What No One Ever Told Me

Last Valentine’s—that  rose-scented, chocolate-infused day, God reached a hand down,  scooped my brother’s soul into his Godly palm without asking if we were ready, if Rocky was ready, to transition from this world into the next.


He was plucked from our lives without any warning at all, leaving a jagged hole in our wholeness, sending tremors through our family while hairline cracks mushroomed through our “ROCK” solid foundation.

better hairline cracks

The past nine months have crawled by in a blurry, non-linear haze. I’d attach wheels to the next three, hitch them together like freight train cars, and shove them over a cliff if it would speed up time, whiz me past the four season mark a little more quickly. Many who’ve lost deeply have offered me this wisp of advice, “Give yourself 4 seasons. It will get better.”  What no one told me was all that happens while you’re waiting around for those seasons to hurry up and come, to hurry up and go.

Fall leaves

No one ever told me that each and every time my family gathered, we’d walk along the sharp and fragile edges of those cracks, like high-wire acrobats without a balancing stick or a safety net, teetering so close to the edge as memories crowded around us like ghosts on the haunt.  We’d ask ourselves, I’d ask myself, Do I whisper my brother’s name, “Rocky…” Do I stand in the center of my family and scream “ROCKY” as if I were on a mountain top, hollering to God and the angels and the spirit guides.  Or do I hold his name in my mouth,  like a bitter slice of apple,  and pretend, as my mother does, that Rocky’s living in Bali, riding motor scooters, twirling his four-year old daughter around in his arms, dancing to the theme song of Frozen, humming, “Let it go…”; and  in the evening, he’s cuddling up with his wife as they write their bucket list, and dream the dreams they’ll create over the  next forty years of their lives together.

With all that nobody told me, I attended a 35 hour training at the Center for Grieving Children; a safe space where I could find a few answers, do my own grief work, and eventually help others do theirs. In one of the day long training sessions, we were led through a guided imagery meditation and treaded back in time when our loved ones hearts still beat.

I landed in my childhood, sitting at the kitchen table, inhaling the scent of eggs, American cheese and fried spam, stacked atop each other between two halves of an English muffin—my mom’s famous breakfast sandwiches that she made for us on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I heard myself ask my brother for a bite. He laughed, rolled his eyes, and handed me the sandwich.  “Why can’t you just get your own,” he’d always ask. “Because they’re too fattening,” I’d say. “I just want one bite.”

breakfast sandwich

During that guided tour into the past where my brother shared his breakfast sandwiches and hot dogs and meatballs and French fries, I felt the loss in the marrow of my bones, because to “feel is to heal,” which is the whole point of the guided imagery, to feel the loss with all the senses.

But still, no one stood at the front of the room and said, Let me tell you how to balance along those thin fragile cracks; let me show you how to fill the hole in what used be the wholeness.

holeI’m not talking about someone reminding me of how our faith will and can and does carry us through loss, like a beacon guiding ships safely into the harbor. Check. I’ve got that one covered. I believe in the beauty, and goodness of the afterlife. I believe our spirits live on.  I’m talking about those of us whose souls are still contained inside our skin and bone and blood. Inside bodies that feel loss, and love, and joy, and sadness, and anger, and all that comes with being human before we make that everlasting transition over to the other side.

And no one talked about the untalkable (this isn’t a word, but it should be), the unspeakable truth that stung my skin like frostnip; the truth that a sudden loss will change everything and everyone in your family in that millisecond for good; the truth that if I can lose one sibling, I can lose another and will. It’s not a question of if, but a matter of when.  The truth of how in those early months I’d clasp my hands together  and pray to God to reach down and take me next, because I never want to feel that heart-searing  pain again— that depth of loss. I still don’t, but I no longer pray for God to snatch my soul anytime soon, because here’s also what no one ever told me but what I’ve learned since my brother’s death.

After I crawled through the tunnel of shock, and waded through the neck-high water of acute grief, I found myself standing on the cracked foundation of my new and altered reality. A place where the sun’s lost some of its shine; the clouds are a few shades grayer, more ominous; the rain falls a bit harder, lasts a bit longer, and carries with it a deeper meaning, because my own heart weeps, without warning, in that same way as I bend my head and stare into the hole my brother’s left behind.


I feel the coolness rise from the earthy depths and know I have a choice, we all do: to climb down, curl up tight inside a hardened heart with each loss we endure like a periwinkle snail, or climb up, spread arms and hearts wide to joy, to heartache, like a parched seedling welcomes the rain, the sun, because it needs both to grow.

