Lost one remembered 32 years later

kimnkittiesNovember 21, 2004

My 13 year old brother was on a fishing trip with our aunt, uncle, and cousin, when he accidentally drowned. I was 16 at the time and he was my best friend. My sister was 10 when this happened. That was 32 years ago before there seemed to be any recognition of sibling grief and not that much about parental grief in our small, rural town. Not knowing what we were doing, we all sort of went our separate ways. I don't believe we ever discussed Joe again, at least not in front of my Mom. She would just fall apart. After she died in 1996, my Dad seemed to need to talk about him, even taking a road trip to the lake where he died. Surprisingly, I don't think we were uncomfortable talking about him, and we realized just how many memories we lost by not discussing them. Another aunt once told me that the worst thing we all did through this was to stop talking about him, but it was done to protect my Mom (or we thought we were protecting her) Yesterday, I ran into a classmate of Joe's. She shared with me that a classmate of her first grader son had died, and he was having trouble dealing with it. She had sat next to Joe in band class and had several classes and home room together, so they were good friends. Because of that, she was able to talk to her son about his loss and let him know about her experience. She said they had a good talk about Joe and her son't lost classmate. I was moved by the realization that other lives were touched by our loss, and glad that after all these years, he was being remembered by other people. Back then, there were no counselors for the children - I don't remember anyone (teacher or classmates) ever mentioning or expressing concern about it. It seemed that if no one mentioned it, it didn't happen. I find that there are still people that way - I guess discomfort and fear of saying the wrong thing makes them not say anything at all. My husband had also run into a classmate of Joe's who told him he was his best friend and how sad all that had made him. It's a real comfort to know you aren't going down this road alone, and has made me doubly aware how important it is to continue to remember loved ones out loud and share good memories as well as the sad. I hope someone has something nice to say about me when I'm gone!

Have any of you had a similar experience years after a loss?

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What a nice post, Kim. I know what you mean about grief customs, or failure to acknowledge it, years ago. I was a child when my mother died suddenly--omigod, 50 years ago. No one seemed to want to talk about it, and the few times someone brought up my mom there would be tears, so I didn't want to be the cause of that. I had no brothers or sisters. In adulthood, I read some of the book Motherless Daughters, which said it's so much better to talk about the loss, and especially good if a child has siblings to process the loss with. I think we know so much more about feelings these days. Just watching Oprah or Dr. Phil is a bit of an education...


    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 4:49PM
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I know exactly what you mean, Kim. My husband didn't talk to his mom for years about his brother because he was afraid he would upset her! She would talk to me about him and would sometimes cry, sure, but other times would laugh about things he did. I think she stayed closer to him by getting to talk about him.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2004 at 5:44PM
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