There’s a note on my computer desktop: “BLOG GRIEF”. Actually it reads, “BLOG GRIEF…LAUNDRY”. As much as I hate doing it, the laundry seems like the easier project.
I have had a difficult time talking about, let alone blogging about, the grief I feel following my older brother’s death last May. Craig, like me, was gay and, also like me, had been HIV-positive since the mid-to-late 1980s. His tragic death, though, was at most only indirectly related to his HIV.
On April 24, his long-term partner’s birthday, Craig tripped and fell outside their home, suffering severe brain trauma. After sixteen days of hell he died on May 9. I still get chills imagining, try as I might not to, the split second of terror as Craig tumbled to the pavement.
How did this alcoholic Bipolar II react? Well, after the formalities of mourning, and family members had once again returned to our respective homes, I drank – from about May 24 until June 20. Oh, and I went off my meds to do so “safely”. Way to process my feelings, huh?
Sobering up on the last day of spring, the next few months have mostly been about getting my sanity back to as close to “on track” as possible. There’s been a mild sort of euphoria, or at least profound relief, that I have lived to give sobriety another try.
The not-surprising survivor guilt that I have experienced runs deeper into my neuroses than seems reasonable. In addition to missing Craig, pure and simple, I have found myself comparing our respective lives and believing that mine would have been much more expendable. It’s a perverse leap of the ego.
Craig had a partner of some sixteen years . I’ve always been single. They had just purchased, but had not yet taken possession of, a beautiful new and accessible home which would have allowed Craig to use the wheelchair or scooter that was in his future. (He had been becoming increasingly weakened by polymyositis, a degenerative disease that had already made it difficult for Craig to get in and out of chairs, his bed, and so on.) Nevertheless Craig’s attitude was positive and he was making provision for whatever the future held.
I, on the other hand, have often wondered why I had not died long ago – as seemed to be my fate, particularly when I was so sick in the mid-1990s – and, though I should not compare, believe myself to have less compelling reasons to live than did Craig. Not that I am actively suicidal, just not always feeling as though I am actively living either.
That aside, and I’ll spare the details here of other factors which have contributed to my self-image (abuse, trauma, poor judgment, etc.), I know that I have not been comfortable with my grieving process or – to put it another way: the time has come to talk, write and/or “share” about it.
Yesterday I was encouraged to get on the waiting list for a bereavement group, which I have done. As I walked home from a get-acquainted session with the facilitator, I found myself imagining that Craig was walking beside me. It was quite profound. It happened as I slowed to take still more pictures of the new and conversation-starting Libeskind addition at the Royal Ontario Museum (above). Craig and I seemed to be talking (and I did so without moving my lips!). This was the first time an exercise like this, unforced (such as repeatedly listening to piano and cello arrangements of The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns), had happened since he died, other than my projections of what he might have thought of x, y or z.
I told him, as if it needed pointing out, that I missed him a lot. The comfort I felt, just beginning this conversation, was measurable. We chatted briefly about a few things, Craig listening empathetically (and occasionally snickering lovingly). While I did most of the talking the feeling of his presence – even if it was just in my imagination – was unmistakable to me. If it was more than that, so much the better.
When I had the opportunity to speak to friends last evening, the experience of the afternoon allowed me to start putting into words what has until now – other than talking about the who, what, where, when of Craig’s death – just been a murky heaviness inside me.
It feels like the beginning of an important new phase.