May 3, 2023

Aletha Laughlin - Grieving as a Young Surviving Sibling

Aletha was only 9 years old when her brother Brett passed. Even though they were 9 years apart, they were very close. Aletha and Brett spent a lot of time on the tracks since Brett started racing at a very young age. Racing was Brett’s passion. In...

Aletha was only 9 years old when her brother Brett passed. Even though they were 9 years apart, they were very close. Aletha and Brett spent a lot of time on the tracks since Brett started racing at a very young age. Racing was Brett’s passion. In 2007, Brett was coming back home from an all-night race when he fell asleep behind the wheel crashing his car. Unfortunately, he died as a result of this accident. The days after her brother passed were very overwhelming for Aletha and she became even closer to her father and even more distant from her mother.

In this week's episode, Aletha shares what it was like growing up with her older brother Brett, how it was for her and her family the days after her brother’s accident, how she and her father have navigated Brett’s loss, and how she has embraced and moved through her emotions. She openly shares with us how she has navigated her grief journey. 

Season 3 is brought to you by, a virtual platform to commemorate and honor your sibling relationship. Create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative web pages that can include photo and video galleries featuring you and your sibling.

In this episode I’m covering:

  • Intro [00:00:00]

  • Aletha and Brett’s story [00:01:54]

  • Finding out Brett was gone [00:09:54]

  • The days after Brett’s accident [00:15:40]

  • Family dynamics [00:22:48]

  • Aletha and her father navigate the loss [00:30:59]

  • Sharing Brett’s story with her fiancee [00:37:50]

  • Remembering her brother [00:43:07]

  • Finding support in her grief journey [00:46:08]

  • Embracing and moving through her emotions [00:52:25]

  • Advice for younger Aletha [00:54:54]

For full episode show notes and transcript, click here

Connect with Aletha

Instagram | @aletha_laughlin

Twitter | @almariee16

Facebook | Aletha Laughlin


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Website | The Surviving Siblings 

Instagram | @survivingsiblingspodcast | @mayaroffler 

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Facebook Group | The Surviving Siblings Podcast

YouTube | The Surviving Siblings Podcast 

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Twitter | @survivingsibpod

✨Get The Surviving Siblings Guide HERE


[00:00:00] Maya: Welcome to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. I'm your host, Maya Ruffler. As a surviving sibling myself, I knew that I wanted to share my story, my brother's story. I lost my brother to a homicide in November of 2016, and after going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to share my story and his story. It's time to share your stories now. The forgotten mourn. The Surviving Siblings, the story that is not told enough. Season three of the Surviving Siblings Podcast is brought to you by SIPS, a virtual platform for you, the surviving sibling to commemorate and honor your sibling relationship. Visit sipps today to create your free profile and start building beautiful commemorative webpages that can include photo and video galleries featuring. And your sibling. Now let's dive into the episode

[00:01:07] Maya: today. I have another great inspiring guest with me. Her name is Aha Laughlin. Aha. Lost her brother Brett when she was quite young, and I think so many of you are going to connect with this story. Aha. Welcome to the show.

[00:01:24] Aletha: Hello. Thanks for having me. ,

[00:01:27] Maya: I'm really excited to have you here. This is one of the topics that we received a lot of requests about to talk about losing a sibling quite young, and you lost Brett when you were only nine years old. So I'm gonna hand this over to you, Ali, like, and just dive in. Tell us a little bit about you and Brett, and then obviously let's talk about the loss of your dear brother Brett, and how it.

[00:01:54] Aletha: I'll kind of start by giving some family background. So my mom had my brother when she was 19, so she was a pretty young mom and my brother and I had different dads after my mom had my brother, her and my brother's dad split up and she met my dad when my brother was a year and a half old.

[00:02:08] Aletha: They moved down to kind of where we're from, which is four hours away from my brother's dad, and then they raised my brother here from the Quad City. They raised him here and then eight years later they had me. So there was quite a big gap between them. The same year that I was born, my brother started go-kart racing.

[00:02:26] Aletha: So we spent a lot of time like at the go-kart tracks together. Racing in general was huge with my family. So whether it was at the dirt track or the go-kart track, um, . That was huge for us. My brother and I, surprisingly, having an eight year age gap, our relationship, we were best friends. Like there's home videos of me like coming in and climbing on his friends while they were playing video games, and them just not caring them, just kinda like moving the controller and kind of dealing with me.

[00:02:53] Aletha: They never really cared. Even through his teenage years. I was just kind of always a tag along. I was always in the back seat, middle seat of the car with his friends. So it was never like a weird age gap or anything for us. And my dad being technically a stepdad, he, my brother went to school thinking his name was his last name and then our last name after it, because he just didn't really know any different with my dad.

[00:03:16] Aletha: So that was kind of, we had a very, very tight-knit family growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. My dad worked all the time, so. It was kind of my mom, my brother and I in the house. Like I was kind of curious about the age gap, or people kind of are shocked when they hear our age gap and like, oh, I bet guys weren't that close.

[00:03:32] Aletha: But it's hard to explain how close we really were, even with such a large age gap.

[00:03:37] Maya: Yeah, I think a lot of people will connect with that though, Alita, because. You know, my youngest sibling, she is 10 years younger than me, and she is the one that I had the closest relationship with. So I think every situation is unique, but what I hear a lot and what I found is when you have like that older brother and there's a significant age difference, they're quite protective of you, right?

[00:03:58] Maya: Like you're that kid sister that kind of is around, but like, you know, no one can mess with you. They can mess with you, but no one else can mess with you. And that's kind of what I envision when you're telling your story about.

[00:04:08] Aletha: It was a hundred percent that way. And with his friends too, like his close-knit group of friends. Like it was the same way too. It was like, oh, that's just Bretzels sister. He's just coming. Like, she's just coming with us. It's just kind of there. But we can mess with her. We can throw couch cushions at her, but the minute someone else does, like it's gonna be a problem. And they're, his friend's group are still very, very sweet to this day and very close to our family to this day too. So that's super, super awesome.

[00:04:33] Maya: Yeah. I love that. That's super. So tell me a little bit about when you and Brett were at that age, because you were nine and he was 17. So tell us a little bit about Brett. Cause it sounds like he was already a little bit of a daredevil and kind of into racing a little bit.

[00:04:52] Maya: And so tell us a little bit about that.

[00:04:54] Aletha: Yeah, he was 100% like a gear head turning branches on cars and building motors. He was the type of kid who didn't pass freshman English but could rebuild a motor. Like he had kind of that different type of working brain for sure. Like. I mean, we had four wheelers and different type of lawn equipment to mess around on.

[00:05:15] Aletha: We had the trampolines and it was definitely always kind of like the go, go go. He even raced dirt cars a summer before he passed. So summer of his 16th year he raced dirt. So like he kind of did the everything. He drag raced too a bit with high school days, or local track does high school days where they have the local high schools come and compete against each other.

