Meghan — “The curtains were pulled, and it was quiet.”
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Meghan Britton-Gross finds it hard to believe it’s been nearly 30 years since she lost her little brother, Andrew, in a car accident. He was 7. She was 12. Meghan still vividly remembers the dark and lonely aftermath of his loss, particularly as a junior high student processing the pain of being treated as a “forgotten griever.”
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This is on a Monday, May 11th, 1992. I went to school today. And finally realizing my brother Andrew is not coming back. I still don’t believe it. My dad took me to school. I think Emily is mad at me because she acts irritated. I hope she’s not. My dad is helping me do my homework. I have everything to do. And then I know like we played softball in gym, and like, the silly things. And this journal is full of early 90s glory. It’s like this pastel blue and purple. And it’s got some cheesy poem on the cover of it. And it’s got this little lock on it that has never worked. So I’m really glad Andrew wasn’t around, because he would have definitely cracked open this diary and read it. My brother Andrew passed away on May 1st, 1992. So next year will be a long time, I’m not going to do that math. And it’s like 30 years, which is a little crazy to think that it’s 30 years, it feels like it’s been longer in some ways and in some ways it doesn’t feel like that long.
He was a goofy kid. He loved science. And for some reason, he was obsessed with Albert Einstein. I think he may be the only five-year-old who dressed up as Albert Einstein for Halloween, spiky hair and everything. He had this great little smile, and he was the most annoying little brother you’ve ever known. I mean, you can’t talk about siblings, and it all be sunshine and like butterflies and laughter. It’s just not, their siblings, they’re annoying, and they get in your toys. And I used to make him so mad. And it was on purpose, totally on purpose. And I’d make him so mad. He’d bend in half and charge at me, and just like knock me over and knock the air out of me. I have no idea why I would provoke him that way, other than it would get him in trouble. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that siblings do.
There was a really special moment, the night before my brother passed away. My parents went out for their anniversary. And I was babysitting him. And then there’s this really bad storm. And Andrew typically didn’t get scared at night. Like he was a pretty good sleeper. He wasn’t afraid of storms, but it was a pretty good storm. And I said, well, let’s just sleep together in the guest room. Never did that ever. And it’s just such a good memory. Like we could have had an epic fight that night. I could have teased him to where he, you know, knocked me down and not the air out of me. But we had this just really sweet evening, and I will never forget just that last evening together. I was in junior high and he was in elementary school. And we both went to school throughout the day. Andrew had a field trip that day to a park and my mom went with him on the field trip and made him get back on the bus to go back to school. And he didn’t want to he was crying. He was wanting to stay with my mom. And she made him get on the bus and go back to school, which after the day’s event, she really regretted that decision.
But as I got out of school, I got on the bus and the bus was driving down this road. We lived on a State Road so it was really busy road. But we saw this ambulance parked on the side of the road and I turned to my seatmate, Molly, and I said wouldn’t it be weird if I knew the person in that ambulance? And we continued and we dropped everyone off and I was always the last stop on the bus. And as we rounded this big curve in front of the house, there was all these cars and police cars and it was really windy. It like would knock you over it was so windy that day. And we pulled up and the bus driver was like what’s going on, is everything okay? And they said is Meghan on the bus? And I’m you know, walking down the aisle like the heck’s going on. I get off the bus and the police officer says your pastor is here. He’d like to talk to you. He’s like, okay, I’ll go talk to Tim.
And he was like, Meg, there’s been an accident. And your brother was hit by a car. He probably said Andrew was hit by a car. And we’re going to go pick up Jeannie, who was my youth pastor and I’m going to take you to the hospital and I don’t remember a whole lot of my reaction then I wrote down in my journal that he had said Andrew had broken ribs, I think he had broken ribs, maybe some, a broken leg, they just weren’t entirely sure what was going on. But he had been hit by a pickup truck when he got off the bus. And the poor guy who hit Andrew, I don’t even know how you would cope after that, you know, like, I just don’t know what you would do. So you can’t really think about it. So, Tim, took me to the hospital. And eventually, the doctor came in, and they told me that he had passed away.
