How those grieving work to emotionally survive the holidays

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Robby's Voice, Tags: , ,

griefThis week is another Christmas, and for those of us living with loss, it is always a challenging week.  The emotions of the season wreak havoc with our hearts and emotions.

I think back to 2011 and the complete mental storm we were living in.  We had little desire to go anywhere, and really just wanted to stay in the house.  We, however, chose to try and do normal and that was not easy.  People ask questions like “how are you doing?”  In our heads we said, “how the hell do you think?”  Then there were those that were nothing short of curious.  Easily handled with a verbal ripping and maybe a good punch to the head; but not really options, and because we were so lost in our own heads, just dismissing those conversations and walking away seemed a better option.

Then there was gift giving, and watching younger nephews and nieces, eagerly and happily opening presents.  Not their fault as they were kids. They should have been doing that.  But everywhere we looked, people were happy, people were smiling, people were celebrating Christmas and we were just hoping to survive.

Why wasn’t everyone in the same hell as we were

Simple. Life goes on for everyone else.  And yes, it does go on for us as well, but it just seems stuck during the holidays.  Emotions are high.  I struggled to feel joy and happiness.  How could I?  Wouldn’t that be unfair to Robby.  There was calm and there were tears, and none of it was predictable or controllable.  In short, I was a mess and I think I can say that for all of us.

There are so many that I have met this year that will be entering into this holiday season for the first time, trying to figure it out, trying to get a hold on their emotions, and for the most part, just trying to survive it.  I figured I would help myself a bit and share some thoughts on what we have learned…because I need to prepare every year as well.

Emotional preparation for the holidays

  1. It Is How You Feel – People that are not living it don’t really understand it. That’s OK, we wouldn’t want them too. If you don’t feel like doing something or going somewhere, then don’t. You have to take care of yourself and your family. In short, it is OK to be all about your feelings.
  2. It Is How They Feel – If you choose to go somewhere, understand that people will be celebrating, laughing and enjoying the season. Their lives move forward while ours seem stuck in “that” place.
  3. They will ask “how you are,” and in your head you will say “how do you think I am?” They are either genuinely concerned, being polite or morbidly curious. Prepare yourself in advance for how you will answer that question and stick to it. If you don’t want to talk about it, then let them know you don’t want to talk about it. Hard enough just being there.
  4. Know the magic – Have a word or a look. When things are getting rough, anyone in the family can go to the “word,” and it is a signal that you need to leave the room or the party. Sometimes just using the word is enough to bring some calm back.

In the end, emotions will be uncontrollable, and whatever you decide to do; IT IS OK.  Don’t keep it bottled in; journal, cry, step aside, whatever works for you, but allow the emotion to get out.  Most important, know that you are not alone.  We are all out here together, praying for each other, lifting each other, supporting each other.  Together, we will make it through.


Read more

Venturing into the light of life

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

vacation brandtsVacation. We all need one, even us.

Last week, the Brandt family took some time away and went on vacation; the first vacation we have taken without Robby. I started to write this post last week from the third floor of the home we rented in the Outer Banks and realized we live in a world where I have to wait until we return before I can let people know we are gone – now that is crazy!

I did want to take some time and share our thoughts on this trip as it is another “first” that we are encountering, and firsts are part of what we all (that have lost) live with regularly.  As I talk with families, we spend a lot of time talking about firsts.

So here we go.

The vacation house

I have to acknowledge that there was some awkward trepidation in the house as this week approached.  It is just different to be doing a family vacation without Robby as he was part of every family vacation we took, and all the places we went to for the “first” time.  Yet, I think in a way we all needed a get-away, and at some point, we are all confronted with these firsts.
The questions are really simple; will you take that step and do it and if so, how will you handle it?  I can’t answer that one for you; that is all up to each of us.

You may not be moving…but the world is

What I do know is that the world moves on, whether we want it to or not, it continues to spin and the sun comes up every day.  We choose to take the next step or not and if I knew the how’s or why’s around that, I would bottle it and sell it.  What I do know is that the choice is each of ours and nobody has the right to tell us to make it or when to make it.  Grief walks its own path on its own time, and it impacts each of us in its own way.  It is ours and it is personal.

