Oct. 13, 2022

How to Heal From Death and Grief | Trauma Healing Podcast

In this episode, I talk about the process I've gone through in my life of healing, recovering from...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/my-best-friend-was-murdered-trauma-healing-podcast/#show-notes

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In this episode, I talk about the process I've gone through in my life of healing, recovering from grief of having friends who were murdered.

If you're seeing my best friend was murdered. If you're reading this on YouTube, iTunes, or wherever we're going to talk about this today. And so, bear with me as I go through it, especially if I get emotional, because even though it's an experience that has happened to me and that I've done a lot of work around, it still hurts, it still fucking sucks to have a loss.

I'm having this conversation with this friend, and I just thought to myself, I know in my heart right now that there is somebody who needs to hear this.

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So, I was recently having a conversation with someone about loss, about grief, and I wanted to do something here today that I've never done. And I wanna talk to you guys about the process that I've gone through in my life of healing and recovering from grief, of having friends who were murdered. And so, that's not a quick bait title, if you're seeing my best friend was murdered, if you're reading this on YouTube or iTunes or wherever, we're really gonna talk in about this today. And so, bear with me as I go through it, especially if I get emotional because even though it's an experience that has happened to me and that I've done a lot of work around, it still hurts, it still fucking sucks to have loss. And so, I'm having this conversation with this friend and I just thought to myself, I know in my heart right now that there is somebody who needs to hear this.

One of the big things that drives me in my life is knowing that three of my best friends are not here anymore, is knowing that my mother and my grandmother are not here anymore, knowing that one day we're not gonna be here anymore. And just thinking to myself like, fuck, if I would've had access to this, this podcast to Think Unbroken to all of this, to have been able to share this with them, maybe they'd be here, maybe they would've started their healing journey, maybe the things that happened and come as a part of this life wouldn't have impacted them in a way where they would be taken away.

