You never forget the unexpected death of a sibling

How catching a cold was better than therapy

You never forget the unexpected death of a sibling how catching a cold was better than therapy for grieving (1).png

It’s still flu season, unbelievably, and I’m still working in a hospital part-time, so I was really bound to catch something eventually. This is the time of year where you’d be hard pressed to see me at work without a paper-thin yellow mask covering half of my face, but I was getting a little cocky that it was almost March and I had escaped without so much as the sniffles. I thought I was going to make it out of this winter tissue-free. A couple of weeks ago, however, I found myself down for the count with a viral cold that I’m sure could only be rivaled by the man-flu. The typical head cold for me is about 3 days coming, 3 days surviving, and 3 days leaving, but this one really hit with a vengeance. The Katrina of head colds, some might say. On Sunday I had a mildly scratchy throat, nothing crippling, but by Monday morning my entire face was rapidly trying to suffocate me. I have never had such an extended love affair with a humidifier in my entire life. Since I’m a salty millennial, I don’t have the patience to be sick for extended periods of time. I also avoid clinical settings and medications at all costs, unless I’m being paid or actively dying. So, naturally, I turned to PSYCH-K®.

I had no idea what my inflamed sinuses had in store for me. 

Seasonal allergies gone rogue 

As with any physical symptom, it is possible to receive messages from them with the Messages Protocol within PSYCH-K ®. It’s one of my most favorite protocols to utilize in sessions with people who have vague complaints of ailments or situations and just aren’t sure what to balance for. By day 2 of oily mentholatum nose and foggy Sudafed brain, I was fed up with being unable to think clearly or taste my food, so I sought some messages to see if they could help a sister out.

When I’m facilitating for my partners, I always start by asking what their experience of the symptoms is and when they began. In this case, I had a sore throat, equal parts congested and runny nose, headaches, and a general loss of the will to live. These particular symptoms had only started a couple of days prior, but realistically, they were not unlike the seasonal allergies I began taking Zyrtec for a few years prior. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I had also recently become annoyed with taking medications every day and quit taking the Zyrtec. It got me thinking. My “allergies” didn’t hit until I moved to Colorado in late 2014. I had never needed medications while growing up in Texas. And maybe it’s not normal to question why this happened, particularly if you’re a complacent person who just accepts that things happen to them as “a natural part of life,” but I am not a complacent person, nor have I ever claimed to be remotely normal.

With that said, I began asking for messages.

The first message I received was from a line in a section of sample goal statements within my PSYCH-K® materials. These samples are divided into 7 individually themed sections and the protocol rarely directs me there. The goal statement I was led to first was, “The death of a person or a relationship is a natural part of the cycle of life.”

I tested weak to it.

Tissues for your runny nose, and your grief.

One week after I moved to Colorado, I got a phone call from my dad while getting into my car in the grocery store parking lot. I had just run in to buy a few essentials for my new studio apartment. Things like a broom, light bulbs, sponges, candy… I was scheduled to start work that night at my new job in a new hospital and I was pretty nervous about it. I picked up the phone, already skeptical since my dad hadn’t personally called me since 2012. Our interactions have historically been interfaced by my mom.

He didn’t say hello.

With my mom sobbing in the background, he said, “Natalie, it’s your dad. Mark is dead.” 

The next few messages directed me back to the same page. I was led to statements like, “Although I grieve for what I lost, I know that a greater good will follow,” and “I acknowledge my feelings as a necessary part of my healing process,” and they were all testing weak. These sample statements that I was being directed to dealt with grieving and loss - point blank. Mark died 5 years ago, how could his death still be affecting me? And why now? This was supposed to be about my sinuses! I was never the one that dwelled on his death. It was over, it happened, it was a long time coming. I wasn’t even friends with my brother on Facebook at the time he died because I was concerned that his life choices were going to interfere with mine. Regardless, I had always been there for every 3 am call from my mom, asking me to meet her in another Emergency Room, only to find Mark cussing out the nurses, and her, about being committed for inpatient psychiatric care again.

He wanted help just as much as he didn’t want to admit that he had a problem.

Multiple inpatient commitments had seemed to do nothing to curb his inclination towards elicit substances - it only pissed him off further. He struggled with severe depression (usually exacerbated by relationships), borderline bipolar tendencies, and incredible substance abuse, all intensifying over the course of his 20’s. We were all exhausted. His story was nothing new.