[00:05:34] Aletha: So him and his friends group did that. So it was definitely that kind of, , like you said, Daredevil, which is funny is because he was such like a sweet, kind person, so that it kind of like that weird dynamic of like usually the daredevils are a bit more outgoing or a bit more whatever, but he's a bit more reserved.

[00:05:50] Aletha: But just like to go fast.

[00:05:52] Maya: I guess that was his outlet, right? That was kind of like his thing.

[00:05:56] Aletha: Yeah, a hundred percent. So in 2006 is kind of when everything started. My parents filed for divorce in 2006, and then it was just kind of my dad, my brother and I. So we were really, really close at that point. And. we, like I said, spent a lot of time just like the three of us in the house together. And then come May of 2007 is when my brother's accident happened. So as I mentioned racing, he was coming home from the local drag strip. They have like midnight mayhem is what they called it, where they race all night until the wee hours of the night.

[00:06:30] Aletha: And the intention is you stay. and then you go home the next morning. Mm-hmm. . This was also the weekend of his high school graduation, so this was the night before his graduation. And the story we've been told is he was trying to sleep in his tent. People were being annoying trying to like, get beer from him.

[00:06:48] Aletha: My brother didn't have beer. They got in a huge fight and my brother said, you know what, I'm just, I'm just gonna go home. So, drove home, like said some wee hours of the night. His accident happened like 6:50 AM so sometime in the middle of the night he decided to leave. We were told he had someone in the car with him until like a town that's like 20 minutes from our hometown.

[00:07:11] Aletha: So pretty close. It's about a 45 minute drive in total, and my brother fell asleep behind the wheel. and I ended up going into a ditch, hitting a culvert and died as a result of his accident. He was less than a minute from home, so he was very, very close. You know, kind of, you're driving home, you're tired, you feel comfortable, you're like, I'm almost home. And that's the moment where he fell asleep and just didn't make it home.

[00:07:35] Maya: Wow. That is, Ugh, I'm sending you so much. Lovely. That that is, I, you hear these stories though, where people like you, like you just mentioned, like people are like, oh, I'm there. So they kind of. Release. We just had a neighbor, something like that happened two weeks ago. They were literally turning the corner. Thank God they survived, but they literally just ran into this random like, stop sign in post. Like it's not something you would normally run into. And that was something she said, which I think is so interesting. I didn't know we would dive into this, but she was like, oh my God.

[00:08:09] Maya: Like, I'm like, her house was like, right, like two or three houses down the, and. . I, I think I have a deeper understanding of it. Just listening to this part of your story, because you kind of release as a human right going, oh, I'm there. I'm okay. I can kinda relax. And like little did he know he was exhausted,

[00:08:27] Aletha: right? Mm-hmm. , I, I catch myself doing it and it, it's almost scary sometimes because like, the town that, like our hometown, which I literally just moved out of this past weekend, but it's a 35, 40 minute drive from anywhere from like the local, like big cities for us. So it, I catch myself, like I'll be at, it's pretty much the same spot he was and I'll be like, oh, this is that feeling I'm feeling right now.

[00:08:48] Aletha: It's just like, oh, homes right there. I can practically see it from here. I'm almost there. Obviously I was nine at the time too, so you don't really think about driving. But as I started driving and then I felt it for the first time. Oh, I, I get it now. I get how it can happen.

[00:09:02] Maya: Yeah. I'm sure things clicked with you through your grief journey, which we're gonna continue to talk about, but that's a huge moment with you being so young.

[00:09:10] Maya: Of course, you're not driving at night. If we were driving at nine's a whole right. Yeah, as you got older, you're like, oh wow, this is what Brett was feeling. This is what, you know, other people feel and, and go through. And, you know, I, I hear these stories more now that I've gotten involved in this community and also sharing, and it's.

[00:09:31] Maya: Oh gosh, that's really difficult. So tell us a little bit about how you got, cause you were nine. So tell us a little bit about how you received the news. It sounds like you, your father, your brother, and you were the, the decor unit at the time. So walk us through what that looked like in the we early, like morning. Like who, who called? How did you find out? Tell us a little bit about that. .

[00:09:54] Aletha: Yeah, so my dad did not wake me up or no one like woke me up until I kind of woke up on my own, and I'm not exactly sure who. Originally came to my dad and told him I know some of the first responders on scene because we live in a 200 person town.

[00:10:13] Aletha: So the two of the first responders that responded to my brother's accident were his best friend's parents who they actually lost their son two years beforehand in 2005. For some reason, I have a memory that they're the ones who came to the house with the police officers, but there's so much I don't remember, which I can get into a little bit later too, but, I woke up that morning and I couldn't find my dad anywhere.

[00:10:38] Aletha: Like I couldn't find, and the house felt weird and all my neighbors were kind of like around and in the house or, and they wouldn't let me. Like I wanted to find my dad because I have this memory of like walking out into the living room, felt something was weird. I went into my brother's room and grabbed his blanket cuz I did that just regularly and like went to get on the.

[00:10:59] Aletha: I looked up at his picture and I was like, I just felt like in my stomach something was wrong. At that moment, I was like, he's not with us. Like he's gone. And I, I don't know how to explain when, how that felt, but then I tried to kept going out to like find my dad through, cause he had to like, walk through our kitchen to get to our backyard and they're like, no, it's fine.

[00:11:15] Aletha: Like you can sit, just sit down, sit down. Like it's okay. Because at this time we were waiting for my mom to get home cuz at this time she wasn't really living with us. So they were waiting for my mom to get to us. I know she had like police officers show up at the doorstep of the house. She was living it at the time, and that's how they told her.

[00:11:35] Aletha: And then she. Came there and my dad waited for her to get there to tell me. And my dad's the one who told me, and he just told me that there was an accident, just like my brother's best friend, cuz I had just gone through that two years beforehand with my brother's best friend dying. He's like, it was an accident.

[00:11:52] Aletha: And I, I won't say his name cause I didn't ask the family's permission to share his story, but they Of course, yeah. Yeah. He's like, just like happened with him. It. and just kind of told me that way and I was definitely kind of, I was like curled up in his blanket at that moment and just kind of sat there numb.

[00:12:09] Aletha: Like I didn't really know how to react. I, you don't know how to grieve as a nine year old. Even having had something happen just two years beforehand, that was very similar situation because his best friend was very much like a brother to me too. But it hit definitely a little bit different and I just remember sitting there and there was like all of our neighbors who are still some of our closest friends to this day, they were there too, and it.

[00:12:31] Aletha: It was an interesting time period too, because the night before my brother's accident, another kid in his graduating class had gotten into a severe car accident and was on, uh, life support at the time. So we had just found that out the night before and then this happened, and then his classmate ended up passing a week after my brother did.

