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#SHEsurvivors: One Year Later

CW: This story may be triggering for those who have lost a loved one. Our first submission for our #SHEsurvivors series on is from guest blogger Emily, whose brother was killed in a car accident one year ago today.

Bob was in a car accident, the text read. Which didn’t overly worry me, not right away. People get into car accidents all the time: fender benders, black ice in the winter, texting and driving, swerving around a deer. It happens every day, and people survive. Except that Bob didn’t.

He had been stopped at a red light on his way to work when a car hit him from behind, driven by a Florida police officer on her way to start her shift. Bob had been slowing down from 2mph to 0mph coming up to the light; she had been accelerating from 48mph to 50mph upon impact. There was too much trauma for him to survive. He died at the hospital less than an hour later, and in our respective homes across the country, my family’s lives shattered.

There is no clear path forward, and no way back. I just move ahead one foot at a time, one day at a time, and hope that it’s enough.

My brother had a heart condition diagnosed nine months before he was killed, something that made him need a pacemaker and defibrillator, something that left him living with my mom for a chunk of time before he was cleared to be on his own again. Bob had fought his way back to life, very literally, the year before his death. He was a small miracle in a lot of ways, this person whose heart was only working at 10% of its capacity, who had survived multiple surgeries, who had finally started to improve after years of struggling with a heart condition none of us even knew he had. He had survived so much, and then in an instant, he was gone.

Now, a year after Bob died, I’m struggling with the questions left in his wake. Am I still the youngest of nine? Can I still say I have four brothers? How do we fix a cup that’s been cracked when one of the pieces has disappeared? How do we keep on living when he’s no longer alive? There are no easy answers–in fact, there are no answers at all. There is no clear path forward, and no way back. I just move ahead one foot at a time, one day at a time, and hope that it’s enough. Some days it is, and I can go to work and have hobbies and see friends and feel happy. Other days it isn’t, and I break down crying or can’t focus during conversations or snap at people without provocation. Antidepressants help, and therapy helps, and at some point soon my good days will outweigh the bad and it will get easier and easier to focus on the sunlight rather than the clouds.

For me, grief is like a hurricane: battering shores, flooding the house, tossing around furniture. And like a hurricane, grief has changed the landscape of who I am, laying waste to my every day, inserting itself where it’s not wanted, an unwelcome house guest that I can’t ask to leave because it has a copy of the keys and it knows where I sleep. I’m living through grief, yes, and surviving it, yes, but mostly I’m just treading water, waiting for the days when the storm lets up the tiniest little bit, and I can come up for air.

Our #SHEsurvivors series shares stories of survival–from grief, trauma, abuse, and illness. If you’d like to submit a story, you can contact us here. Remember that no matter what you’re going through, you aren’t alone. If you’re struggling after trauma please consider reaching out to one of the resources here.

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