Carli Golbin: Recovering From Loss and Learning How to Live On

A Little About Me

Carli Golbin lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles, California. She enjoys traveling, baking, singing, and dancing. Carli is an Elementary School teacher, and she helps run The Benny Golbin Foundation.

The Benny Golbin Foundation was founded after the death of Carli’s brother and raises funds to provide private music lessons to deserving students in the Greater Los Angeles area. For more information on The Benny Golbin Foundation, please visit https://www.facebook.com/TheBennyGolbinFoundation/ .

Carli Golbin with brother and family
Carli Golbin and Family

What’s one of the greatest challenges you’ve endured and what lesson did you learn?

My older brother (and only sibling) was killed, just one week after his 36th birthday. People were illegally street racing, and one of them lost control of his car. The car flipped and landed on top of my brother’s car. According to the coroner’s report, my brother died on impact.

So many aspects of this tragedy have impacted my life, but the most difficult part has been learning to live this life without my brother.

I remember coming home from the police station and sitting in my bed and just repeating to my husband the words, “I don’t know how to do this.”

It was almost a constant chant in my head, for about two years.

Before every holiday, every birthday, and every significant moment, those words just kept popping into my head. “I don’t know how to do this.” It’s been about 4 ½ years since my brother was taken from me. When I look back on it now, I realize exactly what those words mean.

I don’t know how to live my life without my only sibling, and my best friend. We spent every Sunday together. He and his wife vacationed with us and helped us raise my children (they were 4 and 2 at the time of his death). Together, we were the perfect team. We also both felt a huge responsibility to make our mother proud and happy.

Learning to do this alone was a huge challenge, and I have to admit that at times I still need help.

One of the biggest challenges I had was the first Mother’s Day. Normally, I picked the gift, and my brother picked the card. He had the patience and the ability to pick the most fitting and perfect cards for people. I have never had that kind of patience (and I still don’t).

Benny Golbin

I walked into Hallmark and started to panic. I was sweating, and breathing so fast that I had to walk out. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pick cards like him. I was going to disappoint my mother. After arriving home I told myself that a gift from me and homemade cards from my kids were good enough.

I can’t remember when I finally told my mother about this, but when I did, she understood. She told me that it is not my responsibility to make her happy. She also told me that I don’t always have to try and make things good (I am a people pleaser by nature).

Holidays have also been very difficult for everyone in my family. However, holidays are typically hosted in my home. For the first two years after his death, I was trying to do everything the same way that I had before. We always did things very formally. We had place cards and used our good dishes. However, that had me going down a rabbit hole.

It triggered my grief in ways that are hard to describe.

For Thanksgiving this past year, I decided to try something different. No place cards and no formal table. The food was set up as a buffet. People sat all over the house. It was very different, but it started to feel good again. I felt like I was finally starting to figure out how to do this life without him.

I have learned that it is not my job to make my mother happy. It is my job to communicate my needs to her, and to allow her the space to process my needs, and to communicate her own needs back to me. We are learning to work together, to figure out this new (yet unwanted) life.

What/who kept you pushing forward during that time?

My two children are the reason that I did not completely fall apart. I believe that, without them, I would have wound up completely debilitated. At that time, they were my reason for waking up in the morning and continuing our daily routine of life.

I also have a wonderful husband. He helped carry my family through this extremely difficult time. He did a lot of the hard stuff. He’s the one that collected my brother’s belongings from the impound lot. He’s the one that made sure the rabbi spoke to the coroner’s office so that we could have the funeral as soon as possible (which is part of the Jewish tradition).

Benny Golbin, Carli Golbin

He held it all together; until he was the one that fell apart (we worked like a seesaw at the time).

My brother was also one of his best friends, so when he finally fell apart, I had to rise up.

 I also have an immense amount of gratitude for my three best friends. None of them live in Los Angeles. I called my oldest and dearest friend from the police station. It must have been 3 am her time…she lives all the way in Vermont. I told her that I needed her to get on a plane and come to me. I told her that my brother was gone (she was also very close to him). She got on the first plane she could.

She said that the TSA agent handed her a box of tissues because she couldn’t stop crying. By the time she got to me, she was ready to help. She stayed at my house for a week, and held things together for my kids. Her sister-in-law also flew in from New Mexico.

She helped take care of the kids and be there for whatever was needed. My two best friends from college both live in San Diego. They drove up to LA, as soon as they found out, and shopped for us and took my kids to a birthday party.

I could not have made it through that first week without their help. They carried me and cared for my children. I have so much gratitude for those four women. They embody the true meaning of friendship.

I also joined a support group for sibling loss, at Our House Grief Support Center. Getting to know other people grieving the same type of loss was incredibly healing.

They helped me understand that my mother’s happiness is not my responsibility.

They were the ones that encouraged me to finally speak with her. Some of the people in my group actually showed up to court, to be there with me when we were seeking justice for my brother. That experience was complex and confusing, and at the time, their support meant everything to me.

About five months after my brother’s death, I decided to go back to work. I run a program at a day camp. I was living life in such a cloud of grief that I wasn’t sure that I could do my job. However, my boss encouraged me and believed in me.

After the first day, I finally started to feel normal. When summer was coming to an end, I decided to go back to teaching. I previously took five years off to raise my children. Going back to work gave me the strength I never knew I had, and allowed me the chance to prove to myself that I could move forward with life.

How do you think it changed you? 

This experience has made me brave. I used to be so quiet and worried about the needs of others above my own. I am still like this, but I’m learning to address my own wants and needs, as well. Also, I’m learning that sharing my experiences can have a positive impact on others. So…I share more.

What advice would you give to those who are facing difficult times?

My advice would be to give yourself permission to lean on others. This can come in many forms. It can be receiving help from friends, joining a support group, or finding a good psychologist. I did all three.

It’s important to continue doing things you love. For me, it was singing and taking ballet lessons. Also, remember that you matter so much to those people who are still here.

What would you do differently if you could go back in time?

To be honest, I don’t think I would do anything differently. My learning process has been incredibly challenging, but it taught me so much.

Favorite Quote

 "May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. "  (Jason Mraz, Have it All)

Name some Quarantine Go-to’s that keep you occupied or give you a sense of normalcy. What is the first thing you are going to do when the world re-opens?

During the quarantine, I have been doing a lot of hiking with my family, and singing songs while playing the piano. When the world reopens, I am going to start taking ballet lessons again, and take my kids to Magic Mountain.

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