Yesterday was National Siblings Day; it’s a strange day for me, one that would probably pass unnoticed if not for all the posts on social media.
Three years ago, I had mixed feelings on this day- Brent and I were not in a good place, he was going through some dark times and it impacted our relationship. I grieved not having a better relationship.
Two year ago, I was in pain on this day. I grieved the loss of my brother. I grieved Brent. I grieved us. I grieved the cracks and breaks in this world, and how difficult it can be to reach for love in this place. All those pictures of happy siblings seemed to mock my loss; I was so close to the heart of grief my lungs were crushed by all the reminders.
Last year, I shared a picture of both of us on this day. It felt good and it felt right. I was over a year into my grief journey, and I was at a space of profound love for who Brent had been, who we had been- the beautiful parts of us and even the rough parts. And I had a sense of who he was in the afterlife and an ongoing connection to him; sharing a picture felt natural and authentic.
This year, I felt numb to the whole thing, except I know I wasn’t really numb, there is always something lurking beneath a numb feeling- we’re just usually not ready to access or process the information. It just wasn’t on my heart to share a picture, the gesture felt empty. And it wasn’t on my heart to write a reflection, no words were flowing.
So I did nothing; I felt detached…
Then today I was struck by the thought- I don’t want to share some crappy picture we took years ago. I don’t want to share some old memory, because now all I have are old memories. I don’t want to share some picture I’ve already shared before. Brent didn’t like taking pictures, so most of the pictures I have of us later in life are ones taken on this island when we were here over the holidays and I made him take selfies with me.
There’s precious few of those.
And I don’t want to recycle one of those again. I want a new picture.
There are no new pictures; there will be no new pictures.
The nature of life is transient; we all know change is life’s way, yet it is so difficult to accept. Painful to accept. Death being the most painful of lessons. And even though I look at Brent’s death as a rebirth into the spirit world, the fact is: he is no longer physically present in this world. And sometimes that absence aches in ways I can’t explain.
Even as a writer and a psychologist, sometimes I have no words for my grief, and I am left sinking into my own murky, confusing experience of self and just feeling my way through.
Grief is a strange beast. It’s twisty, not linear. Like a bowl of noodles where everything gets whirled and twirled together, chasing each other, weaving in and out in a cluster of slippery swirls. So it is with grief, our experience of it swerving and curving, twisting and taking us on emotional detours whose destination we didn’t anticipate.
It’s so utterly human to want a new picture. It feels like a younger part of myself, more adolescent, rebellious, less accepting. She wants to stomp her feet at having to be grown up and wise and accepting of the things that have come to pass. She doesn’t want to make the best of the old memories and find the good and find perspective.
She wants new memories.
She is part of who I am, and though she doesn’t really run the ship- I try and reserve that position for my wise self- she’s on the ship, and her young, human hurt informs my heart and soul. It is worthy of recognition and honor.
Grief taps into us on multidimensional layers across our own time line. It can make you feel very young and childlike. It can also make you feel ancient. There’s not a single emotion grief doesn’t tap; you never know what you are going to get in that bowl; each noodle being a part of the whole, each noodle equally valid and simply one more expression of grief.
It is a new day today, I stepped away from these words since I wrote that last paragraph. That younger part of me said, “I don’t want to write about this right now.” So instead a nap, a break from writing, and an allowance of feelings to be whatever they needed to be.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that Brent popped up. We journeyed back into the kitchen of our childhood home on a Friday night. Melted large spoonfuls of butter on a fresh pot of noodles with Dad’s special sauce; our parents close by, all of us getting ready to watch a movie together. The memory makes me smile.
Smile little sister, smile. I promise you we’ll make new memories. They’ll just be a little different now.
It makes me remember you can’t build a house out of grief. There is no joy there. You can only examine the tangles of grief as they come your way. Do your best to be open and honest with each strand. Acknowledge it as valid. Release it when ready.
Then keep on pressing forward, doing your best to be here now and find the joy.
(The following is a passage from Transformations of the Sun: 122 passages on finding new life after loss. Due out September 2018, Golden Dragonfly Press).