[00:12:49] Aletha: So there was already. A lot going on. So like my dad had just told me about this thing, and then literally the next morning, essentially this happened. I don't really remember my interactions with my mom at the time. Um, I remember more with my dad just because he's the one who told me directly.

[00:13:08] Maya: Yeah, I'm sure so many of you guys can connect with us and I can as well. Like the person that tells you, it's kind of like you're zoned into that . Like especially I can't imagine at nine years old, like a, you know, your dad is kind of your steady Eddie. It's who you're living with, your brother as well, and then he's delivering this information to you, so. Really intense. But I wanna go back to what you said a couple minutes ago because I think it's really important, Alita, especially for those of us who have lost someone at a young age like yourself.

[00:13:41] Maya: Cause I think children are so flippant, intuitive, , like there are like no blocks, there's no barriers. Like we're very pure as children, even if you have to grow up fast, because it sounds like you had finding like family dynamics where you had to grow up quickly. And I connect with you on that as well. We just know there's like, There's no filter.

[00:14:03] Maya: There's this purity about children and so I really wanna thank you for sharing that because I think a lot of you who are listening as surviving siblings that lost a, a sibling young there, I hear this often that there's some kind of knowing or like there's an action that you take. So sharing that you went and got his blanket, which was not out of the ordinary for you, but like you just felt something.

[00:14:24] Maya: I've heard this before and I think it's, it's kind of the beauty and the purity. Youth and being a child, your feeling and your connection?

[00:14:35] Aletha: Definitely. Yeah. Cuz I, I have no other way of explaining of, other than like just looking up to his picture and just like knowing in that moment I knew I just needed like confirmation at that point.

[00:14:43] Maya: And I think a lot of people are gonna, I think you guys will connect with this because there isn't knowing, even for me, at 30 when my mother told me, I mean, and I had been told, I just saw my mother calling. I knew something was wrong. Right? Cause you guys know. , but there's just a connection. I think that's one of the biggest goals of us telling these stories.

[00:15:03] Maya: Like there's this bond between you and your sibling or siblings that is different. It's, it's deep and it's different. And this was your big bro and is your big bro. I always make sure that we talk about it in present tense too, because I believe they're, they're still with you. So you've got all these people at your house, Ali, like that's, that's a lot.

[00:15:25] Maya: So walk us through what happened. Next cuz there's a lot of loss going on just in general. And then of course your brother is the most significant for you of course. But walk us through what was going on once you received the news and, and the subsequent days.

[00:15:40] Aletha: Yeah, so the first day, like I said, I have a hard time remembering a lot of that first day.

[00:15:45] Aletha: Sure. But the immediate next step was his graduation ceremony because it was the weekend of high school graduation. So that is like kind of the first part I like kind of checked back into remembering was his graduation. And I remember they had. since his fellow classmate was an accident the night before, they had like the white rose and the red rose on each of their chairs.

[00:16:06] Aletha: I cannot for the life of me remember which color signified, which cuz one was for a loss and one was for like healing how they explained it on his chairs. And then my parents accepted my brother's diploma, which is, uh, my favorite story to tell is he wasn't even going to graduate because he had failed freshman English.

[00:16:24] Aletha: But I was gonna have to go into summer school . So we always. Joke that like, oh, we got his diploma. At least like they were, they gave it to us.

[00:16:32] Maya: You did it, bro. You did it. You graduated.

[00:16:35] Aletha: Oh my gosh. It's kinda one of those like just funny family kind of jokes. We like to keep in because yeah, my parents accepted his diploma.

[00:16:42] Aletha: My, I know my dad wore like his favorite local stock car racer shirt to accept his diploma. So that was kind of the immediate next couple days. I know because it was a huge shock to our community that there was news reporters at our. There was, there's a news story out there somewhere that I'm on camera with my family and my parents talking about it.

[00:17:03] Aletha: I genuinely have not probably seen those clips since 2007. We live in a very tight-knit community. Like my high school was a thousand people in that. Included like five or six different towns that all fed into one school and with the kind of accident with his classmate just the day before. And then this, it, it made headlines.

[00:17:24] Aletha: So there was a lot of news stories, news reports. There was a huge memorial service held at the high school that we go to in the auditorium where everyone could stand up and like tell stories and share their happy memories with about my brother. My brother was known for doing burnouts at the Cordova drag way, so they did like, had a burnout contest in the school parking lot.

[00:17:46] Aletha: My dad, Brother's best friend at the time did that together. I know at the visitation I very much sat there and just like played on my DS the whole time because I just like could not comprehend what was going on. But I mean the line was around the, like around the building, around the block, it was crazy.

[00:18:05] Aletha: People just coming in and out. And same with his funeral the next day. And it's funny cuz at his funeral. I also remember playing like a card game with my friend that came with me and sat in like the family pews with us because I just, again, it's so hard to kind of wrap your head around all of that. At my age, I did make the decision my age.

[00:18:25] Aletha: I'm very thankful my parents let me do this is I refused to see my brother in the casket. I didn't want that to be my last memory. And my parents still to this day are very much, we are so glad you did that and I'm very glad I did that too. You cuz I, I still don't like that aspect of visitations at funerals to this day, but I'm very, very glad I was somehow in the right mind to make that decision at the age I was.

[00:18:49] Maya: That is so mature. A few. Okay. We got a couple things to unpack here. That's so mature of you. I remember the first time that I saw like an open casket and it was, I dunno if I've ever shared this on the podcast. That's why I, I love chatting with all you surviving siblings cuz new things come up and we talk about them.

[00:19:09] Maya: But I was quite young and one of our neighbors lost their maybe like, You know, had been alive for a couple months and that was my, I think, my first experience with an open casket from what I recall.

[00:19:21] Maya: Right. Because I connect with you on this, like when you're young, it's like, I think I was like 11 maybe. And that's young. And I remember seeing that thinking, I'm never gonna do that. Like I'm never gonna watch this again. Cuz it was traumatizing. It was, you know, I had been a babysitter for this family for. First born and then to see that, whoa, that's not even my sibling. We're not even in that yet, right? So it's like, oh my gosh, not that they're any less important, but, and so that always stuck with me.

[00:19:50] Maya: And so on season two, I had my best friend Calon, who lost his brother before I lost my brother. I really, I remember going in and we looked, but I remember kind of not looking because my brother was, I guess, a little stronger than me in that sense. But I also had. memories, and I was also quite close with Caleb's brother, so I didn't wanna remember him like that.

[00:20:15] Maya: And. , I think you are so wise at nine years old to know that about yourself. And I think what a great piece of information nugget kind of spiritual advice to give to those of you out there who has lost someone young or, you know, if you're a parent and you're like, do I allow my kid to do this or that?

[00:20:37] Maya: Like, trust your child. Like they, they're smarter than you realize. They're more insane than you realize. And I never regretted that about. How I viewed Caleb's brother. Right. I never regretted that cause I just remembered him as like my other brother, you know, adopted kind of brother, like Caleb is writing poetry with me, connecting that way.

