As the year draws to an end, I don’t know how I am supposed to feel. All I know is that I am numb, feeling somewhat bitter and still mourning. I am not fragile contrary to what family and friends think. I understand how grieving works and I have never been fragile. Loving someone and losing them is devastating but it is part of being human. When we mourn, we suffer because we’ve lost someone and despite our best efforts, we have no control of loss or the feelings that come after a loss.
We don’t live separately from other humans. We need them and we rely on them as they need and rely on us. Humans are social creatures and compared to other creatures, we spend at least 18 years relying on our parents for survival. Because we are born into a family, we grow and live supported and surrounded by a social atmosphere. We make friends; go to school, and work. We have siblings, neighbors, coworkers and friends. It is part of human makeup so we form bonds of caring with others.
We fear loss and because others hold a special place in our hearts, they matter to us. They are a part of us and their loss is irreplaceable. When we lose someone, we feel as if part of us has been torn away. It is a wound that takes time to heal. That is why we grieve; it is part of the healing process. It is a gradual process and at some level, we accept that the loss that we have been faced with and we learn to live without those we have lost. I am a long way from there.
Tomorrow is my 35th birthday and I refuse to celebrate. I can’t and I am not ready – at least not this year. I want to mourn my loss and I want to grieve. I know that dealing with grief is hard because I have been there before. I know that it will take some time to move on and that involves taking the time and opportunity to grieve and mourn the loss of my brother.
I understand that is normal and healthy to grieve so I am not going to take the stiff upper lip approach as I did in days and weeks before his death. It all added up on Monday when the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do. Any strength that I had left disappeared within a few seconds time and I collapsed to the floor and tears started to fall. I had known for weeks that this day could come and I knew for a few days that there that the end was pretty near but I held on to hope as if I was holding on to my own life. Even at the very last second, I was holding on to hope, and when my brother’s ordeal was over, I thought I was having a nightmare. Every day since, I want to wake up but I am at the point where I know it is real.
There are seven stages of grieving. Shock and denial is the first and I have already gone through this. I thought it was just a dream and I would wake up soon and I know now it was not a dream. Pain and guilt is the second stage and when I was there, I started to realize how much pain I was in and it hurt badly. I started to wonder what we could have done differently. Right now, I am at stage 3, anger and bargaining. I am frustrated and I am lashing out. Sometimes, I stop myself and other times, I start to cry. I have asked “why” repeatedly and I wonder what I can do to change things.
Stage 4 is depression, reflection and loneliness. Stage 5 is when things start going up. Reconstruction and working through is stage 6 and stage 7 is hope and acceptance. I am not sure how long before I get to stage 7 but I hope I can find my way there soon because Mom needs me so she can get through. My sister says she hears her crying when she thinks everyone is asleep. My sister that lives overseas went home today and my younger sister who lives in NYC is going home in a week. My younger brother has come back home to live with her and go to school locally but working and going to school means he will never be home.
I know we all need to grieve and we need time but I wish it were easier. One minute, my brother was a part of our lives, then he got sick, and two months later, he was gone. It is all so surreal and as if he was never a part of our lives. Our memories seem to be fading and maybe, it is the grief and maybe, it is just trying to work towards healing. I don’t know and sometimes, I wish things were different or that we were closer.
I wonder what I could have done differently to have had a better relationship with him or if I had known the symptoms that he was having, could I have convinced him to seek medical attention earlier? I know that things happened the way that God planned them but I wish they hadn’t. I wish that it were different and that we weren’t mourning him but we are and it does not seem real yet. The irony of this all is that now that he is gone and now that we are going through his things, I feel like I never really knew him. I am finding out things about him that none of us knew and while it gives me a sense of closeness, it makes me sad that I didn’t know him well enough to know these things.
Thirty-one years is close to half a lifetime and for my mother, it is everything she is. Eventually, we will start to move on and plan for the future but for Mom, it is going to be so much harder. It took me fifteen years to stop thinking about my dad without agonizing pain but I have never stopped feeling sad when I think about our memories. I know that memories can hurt but I know that holding on to them makes the grieving process much easier. My brother was kind and sweet. He touched so many lives and that is what I want to remember but it is hard to remember those things when I still ache at how much pain he was in the days and weeks before he passed away. I know that he is no longer suffering and my son reminded me yesterday when he told me that his uncle was healthy in heaven. I know he is but it does not mean that I don’t miss him or that I wish he didn’t die.