Friday, 15 April 2011


Friday, 15 April 2011
In the weeks following what happened to my brother, I was ruined with sorrow. I remember little about the detail of that time, but am left with an overwhelming awareness of detachment – I was me… yet somehow… not. That is to say – my body was there, but I always feel like my spirit was elsewhere – wrenched away from the rest of me by the weight of my anguish and helplessness. In desperate attempts to get it back, I used to spend all night scavenging the internet for scraps of comfort. I felt a razor-sharp sense of isolation; I was looking for solace in someone – anyone – who would really understand how I felt but my searches bore no fruit. I whirled in an agonising loop -- I could not be comforted or of comfort to anyone. It was a very dark time. I’d lost my baby brother, and I didn’t know how to stop myself from falling out through the hole that he had left.

Even though it has been 15 years and the title of this post is exactly what happened to our family, I can’t bring myself to actually say that word. I’ve jailed those three syllables at the bottom of one of my lungs and never let them even whisper themselves out. I say, “…since we lost Jonathan,” or sometimes, “My brother died when I was 20.” I’ve talked here before about how talking about what happened usually makes other people uncomfortable on my behalf, so I don’t solicit conversation about it for their sake, really. 

Jonathan is always in my thoughts.  Sometimes I think about his life, sometimes I cry about his death.  Sometimes I delight in his presence.  Lots of times I am reminded of him because I hear sad news of similar tragedies in other people’s families. 

A few years ago, what happened to me happened to someone I used to go to school with.  We weren’t close; I couldn’t claim any particular acquaintance with him other than that we’d been in the same class in elementary school and high school but when I heard the news that his younger brother, too, had taken his own life I felt the shadow on my own heart make its presence known.

I feel an odd sense of … I don’t know – duty and obligation are both too strong a word; but I still wonder if I could be for others what I so desperately searched for all those years ago.  But how do you make such an approach?  You couldn’t, without appearing intrusive or creepy.  But that sense, whatever it is, doesn’t ever seem to abate, and I think about my former classmate occasionally and wish we lived in the same town, such that the likelihood of our paths crossing might be increased.  There is a lingering unresolvedness (and I know that’s not a real word) which burned a little warmer this week, fuelled by some sad news that another brother - a friend of a friend - had ended his own life as well.  Last night I dreamed about it all.  I woke up and wrote it all down (er… well, typed it into my iPhone). Click on the picture to read the dream properly.

I hope they're all okay.

Some reference:

6 people had something to say about this...:

Adam said...

Thanks for this. Death really sucks.

I think you've touched on some really important things I have also noticed about grief and mourning (which to be fair I do volunteer work facilitating grief support groups so I'm a little more up on it than I otherwise would be)

1. There's no time limit on a grief journey. Your grief journey for your brother started 15 years ago (and mine for my sister nearly 30) but yet we reflect on them in new ways all the time. I know for certain my grief journey will only complete when others start theirs for me.

2. Grief journeys never really lead to "resolvedness". I think the best we can hope for is reconciliation; that is an understanding of our loss in the context of a different world view which no longer includes a relationship of presence, but rather one of memory, with the person who died.

3. We all desperately need to share our mourning with those around us. There is great comfort in shared sorrow with people having suffered a loss, and all the more so a similar one. Grieving alone is hollow.

Suicide is a particularly challenging complication in a grief journey, made worse by the social stigma that is still unfortunately (and wrongly) often associated with it.

Thanks for taking the time to write this. It's only through people having the courage (and I don't mean that in a hokey way. Acting in the absence of fear is not courage; acting in spite of it is) to talk about these dark reaches of our existance that we can all come to reconcile it and indeed to support our friends, family and even acquaintences as they struggle in their own search for reconciliation.

Mammy P said...

Thanks Adam... what a lovely comment.

Lynn said...

Your description of your dream is a beautiful poem. I can almost understand how you are feeling when I read it.

I just wrote something myself yesterday about death and grieving. I am finding that having to answer my children's questions about the absence of a certain family member (my dad) to be difficult and sad. But at the same time, sharing my sadness with them is bringing me some closure that I've never had before. I'm sure I'll never move on completely but every little conversation is helping.

I'm so sorry for your loss - I remember when it happened how I couldn't stop thinking about you and your family and felt so powerless to help, especially since I barely knew you and it would be so weird to call you up and see if you wanted to chat. But anytime, lady, anytime.

Mammy P said...

So sweet, Lynn... thank you for your kind thoughts. It means a lot. I am not looking forward to the day when my kids start asking why Jonathan died, and how, etc. I think it is important that they understand but I have no idea what age they should be that the full truth is made clear to them. Makes my brain hurt. Yeeeesh.

Danielle said...

What a dream.

I think what you write will help people. You are always so thoughtful and this reach people who need your kindness.

I often think about Jonathan, and lately I've been thinking about how you will tell your boys about his death. It makes my insides twist, thinking about that.

I wish I could give you hugs in person. xxx

Lis said...

I do not have words that truly convey how moved I am by your blogs. Your poem, your dream was beautiful and tangible, I could see it all in my own mind. I am so privileged to be your friend and glimpse into the workings of your heart and soul.