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Bianca611

Heartbroken over my brother's death and couldn't even join the funeral

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Bianca611

Hello,

I am new here and it's the very first time that I am sharing my feelings about my brother's death. First of all, I would like to apologize for my English. I am German but staying in the US for research reasons. My brother died of a brain tumor on the 18th of March 2020. He was 5 years older than I am: my only brother and my favorite person in the whole world. We have been always very close and the early death of our mom (she died of cancer by the age of 48) has only strengthened our bond. He was diagnosed in December 2018 and it was so surreal. He was feeling good and went back to work only 5 weeks after his surgery. Kept working during chemo and radiation and still felt fine. Last July he took part in a charity mini-triathlon in England. I have seen him last December in Vienna and he was the kind, funny and smart guy as always. A few days before Christmas he started having trouble with his short-term memory. Because of the changes of his health condition I decided to fly to Austria again in January where I stayed for a few weeks. I am glad and grateful for this precious time with my brother although his short-term memory hasn't improved again. I returned to the States in February because I was told that it could take months until the next drastic change and I was already thinking about the time frame for my next visit. Unfortunately, his condition has suddenly deteriorated massively and he passed away almost two months ago. By that time, the global pandemic dominated life and I wasn't allowed to enter Austria to attend my brother's funeral on time. I would have stayed in quarantine for two weeks and in the meantime I would have missed it. My sister-in-law wasn't willing to wait this long because she wanted to get closure for the children and herself.

I am heartbroken and devastated not only by the loss of my brother but also by not attending his funeral. He was always there for me and I feel like I would have let him down. I can't sleep anymore because I feel so guilty amd at the same time I am so sad. I couldn't even say goodbye to him and I can never make it up for missing his funeral! It seems people are surprised that I am grieving by telling me "Well, you knew he was sick and going to die." Accuaintances immediately lose interest when they hear he didn't die of the coronavirus like that makes it less irrelevant. I feel all alone and there aren't any meetings of grieving gropus at the time. You may have already guessed that my sister-in-law are not very close (she thinks her loss is bigger than mine and makes some kind of a competiton out of it!).

I have no idea how to deal with it. Although I know I will never feel complete happiness without my brother in this world I am wondering how to manage the pain so that I can at least function?

I would appreciate any help and advice! Thank you!

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Sarah-Ann

Hello Bianca.  I had arrived at this website a couple of hours ago, searching for some faith, some support, I don't know. I have just responded to someone who has recently lost her brother.  I am new to such grief and have not understood what it is and what you do with it.  I put my hands out to you in shared deep sadness and care.  I have come to believe that our relationship with our sibling is like being entwined like tree roots, in that we share the same growing up history, the same DNA.  We are the same, we are not the same.  My brother died on 2 March this year.  He was diagnosed with a secondary cancer in his brain last November. He lost his thoughts, some memories.  He lost his ability to process sometimes.  He finally lost his mobility.  I helped look after him.  I didn't understand.  I tried my best.  It was traumatic.  We all muddled through in trauma.  I arranged his funeral, but it had to be cancelled because of the Coronavirus restrictions.  Instead a prayer service was held in the funeral director's chapel.  Four people attended, but my mother and are were unable to.  My mother is a shielded person and I am her carer.  I can feel the awfulness of your experience - unravelling before you - unable to reach your brother even at his funeral.  I was not at my brother's funeral.  I don't know how to manage pain.  I am only just learning what may work for me.  I have started having phone bereavement counselling.  In a way that has only awakened the pain but it has been useful in that I am now in search of how to cope. 

There are TED talks online: I like Brene Brown as an inspirational speaker.  There is a podcast of her interviewing someone about grief in the context of this Pandemic.  I found too, Nancy Berns, I think - Beyond Closure - which is about grief not being about closure.  For me, my brother is with me.  There is no closure. He is part of me, as I was part of him as siblings are.  There is another talk by Dr Geoff Warburton, from Brighton.  I do hope I have spelt their names correctly.  He talks about us connecting with the flow of life eventually.  He talks about the powerful feelings, rage, terror, illness that is the grief.  There are other talks that may be right for you.  I don't know about functioning!  I sometimes do.  Sometimes, though, I find I just suddenly have to go to bed with a hot water bottle and stay there. I write.  What I feel is that reaching out helps.  It is so hard to connect with people in this crisis.  My friends are not there for my grief.  They have their own unexpected difficulties and fears, trying to keep it all together.  Please don't feel that your brother's death has faded into the background because of the global scale of the Coronavirus.  His life matters.  His death matters. He is indelible, as you were to him.

I don't know whether you know The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.  This was followed by Blue Nights.  These books helped me.  

