When I looked into writing blog articles, the recommendations were to write about something you know about, something you’re passionate about. Well, I am not passionate about it, but I do live it, I have the t-shirt!! Sibling Grief. My older brother (pictured above), died in a car accident, something I always had an intuitive feeling would happen but secretly hoped that if you willed something hard enough to not occur then it wouldn’t. I even wrote in my diary a month before he died, imploring some higher power to not take him. Just like those movies Final Destination, I knew what was going to happen so I use to do little things like follow him in a car to a party to prevent it, to cheat the plan. I wrote him a poem for his 21st, detailing how he was ‘The Most Beautiful One of All’. I thought that smothering him with love might also cheat the plan. I always had a sense about him that he was too beautiful and dynamic, that this world didn’t fit him. Like there was a rule, that something so perfect could not exist.
It was not that he was actively trying to die, but those who knew him well understood that he was trying his hardest to push everything to its infinite possibilities. Hoping for some kind of spiritual awakening. He is the most beautiful person I have ever known, inside and out. A vulnerable, insightful, funny, finely tuned, free spirit of a human who imprinted himself on those he loved in such a way that you craved to be in his space. When you weren’t with him, you thought about how right your life would be once you were together again.
Interestingly I read an article describing sibling grief in the Compassionate Friends newsletter, as discussed through the findings of the book ‘Sibling Grief: Healing After the Death of a Sister or Brother’. Losing a sibling as an adult (I was 17 and he was 22) gets put into the category of ‘disenfranchised grief’. Defined as “when your heart is #grieving but you can’t talk about or share your pain with others because it is considered unacceptable to others (society)” (from Expressive Counselling & Coaching). I was unaware during my venture into grief that there is a timeline of allowable grieving. I quickly found that once you pass that time frame you are breaching the realms of acceptability and launching into problematic grieving that society will not accept. After the first couple of months of conspicuous compassion by the well meaner’s, you’re on your own.
My 7 year journey into the pits of grief was award winning. If I was an actress portraying myself I’m sure there would’ve be an award in it for my spectacular fall from grace. Unfortunately, in real life there are no awards, you are not assimilating into society as you should so therefore you are problem. People defined and projected onto me what they thought my relationship with my brother should be in their experiences, who they thought I was and therefore how I should grieve. Their rhetoric was so excruciating to listen to, but they truly thought they were doing a great job. Giving me some home truths.
According to the article, when a sibling dies the other sibling/s must seek a new identity. I can’t remember who wrote it, but somewhere along the lines, “I lost the me in him, and the him in me.” Your whole identity, your personality, your history are so intrinsically linked to that person being there. The abyss left without them is insurmountable.
In our family, his death had the impact of the butterfly effect (chaos theory) ‘ a butterfly flaps it’s wings in New Mexico causing a hurricane in China’. On a global scale, his death was a random and insignificant as a little butterfly flapping its wing, producing little to no change, but on his family it caused the bottom to fall out. When I was younger I told someone in a cliche manner that my brother thought the whole world revolved around him, but it didn’t. I was lying through my teeth, in my insignificant world, the whole world did revolve around him, he was my world, part of my identity.
The depression was insidious, but at least consistent, limited to no joy. I remember someone telling me very helpfully how self absorbed/ selfish everyone thought I was. That’s the joy of that kind of rip your soul out, beat the shit out of you depression, you are self absorbed, the only person you can think about is yourself, and the whole time your are thinking about how you’re going to get away from this person you despise.
Majority of the time I can drive my car without breaking down and seeking a corner to curl up in the foetal position . I can listen to the drivel coming out of people’s mouth from a semi-amused, observer position, pretending all the while that he is with me and we’re observing together, as my brother said “I hate stupid people”. Or I can languish in the beautiful waters that he loved, feeling like I couldn’t get any closer to him if I tried.
Sir Bob Geldof said ‘time doesn’t heal grief, it just accommodates it.” I hear you, it’s all there, every excruciating, soul shattering moment is imprinted on my being. It doesn’t matter how far I go through time, my body and soul, my conscious and unconscious know exactly what happened, it’s all there in the archives, waiting to jump out and knock the crap out of me again.
I could go on and on, I am an expert didn’t you know? A member of a select club that nobody wants to be part of. The spellbinding, utterly sublime Nick Cave, discusses below so perfectly what sudden, catastrophic grief does to you. Not the expected deaths which follows the natural order of life, but the stuff that tears you apart and then instructs you to find a way to exist in this state with no plan on how you’re going to do this.