[00:20:57] Maya: And I, and I really commend that because with my own brother, as you guys all know the story, you know, we cremated him. But last time I saw him, it was days in the hospital and it wasn't my brother. It wasn't the same thing. And so I think I just wanna call that out because I. Wow. Like, listen to your kids because they do really know they're, they're really in tune,

[00:21:19] Aletha: right? I'm so lucky my parents listened to me and did not force me, cuz that would've made it even worse if I already didn't wanna do it. And then they had forced me into it because they just like, okay, yeah, that's your decision. And I have almost 16, later years later, I have not regretted it for a second.

[00:21:33] Maya: Absolutely. And I think that is just, again, such a important nugget from this episode already. Trust your intuition for yourself, you know what's right for you and it's regardless of age like, you know, so I just, again, what I commend you, I think that's, So wise, and I wanna ask you one question before we continue to move forward, cuz your story is incredible, but so when you guys did the memorial at the high school, were you in attendance of that as well, Alicia?

[00:21:59] Aletha: Yes. Yes. Yep. I was front row in the auditorium with everyone else, so, yeah. And I, I remember parts of that day too, I remember our neighbor telling a story of how my brother was a picky eater and would only eat certain things and like I remember bits and pieces, but not all of it, unfortunately.

[00:22:17] Maya: Right, but you were there and I wanted to like, clarify that because I think that's very interesting and, and you, you do remember that you were there and I think that's, that's huge. So you're at the, you know, the viewing the funeral, there's a ton of people there. I think that's probably bittersweet here, right? It's heartwarming to see all these people that love your brother, but it's like, it, it becomes kind of real, kind of walk us through that. Post what happened with the family dynamic?

[00:22:48] Aletha: Yeah, so I remember like those two days back to back, it was obviously very, very overwhelming. Very like I didn't know how to deal with my emotions. The place that we had is visitation was very, very like kind and understanding. I mean, I assume most places are, but this is the only experience I have with like a funeral home.

[00:23:05] Aletha: They had like another room I could go in. They had like blankets. They had just like kind of a very accommodating area for me personally. and think you said it was definitely very heartwarming to. people that I didn't even know coming out like, and there's still people to this day that learn who I am and they're like, oh my God, I loved your brother.

[00:23:21] Aletha: I'm like, I don't even know who you are. But that's so awesome. Like it's still awesome to hear all these years later. And same with like the funeral. The funeral, like it was eventually standing room only in the back and we had it at the largest church in our area. So it's definitely crazy just to think of all those people who cared enough about my brother and our family to come out because it obviously, like it wasn't.

[00:23:43] Aletha: Brett's family and close people to him, it was people that were close to our family, like my brother's dad came down, my brother's like family on that side came down, which was really cool to kind of really make sure they were involved, which is huge because he, my brother's dad did live four hours away, so that dynamic was.

[00:24:02] Aletha: He didn't see his dad all too often just because of the distance. So it was really nice to have them there and be a part of everything because of, I mean, of course they would be, but that was kind of a nice aspect for me because I didn't really know my brother's dad. So getting to see him and kind of be around him for that.

[00:24:18] Aletha: But yeah, I, I remember, like I said, visitation. I was playing my Ds just, it was such like, Reminding myself, looking back, I was such a kid in that moment, kind of reifies that moment where, cuz I, from that jumping point, I feel like I really had to grow up fast. So it's kind of like, man, you were just a kid when that happened.

[00:24:34] Aletha: Which is sometimes hard to deal with because you have to remembrance like, man, you were nine when all this happened and you weren't much more older to kind of deal with your emotions in which obviously it's not easy at any point, losing a sibling, but kind of how you handle it as a child, is interesting,

[00:24:51] Maya: right? Because your view on the world is so different and you live with a parent, parents, whoever it is that you were living with. In your case it was your dad and your brother, and you know, you're kind of seeing the world protected through them and. From the stories that I've heard, especially yours like, and there's a few others that have come on and will be on this season too, that lost at a young age.

[00:25:17] Maya: You seem through like I'm protected. And especially for you, you know, you had a big brother that protected you. And I think it's interesting because you have to process that, that protector, that older, you know, sibling, that person that was there for you, like that's now not there. And so, , I'm sure that was a huge challenge for you.

[00:25:38] Aletha: It definitely was because after everything settled with like the visitation, the services, every kind of follow up thing we did at that point, it was just me and my dad at that point, and my relationship with my mother ever since then has not been necessarily a good relationship. I definitely believe that I lost my mom as much that day as I lost my brother.

[00:25:58] Aletha: Which is tough, but from then on it was just me and my dad. So like kinda like you talked about is like you're losing one of the protectors. So I'm down to one. It's just me and my dad. From then on out, it was just kind of navigating life, not only as losing a sibling, but really being a family of two, from a family of four for us.

[00:26:17] Aletha: Which is kind of throws a whole nother dynamic to it as well. But yeah, I remember kind of cuz I mean I was in third grade when this happened, so finishing out the rest of the school year cuz we still had a little bit of school left. And then going into the next school year, my fourth grade teacher was phenomenal at like making sure I needed what, like had what I needed when I needed it.

[00:26:37] Aletha: If I needed to step out, if I needed to go have silent reading time by myself. Like she definitely took time to. Make sure I was good at all times. And then my fifth grade teacher was like the same teacher who my brother had for fifth grade, so we kind of got to have that connection too, of she remembered my brother and she definitely, same thing, kind of helped me whenever I needed because I was still kind of, not only.

[00:27:03] Aletha: going through changes as just as you do at 11, 12 years old, or the end of elementary school, but going through grieving as well, and just very much. And my brother, like I said, went to the same elementary, middle school and high school that I went through, so everyone knew him too. So that kind of helped with.

[00:27:21] Aletha: If I needed a moment, they just let me have it. And then my sixth grade teacher also lost the brother. So then when I had my sixth grade teacher, um, she, once a month we'd have lunches together and just get to talk and have kind of share those feelings. So that was definitely helped me kind of grasp she was.

[00:27:41] Aletha: older when her brother passed, but it's still, like you said, just talking to anyone else who has been through a similar scenario is so, so helpful. So those kind of next three years of elementary school after it were really, really supported by my teachers, alongside, of course, my dad at home, but he was trying to raise a daughter by himself, which was an interesting dynamic in of itself. So

[00:28:02] Maya: again, I'm sure lots of people can relate who have been raised by their dad and then gone through a loss as well. So I appreciate you sharing that. I love how supportive your teachers were. Like, what a beautiful thing. And I'm the oldest and like all my siblings came after me and I was like, I wasn't a bad student but I was definitely a rebel until I got to college.

