A wave of grief

I am working through grief again. I am almost at a year since my younger brother died. I am not sleeping well. I suppose that is not quite right; I am not resting well. I sleep, I wake up, I sleep, I have nightmares. I feel like I am awake more than asleep. I am always missing someone very dear to me. Sometimes they fade out of photographs, like in the Back to the Future movie. Sometimes I am having a conversation and I come around the corner and the person I was talking to is simply gone. The variations seem endless. I have not woken up crying, which is at least something.

I have learned about grief in the past year, and much of what I have learned is simply to keep moving through. I let it flow through me, overcome me, leave me in tears, and then I take a deep breath. It is like getting picked up by a wave and tumbled, which has happened to me. If you fight the wave, you end up underwater much longer. If you let the wave carry you, you get dumped on the beach. You may feel like you’ve been run through a washing machine on spin cycle, but you have solid ground beneath your feet again.

I am allowed to be sad. I am allowed to hurt. I am allowed to be weary. I am allowed to feel this pain.

I learned last year that deep grief, the kind that is like a wave, has a component of physical pain. Too much stress piled on to one body, no matter how strong, leaves its mark in pain. I wake up in the morning as sore as if I had swum hard for hours, but it is not a good kind of pain. It hurts to move. I talked to a doctor about it last year and she said it comes with the stress and the lack of sleep. She said it would pass. It did. It is back, but this time I know it will pass.

Today we went to a baseball game. My little brother loved baseball. We went to sushi, which I doubt he would have liked. We went to see a movie he would have enjoyed. A lot of this past week has been filtered through memories of him.

It will pass. That helps, some. I know that I can live through this, accept this as part of me, and I will still be sane and whole at the end of it, once the bigger waves have passed. I saw someone in the grocery store who looked like my brother, so much like him that I caught my breath, and I knew again that this pain will never be completely gone. It is all right, though. I will miss him all my life. He was very dear to me. He will always be dear to me.

It is all right to let grief come through sometimes. It is not necessarily bad, simply hard, and it will pass.

It gets better

Another Indie Ink Writing Challenge has begun!

I challenged Rachel in the OC, and my challenge this week comes from Sir. “Look back to the worst time in your life and write a letter to the you of that time explaining what you know now as a result of your endurance of the ordeal.”


So Daniel is dead, unexpectedly, and it is harder than anything you’ve ever had to deal with. The youngest sibling is not supposed to die, especially not before he even got to 30 years old.

This isn’t going to be an easy stomp through the primroses. It’s okay to go zombie for a little while; don’t expect yourself to stay on top of everything. Just do the best you can. You’re going to make mistakes. That’s okay.

Some people will be awesome, mostly people who have been through something similar. Some people will be really awful and stupid. Some people you would expect to sympathize will end up being utterly useless.

Xander is the main person who will help you keep from falling apart completely. He’s good at taking care of you. Let him. You need that.

When life gets hard, take care of yourself. Take naps when you are tired. Take a hot bath when everything hurts. When you can’t sleep, go see a doctor. When you get completely overwhelmed, see a different kind of doctor. Asking for help is really hard, but you can’t do this on your own. Well, maybe you can, but it would be a lot harder.

Remember to breathe. Lie down on your back at least once a day and unclench each muscle. You’re going to hold everything tightly for a while, so make sure to stop and relax.

The main thing I learned is that you will get through. Colors and laughter and joy eventually start appearing again, and it’s okay if they first show up in the midst of tears. You have an amazing husband and a lot of really good friends; they care about you. Big-F Family is what will bring you through this.

There isn’t much else to say, and if you could read this you probably wouldn’t believe that it will get better. That heavy grey that takes over the world is not forgiving. You will, eventually, be back to some semblance of normal, even if you still end up unexpectedly in tears on a fairly regular basis. It never gets better all the way, but it goes from a constant stabbing kind of pain to a quieter ache.

Just keep walking. It gets better.


