Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

I know we’re in the middle of a fashion experiment, but I have to interrupt the Project Muu-Muu and switch gears to a post for Unthinkable Loss — an account of my experience with the sudden loss of my brother.

Throughout this process I am perpetually amazed at the mercurial nature of emotion, and how much turbulence simmers just below our surfaces.

It has been 5 months since my brother passed away, and I have been feeling pretty solid — I’m making progress on my writing, keeping up with a good flow of freelance work, getting consistent sleep and exercise; I laugh, I socialize — heck, I wear muu-muus around town for the fun of it. 

It’s not that I don’t think of my brother — I do, everyday. I put fresh flowers around his urn every few days and talk with my mom about him all the time. So it’s not like this loss is ever far from my mind. It is, however, increasingly far from my heart – that is, I conceive of his death but am less willing to feel it. 

I can say the words “my brother is gone” but to feel this missing, and all that it implies, is such an exhausting feat I unconsciously choose not to acknowledge what this means.

For the first few months I was swimming underwater: my vision askew and every movement stung. The overwhelming Truth stared at me, nauseous-making, not only in the lonely pauses upon waking or before sleep, but even when I ate a banana smoothie (“Chris hated bananas”); took a walk with the doggies (“these damn dogs wouldn’t be here if Chris were still alive”); or read a magazine (“an article on how to plan for your parents getting older? I’ll be doing it alone.”)

But lately, life has returned to a kind of “normal,” and I’ve gotten rather used to feeling, well,  good. I go to the beach with friends every weekend like a giddy teenager in a Pepsi commercial. I’ve forgotten (or tried to forget) being sad.

…except that I am. Coming back to this loss and acknowledging what’s still there is a continual, life-long process. And I keep forgetting that.

*     *     *

Last night I had a dream that unraveled in typical dream-fashion: time wasn’t linear and everything felt fluid, illogical. You know — where kittens are crawling on the ceiling… something like that.

The long and the short of it is that in my dream I could not function for anything. I was overrun with longing for my brother, and every action I tried to take was interrupted with tears.

I woke up in the middle of my crying, dream dissolving into reality, and laid in bed inhaling wet breaths, achingly missing my brother. Just missing.

He’s not coming back, is he? I said out loud.

I fell back asleep, and what followed was nothing but calm, uneventful sleep.

I woke up in the morning having forgotten the dream, the waking, the sentiment of sorrow.

And that’s what is so fascinating to me, still — all that can live inside us of which we are not even aware: I’d not remember anything, if it weren’t for the tissue still in my hand.


§469 · April 25, 2008 · Unthinkable Loss · · [Print]

2 Comments to “What Lies Beneath”

  1. nancy robinson says:

    shannon, you are so articulate and courageous.
    i have followed your blog to keep up with your family’s journey. i danced hula with your mom until i moved to the desert last summer to help my daughter with her twin newborns and 3 y.o.
    without bothering kathi with emails, through your writing i can see how you all are faring…bravely and with stamina i commend!
    thank you for sharing all that you are enduring and the progression of how it is unfolding/unraveling…depending on the day. my life feels like that too sometimes.
    tell your mom she looks darling as a blonde and her smile is even more precious now.
    my best wishes for mother’s day and every day, dear sisters.
    getting going each morning and planning for the future is an act of tremendous energy and bravery.
    i honor you and your mom!!!!!
    there are no words for this momentous family transition– so i really admire how you can express so clearly how it is for you.
    thank you. nancy robinson

  2. Grasshopper says:

    I don’t know if this an appropriate way for me to reach out..but I need to.
    I am one of your brother’s former students and actresses.
    I have been reading your journal to help cope and I hope you don’t mind me saying this …but I feel a sort of kindred spirit with you.
    I have had that “He’s not coming back, is he?” moment so many times this year that it seems unreal.
    I am healing and I’m glad to see that you are as well.
    Thank you for helping me.

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