[00:28:22] Maya: So like they all looked pretty good after me except for my brother. Cause he was like just as rebellious, if not were so, they were like, oh yeah, that's mine's brother for sure. But no, I just bring a little laugh, dance here. But no, I love the story of your, it was your sixth grade teacher that had. Assimilate as well, I think. Yeah. I mean, regardless of age, you just have an empathy that comes to you, as I've shared on that podcast before, and you're totally talking about the same thing here with your teacher. I think it's so beautiful and what a beautiful gift you had from and have for life for these teachers to validate your loss, validate your feelings, and to let you know that you are not alone.

[00:29:07] Maya: And this is why we're. Here talking about this right now, so that you know more people, hopefully teachers will listen to this. Hopefully more people will listen to this so that they know you're never gonna forget those people for the rest of your life, right? Aha. Because they were there for you and impacted you in such a positive.

[00:29:25] Maya: Way, and I'm sure you already know I connect very much with you on, although 21 years after you in my loss, it, it was pretty much kind of the, the nail in the coffin a little bit for me with my mom. I, I, you know, I don't believe in, you know, forever, never, never all of those things, but it was extremely.

[00:29:48] Maya: Traumatic for my relationship with my mother too. So I understand that, and I think your story is one of very interesting family dynamics as well, right. After losing Brett, and you know, again, you've shared kind of your journey going through school and as you were maturing. Tell us a little bit about the relationship with you and your father, because you've now become a quote unquote only child, which we talk about a lot here in the sibling loss space, changing from being the baby to the only child, and then you've also, you felt the loss of your mother, even though she's still living.

[00:30:24] Maya: Again, I connect with completely because I felt like I lost family members as as well in this. It just kind of, you know, people are like, are you sad? Are you this? I'm like, it just is what it is. It's the evolution. Tell us a little bit about your journey with that, because at nine years old, A lot of loss.

[00:30:42] Maya: You know, not just the passing of your brother, but like a lot of loss and change. So kind of tell us a little bit about how your father navigated this with you and what your perspective on all of this was and what helped you and what maybe you wish went a little bit different. I think it's really. Interesting for you to share that.

[00:30:59] Aletha: Yeah, I will definitely start with the thing that I think I wish was the most different because it's something I feel very, very strongly about. Cause there's a lot of good, there's a ton of good, right? But the one thing is I feel like I just had to grow up so fast. Like I had to start taking care of myself so much more than most people do at nine, 10, and 11.

[00:31:18] Aletha: And that's definitely at like no fault of my dad's. But he worked so much all the time to keep us afloat when my mom. officially leave. She took every item in our house out. So my dad had to work to build back up the furniture and pretty much everything to make it a home again. So I felt like I kind of had to live through that alongside my dad rather than like as the kid, I had to be kind of like a mutual support.

[00:31:47] Aletha: So him and I have. So close over the years and like he's easily my best friend. And like I said, we kind of did things side by side rather than like parent to child, if that makes sense. But I think that's probably been the hardest part because I feel like you had to grow up so fast where there's things where like I catch myself now with people my age now 25.

[00:32:10] Aletha: I'm like, man, why have they not done this before? Why are they not like doing things like this in their life? And my fiance often reminds me of this. People didn't have to grow up as fast as you like people. People got to have. Quote unquote normal childhoods, people didn't go through the trauma you went through.

[00:32:24] Aletha: And that definitely helps me kind of calm down sometimes. Like, okay, it's not bad necessarily what I had to go through, but it kind of helps explain some of my feelings now just being like, oh, that's why I'm reacting this way to certain things or feeling this way. Cuz not everyone had to start taking care of the.

[00:32:42] Aletha: So young, and like I said, it was never bad. Like we always had food. I was always taken care of. I, I got to play traveling softball, which was huge. My dad worked very hard so I could play traveling softball throughout my end of elementary school and like all through my high school years. So like I never for a second went without.

[00:32:59] Aletha: But it also was very much like I had to be as much of a grownup as him. And I don't necessarily think it was. Of his doing it would think, it was kind of me feeling like I lost that extra protector where I felt like that I had to come up and be kind of fill those shoes a bit. Cuz also with the eight year age gap, there was so much more maturity between my brother and I.

[00:33:21] Aletha: So then I felt like I had to get to that level where he was in the household too. So I think that's kind of another side of it as well. My dad, like I said, was there for everything, every bit of the way. My mom and i's relationship really, really didn't have a falling out until. later in high school and then again recently cuz it, like I said, I never say never either.

[00:33:44] Aletha: If there's a time where that relationship could be healed, I am here for it. But it's best for me now to kind of keep arms length, kind of keep things out of my energy area to keep myself happier and healthier. But yeah, he's supported me every step of the way and just been still to this day, my absolute best friend.

[00:34:04] Maya: Okay, so we love dad. Huge shout out to dad. We love you. And it sounds like you have incredible fiance too, because that's very mature to give that feedback too. And I'm just blown away that you're 25 because I think, again, I think a lot of people will connect with your story. And it's a story of hope, but I personally, and I think a lot of you guys will too, I personally connect, even though I didn't lose my brother until I was 30, you know, my family was just not present.

[00:34:30] Maya: And it's, I've shared very openly and I connect with you on growing up quite quickly and it's. Yeah, I mean, in your twenties you're like, really? You don't know how to go to the bank? Or like, oh, you don't know how to like pay your own bills or like, oh, you still call mom and dad to make a doctor's appointment?

[00:34:49] Maya: No shade at anybody who does that. But we can't process those things. Aha. Right, because we have grown up so quickly. , even though, you know, some people say, oh, that's kind of sad you missed this or that, you know, I, I embrace my past, I embrace my childhood, and I think. , you have to focus on the positive things that have occurred.

[00:35:13] Maya: And I think for you, one of the most beautiful things is your relationship with your father. Like what a beautiful gift and the time you did have with Brett, like what, you have these two really amazing like men protecting you in your life. I always like to find the positive and everything right, and I think that's really beautiful and I think it's beautiful that your father had a great relationship, Brett, too.

[00:35:33] Maya: That says a lot about a. .

[00:35:35] Aletha: Yeah. Oh a hundred percent. And that's something that like, I always like make sure to share. I do like to include my brother's dad as much as I can. When I'm talking about things, I just, I don't really know him. Sure. So it's kinda hard for me, but it's as important to know how much of a dad my dad was to my brother and the relationship that they had.

[00:35:51] Aletha: I mean, they were together since my brother was a year and a half old. So like he really didn't know any difference. But yeah, no, my dad for sure, like he is amazing. He's worked. Butt off to make sure we were good. So

[00:36:05] Maya: we love you dad. , shout out. No, I get that too. Your brother being so young and I think, again, I think it's just such a testament to, you know, the moms and dads out there that take on those roles and I think it's really beautiful and yeah, you're right.

