Family comes in many shapes and forms. It’s the tribe of people you were born into; parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, third-cousins-twice-removed. It’s also the person you met through an ex sitting around a table playing D&D who you clicked with so quickly it felt like you had always known one another.

These people in your life orbit around you like stars in a galaxy, forming your own personal universe. Sometimes the gravitational pull of life brings you close together, other times people skate on the outer edges (keeping in touch with your friend from high school through social media as your lives drift further apart).

And sometimes, heartbreakingly, a star in the universe that burns bright and hot suddenly goes dark. Everyone that’s connected to it feels the loss, whether they are near or far. It’s in these moments that you truly appreciate your network. You pull them tight, reaching out to them with love. With the loss of one, everyone’s universe gets a little dimmer, but draws a little closer, deepening bonds.

This past weekend one of the hartthrobs lost her brother to a senseless act of violence. He leaves behind a family that loved him, a girlfriend, and two little girls who spent father’s day in a hospital. Our little tramily hasn’t known each other for very long, but we rallied together to support her however we could. The night she got the news her brother was in a coma, we laughed, cried, watched Sex in the City, waited for news, and even borrowed her a puppy to get her through the night before she boarded a flight home the next morning.

And that night every single one of us thought “what if”. What if I got that phone call? What if it was my brother? What if I was stuck a half a world away while my family was dealing with tragedy? This is the terrifying side of Remote Year, laid bare in our first month of traveling together. As someone who has gotten these calls before (thankfully mine had happy endings), it hit particularly close to home.

You feel helpless, lost, your light dims a little. You draw on others’ gravity to keep you afloat until you can stand on your own two feet again.

You draw your universe close to your heart, breathe, and do what you can to move forward and make the best of it knowing your world has changed.