HEALING FROM GRIEF
THE RAGE STAGE
The reality of my brother’s death is finally hitting me. Hard. The blessed numbness (denial?) of the first few days and then the short respite of my cross-country trip with Jen staved off the sorrow but I am now back to reality. And right now it sucks. Yesterday, I called my father for support and told him how much I was hurting. Given our complex and at times very strained relationship, he said he felt attacked and asked that I call back later. I was unaware of how I sounded, but given my current emotional state there is every possibility that what he heard were not-so-nuanced hints of rage.
To go into the reasons for my anger at my father would take too long and is best left to another post down the road, but suffice it to say, he was an absentee father, both physically (he lived in another state) and emotionally (stoicism and sarcasm are his default settings). There is definitely a part of me that blames him for Garrett’s death, but I also understand that the combination of addiction and head trauma that doomed my brother to a world of pain had precious little to do with my father. These hardships, like other big losses suffered throughout my life, must be blamed on the wheel of fortune, the hand of fate or the will of God. And maybe that’s what pisses me off the most. Like a petulant child, I keep thinking, “It’s not fair!”
The cruelty of having sustained a great amount of loss and suffering from an early age is that you learn not to trust in anything, least of all God. My relationship with the Creator is tinged with an unbearable bitterness. What kind of God would give my youngest brother a brain tumor at two years old and suffer for years only to find blessed relief when he finally died at ten? What kind of God would leave us in the charge of parents who, because of their own pain and loss, put alcohol in front of the needs of their own children? What kind of God would let my other brother sustain a traumatic brain injury at sixteen and live thirty more painful, isolated years on this planet with only alcohol to soothe his troubled soul? What kind of God would let my mother endure years of worry about her two sons and then die a long, slow death due to dementia? What kind of God would let me live in the wake of — and shadow of — so much heartache?
For all these reasons and more I find myself enraged. Is God a bully? A sadist? A callous tyrant? And yet, there is some part of my soul that knows that I need the power of God in my life now more than ever. But how to trust in a deity or Universe that seems to revel in fucking with me? How to ask for help when I am so wounded I can barely think? When every cell in my body cries out for justice for all that has been lost (or taken) from me? I mourn not just the fracturing of my family and the deaths of my loved ones, but also for the dysfunction of my childhood that kept me from having a family of my own and makes loving people and being loved a truly terrifying prospect. I wonder how and if I will ever heal and what kind of lemonade I can make with this bumper crop of sour citrus fruit. And yet…
Somewhere inside this bruised and battered soul of mine is a knowingness that pain and loss are not all there is for me and that they don’t have to define my life. That my sanity and spirit does not have to disintegrate under the weight of so much sorrow. That there is some kind of purpose for all of this if I can just open my mind and heart enough to let it in. But putting all my faith in God right now is just asking a little too much.
So I am trying to find equanimity by balancing the scales of my soul. Loaded up as it is with loss, grief, fear and anger, I know that if I am to make it through this troubling time, I must restore the balance with things like truth, beauty, connection, nature and love. Every day I look to find silver linings. And they are there. I have reconnected with friends and family members I left in the past but who love me and are showing up for me in unexpected numbers. And the fact of my unemployment right now gives me the opportunity to focus on deeper healing and taking care of myself. I look for and find joy in small, simple things like a child’s laughter or cuddling with my dogs. I remember that despite so much evidence to the contrary, I am not alone, I am not doomed and that I will survive. And maybe, sometime very soon, God willing, I will even thrive.