Understanding what happens and why while grieving
On late Sunday night and into early Monday morning, a dream awakened me. In that dream, I could see a crew of siblings I’d grown up with in my neighborhood as clear as day; a sister and her two brothers.
We played kickball, dodgeball, and many other outside games, and raced to our respective homes before the streetlights came on.
We attended the same elementary, junior high, and high school. I have not seen them since I was in my late 20s, or early 30s, maybe? Why was I dreaming about them?
In the dream, the focus had been on the two brothers. Although the sister was present, she did not have a strong role — it’s like she made a cameo appearance only and moved along without a word.
I jumped up from my bed, not too sure why I had this reaction, and began searching for them online. What the search led me to was the death of one brother back in October 2011. He was 35 years old. I was 31.
He’d also been the sibling I communicated with the most. Although he was older, we had a lot in common. Not only that, we simply gelled well. We had our fair share of quips and subtle arguments from time to time, but we were always right back outside a few days later, enjoying what young life and innocence offered.
The obituary stated he’d died when his “health had failed.” 35 years old … I’d spent many of my childhood years dodging dodgeballs, kicking kickballs, running home before the glimmer of the streetlights with him, and having not seen him in over 15 years, I just sat with myself and this news.
I cannot describe how it made me feel. Initially, pain struck me as well as curiosity. It hurt to know he was no longer alive, even though the last time we saw each other was over a decade ago.
I had also been hit with the incessantly annoying want to know what happened. Why him? What started the path down to the reality of his health failing?
My therapist encourages me to study the why but not to overthink what could be simple
Naturally, I discussed this dream with my therapist this past Thursday, August 18, 2022. I love watching my therapist as she sits back in her chair, cups one of her hands on her chin, tilts her head, and says, “Okay. Where is the why in this? Why do you think you had this dream after not having seen them in so long?”
The question stumped me when she first asked it. I had trouble connecting the dots. My mind had been moving so fast, trying to wrap itself around it. I was dealing with the “how” so much more than I was dealing with the “why” of it all. I could pull nothing from within me.
She allowed me several moments to sit with the question and it finally hit me. “I thought I had gotten to a happier place with my grief — that I could say it does not hurt as much as it first did — I am doing better. But this … now this.”
And we talked through it. Her next question really drew the emotion out of me. “What do you feel in you right now, knowing that a childhood friend is gone?”
How does one even address this question? Especially if one has had multiple childhood friends die. Some before we’d even made it to our 30s.
I don’t want to say I am numb to it because surely I am not — I still feel each loss completely and wholly and the pain isn’t any different. My response … “I am saddened by it. I am hurt. I wish I would not have found out this way, or that it did not happen. Why did I have this dream? Am I supposed to reach out to his brother … his sister? He died so long ago.”
And the tears fell.
It all hit me like a Mack truck a few moments later. I didn’t give my therapist time to respond. My old friend died in October 2011. My cousin’s birthday is coming up in October. I had already not dealt with the month of October well because my maternal grandmother died In October when I was 23 years old.
Plainly put, October is a struggle month for me. There are days in that month when my focus is completely and utterly off, and I cannot move through them as I can months before it.
My maternal grandmother’s death had broken me in places I did not know breaking was possible. October brings darkness for me — so much darkness, and my cousin … she had been the light. Every single year — she was beautiful, unfathomable, undeniable, uplifting, and consistent light.
So, what will this October lend me this year? In all honesty, I am afraid to greet it but I also cannot worry about something over which I have no control. And I will try not to have any predestined wallowing moments piling up, either. I have to press forward. I have to move through it as best as I can when it approaches.
I will continue to give myself the grace and understanding I need.
I am aware that you worry about many things that you can’t control. There’s so much we would like to have but we cannot really hold. You have to be kind to yourself. You have to be kind to yourself. — Zooey Deschanel
How I got through the week embraced by some entertainment
I have made it a point to watch more television. For years, I had immersed myself in reading, writing, editing, and viewing a couple of hours of television per night and a few more during the weekends, but of late, this form of entertainment is keeping me above water.
Throughout the week, I allowed myself to be enchanted and excited by Gnome Alone (on Netflix), intrigued and motivated by Prey (on Hulu), angered and emotionally shaken by The United States vs. Billie Holiday (on Hulu), and finally, distracted, saddened, yet uplifted by Over the Moon (on Netflix).
And with the roller coaster week I have had, each of them has been a welcome reprieve.
I have learned to allow myself moments of joy regardless of how they are introduced to me.
I may not know the “why” but I will probably find out soon
Finding out about the loss of a childhood friend the way I did has definitely bruised something within me. I won’t lie — it was crushing waking up to learn of the death of someone I had been close to while growing up. I am still struggling with thoughts of, “why didn’t we keep in touch?” “What prevented us from spending more time together as we aged?” “What would it look like for me to make attempts at reconnecting with his surviving brother and sister?”
I do not have the answers. But I will tell you I am sitting with this loss. I am honoring it with the time I believe it needs. I am looking to the spirit of my cousin to cradle me as she has been doing over the last six months. And that is all I can do for now.
That is all I will do.
Grief changes shape, but it never ends. — Keanu Reeves
Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.
See you next Saturday.
©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter on LinkedIn.