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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.

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.

Mending

I have a few pieces of clothing that I really like which have begun to fall apart. The cuffs on one shirt have worn almost through and the elbows and the last bit of the seam on the back of another have gotten very thin. I decided it was time to fix them this weekend. I turned the cuffs up and stitched them, chopped off the sleeves on the second shirt and made them half length instead of full length, and took the seam in the back, split it, and made the shirt kind of have tails. They aren’t perfect, but at least I can wear them again without worrying that they look too odd.

The thin spots are rather reflective of life right now. I look like I’m doing fine, mostly, but there are places where I’m just worn so thin that it wouldn’t take much to punch a hole and show the ragged edges. I have a day off today which is being spent sleeping in a bit, watching a movie while mending, doing dishes and laundry, baking bread, going on a hike, and going to a Zumba class this evening. It sounds like a lot for a day off, but it’s all part of mending me in some ways. Making the house nice helps me feel comfortable and relaxed. Baking bread is a very centering activity. Sleeping, of course, is always good. Hiking with Xander and Nyx gets me away from everything and unhitches my brain from the hamster wheel. Zumba, while I’m a little nervous about it, sounds like fun, and a dear friend is teaching the class.

I’m putting patches on the thin parts of myself, trying to make sure that nothing rips too badly. I’m becoming a patchwork of joy stitched over holes made by pain, peace covering grief, kindness covering old hurts. I suppose that’s not a bad thing. I always rather liked patchwork dolls and patchwork quilts, things put together from pieces that wouldn’t make anything by themselves. It still isn’t easy some days. I am very lucky to have Xander, who is so good to me on so many levels and who can make me laugh anytime, good friends who accept who I am, joyful or quiet or talkative or broken, a family who tries hard to be good to each other, and a dog and two cats who are very odd but very good to be near. With patches like those, I think my thin spots won’t rip too badly.

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.