I do believe that sometimes we need a nudge or just have to have faith and force ourselves to take that step back out into the light.  When we get there, the world is undoubtedly different, painfully incomplete and foggy, but it is there.  And so for us, the world last week was the Outer Banks and we will build new memories and lament the fact that Robby is not with us the way we would like (wait for the Barney blog).  It is all part of our new reality.

Comfort in others

We are not alone, and we don’t walk this path alone and neither are any of you reading this.  Together, we are strong for each other as we continue to venture out into the light –


Read more

Memories: Unexpected, Unexplainable, Treasured

Posted by Anne Browning, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

This was Robby’s car, and with everything Robby, there was a story. robby car

On his way to a rehab session, Robby had a fender bender.  Unfortunately, the damage to the car was far greater than the value of the car so we decided not to have it fixed.  We gave it to my sister and her husband as he tinkered with cars as a hobby.  Four years later, I received this picture from him, as he finally finished repairing Robby’s car (it will always be his).  The picture came over as a text message, and the wave of emotion that hit me was staggering.  I feel the need to share these as I know many of you struggle with seeing these things as well.  There is also a great story to tell and I have to share it!

The moment I saw this picture, my mind hit hyper-drive, and a flood of memories cascaded, one at a time, vivid as the day they happened.  I remembered the day I saw this car on the lot and knew that the red convertible Saab was all Robby.  I remember bringing it home and seeing the look on his face (he paid for a large part of it; it was his car!).  I remember how he washed it every day and how he lived to ride with the top down.  This car was freedom, pride and personal for Robby.

I remember receiving a call while I was in Boston as he told me about the accident; it was OK because he was OK.  I remember the sadness when he knew that fixing the car was not an option.  I remember seeing the car at my sisters, a few weeks after the funeral, as all of these memories hit me for the first time.

I know that this was not an easy job for my brother-in-law.  But I also know that I don’t know how I feel about it.  I don’t know that I want anyone driving it.   Don’t know that I want to see it on the road or in a driveway.  I don’t know that I want anything but for it to be destroyed.  I don’t know how I feel about it at all, but I do know that when I see this car, it is my trigger and the memories all come alive.  What I do know is that all these feelings and the lack of “knowing” are OK; they are normal and they are my feelings.

This is part of what we live with – think about everything in your home or life that reminds you of your kids.  For those that have lost a child, every one of those things resurrects memories and far too often we just don’t know how we feel about them.


Read more

Hope Where There Seems to be None

Posted by Anne Browning, With 0 Comments, Category: Announcements, Tags: , , ,

Last Friday, I met an incredible lady. She is a nurse by trade. We will  call her Linda. As we talked business, she asked me about my bracelet (green RV band). I shared our experience briefly and then she shared hers.

Many years ago, Linda’s high school son was involved in an auto-accident. He was thrown from the car while the person next to him was tragically killed. The following week, her daughter was kidnapped while running (also in high school). As she and the police frantically searched, she was led to a place in the woods very near to where her daughter was being kept, tied to a tree by her assailant. Shortly thereafter, she was seen by the police airplane that was searching the area. When they found her, she was still tied to the tree, stabbed and shot five times and clinging to life.

A couple years later, her son, an all-American kid that was anti-drugs his entire life, developed a drug addiction – a  battle that ensued for years.

During the course of these years, Linda was active in kidnapping legislation and worked with the state on issues surrounding these crimes. She and her fiance worked with young people impacted by addiction while they fought their own personal battle with the disease.

Then, in one year, Linda lost her fiance, her mother, and her sister, and the battle with addiction continued.

This was the second time I met Linda, and after our first meeting, I was struck by her energy and positive attitude. You could just feel it. As I listened to her life experiences, I wondered to myself; HOW? Then, the answer.

Today, Linda’s daughter has fully recovered (physically), and works for a Prosecutor. Her son called one day out of the blue and said he was checking into a rehab. When she asked why, his response was “I am an addict…”

And the HOW? She said it several times, after she described each incident – “I GAVE IT UP TO GOD.”


Read more