Unfortunate instances occur in life.
You lose your grandmother's diamond earrings, your dog runs away or your alarm doesn't go off on your first day of work.
Or, more serious instances occur.
You lose your grandmother to an illness, your dog never returns or you lose your job. Perhaps the most serious instance to occur is losing a loved on. That one trumps them all.
I lost my younger brother approximately two years ago when he was 16 years old. He was riding his bike on a country road and was struck by a pick-up truck and killed upon impact.
What makes this worse is, it occurred on my birthday. What makes this even more worse is, my sister lost her twin.
It sounds like an impossible combination of unfortunate events. To tell you the truth, it is.
I was a sophomore away college when this happened, thinking my own life was falling apart. I found out the guy I had lost my virginity to had gotten into a relationship. I was wrapped up in my own pitiful cocoon, and it was about to get even worse.
I had some friends drive me home, and they helped me stop at random rest areas along the way. They let me hold on to them as I hobbled to the bathroom. With each slow, wobbly step I took, I wished this wasn't real.
I arrived at home and tried to salvage whatever amount of sleep I could. The next few days were a blur. It included hundreds of visits from his friends, family and people I hadn't even met before.
It included visits to the funeral home, picking out urns and caskets, sorting through pictures and copious amounts of Advil PM just to make it through the night.
After the funeral, I ended up taking three weeks off of school to spend time with my family. On the third week, I decided to attempt to go back to school.
I made it three days before my family came to move me back home. Luckily, my professors were understanding enough to let me finish out the semester at home.
It wasn't until I had finished the semester that the real grieving process began for me. I began to create the mantra that I now base my life upon: He's not here to live life any more, so I'll live it for him.
I went on drives with my best friend to stalk the guy she had been talking to, letting my hair whip and twirl in the wind. I was drowning my sorrows in a blaring bass and letting tears drop onto my burrito as I realized he wasn't ever coming back.
I dyed my hair blue. I joined Tinder and basked in the endless flattery that was probably insincere, but I still believed anyway.
My dad got me a summer job at the factory he worked at. I had my sights set on making bank for my upcoming apartment. I put all of my energy into moving back to school, in a place of my own, and creating a life that my brother wasn't able to live anymore.
I made all of this reality. I moved back to school, moved into my apartment, made tons of friends in my major and got a kickass job a record store that I adored. And yet, I still felt empty.
I met my current boyfriend, Chris, six months after my brother's accident, and I finally found my missing piece. I slowly stopped attending classes and started to fall in love.
As love goes, it didn't come without a catch. He lived three hours away.
And as my mantra goes, I wasn't going to let distance stop me from what could be the love of my life. I decided to take the big leap and make a change.
I transferred schools, changed my major and cut off 11 inches of my hair. Two years later, we are still together and madly in love (most of the time.)
We live in a shabby chic apartment that could put Carrie Bradshaw to shame. We also just rescued the cutest dog alive, whose occupation is stealing hearts.
Chris has made me realize there are things in life that are still worth living for. We go to museums, visit farmer's markets, take walks on nature trails and go see movies we wouldn't ordinarily see.
I took him to see the ocean for the first time. You don't realize how lucky you are until you combine your life with someone else's and become twice as lucky.
I still cry. With each milestone in life, I wish more and more that my brother was here to witness them.
But, these sad and angry tears have now turned into tears of happiness. I'm happy I got the chance to know him. I'm happy to be related to such a selfless and caring person who was just starting to discover himself. I'm happy to say I was — and will always be — his big sister.
Grief works in weird ways. My way of dealing with it over the past two years isn't ideal for everyone. But it's worked for me, and I'm still dealing with it every single day.
There's no timeline for grief. There's no right or wrong way to do it.
Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut and make those crazy decisions. Because usually, those decisions end up being your best ones.