[00:36:20] Maya: It doesn't take anything away from, you know, the biological parents. Doesn't mean there's any less love there, but I. Shah's, your dad. We love you, dad. Awesome. I love it. And again, I think your fiance supporting you in the way that he is. Like that's something we hear a lot about Ali, and I'm sure you've seen this in, you know, our groups that we share in common and just support groups, things like that, which we're gonna get into it in a couple minutes, but there's a lot of people out there.

[00:36:48] Maya: Say, you know, their significant other, which I imagine your significant other fiance did not know your brother. Right. And that's always kind of a challenge. That's a challenge for people. So I wanna touch on that before we continue down your brief journey, because you are a fabulous example of this. And you have someone who's quite empathetic, so, Tell us a little bit about that, if you don't mind.

[00:37:09] Maya: What, what that was like for you, because I know that's a common struggle with us surviving siblings when we meet our person and we know it's our person and we get engaged or married right away or whatever you do, right? Or we start living together. I see this all the time, and you've probably seen this too, where they're like, oh, but I wish my fiance, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever, now wife, husband met my sibling, but.

[00:37:34] Maya: Not possible unless you guys completely rock together. , right, right. When you go through a loss as a child. So if you don't mind, share what you're comfortable sharing about your experience with that. Cause I think a lot of you guys listening will find this helpful. Cause this is something I see all the time.

[00:37:50] Aletha: Yeah, so it's actually kind of something that just came to like the head for me. So my fiance and I have been together for three years next month, and we've talked about my brother from day one because my fiance and I grade, we did not start dating until like my senior year of undergrad, like way later in life.

[00:38:06] Aletha: We've been going to school together since we were in middle school. He kind of missed the elementary age when my brother's accident happened, but his family was very aware of who my brother was, like his grandmother worked at our high school at the time. My brother passed away and did while we were there too.

[00:38:21] Aletha: So everyone in his family kind of knew, and he kind of had knowledge of it, but he had never put the two together. because we had different last names. My brother had his dad's last name. I had my dad's last name. So he is kind of never put two and two together, but it was very much just, I am a very upfront and forward person.

[00:38:40] Aletha: I don't also shy away from sharing my story at all. I am very much am always comfortable to talk about it. So it was very, very early on. It was probably, I. When we were in high school together is kind of when he, he found out like who my brother wa like the actual connection, I think is what we actually just talked about this.

[00:38:58] Aletha: This is funny. So I think that's what he said was in high school is when he made the connection of like, oh, Brett's was le like the sibling con. Okay, that makes sense. And then like I said, it wasn't till like four or five years later we actually got together. But he's always been super supportive. If I'm having a bad day every year on my brother's anniversary, he does something, whether it's his parents sent me flowers one one year at my place of work.

[00:39:23] Aletha: This last year I was at my in-laws house with him and all of his siblings, cuz he has three brothers. And we sat there and watched documentary in a Mike and Ikes, which were like my brother's favorite candy together. So every year he does something just to make the day brighter and better. so he's fully, fully supportive.

[00:39:42] Aletha: But yeah, I've kind of just the fact that like there's so many people in my life right now that have never met my brother. And like I said, I came to this realization because there is a friend in our friend's group that has been my friend since I was three years old. So he's the only person in our entire friend's group that knows my brother.

[00:39:58] Aletha: And like I had that like, oh my gosh moment cuz we were at a gathering and they pulled out a video game like. Gay boy cartridge that my brother had given them when we were children. And he was like, your brother gave me this. And I, in that moment realized this is the only person that I really asso, like am close-knit with to this day that actually knew my brother.

[00:40:19] Aletha: So that was very, very hard. I remember going home that night, like this was just maybe, I think it was for New Year, so this was about a month ago. Um, and yeah, so it was very, very recent that I, I remember breaking down in the car ride. Like you never got to meet him. Like your parents never got to meet him.

[00:40:38] Aletha: All your brothers never got like this person. Like it was just really, really came to a head. And I was like, but that's okay because I still share stories. I still talk, I show pictures. Like have those moments still where I'm able to keep his memory alive, whether they've met him or not.

[00:40:52] Maya: Yeah. Oh my gosh.

[00:40:54] Maya: There's a lot to unpack there because I get exactly what you're talking about. Even though I lost my brother at 30. Couple things. So one, your fiance really gets it because he has like brothers, so like he can understand from that level and sounds like he's quite an empathetic person. So it sounds like hot tip as I like to say in these moments.

[00:41:19] Maya: You know, if your person, and I'd love to hear your feedback on this too, at lead, going through this, if your person's really. Not empathetic and says those things that can be quite triggering for us, right? Like, why aren't you over this yet? Why aren't you pump the brakes? This is our journey for life.

[00:41:36] Maya: Thank you very much. But there's things that can be. Quite, I think, toxic in our journey. And those are just not your people. They're just really not your people. And so I just feel so much like love hearing about him because you know what that means to me when I hear someone like your fiance is that they know they have not gone through that type of loss, but they experience those relationships and can put themselves in your shoes, which is what we all know as empathy, right?

[00:42:06] Maya: no, they don't know what it's like firsthand, but they can fathom recreating that situation and feeling that, and that truly to me is what. A really special and and beautiful person. And going through this loss myself made me an even more empathetic person, which shocks people when I say that. But it did not happen year one.

[00:42:24] Maya: I'm gonna tell you that right now as angry as hell, but , you know what I mean? But I think that's huge. But I also love the fact that they do something special for, you're 25 and you were nine when you lost your brother, and I think. Really important for all of you listening out there, especially if you are like Ali and you went through a loss at such a young age, you can feel defeating when people tell you, oh, the grief is for life.

[00:42:50] Maya: Like, no, you're not gonna feel like it's the end of the world every single day, but these beautiful things that you do to honor and remember, it's I, I don't know what any of them were then. Beautiful along your journey. . Doesn't it make you feel like Brett is just with you still like I would think so.

[00:43:07] Aletha: Yeah. It definitely does. And for me, like my dad and I have always prided ourself on never making that day a sad day. Like we never tried to do anything that makes it sad. I remember in 2019 there was a music festival in Minneapolis that had my best friend and i's favorite artist playing on the day of my brother's Ann.

[00:43:24] Aletha: I was like, we're going like it's on this day. It's our favorite artist, is the first time she was getting to see him. I bought his tickets and we went like that to me was a day where I was with my best friend seeing our favorite artist together, and I felt like my brother was with me like cheering on from heaven the whole time.

[00:43:38] Aletha: Like, she's having so much fun today. Like that's what she should be doing. We've always prided ourselves in making it not a sad day because. , of course it's a sad memory and it's a sad day, but like it doesn't have to be per se, because as long as you kind of try to find the positivity in life and sharing good memories and like sharing happy things around that time, but doesn't mean they're all perfect or every day is perfect either.

[00:44:00] Maya: Yeah. And you can have one of those happy days and, and. I feel like it's like you're celebrating him. Right. And I feel like things like that happen that was kind of like divine, that that happened and you guys were able to do that. Like I totally believe in that.