 

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Bianca611

Sarah-Ann,

I am very sorry for your loss and I appreciate it even more that you are trying to help and comfort me although you are also in pain! You are absolutely right about the relationship between siblings and I love your metaphor about the tree. I can imagine how traumatic and devastating it was for you to take care of your brother while watching him getting worse and worse. It is also terrible that your arrangements for his funeral were cancelled and you couldn't even attend in the end. Like I have said before, not being at my brother's funeral is hunting me and I don't know what to do with the pain.

But I thank you for your recommendations. I will definitely look into these talks and books and also do some research about phone bereavement counselling. Honestly, it never occurred to me before. You have mentioned you would write and I assume, you are writing a journal? I tried it but it's too hard for me at the moment to actively deal with the loss. I am more in the going-to-bed-with-a-hot-water-bottle phase. But you are saying reaching out will help and it might me also working for me. I didn't feel that alone anymore while reading your message and although it made me cry to read your kind words that his life and death matters it helped!

So, thanks again!

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Sarah-Ann

Thank you for all your have said. The sharing of our loss helps so much.

 

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MODArtemis2019

Hello Bianca, I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother. Thank you for reaching out in your grief; as Sarah-Ann says above, we help each other by sharing the loss and pain. 

Ever since this pandemic I have thought about those who were not able to attend or even hold a service for their loved ones who passed on. It seems so unfair and cruel, yet we all understand why it is. I can understand why this compounds your grief and adds guilty feelings to the mix. And I totally understand the lack of support from most people. It's not that they don't care; they just don't know how devastating the loss of a brother can be. 

I don't know if you are up for this, but have you considered making a small ceremony yourself for you to say goodbye to your brother? It might have a healing effect on you. I was fortunate to be able to have a lovely memorial with friends and family after my husband died. But I have also created my own personal  memorials at certains times since then, like our wedding anniversary. It would give you a chance to talk to him and tell him how much he meant to you. Maybe it would even ease some of your guilt, something I understand very well. 

Allow yourself to feel the pain when it comes. Sometimes you just have to cry a lot. But if it feels overwhelming, you can also put a little distance between you and the intense pain by just being aware of the sadness and pain. You are aware of the pain, but you are not the pain. 

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Bianca611

Hello MODArtemis2019,

I am very sorry for your loss and I appreciate your kind words and your time for eaching out to me.

Yes, it's very devastating not only to lose my beloved brother but not being able to be there for him on his last way. I held a little ceremony for him with a good friend of mine. Because of the orders I wasn't able to invite more friends but even then, it wouldn't have been the same. But you are prefectly right, I should create my own personal memorials to honor him like you do it for your husband.

Hopefully, you are also right when you say I am not the pain because at the moment it feels like it. I am in agony and I could cry all the time. When I am trying to sleep and close my eyes I see my brother in front of me and scenes from our past. It's not that I am going down memory lane on purpose it just happens and it hurts so much! I am wondering if it will ever be bearable.

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MODArtemis2019

I remember very well the rawness of the pain during the early months. I am so so sorry for this pain you are having now. It does get less sharp and less intense with time in my experience. And you will learn how to make it more bearable. 

You wrote about guilt. I understand this well; I tortured myself for a year with guilt. While you felt guilty for not being with your brother, I felt guilty for being with my husband—but not doing or saying the right things. I had a whole mental list of the things I did wrong, the things I said or didn't say. My point is that for many people, the guilt goes along with the grief no matter what you did. Or didn't do. It has nothing to do with your being a loving sister; you obviously were! What a precious gift you gave your brother by traveling across the ocean to be with him in January. Just wonderful. 

When the one year anniversary of my husband's death approached, I made a decision to stop torturing myself with guilt. I wanted to honor and remember him and the self-torture didn't achieve that. What happened then was interesting. When I let the guilt go, I was able to feel the pure feeling of sadness and loss. It is still painful, but in a softer way. And without the self flagellation.  And there is a little space in my head now where I can feel gratitude for having him instead of just sadness. 

Sometimes when I have difficult or unwanted thoughts, I say aloud (to my cats, but you can do this without cats), "Robb wouldn't want me to torture myself," or "I'm feeling so sad because I lost my best friend." Just the awareness and speaking aloud puts that little space between you and the pain. You feel the pain; you are aware of the pain. But you are not the pain. 

My therapist told me that my guilt was, in part, a way to try to reverse this terrible thing that happened. As it that were possible. It is not a rational thing. 

Try to care for yourself with compassion, like you would do for a friend. When you feel guilty, say to yourself what you would say to a friend who was suffering like you are. 

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