, nasty, seemingly never-ending journey through love, loss and moving on.
One of the hardest parts about grief is that even though we all lost the same person, Daniel was different to us all. He was a son to my parents, a brother to me. A roommate to some, a best friend to someone else. That’s really hard to navigate because we all feel different grief and we all handle it differently. Is there a right way? Four months in and I’m not sure. I can’t talk about anyone else’s grief. I can only give you a tiny window into mine and hope that it helps you understand a little more.
Grief makes me angry and it makes me angry at people who are close to me. It makes me angry at people I don’t even know. It makes me angry at myself. Grief makes me angry that friends of mine got married this summer and I had to attend a funeral for my brother. Grief makes me angry that you’ve moved on but I still feel stuck on June 16th. Grief makes me angry that you don’t call me and ask me how I am because it was only 4 months ago. Grief swallows me.
Grief makes me tired. So unbelievably, undeniably tired. How can I get up and go to work every day when the amount of grief I feel pins me to my bed and keeps me there? It drains me. Constantly feeling so many emotions and all I wish is to just not feel anything at all.
Grief makes me afraid. I’m afraid to meet new people because I don’t want anyone to ask me how many siblings I have. It makes me want to stay in when I know I should go out.
But grief also liberates me in ways that I didn’t know were possible. Needles have always terrified me to the point of crying and now I have a tattoo (and I wasn’t scared at all). I dyed my hair for the first time and let the hairdresser cut my hair (literally such a big deal for me). It gave me the strength to say goodbye to bad friendships and relationships in my life. Grief gives me perspective that I could never have imagined.
Death is a weird thing. No one wants to bring it up or talk about it because they don’t know what to say. People ignore it and act like nothing happened. But it did happen, I won’t pretend it didn’t. And I’m different because of it. I’m still navigating what that means and who this Jacqui is. Loss is hard. It’s incredibly hard, the hardest thing I’ve had to endure.
I am so thankful for the people who have been with me since day one of this journey. I would not have been able to get through the last four months without the support and love from friends and family.
But my journey is only just beginning. What it is today will be different in 3 months, it’ll be different next year and it will evolve for the rest of my life.
I’ll leave you with this. A cheers for Daniel, a hug for all of your loved ones and the hope that the rest of my life is filled with enough adventure and courage for two people, myself and for Deez.