When I was a freshman in high school, one day I just walked in the cafeteria and one of my friends wasn't there anymore. When I was 25, I got an opportunity to really think about what it's like to not want to be around and that's because when I've talked about it before, I attempted suicide and I kept thinking to myself like, man, life is so fucking painful. And again, I get it, some of us make that choice in that decision to take our lives because it's just easier. And I'll never sit here and be like pointing my finger at people and being like, they shouldn't have done that ‘cuz like, I fucking get it. And one day, not long after I picked up my phone to reach out to my best friend Seth. So, when I was a kid, Seth and I were so incredibly close because his father, like my father was absentee, his mom, she was a beautiful, lovely woman, but she had her own issues. And like my mother, you know, we kind of bonded over the experience of being these two kids growing up in these crazy ass families trying to understand how to navigate the world. And we did everything together. I mean, literally everything. We played sports together, we did drugs together, we stole cars together, we hooked up with girls together, like literally everything. I mean, it was just like a brother to me, and in fact, probably more so than my own brothers, because for whatever reason in my head I was like, I need to keep my actual brothers away from this lifestyle, trying to protect them in a sense. So, we'd be doing drugs and breaking in houses, stealing in cars, selling drugs like the whole like, here's how crazy, I've never said this before. One time we wanted to go to a concert, we didn't have money for tickets, and so we went and sold our plasma to a plasma bank. And technically you're only allowed to do that like one time a day but because we're fucking stupid kids, we ended up going and donating plasma like three times in one day. And I'll never forget they paid you a hundred dollars per donation the first time, and then I think they paid you like $30 after that. And so, we literally made $300 in one day, we went that day and got tattoos, I still, to this day, have a tattoo on my right arm of this nautical star that he and I got. And I have some shit covered, but I'll never cover that. And so, we did kind of everything together. And after high school, you know, he graduated, I have to go to summer school, I'm trying to figure out this whole thing, and eventually, as you guys know and I've shared before, they just basically say, here's your diploma. Goodbye. He's working this job; I'm working a warehouse job. It's bullshit. And so,on the weeknights and the weekends, like we're just going and getting drunk all the time. And there was a liquor store by my house on the corner of I think it was like 26th in Georgetown, not most 30th in Georgetown, there's this liquor store in the corner across from the gas station is like never ideas. So, we would just go in there and get. And him and I would just sit around and drink and talk about our dreams and the shit that we wanted. And so, fast forward a little bit and I get this opportunity to go and work at this fast-food restaurant and I take it because I knew that if I got into a management job, I could start making enough money to, I don't know, move towards that goal of a hundred thousand dollars a year I had set. And so, I get this job and I'm in this management role, and he's working at a fast-food joint, just fucking flipping burgers. And I get him this job, well, he has to get it ‘cuz he has to interview. But I refer him to the company, they end up hiring him, bring him on, I get a bonus, he gets like a bonus, blah, blah, blah, whatever. Now here's what happened, he's a manager leading a team of people doing what he had just been doing three weeks prior flipping burgers and three weeks in he quits. And I mean, this is one of those things that even this day kind of fucks me up. I was so like the word embarrassed and ashamed that my name was behind him and hurt and betrayed ‘cuz it's not like he goes back to flip burgers and it's not like he was like left to go work at a fucking, you know, company with a student tie on. And I'll say this, I get it now, right? Like as an adult, like I'm like, Oh, okay, yeah, he wasn't happy and it's not my place to decide happiness for other people. But at fucking 18, you're an idiot and I don't know any better so, he starts reaching out and I just start being like, Fuck you man. You embarrassed me. Like I put my name on the line for you. And we're like to age myself, we were IMing each other on AOL instant messenger because that's how old I am. And so, you know, we didn't have cell phones or anything then we did but you know, text messaging what it wasn't what it is. And so, we have these back and forth on IM, and he would call me and he'd be like, just talk to me and I'd be like, Fuck you man. I'm not talking to you, you know, I'd hang up on him and this one on for months. And so, he just stops reaching out a little bit over time, more and more and more, I stopped responding more and more and more and this guy was like a best friend like a brother. The reason I brought the suicide to cause its relative time wise. So not long after that I go on social to find. And so, I can connect with him again cuz I hadn't talked to him in like six years and I found him. But the problem is that just a little bit before I found him somebody walked in his living room and shot him in the head. And I remember this like the moment, like I have the feeling right now it sucks. And just being like, Fuck, because I don't get to say I'm sorry, right? I don't get to have those bonding moments again; I lost my brother. I lost my best friend. And you know what literally, I mean, it's hard to explain, but from like fucking 10 years old to 20 a whole decade, we were together all the time, like nonstop, it was crazy how much time we spent together. So, to find this and to just go down this deep dive of police reports and video interviews with the neighbor and his sister and his family, and having missed the funeral because obviously I didn't know, it devastated me. And so, I was like, Fuck man. Okay. I need to actually reach out to all the people in my life who in my life I've not been showing up for.

One of the best things that happened about that, even though it's heartbreaking, is it inspired me. It made me think to myself like, oh, you gotta actually like connect with people. And especially if there's conflict between you. Now, there's a big difference between the moment of like, I'm ignoring this guy, and then, you know, all this time later of all the work I had done in therapy and all the things that had started. So, I started reaching out to other friends. People I didn't talk to in a while, people I just, even just missed because when I got successful in my twenties, financially, I just ostracized people. And I'll say this, like, let's be clear, you don't have to reach out to everybody, but if your heart is like, Yo, you need to call this motherfucker like, you need to pick up your phone and call them. And so, I start reaching out and I reach out to my friend Kevin and I hadn't talked to Kevin in a couple of years because he had went down this really dark path of meth addiction and it was common. I mean, it was the same thing that you see all the time in neighborhoods where I come from. And you know, just like Seth, I go to find him and I pull it up and you know, it's like rest in peace on his socials and everybody's like, man, and we miss you and blah, blah, blah and I'm like, Fuck man, really again. And he got stabbed to death behind a dumpster like what a fucking crazy way to die over meth, over drugs, over just out of rehab, just outta jail again back into it. And I was like, all right, I'm not gonna stop, I'm just gonna keep reaching out to people I want to connect with. And you know, the hard part is having lost friends when I was young, but then having lost them as an adult is it made me really kind of numb for a while, which I think does to probably most people, because right before that, my mom had died. You know, she was a drug addict, she died legless in the middle of nowhere, Indiana having popped pills and pharmaceuticals her whole life, like the disaster that came along with that, my grandmother had been on 30 pills at a time, by the time she died, was fucking on an oxygen mask, smoking cigarettes, right? Like crazy shit like that. And you know, the thing that started to transpire my life, I was like, wait a second, I need to take massive, massive, massive inventory of two things.

