Moving Past Grief
While I usually try to post a blog every three weeks, I have not written one in three months. I know all of you have been thinking, what is going on with Marty, and why isn’t he sending us tidbits to inspire our way of thinking?!! Well, the truth is one of my older brothers, Gary, passed away in early October. His long battle with Leukemia ended, and all of the pain and suffering (which he never complained about once) drifted away as he entered his eternal rest. August and September were awful for him, and I am grateful that my other siblings and I spent two weekends with Gary in September. Our last visit was on his 66thbirthday, and two days after we left Chicago, he entered hospice and died 10 days later.
Following his death, my life filled with grief, sadness, a sense of emptiness and a total loss. While both of my parents died over the last three and a half years, nothing prepared me for the loss of a brother. So, every time I thought about blogging, I just did not feel inspired. I told myself a story that none of the topics I thought of were interesting enough, or that my brain just did not have the energy to focus enough to put something meaningful together. And three weeks after Gary’s passing, I felt the urge to write again.
In mindfulness we always talk about resilience, the ability to over come the curve balls that life throws us. So much of resilience about is getting the mind to understand, process and accept circumstances. Am I over Gary’s death? Not by a long shot! I miss talking with him, and laughing about some of our cherished childhood memories. This Thanksgiving won’t be the same without his presence, and the list goes on and on. Yet, I have finally have begun to experience the healing process.
Knowing that my internal thoughts drive the perceptions of my life, I have been working hard to influence the negative and sad tilt of my brain, to consider all of the positive things I have in my life, and to think about what I learned over the last 13 years of Gary’s illness. Cancer sucks! There is nothing good about it at all, but there were some good things that came as a result of Gary’s illness– a silver lining, if you will.
While Gary, another brother Arnie, and I shared a room growing up, we, as many families and siblings, grew apart as we grew older. For many years it seemed like I only talked to Gary on birthdays and holidays. Most of the calls were brief, and I thought my brother not much of a chatter box. It took Gary’s diagnosis, almost 13 years ago, to bring us back together as brothers and as a family. I really appreciated having those regular talks with Gary, whether about sports, politics, or even hearing his favorite line, “do you know what an a$$h@!# our father is?” Actually, that was my line, but Gary loved it and couldn’t seem to say it enough. I have amazing memories of two brothers’ weekends at my lake house, the last one being right before he started his first round of chemo. Fantastic conversations, great food, vodka, and lots of wine! Our evenings sitting at the fire pit, staring into the blaze, telling stories about growing up and laughing so hard we cried and our bellies hurt.
I have relied on those memories of this very special renewed connection over the last 13 years to heal. We tend to focus on what we don’t have in life, and we spend time on the negatives. We all know that we don’t get much out of those thoughts, yet we can become obsessed by them. I now reflect on all of the time I spent either on the phone with Gary or visiting him in Chicago, along with my other sibs. I am grateful that somewhere in my brain, 13 years ago, there was a choice about finding or rediscovering a special connection with my brother. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I lucky I was to know that while Gary’s life would be cut short, we could use the time that was left to be positive, connected and loving—-we did not dwell on his illness, but rather connected on what we shared—–as brothers.
My ability to now move through this extreme grief has a lot to do with my mind focusing on what we had together versus what I have lost. The joy, the special connection, of being a brother and absorbing how grateful I am to have shared a lifetime of experiences with Gary takes my mind on a positive and happy journey. I will never forget him, or ever stop feeling a sense of loss, but now I can use my deep acumen to relish the good things. So, I end with never, ever forget the good things you have in life, and especially don’t take them for granted—-they are all a very special gift!