Over the past few weeks, I’ve inadvertently found myself on the receiving end of commentary from Mom and RJ about their respective grief processes. Though the situations were completely different, the implications were similar.
Unsurprisingly, RJ’s candid mini-confession came when she was drunk. For the first time in 5 years, she didn’t have to work at the bar the night before Thanksgiving. So, naturally, she chose to drunk at said bar, instead, enlisting me as her designated driver. On the way home, RJ started ranting about Mom, as she is wont to do. This time, she told a story that Mom had relayed: Mom ran into one of our uncles, Dad’s older brother, at an education conference. For whatever reason, Uncle told Mom that his younger son was having a hard time with 3’s death (said son was 3’s age, and they had been close). Mom replied that Son and RJ could “compare notes.”
Mom meant this in all earnestness (Mom is a remarkably uncynical woman), and probably thought she was being helpful in telling this story to RJ. RJ, however, wanted none of it. She was insulted at the presumption that Son’s grief as merely 3’s cousin could possibly compare to her own. Of course, RJ didn’t explain the story with quite this level of introspection, but she’s pretty easy to read when she’s drunk.
Then, just this past weekend, during my weekly phone conversation with Mom, she casually mentioned how the holidays are hard and told a story of a transferring coworker who would give her sporadic hugs after 3 died.
While I wasn’t exactly surprised to hear such comments from Mom or RJ, it was still a bit unnerving. Nearly 2 years later, here I am, still having a way easier time dealing with my brother’s death than my mom and sister. Hell, at this point, I don’t even consider it something I’m “dealing with.” It’s just something I live with, something that’s part of me.
It’s frustrating, of course, hearing about my family’s pain and not being able to do anything about it. Especially RJ – I’m convinced she’s not being healthy in coping with 3’s death. She’s angry at virtually everyone (it’s a constant balancing act to keep from getting pissed at me), and I know she hasn’t gone to any therapy or support groups. She has good friends, and has kept in close touch with 3’s incredible group of buddies, but I don’t think it’s enough. 23 months later, and everything is still there.