One, who am I spending my time with and how am I legitimately connecting with them? And two, how do I fix the relationships in my life that are fucked up. And that was how I started to cope with the grief.

Now, most people aren't gonna say that cuz I don't think that they recognize it or it's not one of the tools that people on your top 10 ways to deal with grief and loss show up. But it was about connecting really authentically and fixing broken relationships for me, because I needed that, because I needed that moment of being like I wanted to reach out to these people, these people I loved desperately.

Now again, lemme be clear, it wasn't necessarily always true for everybody. I made a decision at 18 years old to remove my mother from my life and that decision held true till the day that she died and I still stand firm in my decision of knowing that is the greatest thing I've ever done. But there were times where it was just emotional, like a response, right? Or being responsive to things that I would just like bail on people. And I realize that is a trauma response, it is a protective mechanism, it is hyper independence whether we get hurt or whether it's loss or abuse or whatever it may be, I'll speak for myself. I found that I would say to myself, Oh, I can't trust people because when I show up for them, they don't show up in return. Oh, I don't believe in people because whenever I need something from them, they never are there to have my back and really interesting about that, the juxtaposition of it is I look at my life now and I guarantee you there are 50 people in my phone right now that if I called them, would drop everything to help me.

One of the greatest things that came out of the loss of my best friends, not only as an adult but as a kid as well, is when I started to recognize the importance of relationships that are reciprocal because I think unfortunately, a big part of what I suffered through was looking at life and going, I'm owed this, right? I'm owed you to be my friend to show up because I showed up for you. And I do believe that there is value in reciprocation, but I do not believe that we're owed anything. So, there's gotta be clarity there like I'm fully a believer in like, yeah, I want to have reciprocation in the way that I show up, it's massively important to me, but I'm not owed that. And so, if I don't get that, instead of holding grudges, which benefits fucking nobody. What I do now is I simply go, Oh, okay, actually I'm not alignment with, I'm not in alignment with this person, so I can take them outta my life or I go, Hey, I'm not in alignment with you. Let's talk about this. Figure out what's going on. Maybe men a bridge, and if not, you make the decision you have to make. And so, having these losses brought me closer to not only my brothers, my actual blood brothers, but my friends, my community partners, etcetera because it put me in this position of recognizing the truth that life is very finite and it can be over an instant, whether by your own hand, another hand, or just because it's your time. And through the grieving process around this, I really got deeper into writing like journaling played a massive role for me, just as a place and an avenue to get out the emotions, because sometimes I would sit in therapy and I would talk about this, and I would talk about the fact that I felt this massive, massive fucking sense of shame and guilt for having not gotten to apologize, for have not gotten to fix and mend these relationships with these people. And, you know, and one of them, like, I just don't even wanna bring up, it was too violent and too dark. So, I won't get into that today, but it was like, I would have this conversation, my therapist and I go home and I'd still just be so fucking mad at myself like I wouldn't even be mad at them, it's like I'm mad at me. And I think that's one of the things that we go through when we face losses. We get mad at ourselves. We go, Ah man, I should have coulda, woulda what if.

