the summer of loss

August 7, 2014 |  Category:   family life




This has been a summer of loss. Another member of our family passed away yesterday – a woman who I grew fond of and who–interestingly–grew closer to our family by reading this blog. She used to comment here regularly up until recently when she became ill and would email wondering if I was ok when I didn’t post everyday. After it was clear that she wasn’t up to traveling to Washington this summer as she did every summer where we’d meet, we talked about meeting up in Hawaii instead next summer where she lived. I thought about her yesterday when I read that Hawaii was bracing itself for 2 hurricanes, but I didn’t expect this bit of news quite yet. Marie, I’m sorry that we won’t have a chance to meet up next summer as we talked about in our emails.


My side of the family had been spared the devastation of loss up until my brother died. In that respect we’ve been fortunate, but I think it’s also why my brother’s death was so profound. Everyone felt the shock of it during our memorial at the cemetery when our whole entire family gathered for our first funeral. We have a family plot reserved for several members of our family, but nobody expected that the first name to be etched on a grave would be one of the youngest, or that our 92 year old grandmother would survive her grandchild.
In a lot of ways the last 2 weeks have been harder than the 2 months following the initial shock. That’s why I embraced office life this summer even though the idea of working in one would have been a deal breaker for me in the past. I don’t really think about things other than the work when I’m there, but when I’m home, I often find myself just staring into space. I know my mom feels the same way. Certain days just catch you off guard though, and I found myself crying on the subway Monday morning on the way to the doctor’s office rather randomly. But…I thought I was starting to move past all this? But no. When you live through a tragic and traumatic death, there really is no easy way to move past anything.
A friend of mine recently asked me if I felt like an only child now. My answer was yes, I do.

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  • Jae August 7, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Hi Jenna,
    I’ve been a long time follower of your blog, and I just wanted to say how much of that 2nd to the last line really resonated with me.

    My mother passed away 3 years ago exactly, and I still shed tears ever so often. Her death was tragic, and something I still try to work through each day. Sometimes a piece of music, or a certain conversation will take me back, and I will be flooded with old memories I try not to think about too often.

    Keep fighting the good fight. Keep writing.

    Sincerely, Jae

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Thank you jae.

  • Vicki in Michigan August 7, 2014 at 8:05 am

    I am very sorry for your most recent loss.

    One of the things I find hard to take in is that there are no straight lines. Up and down, back and forth, easier and harder, better and worse. That’s the reality I can’t seem to reliably assimilate.

    Trending, perhaps, in one direction or another, but almost always with a lot of ups and downs between here and there……

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Vicki, yes, you are so right and I like your line analogy.

  • Mina August 7, 2014 at 9:14 am

    I am sorry for your loss, Jenna.

    I tragically lost a friend ten years ago, and I firmly believe that my response to her death shaped a lot of my current life. At first, that meant reckless abandonment of the traditional lifestyle, but then it entailed a life-changing move to Cairo and an exploration of all sorts of adventures I might have been too scared to do before.

    I recently finished Gladwell’s “David and Goliath.” I didn’t expect to like it, but he explores the extraordinary things that people have gone on to do after experiencing the trauma of the death of a loved one. It was unexpectedly encouraging because it underscored this idea that death, while never welcome and always tragic, has immense powers to touch the depths of a human soul and cause it to move mountains. I pray that your grief journey will eventually take you to those moments where you feel your brother encouraging you to embrace life even more passionately.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Events like this do shape your life going forward. How can we be the same person? I don’t think we can.

  • Lakshmi August 7, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Oh Jenna, grief is its own thing. It will make its way through your system and out. Don’t try to hasten it. Just observe it. Emotions have their own pace and rhythm.

    Every once in a while, I find myself weeping during meditation, and I wonder – huh, where did this come from? I am not feeling any kind of sorrow! Well, maybe it is some remnant stowed away somewhere within…

    On that note, I would suggest learning to meditate. It is such a relief, such comfort and solace…

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      Meditation has been in conversation a lot actually because someone that I am working with right now does a lot of meditating. That said, it’s always been hard for me to do it, and I have tried it in the past. He said something recently that really struck a chord. I asked him if the goal was to free your head of all your thoughts, but he said no…actually while mediating, the goal (for him) was to learn to have compassion for yourself.

      • Lakshmi August 11, 2014 at 9:55 am

        Well, I started to meditate for probably the same reasons but now I feel differently. I meditate for its own sake. There are no objectives, no goals to achieve. I am not looking for any results either. However, the truth is that my daily practice of meditation has brought me such contentment and comfort. And a feeling of “I am okay, this is all okay,”

        Also, I totally recommend taking a class. It is not a technique to learn off a book or a CD. Instruction, as simple and elementary as it may be, is key.

  • Isahrai August 7, 2014 at 11:13 am

    You are loved. By your family, by your friends, by these strangers who know you oh so well on this oh so weird internet. A hug to you today and every day.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you so much for that sentiment. xo

  • angie August 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    so sorry for all your loss, jenna. i understand the feelings you’ve experienced and the motions we go through when this happens. they become a part of your memories, but a different kind of memory that can feel just as fresh as yesterday but at the same time so distant you could hardly believe time has been moving on and you’re constantly playing catch up to heal. i hope you’ll eventually find peace within the memories of your lost loved ones.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Yes, this is so true. I love reading people’s different interpretations of grief. Thank you for that.

  • Marlena August 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    I am so sorry, Jenna. I know we don’t know one another, but my heart aches for you and your family.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Thank you Marlena.

  • Desiree August 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    I am so sorry for your losses. I can not even imagine what you have gone through. Your words touch my heart. Make me realize how fleeting and brittle life can be. How much we take for granted and how I worry over so many small and silly things most of the time. How important is is to spend time with loved ones and tell them you love them and show it as well. Life is beautiful but love hurts when it is taken away from us to fast and too early.

