As a teenager, Alex Gray dealt with an unimaginable loss. His older brother, Chris, the one who introduced him to surfing in the first place, died of a heroin overdose. Since that day, Alex has discovered a way to honor his brother’s legacy through continuing to push the limits of surfing and by sharing Chris’ story.
Earlier this week, Alex posted on Instagram that he would be doing something he’d wanted to do for many years – holding a Sibling Loss Therapy Day. The intent being to welcome others grieving the loss of a sibling for an opportunity to come together and heal. It’ll be held this Saturday, April 21 in the South Bay of Los Angeles from 9 am to 12 pm.
We reached out to Alex for more detail on the day, and his inspiration to organize it and here’s what he had to say:
So tell me a bit about the day, what will it entail?
The day is all about simplicity. We will start with an hour or so of talking. I’d like to invite everyone to share their sibling’s name and begin honoring them. I would like to share my story and my brother. In sharing, I hope to relate topics such as guilt, depression, anger, sadness, fear of moving forward, and all that goes along with losing our loved one. Most important for me is to promote healthy acts and choices to remember the people we miss most. Because as sad as it is to have them gone, they want us to continue living on with all they gave us.
After our talk, we’ll take an hour or so to go surf, swim, or just enjoy hanging on the beach. Surfing is not mandatory. But Wavehuggers surf school will be there providing soft top beginner boards and Bodyglove wetsuits. I’d love to push someone into their first wave. Channel Islands is providing a few demo boards for the advanced surfers. We have to stay active through our grief process. Surfing has saved me through my brother Chris’ death. He gave me that sport. It’s what we did together. And I’d like to share that. After the surf/beach hang we’ll begin to wrap things up. I would like to invite people to share their favorite memory of their sibling if they feel comfortable. That would be a beautiful way to end our day.
What inspired you to want to support others dealing with sibling loss in this way?
What inspires me to help others dealing with sibling loss is because it’s so much easier and comforting to not do it alone. I didn’t go to therapy when Chris passed. At 17, I left the day after high school to join the WQS and chase his and my childhood dream. I pushed a lot of emotions away during those first few years. It was too hard to compete feeling sad and guilty. And in my case, not dealing with my sadness turned into anger. The anger was a big fuel for the fire during my competitions. But a very unhealthy one. I have always enjoyed using social media to speak about my grief process. So for this sibling surf day, I decided to post a very simple photo inviting others to join and grieve together. If only one person shows up, and I can give them some clarity and hope to move forward with their life, my goal is complete.
How do you feel that sharing your personal story has helped you heal over the years?
Sharing my story over the years has been the most fulfilling aspect to honor my brother. I know his heroin overdose was an accident. And he’d love to be here more than anything today. So I ask myself everyday… How can I have Chris’ spirit here today? And the answer is to talk about him, say his name, ride a wave for him, listen to a song we used to love… There’s always something to honor and remember him by, but it’s a practice. Life is a practice. In my career, a huge inspiration for me to win a contest or be interviewed is the chance to dedicate it to him and speak about him. I love that. I want the world to know about the person I looked up to most whom I love and miss dearly. And that’s what keeps me moving forward. Because I know Chris is loving my surfing even more than I am. It’s what he passed on to me, and wants me to take as far as possible.
Addressing the public about my brother Chris’ death continues to be a powerful asset moving forward through my grief process. Your support over the years has inspired me to do more. I will be hosting a free sibling loss surf therapy day this Saturday, April 21st from 9 am to 12 pm. It will be held in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Please email me at Alexgraysurf@gmail.com if you’d like to attend. I specifically want the participants to be anyone who have lost a sibling and are struggling to cope. I’ve thought about doing this idea for many years. But honestly, fear has gotten the better of me until now. So let’s face our fears while honoring our loved ones together. This will be a fun and simple time at the beach, with a common goal of people helping people 🙂 Looking forward to it! #chrisgraylives #siblinggrief #southbay #losangeles 📷 @ryan.moss
What’s the goal for Saturday for you and for everybody that participates?
I would like the Sibling Surf Therapy Day to allow people to find the moment again. The moment where the chaos of overthinking negative emotions stands still. And you feel the sand in your feet, smell the ocean, hear the waves, ride a wave and all of this happens because we see and feel our sibling. When we accept the choice they made, or accident, or disease that took their life… we allow them back into our life. They are everywhere around us. Everywhere! But we can get caught up in the darkness of our mind, clouded by thoughts steering us from seeing them right in front of our face. They have never left us. Personally, there are days my brother gives me a spiritual punch in the face. It’s him saying, “Wake up! It’s time to live I’m here for you.” And I feel here’s here to watch over me. Those are the best days of my life. When I allow Chris in…..
Any nerves going into Saturday?
This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Nothing gets more personal for me. And I’m not the best at sharing my vulnerable emotions. I’m a people pleaser. When Chris died, all I wanted to do was make my parents’ sadness go away. So I did all things happy that I could to put smiles on their faces. That was my choice. But at times I forgot to make myself happy and put a smile on my face. In doing this event, I will be facing every emotion I have ever felt from my brother’s passing 14 years ago. That’s a lot. But this is what I want to do in my grief process. I want to challenge myself to continue helping others going through a common process. I’d like to show them positive ways to move forward and to know everything is going to be okay. My brother was the greatest person I have ever met. I want to remember the best parts about him. And honor all the things he has done for me in life. Since his death, I’ve achieved things I never thought possible because I have his spirit guiding me along the way now. I’m very excited for Saturday to be Chris Gray’s brother….
Any thoughts about how this might evolve past the group meeting up on Saturday? Are you hoping to hold more of these Sibling Loss Therapy Days in other parts of the country later?
I’m doing this event because I want to use surfing and my social media platform to help others. And I’d just like to say thank you so much to my family, friends, and “followers.” You’ve been so kind, loving and supportive over the years with me expressing the good and tough times surrounding my brother’s death. I have the most positive following on social media in the world. That fact makes me want to strive for more, be better, do more, be a good example for the next generation…. I’m very grateful for everyone’s support. It means more than you’ll ever know. I think athletes have a chance to do more than just affect people with their talent. I’m challenging myself to explore that. And by that, I can possibly save a life. I can’t think of anything more important as a human than to keep each other standing here, now. I’d love to do more of these events. I can cover a range of topics such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental health, physical disabilities…. You name it, I’m in. And with that in mind I have the greatest teacher and healer of all time on my side…. The ocean. Thanks everyone.
If anyone who has lost a sibling would like to come please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and exact location details. It’s from 9 am to 12 pm in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Thank you so much for your consideration to attend 🙂