Here, nine months later, I tip my head to my dimmer sun, open my arms wide to love, to life itself. Gratitude swells and rises up through my body as I maneuver my way along those cracks because I had time with a brother who has given me the courage to say yes to joy, to heartache.   Without you, Rocky, I would not know the full depth of one without the other.

arms open wide


Note: originally published on Opentohope.com on 11/24/14


38 thoughts on “What No One Ever Told Me

  1. Oh, my sweet love! You are a tremendous woman who recognizes the intense pain and joy of living each moment in itself. I hope we can all learn to thank Rocky for the gifts he gave us. I love you to the moon and back. ♡

  2. —-Susan,
    GORGEOUS, Stunning, Brilliant, Heartfelt, Bone-Chilling, poetic writing.
    I love love love this post.
    Your words fill me up.
    You are an inspiration to me, my dearest….& to so many people reading this.
    Love you from Minnesota. xxxxxx

    1. Will we walk along the edge of the cracks tonight when we’re together again? You put into words what I feel! I love you

    2. I love you Kim…this is how I feel every time I read your posts…thank you for always taking the time to read and for reaching out oh so long ago and helping me through this and sharing your words, you story with me. I will always be immensely grateful that Rocky led me to you. xoxoxo

  3. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once, Susan. You are walking through the fire, my friend. Thank you for sharing and baring your soul to us and to those who are going through the same thing, each in their unique way. Hugs and love to you. xoxo

    1. Thanks, Kelly…one day, one step at a time. I’m LOVING your hummingbird pictures, by the way. stunning, beautiful, joyful and always always make me smile. Love and hugs back to you! xoxo

  4. I felt like I was sitting at the table with you and Rocky and I asked if I could have a bite, too. 😉 And, it was such a vivid moment, I could see the expression on his face as I asked and we all burst out in laughter…tis true in that moment he was with me, too. Beautiful writing, Susan.

    1. I’m not sure who left this message…because it’s anonymous…so I’ll just say thank you for taking the time to read and respond…and I’m happy that you felt there with us…wanting one bite of Mom’s delicious breakfast sandwiches! xoxox

    1. Thanks sweet Denise. I wish the very same for you during the holiday season and always. Sending you big love and hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. All my love back, Susan

  5. So happy to see you writing again, my sweet sister. I am in awe of how you much you share of your healing heart. Love, love, love, always.

    1. Angela, thanks my sister…did have a bit a block going for that past couple of months…this was a tough one to write. I love you and you’ve helped in my healing. My friend, my sister. I love you.

  6. An unbearable pain that feels like it can eat us from the inside out…. It ‘cracks’ us open. Your writing is beautiful and speaks to what the feelings are….XOjulia

    1. Julia,
      Thank you…”can eat us from the inside out” “Cracks us open…” beautifully said. One of my favorite quotes is by Tennyson: “The Shell Must Break Before the Bird Can Fly.” Exquisite, right? Freedom (as we know) is knowing there is no ending…and I get this…and yet, I have to write about the human experience…and I know you understand. We must see each other after the holidays.

      All my love,

  7. “Here, nine months later, I tip my head to my dimmer sun, open my arms wide to love, to life itself. Gratitude swells and rises up through my body as I maneuver my way along those cracks because I had time with a brother who has given me the courage to say yes to joy, to heartache. Without you, Rocky, I would not know the full depth of one without the other.”

    Ohhh…LOVE this honey! And I love YOU! Thank you for this beautiful post. Thank you for lighting the way ahead for me as well. Each loss is different, but it is comforting for me to know that everything i experience is okay and part of the process. BIG hug.

    1. Yvon,
      I think about you every day and MISS you. I hope you are enjoying the bliss and beauty of your niece….that new and beautiful life. And I do hope we can google hangout soon. I love you, too…and thank you for reading:-) I always look forward to your comments. xoxoxxoxo

  8. My dear Susan, I keep thinking of you and your family. I wish there was some Miraculous way to ease the pain, the loss that you feel whenever someone close to you dies. Every day seems to trigger a memory, a scent, a feeling of love and loss. It’s important for us to keep the memories, keep the traditions, keep talking, writing, living and loving, it really does get easier. I won’t say the raw pain ever goes away because it’s always just under the surface. But in time it seems to get better.

    Your words really have a resonating impact on me. You’ve captured how I’ve felt so many times in thinking about my sister & mother.

    Know you are loved by family, friends and followers. Keep the faith Susan. Hugs and love, Theresa

    1. Theresa,
      Thank you for this comment and understanding. Every day does trigger a memory…out of nowhere most of the time. Writing my way through the roller coaster of emotion is important for me to help me grasp the reality that he’s gone and also to share the grieving experience with others who’ve lost loved ones like you have. It’s the only reason I share for exactly what you said, it resonates with you and has impact. We are all together in this beautiful and heartbreaking cycle of life. I love you, Theresa…for who you are and what you’ve brought to my family’s world.

  9. Hello, Sweet Soul!! 🙂 xoxoxo

    This isn’t the response that I still have to pen, but it is nonetheless apposite – or so it appears to me!! 🙂

    I shared this morning the following thoughts and quotation in the Panache Desai 21-Day Immersion FB group that align well with what I just read on your blog. At least, that is my perception!! I am totally ready for yours to be different!! 🙂 Shared with love and gentle thoughts. I do recommend Mike Dooley’s new book to you. I have found it to be insightful and highly supportive.