    Take Care and my deepest condolances for your loss of your friend and your brother.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks so much Desiree for this lovely comment.

  • Jhope August 7, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Jenna, I don’t have any new words to add, I just want to keep sending love your way.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks, J.

  • Brenda Bergen August 7, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I’m with Jhope…no new words….just more love your way.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Thanks Brenda. Hope the summer is going well for you.

  • Claudia August 7, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    Hey Jenna. So sorry for all of this. Sending light & love.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Thank you Claudia.

  • Katie August 7, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    A lovely comment by Lakshmi. Grief just is. My experience of trying to understand and work through grief intellectually has prolonged and heightened the raw pain of it … Perhaps sitting with it and letting it move through you is really the only way. Loss doesn’t move with time, it does’t become less, because your love doesn’t become less. But other moments and memories grow around the loss and cushion it, sometimes even beautifully. All the best with it Jenna.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      These are beautiful words, Katie. Thank you for that.

  • Joo August 8, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Hey there, this summer has been a tough one for you… I hope you know that by sharing what you are going through, it may be cathartic for you and for many others. Hang in there, lady. We, i.e. your blog family, are thinking of you.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Yeah, it’s been one hell of a summer. I love thinking about this space as my “blog” family thank you! A smaller, more intimate version, at that.

  • amy August 8, 2014 at 7:33 am

    oh jenna – i am so sorry for your loss (again)! my heart breaks for you because i understand tragedy and how it suddenly appears out of the blue and doesnt seem to go away. we can try to find comfort in that family members and friends are now at peace, but that doesnt really help when you are grieving and missing them. i am sending you and your family lots of strength, love and positive energy. xxxx amy

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      Thank you so much Amy.

  • Bobbi August 8, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss Jenna. I am sending love to you and your family.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks Bobbi.

  • Dee Dee August 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Dear Jenna,
    I am so sorry for your loss and the grief that loss brings. The path of grieving takes time to travel on. Some days feel normal and other days you feel numb, and still other days you feel like crying. Please be kind to yourself as you travel this road. No one can say how long the process takes. And frankly, I do not think we ever just “get over it.” Things may feel less painful with time, that’s true, but your heart will always miss the people who are gone. It’s okay to feel everything you’re feeling, including frustration over the whole process and wishing you didn’t have to go through it. My prayers are with you today.

    • Jenna August 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      No, you’re right. We don’t “get over it”. Thanks for your comments Dee Dee. Always nice to read them.

      • Dee Dee August 10, 2014 at 2:20 am

        You are so very welcome Jenna. I’m wishing you well…

  • Audrie August 9, 2014 at 1:57 am

    My heart bleeds for you. My family lost two very beloved and close members within a year, and that was so devastating. Two years on and I still burst into tears without prompting because I can’t believe either of them are gone. We’ve lost several family members, but their deaths were so unexpected and shocking that I sometimes forget that they’re gone.

    My thoughts will be with you in this awful time, and just know you’re not alone. Grief is a terrible thing that never really goes away… it just gets easier to deal with in time. But I see it as a testament to the love we have for these loved ones.

    • Jenna August 11, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Thanks so much Audrie.

  • Hannah August 10, 2014 at 7:00 am

    I’ve been thinking of you and your family so much this summer. Sending much love from across the sea xx

    • Jenna August 11, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Thank you for keeping my family in your thoughts, Hannah.

  • Rachel August 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I’ve only had a few experiences with death in my life – the sudden death of my teenage cousin, both of my grandfathers, my boyfriend’s friend – but they have each been so profound in their own way, and they continue to affect me years later. I don’t think they’ll ever stop being a part of who I am, and I actually hope they don’t, because that means that while they might not physically be around any more, the memory of them is still alive. My cousin died around ten years ago, and there are still times when I cry about it. Life is beautiful and horrible, and death is a part of it…it’s so hard to grasp sometimes. Anyway, your honesty is so wonderful, but I’m so sorry that it has to come from such a sad place. Much love to you and your family.

  • SY August 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm


    My brother died from a viral infection to his heart while we were in college…the loss was sudden and quite unexpected. Like you, there were two of us, now there’s just me. After 20+ years, it’s still hard to say that I’m an only child, because, although I am now, I wasn’t and it feels like a betrayal saying that my brother never existed. Although our situations are different, I do see some similarities. All I can tell you in this process is that everyday will get easier and there will not be a day that your brother won’t be in your thoughts. Through this process, I’ve seen how strong and vulnerable my parents are, but I’ve also learned that life is too short not to be lived. May your healing include forgiveness, love and good memories of your brother.

  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag August 13, 2014 at 1:50 am

    Oh Jenna. I have no productive words. Thank you for sharing your blog with us. I wish I could say something comforting to you, but others have said it much better. Is it beyond weird to say that your words comfort me?? Be well, faraway friend I’ve never met.

  • Mary Anne August 16, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Hi Jenna Sorry to hear about another family member passing away. Your words are so poignant and real and i definitely relate to them. My dad passed away over 10 years ago but i remember my friend’s grandfather died a month after my dad died and I remember the tears were following hard at his funeral. It was a realease as I think we were more in shock at his as he died suddenly. I also remember feeling overwhelmingly sad at random times. It’s very sad you feel like an only child. I cannot imagine losing a sibling. Lots of love to you all especially your mother as I cannot imagine losing a child . Keep writing your feelings. As I’ve said before you are the only original blog I’m still reading and i dont comment often but I think of you and your family. In a way I’ve grown up with you all. Big hugs xxoo