By Hopie Welles Jernagan (Teddy's sister)
Over the last two and a half weeks since my brother died, people have said to me, “you need to be strong.” Or complemented me: “Wow, you are so strong.” They say it as they see me doing the things required of me—taking my children to school, picking up groceries, organizing the house, calling my parents and my sister, Berkley, to check in.
But strong is not what I want to be right now.
Ted was my brother. He was my lifelong companion. Besides my parents, he knew me the longest and the most completely. In high school, when people asked me to name my best friend, I said Ted. He was there on every family vacation, every Christmas, every family dinner. He was my bridesman at my wedding. He and Berkley are a part of me like no one else will ever be.
I will not be strong because losing a brother should completely wreck you. It should send you to your knees over and over again. It should make you fall to pieces on your bedroom floor, force tears from your eyes in the middle of a fitness class. It should make you cry every time you drive to the grocery store and once inside the store, you will dry your tears and you will tell yourself you can do this, you can do this, when all you’re trying to do is buy cereal. This grief should make you wonder if you will ever be okay again.
Weak with grief is what I want to be because that is what the loss of this relationship deserves.
In tragic times, we assume that we need someone to stay strong so that everyone else around them can fall apart. This time, it will not be me. The truth is, I don’t think there needs to be a strong one. The most supported I’ve felt in the last few weeks is when Sami, Berkley and I laid on my Aunt Ginny’s bed the day that Ted died. We were a heap of tears, hair, blankets and sobs. No one was being the strong one. We cried together, shoulders shaking, tears flowing—there were no words of comfort, no strong one to hold us together. Because this kind of loss should make you completely fall apart.
I understand why they say it—they want to see strength so they can be assured that we will survive this. They need not worry. We will survive. Sami, Berkley, my parents, friends: we will even thrive.
Someday, I will have to choose strength. Maybe in a month. Maybe in a year. Or maybe I will choose strength for an hour or two a day. Strength will come and healing will come—people who I trust have told me this. But for now, I will be weak with grief. Because I lost Ted. I lost my brother. And my weakness is my best and boldest tribute to who he was and what we had.