And I didn’t actually know that was an option. I, like I knew people died, I’d had a great grandparent died, but never occurred to me that that would be a possible outcome of that whole situation. I didn’t know it was that bad. And I just thought he would pull through. And at the time, it was really hard to even process what I was looking at her or what was happening. And so I feel like my brain just kind of thought, you know what, you’re a little overwhelmed right now, we’re going to just kind of disconnect for a little bit. And after that point, I don’t remember a whole lot about going home, and going to sleep or what happened the next day. In the aftermath of Andrew passing away, I feel like it was lonely, and it was dark. And a large part of that is because the curtains were pulled. And it was quiet, because my parents, I remember that being in their room a lot. And I think they were just crying, probably talking. And I am positive that I was not alone. As much as I feel like I was alone.
My dad said not to go into my brother’s room, because he didn’t want me to be upset. And I think even at that point, they’re trying to protect me from the pain, but you can’t protect anyone from that kind of pain. One of the things that I remember even now, being surprised about is how life is supposed to just carry on after someone has passed away. And it’s not a small loss, you know, whether it’s someone going back to work after their spouse has passed away, or my parents having to go back to work after their son has just died. But the thing I had to do was go back to school. And in my journal I saw a few times where I attempted to go to school and came home, because I just couldn’t do it. And I remember feeling this really intense pressure to go back to school, pickup life where it was, and it was awkward. And I was 12. And I had to go through school feeling like everyone was looking at me, because that’s the girl whose brother just died or if they didn’t know, like, what’s up with that girl?
Grief is one of those things that I felt like it should just be over, like, okay, you’ve dealt with it, you’ve gone through all those phases, you’re done. But when it is something like this, you can’t get over it and to expect to get over it is really silly. With my brother dying when I was 12. Like there’s a lot of milestones I hadn’t thought about. Getting married and him not being at the wedding. You know, that was something that I think I had always expected. So I didn’t have as hard of a time with that. But having my daughters and them not having an uncle. My husband is also an only child. And so thinking about oh gosh, they don’t have any cousins. They don’t have an uncle. They’re supposed to have these things. That has been hard and surprising. My oldest daughter who’s nine when she turned seven, I remember talking to myself and going okay, Georgia is seven. That doesn’t mean anything is going to happen to her. Just because Andrew was seven when he passed away does not mean that your child is also going to pass away at seven.
There’s everyday anxieties. There’s genetic anxiety and depression in my family. But there’s also that anxiety of my husband said that he’d be home with the girls, like 15 minutes ago and they’re not here. Where are they? Oh, no, they must be on the side of the road, you know, in a car accident. Those things happen regularly. And I have to like walk myself back and go, okay. Odds are they are just running behind. Odds are they are perfectly fine. Odds are nothing has happened. And of all of the times that I’ve worried, and I don’t even know how many, none of it has actually happened. And so it also has affected my parents that way. Because if any of us can’t get ahold of the other one, whether we’re running late or something, we will all panic. In fact, just last year, my dad couldn’t get ahold of my mom, and she had left her phone at work or something.
And he called me he’s like, I’m about to go drive up and down 69 to see if there’s an accident. Like he was gone for like an hour, and he didn’t know where she was. And we were panicking. And then all of a sudden, she stopped by my house because she didn’t have her phone. And I had to call dad and I was like, she’s here. It’s okay. You can stop like searching the city for mom. And that’s probably a bit extreme. I don’t think he would do that. Normally. You would worry Yes, but I don’t think you’d go drive up and down the highway looking for an accident. Yeah. I’m Megan Gross. And thanks for listening to GOOD GRIEF. This episode of GOOD GRIEF is dedicated to the memory of my brother Andrew.
GOOD GRIEF is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Hannah Boomershine, Giulia Hjort and Xorje Olivares. executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Music and Sound Design are by Hannis Brown. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. If you want more GOOD GRIEF, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts. This season of GOOD GRIEF is dedicated to those we’ve lost in the past year.