Grief: The Owner’s Manual

Nearly two years after my brother’s suicide, I fully realize that the shock and pain of his death will likely never go away. As its one year anniversary came and went, I made a very strong resolution to do my best not to focus on the negative aspects, but instead to celebrate his life and remember the good times as opposed to the pain he caused so many people by taking his own life. (as well as the fact that he could be an emotional, judgmental, patronizing, pretentious jackass. In my opinion, anyway!). While for the most part, this has worked out for me and I do consider myself “at peace”, clearly this is easier said than done.

Classing up yet another picture.

I am constantly amazed at how frequently I receive a phone call or email from someone who just found out — a childhood friend, someone from college, a former colleague of his. After this much time I assume everyone knows, but I am reminded again and again that this is not the case. I anticipate that this pattern will continue for years to come.

The thing that makes the grieving and healing process so challenging for everyone — even those kind people trying to comfort those of us who are experiencing some kind of loss — is that there is no “owners manual” for dealing with grief, or for helping a friend who is. Which is unfortunate, as grief’s random and unpredictable emotional cycle never ceases to amaze me.

Sometimes, the pain, anger, sadness comes from the least expected situation. Like seeing his contact information in my address book that I haven’t had the heart to erase yet. Or, for whatever reason deciding to plug in one of his old cell phones for the first time and finding one draft in the text messages — a note to me. Or deciding to throw away some of his junk I still have boxed up, and having one word magnet fall out of the magnetic poetry bag I was ready to discard: “sister”. (Seriously, that happened — I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried).

As silly as it sounds, there are still times nearly 20 months along where I will be thinking about him, fully realizing that he is gone, when the next thought that pops into my head is: “damn, I haven’t talked to him in ages! I need to call him and tell him about x.” My guess is this urge, disbelief and sadness will never go away – not in one more year, 20 more, or even 50 more.

And that, my friends, perhaps is what best defines the owner’s manual for grief. There is always another chapter in the never-ending story.

6 Replies to “Grief: The Owner’s Manual”

  1. Hi Laura,

    Funny you should post this just now. I was cleaning out my HUGELY overrun gmail folders yesterday and stumble across Lucas’ final two emails to me – who even knows why I’d saved them except that they had arrived after so many years of NOT hearing from him. It was shocking all over again. I still couldn’t bring myself to delete them.

    You’re right: there is no handbook for grief. You plow through that in real-time, every time, with no map in hand, no compass, no stars to steer by.

    I am thinking of you, wishing you . . .well, who knows what. But thinking of you all the same.

    All best,

  2. Laura,
    I am one of those people who, 20 months later, am finding out about the pain you’ve gone through. I am so sorry for the loss of your brother.
    Thank you for your blog. What a brave, wonderful woman you are to share you life this way!

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