My late husband came from a family of three boys. His brothers, twelve and eight years older than him, always idolized their baby brother. Why is it then, that shortly after his death, these two men disappeared from the life of the family that their beloved brother left behind?
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is an uncommon occurrence, although it certainly is always a painful one.
Not an excuse, but as a possible explanation, I believe family members may be so mired in shock and grief that they cannot see past their own pain to extend themselves to another. Consequently, many hurtful actions may be taken and thoughtless words may be uttered.
For example, on the day of the death, my sister-in-law came over to my house to offer her support. As I sat on the couch, staring into space trying to wrap my mind around what had just occurred, she said to me – “Why don’t you have a drink?” When I told her I didn’t drink; I wasn’t going to start now; and that drinking would not make things better or set a good example for my sons, she very seriously replied that maybe it was time I took it up. Not having the strength to reply, I could only shake my head in disbelief at her words. At that moment, I also knew she was not going to be a person upon whom I could lean.
For myself, I wasn’t concerned one way or the other whether my brothers-in-law were a part of our lives. What did upset me was that my sons were going to lose their only familial connection to their father. Conversely, it made sense (obviously, only to me!) that the two brothers would want to keep a connection to their deceased sibling.
It is fourteen years later, and, with the exception of one occasion, I still have not heard from either one of them. I am at the same address that they last knew me to live, so they could easily find me if they so desired.
I suppose I will never know the real reason they turned away from us. I would imagine that they were not able or willing to work through their own grief. They, perhaps, needed someone to blame for an event so inexplicable, or it was too painful for them to even associate with us for it brought up memories with which they were not mentally or emotionally equipped to deal. Or, it could be as simple as being embarrassed by their thoughtlessness and now feel too much time has passed to make amends (although it is never too late to do that). Whatever the reason, the overriding emotion I feel for them is sorrow.
Grief is like a big brick wall that reaches from the sky to the ground and spreads so wide one cannot climb it or go around it. The only way to deal with grief is to move right through it and experience all the pain (and surprising joy) one encounters along the way. From their actions, it seems these two men have avoided the pain of introspection by stuffing their feelings very deep down inside to continue living in denial. One day, I would imagine, it will hit them when they least expect it – either emotionally, mentally, or physically.
From my perspective, although very hard to do sometimes, I believe it is healthier to deal with situations as we confront them and then move down the path to meet the next obstacle to conquer.
Ellen Gerst is a Life Coach specializing in grief and relationships and the author of several books on grief, including "Suddenly Single: How To Find Renewal After Loss," born out of Ellen's own experiences as a young widow; "Words of Comfort To Pave Your Journey of Loss;" and "Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story." "Love After Loss" is a blueprint on how to use her successful method to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a partner. Connect with Ellen on Facebook at Love After Loss (for daily relationship tips) and on Words of Comfort To Pave Your Journey of Loss (for inspirational coping with grief thoughts). Click for more information on grief related services and books.