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Grief Roles

July 25, 2006

He never was a typical youngest child. He didn’t ever fit into that role. If I think back I would say we were treated as equal. There was no putting the oldest on a pedestal and blaming the youngest for everything, not to say I didn’t try to make it appear that way, there was no the oldest gets all the perks and the youngest just deals with it. We were both expected to be good kids, to achieve in school, to help around the house, to participate in family events, time, trips. Our roles were to be equals in the family life, one just did it before the other, one was just older. And we played those roles, all of it. He looks up to me, as a youngest usually does and has followed a similar path as me, which I’d call normal. But that was really the only typical piece of the youngest role he’d chosen.

And now, he’s taken on a new role… a role that I can’t tell if it’s normally given to the youngest… He keeps pulling us back together. Not that we’ve separated except to try and figure out/return to our “new normal”.

At the funeral we were each separated by the people that had come to support us. My mom sharing grief and condolences with work colleagues, I connecting with an old friend who’d just been through the same experience as me. He pulled us back together- and the rest of the night was spent as our threesome.

We spent the next week plus together. Mourning, spending time, starting to shape our new lives. We’d gone separate ways for about a week, Mom and I back to work, him to Europe on a trip that had been planned for years, when he pulled us back together again. We spent the next week again together, mourning, adjusting, planning on the next steps.

Life seemed to start being shaped into our “new normal”. Weekends were spent together, work got back underway, we were adjusting, incorporating the loss into our lives. He came to me, a visit, but brought me home with him in tow… he needed to pull us back together again. More weekends were spent at home, more time together, adjusting, processing, being in the same place.

Things seemed to really be shifting back to something normal, work was becoming easier for me, Mom had gone on her first business trip and left him home alone. It wasn’t meant to be… he pulled us back together again. There is still more to be figured out. Looking back I can tell I was starting to lose the path of processing, I was pushing it below the daily needs of life, I wasn’t creating a “new normal” I was trying to go back to the “old normal”.

I guess we all have to take it a bit more slowly. He doesn’t even really know or understand it, he’s just in the role that pulls us back, even against his will. Maybe its because he’s the youngest. Maybe this is a role a youngest is supposed to take when faced with incorporating grief.

A family friend sent a card at the beginning of the process commenting on the loss of her grandmother. She told a story about wanting to jump back into life, into her “new normal” and her parents resisting. They explained that in Judaism you are supposed to truly mourn for a full year, to reduce trips, work, happy events and occasions. She didn’t understand it then, but as she grew she appreciated what her parents had done. She sees it in our family’s adjustment process. There is a reason to limit activity, its just hard in the reality of life.

Maybe it will take a year for us to get it right, to balance the needs of life and the needs of grief, maybe there will be a shift and we’ll go back to our previous youngest and oldest roles, as minor and indifferent as they were. No one can really say, there aren’t clearly defined roles, there isn’t a well lit path. I don’t even know what my role is. But the one he’s playing now is making a difference. Its keeping us in-tune to what we’re going through. I’m processing more, realizing I had stopped. Maybe my role is to support him in his, maybe we’ve reversed our youngest and oldest roles. I should now follow him in his path, maybe now he’s leading the way.

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