[00:44:11] Aletha: I do too. I accidentally put on orange this morning not even realizing this was his favorite color.

[00:44:16] Aletha: I just grabbed a card again and it didn't hit me until I was downstairs in my office like, Oh, that's what, like I believe in divine intervention. I believe in the power of spirituality a hundred percent. So I totally do.

[00:44:28] Maya: Yeah, I do too. That's a, but you are walking Orange Girl. I love it. . Oh my gosh, that's so funny. Yeah, it's such a fun way. Oh my gosh. There's so much hope and positivity in this story and conversation and I really love that. And you know, I like wanna send your dad like Best dad Tea , like, you know, he's awesome. I think that's really important and I really love in your story and your journey on grief that you.

[00:44:54] Maya: Focused so much on the positive and the people that were there for you and are here for you still. And I, I love that you have the same outlook as me. Never say never, but you at 25. I just commend you so much cuz I was like learning what boundaries were at your age, not implementing them. So you are like a rockstar.

[00:45:16] Maya: Yeah, never say never, but if it's not serving you, if it's not healthy for you in that relationship, especially going through a grief journey, it's okay to set that boundary. And I think that's a really big message here in your story. But I wanna ask you a couple other things too. Ali, in your journey being 16, right, 16 years in now is where you're at will be.

[00:45:35] Maya: Yeah. And. Yeah, that's, that's significant. And what are some of the things, I mean we've talked about your family support and stuff, but talk us through like your teachers were great. Like what are some coping things over the years and positive outlets for you that have helped you move from nine to 25 and.

[00:45:55] Maya: Like, did you go to therapy or like what was your dad's kind of support in this? Or like what did you implement personally as you grew into adulthood? I would love to hear some of those aspects of your story too.

[00:46:08] Aletha: Yeah, so I tried multiple different times throughout, literally from nine to now 25 forms of therapy, different therapies. It just has never really felt like the right place for me. Worked through my traumas for me. I've always turned to like music and like writing and I, I played softball for most of my formative years, so that was a huge outlet for me. And with traveling softball, we played pretty much seven days a week between practice and games and tournaments.

[00:46:37] Aletha: So I definitely dove like head first into that. I was an orchestra as well in middle school. Part of me wishes I would've carried it out through high school, but I decided to focus on softball instead in high school. So just being active and literally keeping my hands busy with things and activities was huge for me and not ignoring my grief.

[00:46:54] Aletha: I think I did a lot in middle school and high school. I suppressed it a lot, which wasn't great. I did fall too much into. , I'm gonna focus on softball, I'm gonna focus on these things and just kind of black out like my feelings. And then I'd have a breakdown, which then would lead to me just breaking down.

[00:47:10] Aletha: And like my dad was always super supportive. Like I always could turn to him if I was having a bad day or it was never like I couldn't, I didn't have a sport system at home, but I would just try to bottle up because you're strong and resilient when you lose someone young and you grow from when you lose someone in general.

[00:47:25] Aletha: And if they people see you like persevering, you get labeled as strong and and resilient and. . Oh, you're so, you've gone through so much. You've turned out so great. And I found those words to me affecting me more negatively because I felt like I had to push on more and not really deal with my feelings, especially in those more formative years, the middle school and high school years.

[00:47:46] Aletha: And it really hasn't been until my twenties now that I've really unpacked it. Like I didn't wanna be strong and tough and resilient. I wanted to be a kid. So that's something I've really, really started to unpack in my twenties. And in my twenties. I've really. Dealt with my feelings. I've dealt with my emotions.

[00:48:01] Aletha: I've let myself be sad. I've let myself had bad days. Early high school, I wrote a lot. I used to write letters to my brother about what was going on as an outlet, and then as I got kind of into college, I would just write anything. Like it did not matter what it was. If I put pen to paper, it was nonsense.

[00:48:17] Aletha: It just kind of helped release those emotions and those feelings. So that helped me a lot in college. But again, even through my twenties, I went from. my four year degree straight into my master's degree. So I've been in school for the last six years, so I'm very good at just pushing myself into things to kind of distract.

[00:48:35] Aletha: But yeah, I have very, very much tried to just deal with my feelings and kind of really address them and as they arise, like address 'em as they arise. Like if something makes me sad. dealing with those emotions, and that's for like really anything. If I'm upset about something, mad about anything because I'm so good at just like closing off and shutting down.

[00:48:52] Aletha: Yeah. So I've really, really tried to focus on just like feeling my emotions as they happen.

[00:48:57] Maya: I, I'm just, again, I think you're so mature. This is huge. I think you're right. I think this does happen when you go through a significant loss at a young age or traumas at a young age, right? You're grow up quickly.

[00:49:09] Maya: Looking back, I think you said something that just kind of blows me away and I connect with her. I'm sure a lot of you guys can connect with this too, when you are in your twenties and you become like an adult and you start to look back and you're like, thanks for telling me I was super strong. Thanks for telling me.

[00:49:24] Maya: But like, . It's not like I wanted that, like that's what I had to do to survive and thrive. Like that's what I, right? I made it happen. And so I think it's, I think that's a very interesting point that you bring up, Ali, because I think I, you know, I've been told that a lot in my life too. People are like, you're so strong, you're so brave, you're so this.

[00:49:44] Maya: And then like behind closed doors, I mean, maybe I am right, but I'm like, I'm doing what I needed to do for myself in order to survive and then thrive. So you don't really think about it until you take that time to reflect. And I think you sharing that, like thank you so much for being so open about that, because I think that's huge and you have thrown yourself so much into school sports.

[00:50:07] Maya: And then when you went to college, your. And I'm sure your work life is no different because guilty is charged too, girl, like guilty is charged. But what I think is so healthy and beautiful, and I hope you guys get this outta this episode as well, is that it seems like something shifted for you. Once you became a adult, which let's face it, you're probably an adult at nine right after all of that, because you were quite independent and you know, there as like a partner in crime with your dad in a very positive way and you guys were moving through this experience together, but.

[00:50:45] Maya: I love how you said you allow yourself to feel it. You, if you're like, I'm angry or mad or sad, or whatever emotion, which I'm just throwing emotions out there, but in feelings. But that's a huge shift because I feel like when you lost bread at nine, you threw yourself into school, sports, you know, band, all of those things young and then, you know, really heavy into softball in high school.

[00:51:08] Maya: And so when you came out as a quote unquote, I, I'm saying quote unquote adult, You, you were a kid. Adult , like I did that. totally that, and I'm sure a lot of you will as well, especially with early loss, but being able to recognize that, okay, now I'm gonna feel this, like I'm going to process this. This is something that adults don't do.

