Stay Safe: Chapter Twenty-Three


What follows is a chapter from "Stay Safe: Life After Loss," a book that I wrote following the death of my brother, Robert James Reeves. Rob, only 14-months younger than me and 32 years old at the time of his death, was a Navy SEAL on the prestigious SEAL Team 6. On August 6, 2011, while on a mission in Afghanistan, he and too many of his teammates and other servicemen, lost their lives when their helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. It was the single largest loss of American life in the Afghan war. And because of the high profile nature of this event–being on the cusp of the Bin Laden mission and the number of those lost–my dad and I were part of many, many memorials and events, and the recipients of much outreach, and the point of contact for all those wanting to do something in Rob’s memory. This book chronicles the first month after his death. I am releasing a chapter a day starting August 5th as we mark the fourth anniversary of life without him.


All I really wanted to do was stay under the covers and cry all day. Sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself was just not an option. I had to go to work. Not only go to work, but fly to Houston and back with the agency team to give a client presentation.  But, I needed my job and up until this month, I was really liking my job.The travel and the presentation were good distractions. I had no choice but to focus on the task at hand and the business we needed to conduct.On our way back to Little Rock, while waiting on our flight, Dad called. He wanted to talk to me about inviting other people to be on the boats during Rob’s burial at sea. I was being kind of a pain-in-the-ass about it, and I knew it, but I affirmatively did not want anyone else out there with us. I also knew that Rob wouldn't have cared and would have probably said the more, the merrier. But I was so tired of all these people wanting a piece of Rob and I just hadn’t felt the opportunity to have my private moment of grieving. I never anticipated my best friend’s death being a public event where anyone and everyone felt like they deserved to be a part of it. And maybe this burial at sea wouldn’t be it either, but I was just so over all of these people crowding around Rob and crowding around Dad and crowding around me. I knew I should be more laid back and go with the flow. But that is not me and I had tried so hard to be “with the flow” the last two weeks and now I was fucking tired of going with the flow. So, I told Dad exactly how I felt about it. In a fit-like way, admittedly. I took out my pain and frustration on Dad, unfortunately. Why couldn’t we dictate who was with us when we poured Rob’s ashes in to the ocean? We hadn’t been able to keep people from visiting our house, attending the memorial service or calling with their condolences. Couldn’t we have this as a private time with just those we want to be there? I wanted this to be one situation that wasn’t a party. I thought the burial at sea could be a time for closure.I didn’t know how to properly grieve. Being alone wasn’t helping. Being around a bunch of people wasn’t helping. Distracting myself was only postponing the inevitable and perhaps made it worse. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I felt like every choice I made was wrong. I needed to officially say good-bye to Rob and that hadn’t happened for me yet.

© 2015 Emily Reeves Dean and All Rights Reserved.