A grey day

Sometimes the words just come. Sometimes they don’t. Today is one of the latter days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about adoption, of course. People keep saying that it will all be worth it in the end. I hope so. The process is not pleasant, to say the least. That isn’t helping my state of mind. The worst is almost over, though. I am feeling more often that everyone involved in the process is advocating for someone else, and that nowhere in this are our needs really being noted. We want a child who does not have fetal alcohol syndrome and who was not drug exposed. If we were capable of conceiving, neither one of those would have been an issue. I don’t want them to be an issue now, but the feeling I get is that we should cut some slack in that area. What if the biological mother didn’t know she was pregnant while she was drinking? We’re not passing a moral judgement on drinking. All we’re saying is that we don’t want to deal with that issue, because we wouldn’t have to if the child were genetically ours.

I’ve been thinking about Daniel, too. I still miss him a lot. Baseball season starts again in a few months, and, while I am very much looking forward to that, it is a little bittersweet because it is one of the things we both loved. Our team was the feeder team for his team, so we even saw the same players over time.

It’s a confused, emotionally messy kind of day. I’m not in a bad mood, or a sad mood, just kind of grey. I’m home sick today, which probably has something to do with it, and by tomorrow I should be a little more positive in my outlook. For the moment, though, I’ll spend the day on the couch, drinking broth and watching Netflix, and that will be good.

Daniel’s birthday

Sometimes I can sit down and write and everything comes easily. I don’t have to work at it; I have an idea and it just flows.

Some subjects, though, leave me groping for words, stumbling around trying to find a sentence that works, writing and deleting and then doing it again.

Daniel’s birthday is January 21st. Just to start off with, I have a hard time writing that. Should it be present tense or past tense? It isn’t important. It’s distracting. I think that’s why it keeps coming up, because if I’m distracted I can’t write about him, his death, how different life is without him, even from several states away.

I write postcards ever week. Daniel used to be on that list. Now, of course, I can’t send him postcards since they wouldn’t go anywhere. I still find myself picking out a postcard for him every couple of weeks, just going on automatic pilot until I remember that I can’t write that postcard.

He would have been 29 this year. He would have gone to baseball games, listened to music, danced along with his current favorite musical, and he and I would have tried to make each other laugh over the phone. He said it was okay if I had a child with Xander when I asked a few years ago, and I was looking forward to introducing him to a niece or nephew, one way or another. I didn’t know we’d be going through the adoption path rather than the biological one, but I know he wouldn’t have cared, any more than the rest of my family does – our baby will be our baby, no matter where he or she comes from.

I miss him terribly. I miss seeing him play with Nyx and laugh at her. I miss hearing his chuckle over the phone. I miss his hugs.

My little brother would have turned 29 on January 21st. I can’t call him this year. I can’t send him anything.

He was born when I was about to turn seven years old, and he has been a central part of my life ever since. I didn’t live nearby for the last several years, but I thought about him, wrote to him, talked on the phone when he felt like it, and sent him neat stuff. We sent him a blanket from our baseball team because it is a feeder team for his baseball team. I was hours away, but he was still a big part of my life. I don’t think I realized how much until he wasn’t there anymore. It still feels like there is a hole, a spot where someone important is gone. It’s like having a tooth missing but it hurts more.

The pain is dulled now, an ache instead of a constant, piercing reminder, but it is still there. I still think about things he’d like and how I’d like to tell him about them before remembering that he isn’t here anymore, that I can’t reach him.

I’m not sure how to deal with the absence of my little brother some days. It’s life, now, but over half a year later I still miss him, and I don’t think that will ever go away.

