Friday, April 29, 2016


The Weight of Grief
On Monday Molly and I went to the city to gather my brother's things and meet with the medical examiner. While this was not totally unexpected, the deep sadness, the feelings of guilt for not doing enough (which is my usual place I go to...I should have done more) the memories of our troubled childhood that this has triggered...has touched something so deep inside of me, at my core, and totally taken me by surprise.

When we arrived at the building that he had lived in, a fellow resident met us on the street at the locked door and asked if we were Mark's family.


"Oh Mannnnn! I was in _____ House with Mark! I have a picture of us back then. I wanted to get a copy made for you, but I didn't know you would be here today!" Just the gesture, the thought, meant so much to me.

He shook our hands and showed us the picture and I took a picture of it with my phone. He went on to tell me some stories and how they were friends and he was sorry that he was gone. "I tried to watch out for him, but I couldn't be with him 24/7." I thanked him for being his friend.

I realized that Mark had a community here. This was his world.

When we went into his room... there was evidence everywhere that he WANTED to be healthy. That he was trying. Positive affirmations written out in his handwriting hung, taped with medical tape, above his bed, "10 things I like about myself" with a list of 10 things that all were true. A devotional I had sent to him sat, well-read on his coffee table. The big book of AA, Living Sober, a bible, all sat next to it.

Molly found a notebook and said, "Mom, I think you will want this."

It had his goals, lists of pros and cons for certain behaviors, rewording things from negative self-talk to positive, contracts that he and his social worker both signed, promising to not use substances, to seek help immediately if he had any ideas of harming himself. He talked about the people he connected with, who were helpful to him. There were dark thoughts too, paranoid, afraid. Which was very common for him. He spent YEARS trying. Trying to be ok, trying to not mess up, trying to not be alone, trying to find his spot.....and he finally just became too tired to keep trying.

I took all of his tools that he was implementing, his big book, his bible, his notebook, his positive affirmations, his prayers and a picture of Jesus that he had hanging on his wall and I brought them home with me.

Sadly, there was some question if we should just let him be cremated as an indigent person and be thrown into the bay with no family present.

 I couldn't do it. It felt like that was the last act of tossing him aside. Thankfully, gratefully, a couple family members were willing to pitch in to help with that expense....the rest were silent. I mentioned that its only the grace of God that it wasn't us who was as sick as he was. Bless the dad's heart.....when I told him my plan of cremating him, his response, without hesitation, was "Of course, whatever you need to do." My sweet kind generous husband, always backing me up and supporting me to do what is important to me. "We will figure it out" has become his mantra.

Our girl has brought us so in touch with our own brokenness and enabled us to embrace what makes us imperfect. My goal for so long was to be perfect. To present a picture of perfection. That has been stripped away from me. From our family... and we are better people because of it. I am thankful for the lessons we have learned and who we have become. Brokenness, messy life, imperfection, being just "good enough," doesn't scare us anymore.

I am so sad. It just has to run its course and I will come out on the other side eventually.  I am so glad I went to see where he was living and met his friends and the staff. I regret so much not making more time to have done that sooner. I spoke with my girl's therapist today. I asked him if he would see me just once so I could talk about all of this. When I told him how guilty I felt, he said, "You did the best you could for your brother and that was good enough." It was the perfect thing to say. Its exactly what I would tell someone in this position. "You did the best you could for the circumstances, and that is enough."

Today my dear friend, a momma of a little 7 year old "wild girl" thanked me for "getting" her baby. I thought of how we all need to be gotten. We all need to have that experience of being totally understood, heard, accepted and gotten. Hopefully we get to live in that place. I don't think my brother ever did and that is part of my sadness. I pray that today he is there....resting in the knowledge that he is just fine now. Perfectly loved and accepted.



Groundhog Girl said...

Oh Annette this post, like the last really tugged at my heart and brought a tear. How lovely that you got to meet his friends and have a shared moment of what your brother meant to them. The guilt and grief will come in waves I am sure but you did the best that you could do and that WAS enough. I struggled with similar when my mom died the guilt of leaving her but I know now that there was nothing I could have done. Like his friend said, you can't be there 24/7. Bless you Annette, I am glad you have the support of your husband. Thank you for sharing such a touching post.

Anonymous said...

We all have private sides to us that no one sees. Years ago, I was delighted to learn that my Dad, who loves being outdoors and fishing, has a "country life" totally unknown to me of people who fish with him and who value him..... I think you discovered some good things about your brother that you had not fully known (Mark's friends and community and that he was trying to grow healthier with his affirmations and readings.) I'm glad that you have his notebook and collected self-help tools to remember him with. They are priceless........If I was more adept with the computer, I would send you an article I just read which reminded me of you. The writer talked about how we are each both broken and whole. He said that Mercy is being able to accept the brokenness. I hope that your brother is now whole and healed. And I hope that you will be gentle with yourself. Holly

Grace-WorkinProgress said...

Take some time for yourself and accept the comfort of others. We all do our best even if most of the time it doesn't feel like enough. Your brother is free from the pain and suffering of this life. Resting quietly. We can't understand why this life is too much for some and why our minds sometimes turn against us. After experiencing depression I feel lucky that I have come out on the other side. Natural grief can be a great healer if you let it wash over you and not resist it. Sending you love.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for the loss of your brother. You continue to give me so much with your blog. I love how able you are to articulate how you feel and what is going on. I admire you a lot.

Anonymous said...

just a beautiful heart filled post..
what your brother has given to you is a priceless gift.
thank you for this post.

Mary said...

God bless you Annette. From Mary Christine - I can't get your blog to recognize me for some reason