But when I got that phone call, I was furious.

The unplanned solo journey.

Mark was 2 years older than me. He died at age 26. A technological prodigy, he didn’t go to college and still managed to land a job in web design right after high school, earning well over 80k a year. He did really well for himself. When my parents’ marriage crumbled during my junior, his senior, year, our family was divided. My younger brother and I moved to San Antonio for a 6-month stint with my mom to be closer to family, while my dad moved into a studio apartment with Mark. Because of the financial difficulties our family had endured prior to the moves, Mark had already been living on his own for a little while. He had a car and a full-time job. He was a senior in high school, supporting himself, and then our dad, but all of us shouldered the weight of our families’ dismemberment in equally difficult, separate ways.

Mark on the right, our cousin on the left.

Mark on the right, our cousin on the left.

During those years, instead of clinging to each other, we all parted. Having already relocated back to the Dallas area, I moved out at 17 to live with a boyfriend. My mom got a small, two-bedroom apartment on the south side of town for her and my younger brother. My dad and Mark upgraded to a two-bedroom of their own in a more north, neighboring city. Soon after, I went off to college. Consumed with studying, partying, and working multiple jobs, I can count on one hand the amount of times I saw my own family in four years. The pressure to survive was enough to keep a wedge between us, especially for me, knowing I didn’t have a room to come home to if I failed. It was a tough time financially and emotionally for everyone. We didn’t have relationships with each other, which is a strange thing to say when you consider that you have known someone your entire life.

Mark, me, and our dad, circa 1991

Mark, me, and our dad, circa 1991

Had we not been so strained, maybe I would’ve seen the signs. The worsening slurred speech on weekdays, the excessive partying with a group of sketchy people I knew better than to hang out with in school, the passive aggressive Facebook status updates that blurred the lines between victimization and cries for help. Maybe I could’ve been there to better support him instead of waiting until the last couple of years when I moved back to the area. Who knows what could have happened if I had been there? However, I have never been one to dwell on the “should-haves.” I strongly believe in fate and free-will. If my 20’s have taught me anything, it’s that each of us, individually, signed up for our lives before coming here. Our souls chose the meat suit we arrived in, the struggles we face, and the people we experience it with, in order for us to grow. We are destined to have many celebratory successes, as well as disheartening failures, for the sake of our own evolution. He was, and had always been, on his own journey. And there are two occasions we all must ultimately face in this life alone - birth and death. He had failed, no doubt in the most disheartening way, and effectively chosen to endure the latter before the rest of us. In the early morning of October 13th, 2014, after a night of unknown amounts of drug use, Mark unintentionally overdosed, aspirated, and passed away, taking all of his successes and failures with him.

“Keep me in your memory - leave out all the rest.”

After almost an hour of balancing for these messages around grief, with the better part of a toilet paper roll calcified on my desk, I was spent and still wildly congested. Although, from my cold or crying, it was hard to say at that point. The final message I balanced for ended with a process in PSYCH-K® called the “Stressful Scenario” balance. This process allows you to hit an innumerable amount of individual goal statements by reprogramming an entire stressful or traumatic event in your life, without saying a word about it. This event, for me, was the funeral.

Immediately following the phone call from my dad that October day, I phoned into work and flew home. The next week was a blur of funeral flowers, unplanned family time, and sympathy texts. My best friend from middle school even came to the wake. To my subconscious mind, I was still there, sitting in the middle of a cold front-row bench, in the chapel of the funeral home in my home town, holding my younger brother’s hand while watching my dad recount Mark’s short life through stoicism and silent tears. I was still there, in my parent’s living room, staring down a large silver urn on the mantle that held my older brother’s remains, while making uncomfortable small talk with extended family members. I was still there.

I quietly reprogrammed that week and the funeral in my subconscious mind so that I was able to come to a place of peace and non-attachment around the entire event. I can’t go back and change anything that happened to him, or in the years leading up to his death. I could, however, be free from subconsciously living in that experience over and over, along with how it was still showing up in my life today (all signs pointing to seasonal allergies). Time will tell if I ever hit up a bottle of Zyrtec again, and I could never forget him or his huge laugh. Being free from the traumatic effects of his death does not negate his life or his memory. He is always with me, I’ve seen the signs, and I know I will see him again someday after a solo trip of my own 

One thing is for sure, though… I have never, ever, been so grateful for a head cold.