Thursday, July 11, 2013


Foreword:  This post will be about coping with the  loss of  my brother Bill and it's going to be sad. You may wish to leave  and come back next week when I'll post about trolls.  If that's the case,  I will understand. On the other hand, I recently posted "Now to Then and Back Again" about the shock of grief,  and was contacted by readers who found comfort in those words. If life isn't  always happy and funny, at least the way to deal with sad and serious can be shared.

Remember. Next week, trolls.

The basic process


It stops. 
The struggle stops. The suffering ends.    
And then he's gone.

The place in your mind where you did your circular thinking  - I need him in my life, but his suffering needs to end, but I need him in my life, but his suffering needs to end - is an empty room, clear of debris.

It's over. 
It's not over-over.

Beyond the death, the reaction, the announcing of it, the work to cobble together a service which will both offer comfort and tell of an entire life, is where over-over begins. It starts the first night you don't have to think about saying goodbye in public, when you take your grief off display.

Over is what was. 
Over-over is what won't be.

Over-over happens when you drive behind a truck that looks too big for its driver like his seemed. As you watch, the driver doesn't just reach for something on the passenger seat, but disappears from view altogether to fetch something from the glove compartment or floor, the way he would have.

You will not see that truck parked at  gatherings anymore, or know that inside  he'll be waiting for you - hand raised high so that you are sure to see him in the crowd.

Over-over happens when you're in line at the supermarket and you see a short, wiry guy in a baseball cap standing a register away, who looks like he should sleep more, party less, and probably shave. He holds a six pack and a package of hotdogs, and stares at the woman in front of him who is demanding to know why they stopped selling the generic brand of tile cleaner that she likes.

You will not hear about the kinds of people who really piss him off anymore.

Over-over happens when you're in your work out, or folding laundry and realize it's Tuesday - the night you had dinner together each week. You crumple a little as though the wind has been knocked out of you. It's less startling than the last time . You know now that  there will be more moments like this bad one and  that it's easiest to stop and wait it out.

Over-over happens when you roam through a day without a plan, without doing anything especially meaningful other than to let your mind travel where it wants to go. You realize you're wading into sadness that is beyond the help of those who would do anything to make you feel better and it scares you.

In the days that follow, you cry less often and less easily. But you always  cry to remember his face when he told you, "This scares the shit out of me" or, his eyes when he said, "I dream about being healthy." Or, the way you helped him reconstruct a memory of his youth the way you would help someone remember lyrics to a song.

Over-over happens when you sit alone with your too-heavy thoughts and consider how grief has already changed you. You don't know when, or even if you'll feel better, and it's occurring to you that this is what has replaced him.

You look to the night sky and say to him, "I don't think this is going to get better."
You wait.  You want a response.
You don't get it.
He  doesn't appear like a deer at the edge of the forest, as you hoped he would.

And yet, later, something lifts. You don't know what to call it, but you feel like you do after a good night's sleep.  

Later still, you're loading the dishwasher and you think of something funny he did once. You smile. You hear yourself laugh.

In the days that follow, it happens more often, and more easily.

You know you'll have trouble when you see that supermarket guy again.
But you know there will be more moments like the dishwasher ones.

You know they will come, as over-over begins.


  1. You've perfectly captured the way grief works, especially in the early months. Thank you for sharing...and it does get better. But the thing about grief is that there's no way around it, we just have to walk through it.

  2. It's's also something you feel changing you for the better in some way, though I can't put my finger on that one yet.

  3. Beautiful post.

    After my father died I was in the supermarket one day with my husband and a man walked by wearing Polo cologne, which my father wore forever. I nearly fell over from the impact of the scent. My husband, too, was overwhelmed.

    Even nearly 6 years later there are moments when I am startled by how much I miss him. Grief never goes away, but we learn to enjoy the memories more than focusing on the sadness.

  4. I am learning how true that is. It helps offset the sudden moments when we run straight into a potent memory trigger like yours.

  5. Beautifully written.

    As long as we love people, and live, we have to learn to deal with the fact that sometimes we will lose people we love along the way. It sucks, but it is what it is.

    Wishing you well as you negotiate the pain of losing your brother.

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  7. It's so hard isn't it? My condolences on your loss.

  8. It's so hard isn't it?

    My condolences on your loss.