May 23, 2011

rules of grief

Today marks the transition from caring for my brother to mourning his loss.  As I drove home from his house yesterday, - (and yes, I still think of him in the present tense as in 'his house', and at what point, if ever, does it become just my sister in law's house?) - I gave myself three rules to follow.  And that's strange because I hate rules and have never been one to follow them very well.  Whether there is any value or truth to be derived from them for myself (or anyone else since I gave no thought to whether they would work for others), well I'll have to wait and see.
  1. Grief is a process, not a goal.  When I fell in love with my wife, it wasn't a goal.  Sure, you try to woo and pursue your beloved's affection but ultimately, the act of falling in love is something experiential.  And you don't stop falling in love after the 'goal' of marriage is passed.  The relationship changes, evolves, ebbs & flows.  There is no end, only the experience.  I strongly suspect that losing someone you love is the same, only in the opposite direction.  There is no getting over the loss of my brother.  The loss will always be there.  The challenge is learn how to hold his presence, my memories of him, his very essence within me and still carry on in my own life without being destroyed by the loss.
  2. You can't tell yourself how to feel.  I find myself feeling emotions faster than I can even register them.  On the way driving home, the clouds broke and the sun came out as I neared Houston.  I rolled down the windows to feel the warm, humid gulf coast air.  It simply felt good.  In less than a second, I felt guilty for enjoying that moment.  My brother is dead.  How dare I feel pleasure at the sensation of the warm air?  He can't so why should I?  Immediately following that emotion was one saying, 'yeah, but what would your brother want for you?'  That leads me to the last rule.
  3. Allow for contradictions and mutually exclusive experiences.  To answer that last question above, I think my brother would absolutely want me to mourn him fully.  He'd also want me to live my life as I best know how.  So I allowed for the contradiction of the pleasure of a warm breeze juxtaposed with the guilt associated with that feeling.  One didn't have to win out over the other.  It doesn't have to make sense at this point.  It just is.


Linda Collinsworth said...

You rules make a lot of sense. Try to think of all the good times you had with him. You are a very wise man.

Grammaraye said...

Linda's right, Isaac, you have discovered some very important principles about grief. Even thirty-plus years after losing my dad and then my mom, sometimes grief just washes over me. Or maybe it's just longing and a sense of the loss. This year our family has lost several 30- and 40-year olds, one a sister, others were friends or parents of friends. It's a weight on our hearts. But we have Help with that burden. Hug your mom and dad for us, and thanks for keeping us posted. (now that i know where to find you)

Autumn said...

Very well put, Isaac. I still go through these same emotions and thought processes...I'm sure I always will. It does get easier with time, though.