Almost a new year

In 2010, we got the second opinion that confirmed our infertility. My grandmother stopped recognizing people she’d known for years, and when we were visiting she was afraid of Xander, which made me very sad. Worst of all, of course, was that my younger brother died. There are days that I still want to just curl up and make the world go away when I think about that. Last night I said it was a very good thing that we were going out for Chinese food on Christmas because Daniel loved Christmas and if we just stayed home I might have a very hard evening. Chinese food is something to look forward to, though, and we’ll figure out a movie to see so I can relax and enjoy the evening. The final little piece from 2010 (and I’m just going on hope, here, that nothing else will blow up before January 1) was that the first adoption agency we applied to rejected us with no explanation other than a form letter and a general comment about “not enough babies, too many families.” That did not make me very happy, either.

2011 will be better. One way or another. I’m declaring it. I probably shouldn’t, but I feel the need to look forward to the new year rather than be terrified of how much more could go wrong.

At this point, we have been accepted by an adoption agency and we know who will be doing our home study. We can start tentatively moving forward. We have something new to think about and work towards. On some level it would be easier to just go forward as we have been doing, use the income we have to work more on the house, get another car to help with the periodic transportation issues, and let go of the idea of having a child. On the other hand, though, we both want a baby and we’re not willing to give up yet. We’ll keep reassessing, but for the moment we both want to try this avenue.

I’m not expecting the new year to be perfect. In my 35 years so far, no year has been without its challenges, at least not that I remember. No year has been without pieces of good, though, either. This year we became closer friends with several people, I got a teenager involved in belly dancing, I started learning Zumba, Xander graduated and got his teaching credential for what he wants to do, I got my hair cut and it looks good, and I get to spend a lot more time with Xander because I only have one job. It hasn’t been an unrelentingly bad year, just very hard on many levels.

I hope next year will have less hard things to deal with and more happy parts. I can’t expect that, exactly, but I can hope.

I’m cleaning house right now both literally and figuratively. I’m working on what I need and what I don’t, what I want to do and what is habit that doesn’t help. I cleaned my office last weekend and will do more work on it this weekend. The house is very clean right now and I will try to keep it that way. I need to extend that to the yards sometime soon. For the moment, though, walking in to see a clean house, knowing that everything at home, at least, is pretty stable, is a good thing. I can hold onto the work we’ve done, everything we’ve been through, that makes our marriage stable, makes our house a home.

I will move into the next year more confident, more relaxed, more rested, more sad, and more joyful. Life is not simple, but perhaps
next year will be a little easier.

A rambling we will go

I’ve tried to write for several days and I just can’t come up with anything specific to write about. There are a lot of little things, but nothing that I can really craft a reasonable post out of, so I’m just going to ramble for a bit.

We got to spend an hour or so with a very tiny baby, less than a week old. I like babies. They can be loud and exhausting and all of that, but I love the feeling of that weight settled in my arms, watching those eyes that are just learning to focus following my face. I like little kids, too, and school age kids. Once you get to the teenage years, I’m not quite as fond of them as a group. Part of that may be that most of them are taller than I am and generally somewhat obnoxious. It’s good that Xander actually likes that age.

I miss Daniel. I know I always will, but sometimes it’s harder than others. I still love him fiercely, but there isn’t anywhere for that feeling to go. I am learning to let myself be sad and miss him, let it wash over me, and then keep on with the rest of life. I have his picture on my computer screen at work. I write a lot of postcards to various people, and I used to write postcards to him every week. I still find myself composing postcards for him in my head before catching myself and remembering that there’s nowhere to send them. There is an undercurrent of sadness in my life now, even when everything is going well. It isn’t changing my life in a bad way, just reminding me that there is no guarantee that I’ll be here tomorrow. I’m trying to live better in small ways because of it.

On a completely different note, Disney has put out a fishing pole with princesses on it. The first glance I got of it, I thought Ariel was one of the princesses featured. That would have made me laugh much too hard. A mermaid whose best friend is a fish on a fishing pole. Apparently, though, it was Belle, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. I suppose that’s at least more politically correct. Not nearly as funny, unfortunately.

The puppy will be visiting again later this month, so I should have more amusing training stories.

