The Holidays After Loss

This is for those who have lost loved ones and for those who want to help support someone who has lost a loved one. I wish I could have told those around me before what I needed during this time of year but I was too deep into my grief to do much of anything. I hope this helps someone just a little.

I want you to know, truly know, that whatever you’re feeling right now is okay. If you’re excited about the holidays, that’s okay! If you’re angry and full of rage, that’s okay. If you are numb and have no idea what you’re feeling, that’s okay, too. It’s okay to be and feel whatever it is at this very moment. And it’s okay if those feelings change in an instant. The rollercoaster of life and grief can spin us in motion without us even realizing what’s happening or where we are going. The only true advice I can give for that is to allow yourself to experience those feelings but to let them go as quickly as they come. Holding on too tightly to our emotions is when we become stuck and I’ve been stuck before and it’s excruciating. Let those feelings move through you like a breeze on your cheek, experiencing it without touching it.

This part is for the supporters. Thank you for being there when many times those grieving are left alone because others are unsure what to do. The best course of action is to physically be there just to hold space. Sometimes we don’t know what we want but what we need is to not be detached. Grieving during the holidays can be arduous and lonely. By letting that person know you want to be near may be what gives them the courage to allow themselves to feel hopeful.

Another aspect that many people seem to shy away from, which can be most damaging, is pretending like the ones lost never existed. People don’t want to say their names because they don’t want to upset those grieving but hearing other’s speak their names give their life even more value. Sharing stories of those who are gone breathes life back into their memory and keeps their spirit strong in the hearts who are left behind. Ask them to share their favorite stories with you and ask why it’s their favorite. People live on through our memories because we love them and because we share who they were and who they are to us in those anecdotes. Those are what keep them closest to our hearts.

Life is tough. Feelings are exhausting. But the love we get to share with those near to us is why we are in this wildly, unapologetic world. And even with the constant soreness I feel from losing my two big brothers and Dad, I want to talk about them. I want to make people laugh by telling them all the stupid things they would do during the holidays!

(Bubba, Joshy and Allfaye, we miss you so much. Make sure Momo isn’t getting into too much trouble. I love you more than ever. Lots of XOXO)

The Month of June

The month of June holds layers of love and grief toppled throughout each moment. As each day passes, I have new memories scattered in my brain that I wish were happening. I imagine that they are still here celebrating these times with us all. The “they” I speak of are my dazzling brothers who I painstakingly miss every moment of my life.

Yes, June is Pride month and we have so much to celebrate. At times it hard to imagine Adam is not here to be apart of it. When we lost my brother Adam, everyone lost. The world and the LGBTQIA+ lost a great eccentric, loving and magnificent man.

Being gay in small towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio was no easy feat and notably this was in the late 80s and early 90s. A beautiful queer boy wearing leopard print bikini underwear while doing his little sister’s makeup in a trailer in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. How could you not admire and look up to him? He was amazing.

Adam ended up doing some of the most fierce drag I’ve ever seen! Nikki Monte was a fabulous dancer, entertainer and loved by so many, especially in Buffalo, NY. He won many a crowns and had a standing act at a bar/club called Buddies (I believe that’s the one but I cannot remember). He was never afraid to be who he was and I admire that oh so much. He had a presents about him that made you feel light and airy. I miss how he made me feel. I miss our talks and reminiscing about the stupid things we did. Or how I’m still terrified of people curling my hair because of how many times he burnt me!

June is also the home of my brother Josh’s birthday. It’s memories like these that feel like a kick to the chest, just knocks the wind out of you. You know it’s coming, you see it barreling straight for you but there’s no jumping out of it’s way. This year I took the hit and decided to completely feel it. I went through every photo I own. I laughed, cried and felt sorry for myself, my nieces, my parents, and all the people who miss them dearly.

June holds so much in it. It’s a time to embrace all the shitty things that come with growth. To know that the people of the world can be cruel but that they can also overcome. June is about remembering where we’ve come from and how much farther we still have to go. It’s about never giving up on ourselves and standing for those who can’t. June for me represents strength, pain, light, anger, grief, sibling empowerment, and growth.

So until next June, I will continue to work to advocate for those who need me. For those little boys in leopard print undies just wanting to do makeup and for those who struggle with self love. You are worthy of your own love first and the respect of the world.

Adam, My Brother

“My brother died so leave me alone!” The first time I said those words I was in fourth grade. A group of us were jumping on Jamis’ trampoline and a couple of other boys came up to me and started making fun of me because my brother was gay.

“Your brother is a fucking fag! He sucks dick and puts stuff up his butt!” they yelled at me from the side walk.

I didn’t know what to do. I was embarrassed for both of us. I already knew that he liked boys because, as his baby sis, I just knew him. Before he ran away to Florida as soon as he turned 18 we were together ALL the time. He was my best friend. I just knew who he was fully and completely. But I didn’t know exactly what being gay entailed so the thought of anyone putting “stuff” up their butt seemed horrifying.

I jumped off the trampoline and ran the half block back to my house. We lived in a duplex up the street above a store. I ran up the stairs then I slowly opened the top door and calmly walked in the house. I stood in the hallway and could hear my mother’s voice in the living room trying to explain to someone that everything was fine. “No, seriously, I just clicked over from talking to him. He was just on the other line. Who said he was dead?”

Those boys lived just a block the other direction next to a cousin of mine and ran to tell her about Adam. She picked up the phone immediately and called my mother crying and confused. Why hadn’t anyone told her.

“I have to go. Let me call you back.” my mother told her.

“Abigail Faye, what the hell is going on?” my mother called to me from the living room. As I turned the corner she looked at me and said “Why would you say that Adam died? That is so messed up! What is wrong with you?”

“The West boys were making fun of me because Allfaye’s gay.” I said through tears rolling down my cheeks. “I didn’t know how else to make them leave me alone.” and I ran to my room.

A few minutes later our cousin was there and I was called into the living room. “Little lady, why would you say that Adam died? That’s a terrible thing to say.”

“Tavon and Taft were making fun of me because Allfaye’s gay.” I didn’t have the words to say that I was tired of them always teasing me and hurting my feelings. I didn’t know how to express the anger they filled me with. How I wanted to jump off that trampoline and punch them in the face and kick them while they were on the ground. The rage I felt when I heard their voices overwhelmed my senses.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said something that has stuck with me my entire life. “You should be proud of who your brother is. Don’t ever let someone else make you feel bad about who he is.” and she hugged me. She may have even said more but that’s what I remember the most. “Be proud.”

From that day on I told everyone I knew that my brother was gay if they asked and even if they didn’t. I told them about my gay brother and all the amazing things he did (even though most of them didn’t matter if he was gay or straight). If I was talking to someone who didn’t know my family dynamics then I’d say “my straight brother” or “my gay brother”.

The amount of pride I’ve always held for being the little sister of my two big brothers is powerful. The strength I’ve received from that power has helped me through a lot of turmoil. I’m so thankful Josh and Adam were my big brothers. I love them so.

 

 

***Names of people outside of my siblings have been changed to protect their identity