[00:51:29] Maya: And when I say adults, I'm not talking about us in our twenties, thirties, even forties. I'm talking about people that are like old, even older than that. And, and much, much later. , they're still figuring out how to do that. So again, I wanna commend you and I, hopefully you guys are getting this beautiful, again, another nugget out of this episode, because that's huge, allowing yourself to feel that because it hurts like hell , you know, it hurts or it's sad, or it's, it's heavy.

[00:51:57] Maya: So when you allow yourself to feel. and, and go through that. Ali, what is your process? You don't have to go super deep into it, but I just think it's important to share with people because I think we push our, you know, for like, oh, I'm starting to feel sad about this. Like we kind of busy ourselves, which sounds like a coping mechanism.

[00:52:14] Maya: You and I have both done. How, kind of tell us how you embrace that and how you move through whatever emotion you are, whether it's sad. share a little bit, if you don't mind on that.

[00:52:25] Aletha: Yeah, for sure. Because for me, like it definitely like , I hate to say cry it out, but that's definitely how it is. If I feel that like sadness coming on, I just cry it out.

[00:52:34] Aletha: And honestly, it is something that, again, back to my fiance being like the greatest person in the entire world, it was something with him that he was just like, just cry. He goes, if you feel like you're gonna cry, just cry. I'm like, no, I don't wanna cry. I'm so strong. I don't need to cry. Like, He's like, just cry.

[00:52:48] Aletha: Like you're gonna feel like so much better if you just let it out. And then even goes into like being angry. If I'm angry about something, I'll like rationalize for a second. Especially if it's in like a partner conflict. That's anytime anger really pops up for me or like upsetness, it's like process it for a second.

[00:53:03] Aletha: And I'm like, I'm gonna tell you right now why this upset me, or why this made me mad and I just need to get this out. . And even if it's not a huge problem anymore, I just still say it and then like reinforce. That's what,

[00:53:13] Maya: yeah, you're reinforcing, but you're releasing it, which I think is so healthy. This is what I wanted to get to the of you.

[00:53:19] Maya: Yeah. I, I do think when you go through such a significant trauma and then obviously you know, a broken family and all these different dynamics and you don't know how to do that and you've really evolved and you know, like, because I'm like, you too. I'm like, okay, this might. Minute, or this might be huge, but I'm gonna get it out cause I don't want that crap inside of myself, which I think is another great piece of.

[00:53:44] Aletha: because it's just gonna hurt me more being it stuck inside. So I just need to release it and then if it causes something worse, then deal with it as it comes. But it's, it's just nice to get it out and just whatever form that is, if it's crying, if it's hysterical laughing because like sometimes they come out crazy weird like that too.

[00:54:01] Aletha: Or it just kind of get into this like crazy laughing that turns into crying. But it's just really letting yourself feel your emotions is so important to.

[00:54:08] Maya: Where do we go from there? Fabulous advice, Ali, that thank you for sharing your grief journey. I know it's for life. Um, and thank you for sharing right with us today.

[00:54:20] Maya: Before we let you go, couple things you know, I'm gonna ask you a question I'm gonna ask you. If a 25 year old Ali go back in time today and talk to nine year old Deha, what's some advice that you would give yourself, whether. before finding out that Brett passed and had the accident or maybe right after.

[00:54:40] Maya: I think this question is so helpful to our surviving siblings and supporters who listen to the show and are going through this experience and are in the thick of it. What's some advice you, you would kinda go back and tell your nine year old self during that time?

[00:54:54] Aletha: Yeah, I think it directly correlates to that like resilient, strong piece where I would just tell myself to still be a kid like.

[00:55:03] Aletha: Find joy in the small things and the fun things like don't focus so heavily on preparing yourself for the next step or preparing yourself for any outcome there could be or anything like you're always in like fight or flight after that moment. I definitely felt like I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in like fight or flight cuz when's the ball gonna drop?

[00:55:21] Aletha: What's next? But just telling myself to be a kid, like go run the ingrain. I did, I did kid things, but just letting myself feel like a kid and not really feel those heavy, heavy. Adult type feelings and not even with like trauma feelings or like grief feelings, but just like responsibilities and things that I felt like I had to put on myself at such a young age.

[00:55:42] Aletha: Just be a kid, like just go have fun and be a kid. Like things will be okay.

[00:55:46] Maya: I love that. That's why I love this question. Everyone has a different, unique. Response and perspective, and I think I, I, again, just, I hope you guys connect with this as well, regardless of when you lost your sibling or siblings, because I think that we get really caught up in everybody else and what we're supposed to be doing to support everybody else, but coming from you as an adult now looking.

[00:56:11] Maya: at your experience as a child. I think giving any of you permission that are young and going through this to be a child, I think is a beautiful gift. I really think it is because you're only a child for a certain amount of time and you can try to get that back. I find myself, I'm a little youthful and I like to do fun things and I think it's because I had to grow up past you, so I connect with you on that, that in a different way.

[00:56:36] Maya: And I get that energy from you too, like find and wanna do fun things. And even though you're responsible and you're on it and you know how to communicate and articulate your emotions and move through them, I like to have more fun. I like to contact that childhood, right? Like right. Yeah. . So Ali, tell us where we can connect with you.

[00:56:58] Maya: I know you're gonna be in our Facebook group so people can connect with you there. So we'll all tag you and see when this episode airs. But are there any other forms of social media where you're comfortable with people connecting with you?

[00:57:08] Aletha: Yeah, my Instagram handle is just Ali underscore Laughlin. I'm on Instagram par.

[00:57:14] Aletha: Frequently. I also have a Twitter, it's Al Marie 16. It's a l m a i r e e 16 with my Twitter handle. Feel free to reach out, however, whichever way, like I'm definitely open to anyone reaching out.

[00:57:30] Maya: Perfect. And we will tag it in the show notes of course, as well, so people can just click and find you. And again, I wanna thank you Alita, for sharing you and your story, your grief journey.

[00:57:41] Maya: And of course Brett with us today.

[00:57:43] Aletha: Yes, of course. Thank you for having me.

[00:57:45] Maya: Absolutely. Thank you so much for listening to the Surviving Siblings Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode as much as I did creating it for you, then share it on your chosen social media platform. And don't forget to tag us at Surviving Siblings Podcast so that more surviving siblings can find us.

[00:58:06] Maya: Remember to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. And don't forget to follow us on all social media platform. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok at Surviving Siblings Podcast. All links can be found in the show notes, so be sure to check those out too. Thank you again for the support. Until the next episode, keep on surviving my surviving siblings.

Aletha LaughlinProfile Photo

Aletha Laughlin

Aletha was only 9 years old when her brother Brett passed. Even though they were 9 years apart, they were very close. Aletha and Brett spent a lot of time on the tracks since Brett started racing at a very young age. Racing was Brett’s passion. In 2007, Brett was coming back home from an all-night race when he fell asleep behind the wheel crashing his car. Unfortunately, he died as a result of this accident. The days after her brother passed were very overwhelming for Aletha and she became even closer to her father and even more distant from her mother.