We’ve decided to have a traditional Jewish Christmas dinner, so we’re going to go out for Chinese food. My favorite Chinese restaurant will be open, too, so that’s a bonus.

Overheard in a hardware store last week:
Female employee: “I have it, sir, it’s fine. I can handle it.”
Male customer: “But it’s so long!”
I couldn’t help snickering.

I’m kind of coasting right now. There are several things on the horizon that could have huge effects on our life, but nothing is happening right now. I’m getting up early and exercising, being careful of what I eat despite a lot of temptation at work, trying to remember to write now and then, and trying to learn a few pieces of music for a present I’m making for some kids I know. I’m trying not to spend much money. Life is pretty good right now overall. I spent some time last weekend making pumpkin soup and it came out very well, which is perfect since soup is pretty much my favorite food in winter. There’s nothing quite like tucking in with a hot bowl of soup when the weather is below freezing. I am reminded of a children’s book – “In January it’s so nice while slipping on the sliding ice to sip hot chicken soup with rice.” That’s from a Maurice Sendak book, “Chicken Soup with Rice”, which I remember reading when I was little and got a copy of (along with its companion books) a year or so ago. It still makes me smile.

I think this is enough of a ramble for the day. I hope you find something to smile about, something silly, something that brings that spark of joy, and that you stop for just a moment to savor it.

30 Days of truth: Day 24

Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs.

Hi Daniel,

I miss you.


Cats, so we could sing along together
Phantom of the Opera, the piece with the organ, because we used to try to make each other laugh through that
Hard Day’s Night
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but only the pieces you liked best
Springtime for Hitler and Germany from The Producers, because the first time I heard it was you singing it in a car and it cracked me up
Let’s Go Fly a Kite and A Spoonful of Sugar from Mary Poppins – even if I hated it from hearing it so often, you did love that movie
The Lion King – you liked all of the music from that, too

I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of pieces. Music was very much a part of our relationship.

Next: Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

Daniel in pictures

I will almost never talk about dreams while blogging. This is a very minor exception. I dreamed last night about Daniel, about missing something important, and he asked for help with something. I woke up thinking about the various ways I could help get over the hurdle. I had a hard time getting back to sleep, and then I realized what I hadn’t in the dream: he’s dead. I forgot. For about ten minutes I lay in bed trying to think of ways to help him with something and I forgot that I can’t, that he’s dead.

The family put together pictures of Daniel. My sister scanned them and sent out a CD. I’m going to use a few of them as something of an illustration of who he was and why he was so dearly loved by so many.

This is going to be a bit scattered – please bear with me.

Daniel was incredibly cute as a baby and toddler. I know all little kids are cute, and I’m admittedly rather biased, but I think he was adorable.

He really loved dogs and enjoyed training them. He apparently picked that up from being around the rest of us. It certainly wasn’t formal training, but all of the dogs we grew up with were often in obedience classes at one level or another.

He loved to perform for us. He danced, sang, played on instruments, and made people smile.

He loved the musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Our mom made him costumes for Mr. Mistoffelees and Skimbleshanks, and he was extremely proud of them and loved them. He knew every part that each cat played in the performance. When he got to go see a performance, he talked about it for a long time, even on the phone. He wasn’t much for talking on the phone, but for that, he’d make an exception and tell me all about it. He would sit down and watch Cats anytime anyone wanted to, and he had the music memorized.

I think the happiest I remember him was the day he graduated high school.

He enjoyed cooking. He didn’t like talking to people he didn’t know, but he was funny and wonderful once he let you in. He was sometimes a pain, as little brothers are. He was more important to me than I know how to express. He had a wonderful smile. He loved baseball and basketball. He liked to eat, too. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of him:

I miss him more than I know how to handle. He was an integral part of our family. He was deeply loved. He was a complicated, interesting, funny, smart, amazing person, and he is and will always be sorely missed. The pictures only capture pieces of who he was, and I wish I had the words to show you more.

