The agony, regret, and non-closure of unexpected loss

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I’ve talked about you for three and a half years. But honestly, it’s been closer to five years since I spoke to you.

I talk about you because I’m scared to talk to you. I am scared of the emotions that facing you brings.

But by writing this letter to you today I am committing to facing you and re-establishing a relationship that was left wide open; a relationship that as a result of your death is in the midst of non-closure.

It breaks my heart that I can’t remember the last time we spoke. I know that you had expectations of me that I didn’t meet. I know that I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most. I know that you often felt lost and that some of the mistakes that you made were a cry for help.

I know that underneath that amazing smile hid a tremendous amount of fear, pain, and heartache that you too often tried to deal with on your own.

Throughout your life I did not prioritize your pain.

I was worried and concerned about some of your choices, but I swallowed it. I wanted to call you so many times, to plead with you to do something different, but I instead avoided the confrontation. I prioritized my own stuff. I buried myself in the excuse of my own daily struggles. I selfishly distanced myself from yours.

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I was prepared to bury myself in my excuses. But I was not prepared to bury you.

I knew you were gone before I was told. It’s a morning that I will never forget. Mom was in the room and on the phone, whispering your name repeatedly, saying it in a way that I had never heard it said before.

I knew you were gone. Some words never have to be spoken. Sometimes the heart and soul know that which the mouth isn’t able to speak. Mom didn’t have to say the words. My shattered heart knew then that I would never see or hear your voice again.

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The agony of losing you is still there. The part of my heart that talks about you breathes through it. Then there’s another part that remains closed. That’s the part that wonders; the part that holds the seeds of regret. The part that took three and a half years after your death to build up the courage to talk to you, as I am finally able to do today.

I know how I’ve always held you in my heart. I have no idea how you held me.

Were you still upset with me the night you were murdered? Why didn’t you respond to me when I reached out to you for father’s day? Or on your birthday?

I could’ve done more. I should’ve done more. I should have written to you when you were away. I should’ve made an effort to go see you. I should’ve taken better care of you. I should’ve made a greater effort to get to know you; not the public you, but rather the part of you that felt like you had to shoulder your burdens alone.

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And that’s all I have now. What I should’ve done, and what I could’ve done, alongside the regrets of what I didn’t do.

I miss your smile. I miss your spirit. I miss your unspoken generosity. I miss all of the examples of you showing up, being there for me, with acts of kindness that didn’t require spoken words.

There’s no perfection in love. Generosity knows no boundaries, and your smile reminds me to find strength through the pain and optimism through despair.

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You’re not here anymore. I don’t know if you can hear, sense, or feel my apology or internalize my regrets.

I will never get to go back and do what I didn’t do for you or be what I wasn’t able to be for you. I have no opportunity to right the wrongs. I won’t ever see your smile again while here on earth, or laugh at the ridiculously inappropriate yet hilarious things that you would always say.

But what I will always be able to do is find time to talk to you; to sit with the memory of you and to check in to share with you what’s in my heart.

I love you. I miss you. I am sorry for not being there for you. And I’m 100% sure as the tears stream down my face, as I listen to my son — your nephew (that you have never met and will never get a chance to meet,) that you are here. I’m 100% sure that though your body is no longer here, that your spirit is right here in this room with me today.

And as I attempt to re-open that piece of my heart that has been closed since you were taken from us, I can only hope that yours will welcome me back in, if at some point it had become closed to me.

Rest easy my brother. My heart is still heavy, but know that I love you and I will talk to you again soon.