Rest in Peace


I found out today that my brother died. At the age of 58, he had a major heart attack and dropped dead in front of his computer. We’ve been estranged for a long time. Not because of any major break or fight, just my wanting distance. He moved out West years ago and lives several thousand miles away, which makes it easier. At one point, the whole family, such as it is, had lost touch with him until my sister got a call that he was in a psychiatric hospital. After close to 30 years of self-medicating, he had a moment of clarity and stopped. Unfortunately, all the things he had been holding at bay with the drinking and drugs came crashing in on him. He was suicidal and his therapist told him either he took himself to inpatient care or he’d do it for him. After that he came back east for a couple of visits.

I hadn’t seen him in around 18 years at that point, and he was about the age my father had been the last time I had seen my father. The resemblance was close enough to be disturbing. Especially since during the years when I was recovering the memories of my father’s abuse, I had a very vivid dream about my father and brother. That, put together with the odd memory or two I had always discounted, led me to believe that it wasn’t only my father who had abused me. My brother had also. My older sister whom I am close to (she’s done as much therapy as I have) also recovered memories of an incestuous relationship with my brother. She had cut off all contact with him just a few years ago, and when she did, the improvement in her life and healing was distinctly marked.

My brother in so many ways grew up to be my father. Self-centered, treating everyone around him as appendages and caring only for his own needs. When my sister and I spoke today she was trying to remember any good memories about my brother. That’s when I realized that my brother shared a few other things with my father. One of the good things I learned from my dad was a love of classical music, from my brother it was the blues and really outstanding guitar.  He was a talented musician and during the one period in my life I actually hung out with him, it was because I used to go his band practices. He was also a rather amazing artist with real skill at drawing. I still have an inked in drawing he did in a comic book style that I had on my dorm room wall in college. He was also intelligent. But in the end it all came to nothing. He never did accomplish very much except two failed marriages and a string of dead-end jobs. No one got out of my family in one piece it seems.

There is one other thing he shared in common with my father: my main emotion upon hearing of his death was relief. The world became a safer place. I am numb and unsure of how I feel, and have even found myself dissociating somewhat, but I do know that I think there is something terribly hurtful to the truth that when the two closest men of my childhood died, I felt relief. I’m not castigating myself for it, I have good reason. Anyone who knows me well, understands. So it’s not that I am doing anything wrong, but it is a terrible truth to face. A loss of what should have been.

I called the Boundary Ninja, I think more out of an attempt to shake some kind of response out of myself, but it was a strangely bloodless call (and only one minute 28 secs long, I hated that I was interrupting his holiday (for those not from the US today was a National Holiday, Labor Day)). I am seeing him tomorrow afternoon and told him that more than anything I just wanted to give him a heads up. That I wasn’t feeling much but recognized it was significant that my brother had died. BN’s response was to say we had never discussed him much, and I realized it was true. I have barely even mentioned him to my therapist of five years. Somehow that made it all the more pathetic.

The oddest thing about this is the strange reluctance to tell anyone. Because when you say “my brother died” of course, everyone’s first response is to offer condolences and comfort, but I don’t feel like I need any. Which is incredibly awkward. It’s as if I don’t want anyone to see me not grieving. Or maybe it’s that I’m just so unsure of how I am feeling, so it’s hard to know how to react. Part of the reason I am writing this is to try to work through just what it is I am feeling.

My sister, who is an absolute saint, is taking my mother out to the funeral, using her frequent flyer mileage to purchase both their flights. I offered to go in order to support her, but we both came to the conclusion that the tension of my mother and I being together would wear more than the support of my presence would help. So I will not attend my brother’s funeral. Frankly, I didn’t want to see him when he was alive, so it’s seems hypocritical to go the expense and effort now to attend his funeral. Another sadness, as I realized that if this was either of my brother-in-laws, at least one of which is occasionally annoying, there would be no question that we would planning our trip right now.

So I am guessing tomorrow’s session will be interesting. I must confess to some curiosity as to what will emerge. And I realized that I am very grateful that I have people in my life who will understand my strange reactions to this news. And even more grateful that I have my husband and BN in my life so that I know all men are not cut from the same cloth as my father and brother.

  1. Jones
    September 3, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Great big hug for you AG. Whatever it is, you’re loved just as you are.

