I was 14 when my brother led me to the Lord. However, as I grew in my walk with the Lord, my brother struggled. He struggled with the idea that there were things in this world he couldn’t take part in while also having a devoted relationship with Jesus. He had to choose and eventually, he did. He stopped attending church and his “religion” was a thing of the past.

Over the next few years, both of our lives changed. I attended college and married my high school sweetheart. My brother was hanging out with a new group of questionable friends, was never home, and never had any money.

One month after my college graduation, I got a call that would change my entire life. My mother told me that my brother came to her for help. He had been battling a drug addiction with pills and now he was using heroin. After returning from detox my brother relapsed fairly quickly.

Like so many other drug users my brother lost his job. He became so desperate that he would do nearly anything to get high. One day my parents got a call that my brother had been arrested for a bank robbery.

He spent the next two months in jail and he called every day. He explained that he got addicted to pills after being in the hospital for a staph infection. Eventually, the pills didn’t give him the high he was looking for and heroin was suggested.

My brother asked if he could go to Teen Challenge while he waited for his court hearings. While there he was clean, smiling, had lost some weight, and was joking around. He looked like the brother I grew up with and loved deeply. He would talk about the future and he shared how he had given his life back to Christ and was filled with hope in the midst of an uncertain and scary season.

One Saturday evening, Teen Challenge told us my brother ran away and by the time the supervisors were notified, he had already gotten out of the building.

Four days later, my mom received a call telling her that a body of a white male was found dead from a drug overdose in a bathroom stall of a local library. They ran the fingerprints of the body and the prints matched with someone in their system—my brother.

My mother called crying hysterically. I went right into caretaker mode telling her that it would be OK, we would get through this, and I would come over right away. As soon as I got off the phone and laid eyes on my husband, I collapsed onto the floor and cried such a deep intense cry. I was in a state of shock and seeing my husband, who is my rock, allowed me to feel the magnitude of what just occurred.

While in the car on the way to my parents, a worship song from my childhood kept playing on repeat in my head. Just one part of the song: “My God is an awesome God who reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. My God is an awesome God.”

I can’t explain it, but in the deepest, darkest, most painful part of my life, the only response my soul could utter was to worship. Even in the midst of all of this—He hasn’t changed. The God I served before my brother’s death would be the same God after my brother’s death.

Siblings are often called the forgotten grievers. People would come up to me, give me a big hug, pull away and say, “How are your parents doing?” Was I invisible? Do siblings not grieve as deeply as parents? From my point of view, it seemed the same.

I couldn’t sleep at night. I would lie next to my sleeping husband and read the Bible asking God a million questions, trying to make sense of everything that happened. On other nights I couldn’t mutter a single word and would cry while holding my Bible tightly against my chest. Those nights were the nights Jesus met me there in my bedroom. It was almost like He was physically present in the room holding me in His arms. It was during those dark, sleepless nights when I clung to my Jesus that my heart was healed and my faith was strengthened.

To those who have lost someone:

The former “you” is no longer. There’s been a major shift in your life and as long as you fight it, you can never become the new “you”. The great news is when you allow Jesus into that dark and hurting place, He can heal your heart and you can begin to embrace the new “you”. Once you do, I think you will grow to like that person. You are a survivor. If I can survive this, you can too. I pray for you daily and I hope you pray for me too. We’re in this together.

Heather Margiotta

Heather Margiotta is a Christian Writer and Speaker from northeast Ohio. She is a wife to a loving husband and a mother to two handsome sons. She received a bachelor's degree in Theology and writes about her faith, adoption, relationships, and grief on her blog, HeatherMargiotta.com. Besides loving Jesus and her family, Heather is obsessed with coffee, local pizza joints, and nail polish.