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My favorite thing about my brother dying

I’m 99.9% positive you’re reading this right now because of the title.

And that’s okay.

But there are good things about having a dead brother, as morbid as that sounds. Besides the usual guilt trip (if you’ve lost someone you know you can use the loss for evil, it’s bad but we all do it), I see many positives in the death of my brother. I’ve been thinking about him being dead a lot lately and the good that comes in the small moments, I thought I would share my perspective because its very different than most.

Signs.

The dead, your angels, your spirits, whatever you want to call the people in your life who have passed away, they give you signs from above. It’s different for everyone but when you lose someone you quickly realize the signs they are leaving you. I have a close friend who use to always find pennies, she would pick them up and I always thought it was strange until I realized she lost someone close to her and that was her sign.

My signs from Cooper

Cooper has given me more signs than this blog would know what to do with but I’m going to share my favorites that are constant.

  • 11:11 – pretty much since the night Cooper passed I’ve seen 11:11 every day. Whether the time of day, a license plate, or a random 11:11 post on Facebook. I see it and when most people would say make a wish, I say Coops here.
  • Pennies from heaven – the meaning behind pennies from heaven is that you are highly valued. Your loved one is telling you that you are highly valued and loved. I pick up every penny I find and if you ever empty out my purse you will for sure find at least 5 pennies!
  • 5 – Speaking of the number 5, that was Cooper’s Basketball number so I always see things in fives!
  • Feathers – They say that when angels are near, feathers appear. I see feathers ALL. THE. TIME. From feathers outside on the beach, to feathers flying out of a pillow or couch, to even randomly finding a feather in my shower… no idea how that got there! My angel is obviously near often.
  • Doves – We released doves at Coopers Celebration of Life, ever since then I always see one single dove. Even this morning a dove was sitting on the top of my car as I got in, I like to think he was protecting as I got on the road.
  • His Name – COOPER, I’ve met so many Coopers since he’s passed, at one point I even nannied for a little boy who’s middle name is Cooper. The name was never common until he passed away, now I meet all the Coopers. This passed weekend I was at a restaurant with a friend and of course they had “Coopers Calamari” on the menu!

Yesterday I woke up and could not physically get myself out of bed. It was one of those days where you feel the weight of the world on top of your body so heavily you think you are sinking. But I persevered and not only got up, I got up and did a workout. I mean I could barely get myself in the shower afterwards because I still had NO energy. But I’ve made a promise to not break promises to myself so I had to get up and follow through.

As I went throughout my day it was like Cooper knew this day was going to be rough. First, I get to work and my clients number was 1111, then I am cleaning the reformers (fun fact: I’m a pilates instructor!) and there on the floor I find a penny! Why in the world their was a penny near a reformer I have no idea except that it was Cooper. Finally I head to the dealership to get some work done on my car and the guy helping me out… of course his name is Cooper! Then I find ANOTHER penny as I sit down to wait for my car.

Friends, Cooper is in everything. My favorite part of my brother dying is that he didn’t actually die. He’s living, he’s all around me. The more I choose to accept his signs, the more signs he gives me. I was told that the signs from your loved ones stop after a year or two of grieving them, but I disagree. I think the signs stop when you stop looking for them. I am always looking for Cooper during my days; I listen for him, I look for him, and I am always thinking about him.

Everything in life is perspective, including Coopers death.

My perspective can be negative or my perspective can be positive. I can CHOOSE to be mad at the world for the things I’ve been through or I can choose to become stronger because I’ve been through the pain. Life is all about a choice. A choice in how you choose to live, a choice in what perspective you will choose to see, and a choice in how you choose to react in situations.

I CHOOSE to see the positive in Coopers death.

And I am CHOOSING to be in control of my perspective.

Choose your perspective

Have you ever been to DisneyWorld, or any other large amusement park?

Have you ever watched how efficient the people who control the rides are? They are completely in sync with whats going on around them, each rollercoaster a well oiled machine.

People get off of the ride and immediately more people board, the ride goes and then stops and the same process happens over and over until the clock strikes midnight.

This scenario is a lot like grief. But you are the roller coaster, different emotions board your coaster and then just as fast as they got on, they get off. You never become too familiar with the emotions because of the speed they get on and off. You feel them, then you let them go.