Empty spaces

I missed Daniel a lot this weekend. We went to a party, which was fun, but there were a lot of people there that I don’t know. We found a small group of people we could talk to and tell silly jokes with and it worked out. I know Daniel didn’t like people he didn’t know. I’m an introvert, too. It’s exhausting to be around that many people, however nice they may be.

I stood in the kitchen listening to three or four conversations eddying around me and felt a wave of desolation. I wanted to be able to write him a postcard with silly jokes from the party, to be able to describe people in ways that he’d understand, and I couldn’t. I don’t even know if he cared much if I sent postcards, but sometimes he’d mention them or show them to people, so it wasn’t completely useless. In any case, I wanted to include him in my life right then, wanted to be able to compose things in my head while I was talking to people, but the audience I used to write for was no longer there.

I’m still feeling a little lost. It isn’t that I had consistent contact with him or that I was a huge part of his life, since we lived in different states and he didn’t much like talking on the phone. I always knew he was there, though, and he was incredibly important in my life and in how I define myself. One of the most influential pieces of my childhood was as Daniel’s sister. It’s part of who I am, but now there is no Daniel anymore.

I think I am feeling somewhat unmoored, a boat with no anchor. I’m just kind of floating along and hoping that I’m going the right direction.

I’m finding joy again. I’m doing reasonably well at work. I’m trying hard to keep up on housework and such, and Xander is still taking very good care of me. I’m happy to be back at bellydancing, and swimming makes me happy. At the same time, there is an emptiness that underlies everything, a silence where there should be laughter. I am getting the impression that even when I am outwardly recovered, there will always be that emptiness and silence. I am trying to fill it to an extent by writing down memories of him and by working through the pictures, but even if it gets smaller, there will always be a hole where he once was.

It has been almost three months since my brother died. I’m still not sure how to go on, even as I seem to continue to do so.

Back to bellydancing

Bellydance class started again last night. I’m a bit sore this morning. It’s definitely a good sore, at least, one that reminds me that I did something to get sore. Right after Daniel died, everything just hurt, all the time, and it didn’t matter if I did anything or not. That has mostly stopped. Feeling sore because I actually used muscles is something I can really enjoy.

I’m taking both the beginning and intermediate classes this time. It’s good exercise, and I’m dragging a teenager along to the beginning class by special dispensation from the teachers. I get almost three hours of exercise on a Friday night, which can’t be a bad thing. It’s good for me to work on the basics again, too, and to make sure my form is reasonable.

The classes are a very supportive community of interesting people. I think that comes from the teachers being so open and comfortable with what they are doing. One of them is really, really flexible and one isn’t. There are people of all shapes and sizes in the classes, which means that pretty much no matter what you look like or how your body works you aren’t out of place. They don’t want us to work to the point of injury; they want us to learn to really enjoy belly dancing and not hurt ourselves in the process. The class is comfortable and relaxed and we still end up working hard. I like that anyone can ask questions and they are encouraged, since most questions are ones that other people are thinking.

I worry a little sometimes that I talk too much, but I figure someone will kindly tell me to stuff it if it becomes too much. Many people there are quite capable of that comment, and I wouldn’t take it the wrong way.

We worked on grapevines in the intermediate class. We started with grapevines while using zills (finger cymbals) but we kept getting out of step becasue we were a little unclear on the directions, so after we put the zills away we drilled grapevines in a line and then all over the room, holding on with our pinkies to the next person in line. I didn’t fall over, but going around the corners a few times it was a close thing. I ended the second class dripping sweat and feeling wonderful.

I’m working my way back to the things I love, and bellydancing is one of those things. I’m generally a klutz, but somehow this kind of dance mostly overcomes that. A couple of years ago we did a whole piece balancing swords, which I never thought I’d be able to do. I’m still not sure about veil work, but I’m getting more comfortable every year.

It’s good to be back!