    Like

  2. September 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Hugs to you AG. I had a similar situation recently, and know the feeling of being sad not specifically for the loss, but for what could, or should, have been. Blessings.

    Like

    • September 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      KMW,
      Thank you, I’m sorry to hear that you have been through this recently, but am grateful for your understanding.

      Like

  3. MetaMantraMe
    September 4, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Hey there AG –

    Just want to say that I’m thinking of you, and of the brave path you walk. As you know, something sort of connected to this happened to me and while I know you might be feeling relief at this point, the fact that all of this is getting brought up and focused in your field of view without your permission, without you choosing to bring it up yourself, is upsetting. When my mother had a heart attack and was raced to the hospital, and my family was calling me, the same thought I just kept having was “She’s coming in here without my permission. I don’t want her to come in here. She’s not allowed in here. I already told her she had to stay out. She can’t come in.”

    So, I see your need for safety. I see your need for boundaries. I see your need to know yourself, even in the context of family who were horrors. I see your need to continue to heal. I see your need for peace.

    Thinking of you –

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    • September 4, 2012 at 8:57 am

      MMM,
      Thank you!! That’s what was bothering me, the sense that I am being forced to deal with this RIGHT NOW by my brother’s death, rather than when I was ready. There was such a sense of relief when I read this, thank you so much for sharing your experience and for your understanding. AG

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  4. Bourbon
    September 4, 2012 at 3:42 am

    I hope the session goes okay and whatever comes up you feel able to deal with. I can only try to imagine the confusion you are feeling at the moment. safe love xx

    Like

    • September 4, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Bourbon,
      Thanks, I’m glad that I have such a sense of safety and security with BN, because I feel like whatever comes up, we can handle it together. Thanks for taking the time to be so kind. xx AG

      Like

  5. Dragonfly
    September 4, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Many gentle hugs and thoughts from me too xx

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    • September 4, 2012 at 9:00 am

      ((Draggers)) Hugs with shimmery wings are always good for what ails me, thank you my dear.

      Like

  6. Starrynights
    September 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

    “A loss of what should have been.”

    …that is the saddest loss of all, isn’t it? I’m sorry, AG; not that he passed away so much as that he left such a sad legacy behind.

    I hope today’s session gives you added insight, though it sounds like you already have a firm grasp on the essentials.

    May you feel peace in your heart, AG.
    With love,
    Starry

    Like

    • September 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      (((Starry))) Thank you for understanding, everyone’s kindness at accepting all of my feelings is helping more than I can say. And it is a sad loss, because no matter how much you tell yourself there is no hope, you don’t really believe it until they die. But accepting that is the last step in letting go. AG

      Like

  7. dpblusee
    September 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Hope your session is comforting. Not sure what else to say, but I am sorry you are going through a difficult time. Take care.

    Like

    • September 4, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      Dpblusee, it’s very much ok that you don’t know what to say, I understand since I don’t know how to feel. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge my pain and send your care. AG

      Like

  8. September 5, 2012 at 8:28 am

    AG…did you have the session already? I hope it went okay. Earlier in the year (I think I posted about this), my father had serious heart surgery and very nearly died, and when people found out, they naturally offered care and concern and wanted to know how I was dealing with what was going on. And there really wasn’t much “dealing” to do, because I didn’t really have a reaction – and I tried very hard to not let people see that. So I at least partially understand the ambivalence you must have over not grieving. It definitely is an awkward thing, especially because it goes against what society would have you believe you should feel.

    ((hugs)) I hope you’re doing alright today. xx

    Like

    • September 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      I remember that Kashley! It really is weird ’cause I’m grieving, but not for what people think I would be in this situation. To be very honest, I am telling very few people so I don’t have to deal with it too much. And I did have the session yesterday and posted an update. 🙂 Thanks for the hugs and kind words.

      Like

  9. September 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    There is no easy way to handle a present death when the person has all but died in your eyes years ago…. not easy to face, nor process. It sounds, though, like you are taking good care of yourself and I hope BN was able to help you make sense of things…. xoxo

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    • September 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks PD, I think I have been taking good care of myself too, which has been a pleasant surprise. Having so many people care for me makes it so much easier. Thank you. ~ AG

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