Grieving is just like that, you feel a wave of sadness, and then sadness gets off the ride and is on its way to Toy Story Mania but might have a fast-pass to your coaster later. You never know what emotion will board your ride and you never know how you will react to those emotions. See, you’re not in charge of WHO buys a ticket and rides your ride that day. You don’t get to refuse who gets on the ride, the emotions get on and you have to deal with them for the next 3 minutes.

Thats what makes grief so hard.

As a person who is actively grieving, I have no control over the next emotion that may come my way. However, I do have control of the feeling I choose to react with.

In his book “High Performance HabitsBrendon Burchard states, “My automatic emotions don’t have to be in charge, my feelings are my own… life can feel the way we want it too.”

I take so much from this. My emotions are automatic, they are going to happen, but I don’t have to let them control me. I get to choose the feelings I want to have. In regards to grieving, I say that sometimes we have to take in those automatic emotions. But we get to choose how we take them in, for example, if it is the anniversary of Cooper’s death I know the emotion I will have will be sadness. But I can CHOOSE to do things that make me FEEL joy. I can choose to celebrate his life rather than choose to feel distraught about his death.

Friends, everything is perspective.

Your life, your work, your relationships. It’s all about how you look at things.
If you choose negative, you will see negative. If you choose positive, you will see positive. It’s really as simple as that, even with grief.

If I choose to be sad that Cooper is not here, I will be sad.

If I choose to CELEBRATE the years I got with Cooper, I will be JOYFUL.

Choose your perspective.

Lets talk facts

there is something you should know about me.. i am a firm believer in a good therapy session. at one point in my life i was seeing two different types of therapists TWICE a week. there is something about an hour in that magical room that teaches you just how messed up you are… and then how you can heal from those messes.

i went to therapy while cooper was in treatment and then i reluctantly went back to therapy about a year after he died. and let me tell you, the LAST place you want to walk into after your brother has just died, is your therapists office. but of course she was the first person to call me, and i sent her to voicemail only to walk into her office a year later. and in true kassidy fashion i walked in a hot mess.

it was during this second round of intense therapy that i learned the FACTS about grieving.

YES. everyone grieves differently. YES. your stages are different than others. and YES. you CAN & WILL grieve people and things that are not dead. that’s an important one. a common misconception around the word “grief” is that you are specifically grieving the dead, when actually you can grieve the ending of a relationship, dream job, or even losing your cat. death does not equal grief. loss equals grief.

this chart below is what changed my views on grief. i HATED the “5 stages of grief” chart. i felt like i needed to hit all 5 stages at a certain period of time and that once i moved passed a stage, that was it, i couldn’t move back. this chart explains what grief is and how it feels. like you are in a big, deep hole. all by yourself.

the first 6 months to year of grief you are in shock, you don’t believe the person is dead or that the job is gone. eventually you move down the line and to the very deep crevasses of the hole that is grief. and once you get there you feel the cold dark ground press against your skin, you’ve reached loneliness. in my head, loneliness is a she (so just go along with it). she is big and she is dark and she is scary. she holds you tight like a snake wrapping around a mouse. she tells you that life will not go on without the job or the person or the cat. she tells you that you will be alone and unworthy forever. she reminds you that you are ALONE.

until you realize you’re not.

now you’ve re-entered the world. you’re not on that cold ground anymore you’ve resurfaced just enough to hear the word “new”. that is a word of hope, a word that will remind you where there is grief and sadness, there is light. there is new relationships, new strengths, new patterns, there. is. hope.

it is impossible to find loneliness and hope in the same dark pit.

you must resurface just enough to see the light.

there is no light in loneliness.

i know that because i remember the exact moment i hit her dark floor. i remember hitting the loneliness and thinking i never want to be here again. yet, cooper isn’t the only thing i grieve. i hit the ground of loneliness often, more often than i would like to admit.

but i also choose to fish myself the hell out of there and re-enter into where the light is.

but again, i have to make that choice.

the first time i made that choice it took me 6 months. 6 months in that pit to decide i was going to go where the light was.

and with each loss, its a little easier to choose to get up again. to choose to go to the light.

friends, if you’re sitting on the floor of loneliness. get up. look up. find the light and go towards it.

it will be the hardest thing you ever do but you will not regret it for a second.

you will struggle and it will hurt and then guess what?

YOU. WILL. HEAL. & YOU. WILL. GROW. and you will become new and bright, just like that light.

