All of the words in the book Viking Funeral are my grief therapy. Welcome to my couch.
If you have found this blog through the hellfire valley of grief, I am with you. While none of us have an identical experience with grief, I have empathy for your pain and an understanding that your walk through this place will leave you forever changed. Our grief is as unique as our fingerprints, and none of us move through here the same way.
There was a time when I was angry about some of the unpleasant experiences in my life. After decades of walking around with that anger boiling below the surface inside me, I came to realize that those negative disappointments helped me grow the most, and believe it or not, I came to see the purpose of the lessons of my path, what they taught me, both specifically and non-specifically; patience, humor, tenacity, empathy, awareness, caution, organization. All of these gifts developed from my life experiences, and I am grateful for all of them. Now.
Witnessing my brother Dave’s amazing and challenging life, the way he moved through it with grace and so much humor, has helped me appreciate, if you can believe it, grieving him. Like every other profound experience of life, ordinary pains of childhood, working, becoming a parent, dealing with difficult people or circumstances, we may learn from our grief, something beyond pain, possibly a new awareness that helps us grow in our humanity if we see it for what it is an unavoidable aspect of living. It may sound ridiculous, like I didn’t love my brother enough to understand real grief. but please keep reading.
I worried, panicked is more accurate; I panicked that I might forget the essence of who my brother was, leave him behind in the cremated dust of my past. I found it helpful to write down my favorite memories of him, initially in the form of a quick list. I later filled in the details. By later, I mean weeks, months, years later, for some of those stories to be finished. I began sharing what I wrote by reading the latest essay out loud to my family or Dave’s friends. They laughed with me; we remembered more details together; sometimes, I cried, sometimes nothing more than a few sniffles, other times, I wept. By the way, crying is a stress-release cycle (Google it) each of us possesses; please allow it to fulfill its purpose and let the tears come no matter where you are-let them fall! All the laughter, writing, tears, all of it was helpful to me.
I initially shared unedited chapters of what I had written online to reach my distant family, his friends, my friends who are not in my life’s immediate neighborhood to solicit input for clarity; along the way, strangers found my words, and my grief took on an entirely other life.
The original chapters have been removed as I prepare for the final wrap-up of the book and stab at a screenplay showcasing his actual funeral, the people, the stories, the laughter, the love. I am grateful for my walk through the hellfire of grief with the help of all of you, even though there was still a load of cursing that may have made your eyes bleed a little.
I would like to announce that I have made it through, but honestly, there is no other side to get to, like a riverbank over there; I would like to amend the no one escapes death statement to include no one escapes grieving either.
I think this grief chapter of our life experience is meant for deeper diving, uncovering from what we are made. It may feel ice cold at first, with nothing but pre-drowning and undertow, but working to understand the cold and the current, working with it can transport us through our self-examination to a place of possibly beautiful understanding of ourselves, of life, of living fully.
What that something is will be different for each of us because it is based in part on the complexities of the relationship and personality of the person we are grieving and ourselves within and without that context. How can things be so simple and so very complex simultaneously?
It is the knotted reality of life.
My writing, my grieving, my language may not be a good fit for your tastes or lifestyle. I am sharing what I have learned in my grief with those who may be starting out on their path, who may be so lost in their loss, they need what is causing their grief-the black hole left by their lost loved ones, your lost loved one, more than anyone. I encourage you, everyone, to write or talk about your loved one because it may help more than you think.
As a witness to his life, I felt bad for the ENTIRE world, which missed out on knowing him and began writing with that intent-sharing him with the world. Dave LOVED helping people. I encouraged him to write about his life to help people he would never be able to help in a one-on-one counseling situation, to motivate people- people with disabilities and everybody else.
HIS book changed without him here to write it; writing his story from my perspective has helped me in ways I couldn’t know until I was somewhere in the middle of it, and I am so grateful I was forced from beyond the grave to do so. As a radical introvert, it’s a big deal to open the doors of my grief wide with the hope that reading my love for my brother through the curse words of my fucking grief and probably too soon dark humor may help you see something in your grief that helps you.
Often those close to us can’t understand our grief, and we find solace in the presence of complete strangers who are grieving. Don’t be upset with your people or take it personally; it is a common phenomenon. So is denial or showing our emotions. Try to give those closest to you all the grace in the world because a time will come when they are branded with a grief to call their very own soon enough. Let them enjoy their “soul’s childhood” a little longer.
My brother Dave imbued love and gave it away freely to anyone and everyone. In his honor, I am giving away all these words out of love for him, out of love for my grief and what it has taught me, for the love of others who I see withering in their grief; this is written from the place of love for the humanity in all of us.
I have talked to thousands of people about my grief, their grief, our grief, grief through conversations sparked by this blog since I unzipped my life’s bag of memories and poured everything online for the world to sift through. I know it helps me to talk to all of you, hear your favorite stories of my Dave if you knew him or about your loved ones wherever you are; it’s a smaller planet together. I have filled my heart with the names of your loved ones, images, stories, alongside all my memories of my brother and my other loved ones who are no longer with me.
I look forward to each lovely, amazing, or hilarious story you may want to share with me at the bottom of any page; leave a comment.