The topic of grief and loss is not an easy one, and I’ve mulled for over a month now about how to write about all that’s going on in our world with my sister and her battle with stage four metastatic breast cancer. I finally decided I just needed to start writing, because no matter how much I mulled, it’s not going to be neat and tidy and wrapped up in a bow. Grief isn’t any of those things, so blog posts about grief and lost won’t be either.
Our family is no stranger to loss and to grief. In fact, our family was created with grief as a foundation. My father died when I was two, and my mother married a widower about 2 years later. They were both very young – early 20’s, and already both in second marriages after the death of a spouse, and between them, they brought three kids to the family. I was the oldest, my brother Robert (a year younger than me), and my new (step) sister Sarah. (We never referred to each other as step-anything growing up, but I do use it as clarification occasionally). My parents had another son, Ken, a little over a year after they married. We were a blended, “yours, mine, and ours” family back in a time when that wasn’t nearly as common, and there were very little resources available in terms of counseling, books, or experienced friends.
Needless to say, grief has been a part of our family dynamic since the beginning. My parents did the best they could, which most of the time meant survival mode. We didn’t address grief and loss growing up. Our deceased parents (my father and my sister’s mother who died when she was 8 months old) were never, or very rarely discussed. In fact, I didn’t know where my dad was buried until I was almost 18. It was never stated out loud as a rule that we shouldn’t talk about the past and those missing parents, but I think as little ones, we could sense the emotions surrounding the loss, and we just learned to not talk or ask questions. (I know I did a LOT of talking about my dad as a young toddler after his death, because my mother has told me how I asked for him all day long for months, but at some point, I believe I just stopped talking because I knew it hurt too much.)
As the oldest, I have the longest perspective (by about 14 months), but each of us siblings had a different view of how things were. And unfortunately, we lost the perspective of my brother Robert, when he died at age 19 in a car accident, twenty years ago. Yes, more loss. And grief. I think if Robert were still here, he and I would be able to share memories on the years and probably see eye-to-eye on most things. But I’ll never know for sure.
My sister and I have very different views of how life was growing up. She is just 18 months younger than me, but her perspectives and mine have always been worlds apart. I have always blamed that on genetics – we don’t share any – and it’s pretty obvious in how we approach.. well, most everything. And my youngest brother was just a baby in the early, tumultuous years… and because he was the “ours” in the “yours, mine, and ours” scenario, he HAD both his parents growing up, and it was simply a dramatically different experience for him as a child.
All that to say.. I have a lot of thoughts on grief and loss. More soon…