How did we get here?

do you ever just stop and think, how did we get here?

you feel like you blinked and everything changed.

i recently experienced another huge loss in my family that really made me stop in my tracks.

how did we end up here?

growing up, my family was very close. we would go on family vacations every year and were always a party of 11, seven of us cousins all huddled up at the kids table. family dinners on vacations are still my favorite memories because it was always the place we plotted our next crazy adventure.

when my cousin passed away and I flew to New Jersey I couldn’t help but think how did we end up here? In 2016 when Cooper passed away, we went on a vacation and I remember it being so surreal looking around the dinner table and only seeing six of us, and now, the next trip, there would be five.

realizing we lost two young people sucks, i have no idea how we ended up here or why they were taken at such a young age. i have no idea how we got here and i have no idea when we will catch a break.

“when will we catch a break? isn’t it someone else’s turn to go through hell and back? what did we do to deserve this?”

all thoughts that are completely normal when you lose two young people and are fighting grief.

but it really got me thinking, when WILL we catch a break? when will life be easy and happy, like a scene from a Disney movie?

the answer to that question is, we will NEVER catch a break.

there will never be a time in life where we aren’t thrown a curveball, that is simply what life is. it is a rollercoaster with ups, downs, and even a few corkscrews. it can be thrilling and make you wanna throw up all at the same time. but it is the best rollercoaster you will ever go on.

so, we can choose to continue living in the mindset that things will never get better or we can choose to accept the fact that bad things will come to us, but so will good things. it’s a change in perspective and no one can force you to see it that way, you have to CHOOSE to see life differently. you have to CHOOSE to find joy in pain, in sorrow, in grief. you have to CHOOSE to laugh even when you’re in situations that just suck.

its. a. choice.

lately, i’ve had really bad luck. i’ve been in the hospital, struggling with another loss in the family, struggling with holidays coming up and Cooper not being here, adjusting to my big move, and even an awesome case of athletes foot and a boil on my butt (lol!).

i have NOT been the most positive, happy, or joyful person and it makes me upset because i know it’s my choice to choose joy.

Rachel Hollis, the author of “Girl, Wash Your Face” sums this concept up really nicely, “While you’re not in control of what life throws at you, you are in control of the fight.”

I love that (and her, if you haven’t read her book you NEED to!), you are not in control of whats happening to you, you are only in control of how you react and how you choose to fight.

so, will you fight?

will you fight for joy?

will you fight for love?

will you fight for the life you know you want?

and most importantly, will you fight for you?

… to my angels, all of me loves all of you. #forevertogether

The beginning

March 29th, 2016 7:10 p.m. 

City of Hope

1500 East Duarte Road Duarte, CA 91010

Patient – Cooper Owen

Room 6237

March 29th, 2016 7:10 P.M.
Cooper would take his last breath.

one. last. breath. one. last. beat. 

and it was all over.

three and a half years gone in a blink of an eye. 

cooper left this world very peaceful, i do not believe he was in pain and i KNOW he wanted to be with Jesus, he told me himself. 

he was at peace and he was healed.

but this is where my life shattered into a million pieces and all while Cooper was at peace, i was broken. and that my friends, the brokenness, is the first step to living a life after loss. you sit in the brokenness that is your life and you try to comprehend how to mourn. not only how to mourn the person you just lost but how to mourn the person you were before the loss.

after you lose someone you go through a transition where you’re completely lost you have no idea who you are or where to go. 

i lost someone at 20, an age where you already have no idea what you want or who you are, i was just discovering life all the while i was learning what it’s like to lose life itself. how do you figure out who you are, what you want out of life, AND that life is precious in the matter of months? you don’t. 

see, i spent the first year of grief attempting to figure out the meaning of life and the meaning of death.

i attempted to plan my whole life out so that the anxiety of the unknown would go away. 

and while i was doing that, life was passing me by, i wasn’t living i was planning. 

losing cooper is the hardest thing i have ever gone through.

losing cooper is the hardest thing i am CURRENTLY going through. 

the pain of losing him and the 3 1/2 years that we went through in order to try to save his life still haunt me every day.

but, struggle breeds greatness. 

i will struggle every day for the rest of my life but it is only making me greater. it is only making me stronger.

so if you’re struggling with the fact that you’re struggling, take a second and accept the fact that life is hard and the things that make life hard are the things that are shaping you into who you will become.