And I think you have to sit in it and go, you don't control over that. No matter what you think, you don't get that and you shouldn't guilt yourself about it ‘cuz we all fuck up. We all make these mistakes. We all are trying to figure out life and its piece mill and we put it together day by day. And you know, I think the best thing that you can do is, I remember hearing this as a kid and not understanding it till, I was in a healthy relationship, was this idea that you should never go to bed at your partner angry. And I used to be like, why? Like, whatever, it's fine, like, be mad. And then I realized like, no, no, no, that's not about being mad, it's not about being right or wrong, it's really about you might not get tomorrow with them. And you know, I know people who have lost partners, who have lost people in their lives, like all of us have, who like me, would give anything to have that conversation one more time to be able to hug that person one more time, say, I love you one more time. And when we stripped that from ourselves with shame and guilt, we carry a lot of pain and I had that for a long time where I was just always mad at myself, I mean, this must have gone on for months, right? Because I found out in the shock, I mean, this is God, almost a decade ago now, when I found out, not a decade close, when I found out about Seth is, that hit me in this way where it was like, man, what if I would've just been like, dude, it's fine if you wanna flip burgers and fries who gives a shit not recognizing what I understand now, but knowing that you can take that and do something with it. And to me, I always think to myself, I guess it's in that line of live and let live. And people get mad at me or don't get mad at me or whatever it might be, around my choices and decisions. I just go, yeah, there are my choices and my decisions, and if you don't like it, like that's fine. And for those who do or want to push back or say you should be a certain way, I just go, no, no. And that's what Seth knew, that was the thing that I didn't understand because my trauma response was appeasement, my trauma response was to do whatever you needed, right? And so, whenever people didn't do whatever, I needed, it made me shut down and now I go, well, do you live your life?

But my hope is that, and hearing this, and of course this isn't a grief podcast, and it's not probably the best outlay of tools you've ever heard in your life. But I do think about this, if you're going through grief, if you're going through suffering, particularly in the way that I'm looking at it because of an indecision then maybe it will help you to know that you can rebuild community and friendships and companionships and you can let go of guilt and shame and the thing that you might feel in a certain way about certain things that happen with this person. And I can tell you with, I wanna say certainty, but that's a weird way to phrase this in the context that I'm about to go in, I'm going to guess that the people that we have lost, do not want us harboring these feelings of shame and guilt about our end decisions, of bridging gaps, of reconnecting, of letting go, of healing, of not carrying shame and guilt.

So, maybe you gotta take it a little easy on yourself about the things that you've done in your life with the people in your life, and know that there's an opportunity right now for you to pick up the phone and if they're still with us, to call them and make amends, and maybe they'll accept it and maybe they won't, maybe you've done some really dickish stuff, which I have, and there are certainly people in my life which is just the nature of the reality. There are certain people in my life that will never talk to me again, and I go, okay, I understand that no matter if I win the fucking Nobel Breeze Prize, they're never gonna talk to me again. I'm like, Okay, I get it, like I was a fucking monster 10 years ago, eight weeks ago, two days ago, five minutes ago, right? Whatever that thing is. And so, I just think that there's always room, there's always space, there's always the ability to connect and reconnect and rekindle and hopefully go through whatever it is that we need to go through and if you need to grieve, grief, you need to cry, cry, but you don't beat yourself up for the things that you've said or done that you can't get back. Instead, recognize the truth that you can't get them back. And if you recognize that and understand that and hold that closely, just know that those people, even though they may not be here, probably don't have a grudge towards you. And that was one of the greatest things that my therapist told me was like, dude, Seth's not mad at you. He's not even here anymore. It doesn't matter. So why do you care so much that you're letting it destroy your life? And I was like, fuck, he's so right. So, I know this is a little bit of a left field episode, but it's on my mind, it's something I've been thinking about a lot, especially as we head into, you know, the winter and the holidays and you know, people gathering around and all that.

You know, show up for those who are here with you, connect with those people. You're alone, which I know some of you are ‘cuz I've been there. Join Think Unbroken Academy. Come and be a part of this. It's free. There's hundreds and hundreds. I think we're at like 600 people or something crazy in there. And come and join us out UnrokenCon.

Go to unbrokencon.com. Sign up. Register. Join us. It's free to watch intent if you want to do the group thing, there's access to that too. And you can always message me, you know, I sent out an email the other day and I was like, Yo, this is really me, every email, every text, every dm, hundreds of them a day as long as I can manage it, I reply. So, you know, you're not alone. We want you to be a part of this. We want you to be a part of the community.

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And Until Next Time.

My friend, Be Unbroken.

I'll see you.

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Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.