Today marks one month since my beloved brother passed away. I can't believe it's already been a month because it sometimes still feels like it only just happened. And, yet, it sometimes feels like it happened a lifetime ago. . .I feel like I've aged ten years in 30 days.
It's terribly bittersweet that my young son has just learned to identify my brother in a photo and say, "Uncle Derek." I have to choke back sobs whenever he does it and he's been doing it often. I really wish that my only brother had the opportunity to meet my only son.
A friend, my Secret Mommy (kinda like a Secret Santa, but it goes for six months), dropped a book off on my porch the other day: I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye - surviving, coping, & healing after the sudden death of a loved one by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, PhD. I've already read some of it, picking and choosing what I feel would be most helpful for me at this time. I think some of the suggestions are totally lame ("communicating" with someone who is dead, for instance), but so far I think she picked a good book for me.
The section on loss of a sibling is woefully brief and the authors acknowledge that there isn't a lot of support out there for those suffering the loss of a sibling. They did, however, validate my feelings that a sibling is someone who helps shape the adult you become and losing them is like losing a vital part of yourself. They also bring up a couple of points that I haven't even considered. Namely, that birth order sometimes gets shifted after a death and the surviving siblings often have to contend with the temporary loss of parents because the parents are sometimes so wrapped up in their own grief that they have little to offer their surviving children.
The information on children suffering grief has also been helpful. The authors indicate that even infants can feel grief and struggle to process their feelings. They may not understand the finality of death or even know who is gone, but they do know that something terrible has happened when adults in their life are suddenly given to weeping and melancholy. My own toddler has been experiencing extreme separation anxiety, sleep problems, and been excessively whiny & clingy. According to the book, this is entirely normal for toddlers who are suffering grief.
The authors also point out that the first few weeks of living after a sudden death are kind of like existing in a state of shock. We come to believe certain things about life from a very early age. We (hopefully) believe that our parents will love us and care for us. We believe that if we're good to others, they'll be good to us. We believe that young and healthy people don't die. After all, isn't death only for the old or the sick? We aren't prepared and we don't have the tools to handle a sudden death. A sudden death throws us into a tailspin, falling quickly into an abyss of sadness and "what-ifs."
That's not to belittle the suffering of survivors of a deceased individual who suffered a terminal illness. It's just that grief is very different when death comes suddenly to someone who one would have no reason to expect would die soon. I've been to a ton of funerals lately and it's been my experience that families who are expecting death for their loved ones tend to be better prepared to handle it. I can attest that it has been my own personal experience as well.
My brother has been gone for one month. Is it bizarre that I sometimes forget and think that he's still here, living and breathing? I know logically that he's gone, it's hard to ignore that I touched his cold hands, but sometimes I guess denial is powerfully strong. The authors of this book indicate that denial is helpful in that it protects you when you just can't acknowledge a horrible reality. They also say that the so-called five stages of grief aren't linear, meaning that you don't necessarily go from shock to denial to depression to anger to acceptance. It's more like a maze, full of twists and turns that might lead you right back to the first "stage."
Grief can take a long time to process. The loss of a loved one, someone who you've known your entire life, leaves a deep wound. This pain won't be going away within a month, six months, even a year. There will always be a void left from that missing person. I will always be my brother's little sister, but he is still gone.
It will be a journey, a lonely journey since no one grieves the same and no one can share the exact same relationship or feelings for the deceased. No one can possibly fully understand just how this feels to any other person. I'm taking steps on this journey, it's impossibly hard at times - today is definitely a hard day, but I am trying.
Please be patient with me while I struggle. I ache in a way that I could have never believed possible. I feel at times like I'm drowning, kicking my feet furiously to keep my head above water. The very real support from my friends and family has been my lifeline, the only thing keeping me from slipping further down.
You can't help me speed up the process, though I wish you could. Though it's "already" been a month, I still am so thankful when you've reached out to me because there are times that this wound feels raw, like it only just happened. Sometimes I have needed the contact so much, but I can't bring myself to reach out to you. You all know who you are and I appreciate it in ways I can't fully express. All I can say is Thank You, you've always been just what I needed.
Today marks one month since my beloved brother passed away. Grief is a long process. My family has only just started on this long and lonely journey. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. . .we'll need them for a long time to come.