    Peace, Love and Laughter always. Do enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. We all have a great deal to be grateful for – and Gratitude creates more of the same.

    G xoxoxoxo

    I have found self-doubt to be one of my biggest challenges in stepping forward into be-ing all that I can possibly be. Despite years of self-work, these doubts still cause me to stumble and fall – albeit further up that famous circular stairway!

    So I am always seeking ways to address and dissolve such doubts, and today I read something that lifted my spirit and gave me pause for reflection. It comes from a new book by Mike Dooley (of “Notes From The Universe” fame), entitled “The Top Ten Things Dead People Want To Tell You.” I found the words accurate, inspiring and supportive, and I’d like to share them with you, for what it’s worth. If they do not speak to you, then that, too, is fine!! 😃

    “…While ‘alive,’ most people measure who they are by what they’re not. Don’t wait until you die to see the whole truth. Nobody can be everybody. No-one will ever have everything. Of all that God is, you are but a very small sparkle, which means if you go looking for what you are not, you will always find it. The point was never to find out what you are not, but to find out what you are: a collection of traits, characteristics, leanings, desires, quirks, dimples, freckles and ever more as you expand eternally, creating a window which God, not through you but As You, both observes and commands the elements – and dances with Herself, as She appears as others.

    You are one of a kind. You are irreplaceable. A masterpiece, a Mini-Me of the Divine sufficient unto yourself. You are a dream come true, God’s first and last chance to be You, exactly as you are now… …you will be followed, honored and celebrated by angels and admirers in the unseen, because even now, as you read these words, you are more important than you can possibly imagine….”

    My sincere hope is that you DO know that you are more important than you can possibly imagine.

    Peace, Love and Laughter always. ❤️


    Arriving someplace more desirable at some future time is an illusion. This is it…

    ~~ Jon Kabat-Zinn ~~

    1. Dearest George…you grow me. You stretch me and I love you dearly. This book I shall buy: “The Top Ten Things Dead People Want To Tell You.” Rocky communicates with me all the time…and writing about the physical loss has been so important…even though I know he’s here…he’s around…and his death has nudged me to be more courageous in taking chances. Thank you for sharing you wisdom with me.

      All my love and GRATITUDE for you and our friendship,

  10. There is a fearlessness in your grief and I found myself nodding as you uncover those tender spots of love because under all of it, that is clearly what lays there in abundance. xx

    1. I’m not sure who left this comment…but thank you…I love what you wrote…”that is clearly what lays there in abundance…” Yes…all there truly is ….is love.

      Thank you…xox

  11. I love this post and you. You are a warrior girlfriend. Loving you. x

    From: Susan E Casey To: kerryanneh2000@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 8:54 AM Subject: [New post] What No One Ever Told Me #yiv3212608160 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3212608160 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3212608160 a.yiv3212608160primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3212608160 a.yiv3212608160primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3212608160 a.yiv3212608160primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3212608160 a.yiv3212608160primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3212608160 WordPress.com | scasey2012 posted: “Last Valentine’s—that  rose-scented, chocolate-infused day, God reached a hand down,  scooped my brother’s soul in his Godly palm without asking if we were ready, if Rocky was ready, to transition from this world into the next.He was plucked from ” | |

  12. Sweet, sad post here. And when I think of grieving over such loss, I also think of all the wars that go on so endlessly, (usually instigated over “resources” for already wealthy interests or deciding one’s god isn’t the same as someone else’s), and how many mothers, siblings, children cover this entire planet who embrace this same grief of unfair loss? We call them “troops” or “the enemy”, but they are someone’s beloved child with a past filled with toys, diapers, adoring family, soccer balls. I imagine your Thanksgiving this year was pretty difficult, yet, perhaps also filled with a sweetness of a more deeply felt presence to those you love — because this moment is all we ever have. Pick a Saturday that you’d do breakfast in Freeport and I’ll come if I can, okay? Just let me know in advance… even tomorrow is possible.love and hugs to you, Susan. Berry 

    1. Berry,
      Your words are so beautiful, poignant, true…when are you going to start your own blog? Thank for this…”We call them “troops” or “the enemy”, but they are someone’s beloved child with a past filled with toys, diapers, adoring family, soccer balls.” I’ve lost many people in my life but Rocky’s passing has changed the way I view life and the world…it has sweetened the sweet moments and deepened the deep moments and saddened the sad moments…it’s awakened the sleeping parts of me that I never knew were sleeping. It’s deepened my gratitude for each moment I’m given with myself and others. Thank you for words, your insights. I am grateful for you!! I will send an email about a Saturday…and I can’t wait to see you. I hope you, too, had a blessed Thanksgiving. xoxx

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