Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Posted by Jamie

How do we deal with the death of a loved one? You wipe away your tears as you walk away from the funeral, join the family back at the house for a cool lunch, cold cuts and fresh fruit and more tears but mostly laughter, enjoying this time together no matter how bittersweet, recounting family stories, pulling up memories from some deep spot in your heart. And then, what happens next? You pack your suitcases and fly back home where husband and kids await, the laundry pile has mysteriously grown all out of proportion, the dog dances around you, nosing into your bags as soon as they hit the floor, everyone clamoring for your attention.

Michael and I 1962

You try and get back into the swing of things, “real life”, as quickly as possible, partly because there are those who need you, who depend upon you, but more likely because it is the easiest way to block out the thoughts, the loss.

Almost two months has past since I was standing in the burning Florida sun trying not to look in the direction of the wooden box stretched out serenely in front of us, saying good-bye to my beloved brother. Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe it. As we get older we begin to expect, to understand that one by one we will lose our loved ones, grandparents, parents, and we try and brace ourselves for the eventuality. Yet when another older generation passes away, someone in their 70s or 80s or 90s, we can comfort ourselves with the thought that they lived a good, long life, accomplished what they wanted to accomplish and hopefully didn’t suffer too much on the way out. It is the way of life, one generation at a time, life then death.

Sue and Michael 1960

Yet when the unexpected happens, friends or family of our own generation or, heaven forbid, a child, go, whether illness or accident, incomprehension intertwines with the pain: We look at their life and think of all they had yet to accomplish, the years and road ahead of them, and we wonder if the tears are for them or for ourselves. Their death brings us closer to our own destiny and, truth be told, we just aren’t ready, we have such a long time ahead of us, there is still so much to do, so how is this possible? The loss is so close, too close, and it is as if we have lost a limb or part of ourselves. And now we return to our family our home our job and must move ahead. How?

Michael and I 1972

I have been keeping busy. Blogging, writing, cooking, baking. Laundry, shopping, evenings out or in with the family. No time to think about the loss. Afraid to look at it in the face, scared and simply not understanding the unfairness of it all. And then I wonder if we, the survivors, cry for them and such life cut off in its prime, everything left undone, or are the tears for ourselves, left alone like orphans, no more birthday calls or silly cards, no more long catch-up phone calls or brotherly advice, no more visits or cooking together or laughing over stories of when we were kids. Or maybe this unexpected death forces us to look our own destiny, our own eventual death, in the face. And what happens afterwards? Heaven? Reincarnation? Nothing? And all too often, we close our eyes and refuse to look.

A dear friend of mine reminded me of the importance of grieving: “The death of a loved one is something that we all experience at some point in our lives and I think it is important to talk about it instead of tidily brushing it under the carpet. When my grandfather died, I was so unprepared and had no idea how to deal with my emotions.” We tend to skip around the issue, avoiding it as if it were taboo. Yet somehow it is comforting when people ask how the funeral went, how we are doing and open the door to discussion. Why are we so nervous bringing it up to someone who has just lost a loved one? We should talk about it, even if we stumble around searching for just the right words. Even no words, the “I don’t know what to say”, helps break down the invisible barrier and allows us to share feelings and fears, hopes and dreams, memories and ideas about where we go when it all ends. Another friend of mine sent me a fascinating book about reincarnation. Her philosophy? Spirits are all around us but aren’t there to do harm but rather to watch over us, help us understand what we don’t understand and we should simply give a friendly Hello from time to time and let them know we appreciate the visit and the care. Talking with her is so comforting, no black thoughts, no fear of the unknown, rather the joy of life, the dream of an afterlife and never losing touch with those who have passed on.

Michael with our mom and my boys @1995

And what about the kids? Children may not feel the death of a loved one as strongly, but may need to talk about it even more than we do. My 19-year-old son said “I didn’t see Uncle Michael often enough to really feel the loss, not like you do what with your history together.” Yet several weeks later, as we were strolling down the street, he burst forth with “I just can’t believe Uncle Michael is gone. It is so strange to think about!” The door to discussion needs to remain open for them as well as for us, for the strangeness of it all, the scariness of an illness or death, should be talked about. If we don’t talk about that then how can we spend the time talking about his life and all that fun that we shared together? It all blends into one.

So it is perfectly fine to broach the subject, don’t be afraid. There is comfort in allowing us to talk, to share the stories that we all have, to hear yours as well. This is the only way we can grieve, by telling the tale, sharing the stories, crying and laughing together. Not only does this draw us, the living, closer together, but it allows us to face our own fears of “what happens next” and realize that we are all in it, this crazy thing called life, together.

The family in Florida 2008

This post was written by JAMIE

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It's hard when we lose someone so close to our heart. Even though my youngest brother passed away 20 yrs ago, I still missed him a lot and every now and then I think of him. Sometimes I wondered what would have become of him if he is still alive. He was a very cheerful, handsome and sweet boy.

November 17, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM GMT+1  

Along with my father who left us when he was in his late fifties, I've also lost a cousin, and two uncles, when they were just in their early fourties and with very young children. Just the very thought of them tightens the knot in my stomach. They were all such fine men, each leaving a gaping hole in our family. But yes, talking definitely helps.

sunita said...
November 17, 2009 at 1:23:00 PM GMT+1  

talking and sharing each other's memories and thoughts is alway what helps a little to ease the pain. as time progresses one heals a little but the scar it leaves behind is not bad - it keeps the spirit of the lost one alive in our memory. that scar is supposed to be there. i wear my scar of loosing both my grandfather and grandmother with certain sadness but the memories of them now makes me happy!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
November 17, 2009 at 1:27:00 PM GMT+1  

Such a touching, sweet post! It almost made me cry. I hope the holidays are filled with nice memories!

Barbara Bakes said...
November 17, 2009 at 4:03:00 PM GMT+1  

As an only child I can only imagine how it feels to lose a sibling. It's better to say how you feel and relive the good times rather than bottle feelings up. I hope everyone can share their memories about him as time goes on.

Unknown said...
November 17, 2009 at 4:49:00 PM GMT+1  

oh wow Jamie its wonderful to share this It will really help folks, I love you and am privaledged to be able to call you a friend

November 19, 2009 at 11:19:00 PM GMT+1  

A lovely post...very heart wrenching and beautiful

Nisha said...
November 20, 2009 at 4:59:00 PM GMT+1  

I'm really sorry for your loss. Hope that with time, the memories will bring more smiles than tears.
We lost our 50-yr old uncle when we were in our teens. My mom and aunt started a tradition of holding a small ritual on the day every year.
He loved kids and my mom has also started giving gifts in his memory and spending time with less-privileged kids.
These remembrances have brought us a lot of peace over the years.

Anonymous said...
November 20, 2009 at 8:20:00 PM GMT+1  

It is really hard when we lose someone especially if she/he is really close to our heart. You can never escape the hurt and the misses. Try to talk about the past, life with him/her and start a life.

hope chest said...
November 21, 2009 at 3:59:00 AM GMT+1  

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

acai berry said...
November 23, 2009 at 6:46:00 AM GMT+1  

Deeply sorry for your loss. God bless.

Bharti said...
December 4, 2009 at 3:46:00 AM GMT+1  

Jamie,I too lost my 51 year old sister on Dec.3rd ,2009.I found your thoughts so true and soothing.I too think no one can fulfill her place,I will not be able to forget her but I keep telling myself that I will get used to the life without her.

Unknown said...
December 25, 2009 at 3:56:00 AM GMT+1  

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