An Open Letter to My Dead Brother, September 2015

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the worst day of my life — the day you made me an only child. I have not forgiven you.

I feel like I’ve coped adequately, but some days are a lot harder than others… not that I’ve ever minded a tearful drive home from work, but still.

It’s odd; I would have thought I’d be more sad on your deathday each year than your birthday, but that got me thinking. Your deathday reminds me only of death, but your birthday reminds me of the life you lived and surrendered. Your birthday feels much more morose because it leaves an ache in me, a longing to celebrate your existence with you, not simply of your memory.

Warnings on plastic bags (like this one, which came with my new iPad keyboardfolio in the mail the other day) always send an eerie, empty feeling of nausea down my throat and through my spine. The graphics on this one make it particularly triggering.

image

The past few weeks have been hard, knowing that today was coming, but when today came, it arrived rather nonchalantly. Work kept me busy and distracted for most of the day, which I appreciated, but toward the end of the day on my courthouse run, my thoughts started to wander. Perhaps the courthouse elevator, which smelled oddly reminiscent of Grandma’s basement, jogged my mind back to childhood summers.

It took me a few years to realize just how much I missed feeling like an older sister. There are a small handful of young women who look up to me as a role model, and they mean the world to me. Recently, I’ve helped one learn to masturbate, helped one become more comfortable with her sexual orientation, and helped two others with dating and relationship problems. I feel a bit like a surrogate older sister to these women, and I love being able to lend them my guidance. They add purpose to my life.

By the way, Dad had an emotional breakdown while I was at work the other day. We had a contractor come out to the house to fix the roof, and the man endangered the life of the nine-year-old boy he brought along. Among the day’s lowpoints were Dad choking back tears and losing his temper more than once at the thought of this small boy fatally falling off of our roof, not to mention the contractor peeing by one of our cars. I’ll tell you the full story the next time I see you.

We miss you, buddy. Please come home.

All my love,

C

2 comments

  1. By the time I was 18, I was an orphan on my own. My mother died the summer after I graduated high school, after lingering 6 horrible months from her third stroke. My father died two weeks before I was to start my second year of college. Left on my own, after having led a relatively pampered life, I managed to learn to support myself while going to school, but to do that I had to choke down the tears and pain I felt from their loss.

    I clung to the girl I found myself with and she clung to me, since her parents were going through an ugly divorce. We were ill suited for each other, but family on both sides encouraged our marriage and both of us laden with our separate fears went along. We married a month after I graduated. It was the 60’s and I felt the siren call of the times, while she wanted to quite work and have children. Something within me knew I wasn’t ready.

    Four years later it all came crashing down and she left me. I didn’t know at that time it was because a work friend had introduced her to someone who suited her more. A quiet man, as she put it. Never having experienced divorce in my large, extended family, I felt a failure. I gave her everything we had together, took on all of our debts and had to file for bankruptcy. I never felt more free in my life.

    A woman I worked with let me know of her interest and we moved in together into a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. Early on we wound up in a menage a trois with another woman from work and became a part of the open relationship movement. We wound up sharing sex with literally all of our friends plus others we found and were for a time considered a “golden couple”, and somewhat gurus of sexuality. A role, I at least, was unsuited for. This was because I knew I had many issues to work out and I was aware of my general alienation from everyone and everything.

    I discovered Gestalt Therapy, after everyone I knew urged me to do something to break out of my inability to allow my feelings to show. Indeed, the only place I could lose myself to my feelings was sexually. I found a great, young therapist and began the work.For the first 6 months I was constantly aware that I carried with me a “choking” feeling in my throat. I wasn’t sick, just feeling “choked”. This lingered despite the fact that I worked hard in therapy and did all my homework.

    One night I walked into my group, sat down, looked around and started to sob. The sob became tears and more deep, wracking sobs. My therapist let me go into another room and stay with this, which continued for more than an hour. As I resurfaced from my tears and rejoined the group, I felt a sense of clarity and sight that was unfamiliar o me. As my therapist described it I had gone through my pain and had a sort of satori experience. Now here’s the kicker. My tears were for the loss of my parents, who I had never fully mourned. I was so frightened by their deaths and my need to control my life that I pushed away the pain and tears I felt in order to stay in control. My fear was of course if I let myself cry I would never stop.
    The mourning process is innate to us as humans. Typically, if allowed to run its course it lasts for probably six months. Life is such that it doesn’t always allow us to let it run its course.

    One “satori” doesn’t a full healing make. I was in therapy for about five more years, when my therapist suggested one day that I would make a good therapist myself. It registered. Within 6 months I had scored a full scholarship for a Masters at Columbia and talked my way into the Gestalt Center for training as a therapist. The rest shall we say is history. Also my “open marriage” finally ended as we both realized tht we were better friends than soulmates, but that is the thing with relationships and therapy, sometimes it reveals the flaws in in your relationships. Coincidentally, or not, she also became a therapist afterward.

    I apologize for that rather windy introduction to what I wish to say to you, but your particular loss was so grievous and so beautifully (achingly) written, that I thought I should at least let you know that to some extent I’ve been there and return your honesty.

    I’m an “old” man now at 70. My parents have been dead for more than 50 years. I’ve lost the three closest male friends I’ve ever had. At least two women who were my lovers are also dead. To top that off, all my 16 Aunts and Uncles from my extended family are all gone as well. Life is always bittersweet and death always remain close. Yet for you, none of this brings comfort for your loss. We mourn alone, only able to take a mild comfort from those around us.

    Within ourselves we must allow ourselves to mourn and individually discover how we can best process it. My therapist only led me to the water so to speak, but I had to decide how much to ingest. Your piece above, expressed elegantly, is no doubt part of your own, discovered process for coping with your brother’s death. That you will do well as a psychotherapist seems certain. Your writing shows the most important quality needed, which is empathy. The second most important quality is integrity, of which your personal honesty bespeaks. The pain of your brother’s loss will be for your lifetime, but that is true of all losses. You bear them, you feel them and with that feeling keep those you cherish alive in your memory. That is the most fitting tribute we humans can pay to those we love and lose.

    Like

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words and for sharing with me more of your story. I’m sorry for the losses we have both endured, and I completely agree with your description of the grieving process. My letters to my brother do help me grieve, on both a personal level as well as on a public one, as I don’t want anyone else to forget him or forget what he did, either. As with your experience, it took years for my brother’s death to really “hit” me, and when it did, it hit hard. I think your comment about being able to lose yourself only through expressing your sexuality is incredibly insightful, as many people do choose to use sexuality as a means of escapism. Coping mechanisms fascinate me almost as much as sexuality. 🙂

      Like

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s