I had been crying so hard and so long that I couldn’t open my eyes properly. They were puffy, swollen up so that seeing through them was a chore. I also didn’t understand why this in particular was hitting me so hard.
I was turning 45, you see.
All I could think of was that I was reaching an age that my brother Dana never would, that I was moving by him and going beyond where he left in this progression of life.
Something about that shift knocked me out and all I could do was walk numbly around and cry uncontrollably, and I mean ugly cry, the kind that twists my face and streams from my nose and wrenches tears from my heart.
I had hearing aid issues and couldn’t talk to my therapist (we talk by phone). I didn’t know who else to go to for help. This type of grief is huge, heavy, engulfing, and my 6-month period of mourning grace has long passed. So I simply did what I usually do: I walked, and cried while I walked.
I felt a nudge to walk a new route.
I walked by a building that said, “hospice” and, with my swollen eyes still leaking relentlessly sad tears, I steadied my way in and found out about a weekly grief group.
I made a note: I was going to go, it looked good, it felt like something Dana was leading me to.
Which made me cry again, more, harder, back to the ugly kind and I went home and let it loose.
This is the thing: there is a part of me that feels that I should not still be grieving Dana. Isn’t grief supposed to be reserved for those who are truly bereft, who never knew what having a fantastic brother was all about?
For 43 years, I was the younger sister of someone who was beloved to me. I was cherished.
What I said, what I thought, had value, intrinsic value in and of itself because it came from me.
In the experience of my relationship with him, I learned what it’s like to love someone without ‘if’s”, “and’s” or “but’s”, to love knowing another’s very worst, their very best and accepting both, without conditions.
It’s about loving the essence of a spirit.
I was so blessed to experience that.
There is a part of me that says I should count those blessings and be still – because so many people never even experience what a close sibling relationship can be, and I was so lucky to have had that for 43 years. It feels greedy to mourn.
And yet, a part of my heart was cut out. How can I not mourn it’s absence?
The grief group was a gathering of beautiful people, all races and inter-mixed-races, all ages but more old people than not. Many wrinkles, all lovely. People spoke of the pain of their loss, of loneliness. Of where they were in their re-learning of their worlds without someone who had left, be it their child, their spouse, their sibling.
It spoke to me, and I could speak too, cocooned as I was in this cradle of aloha, a space of stillness and understanding among others who also walked this plain of pain and could hold me in their heart and let me stutter through tears, breath and words.
Then an old man broke his silence.
His face was brown like the rich, warm earth, his wrinkles etching his face into a physical frame of wisdom. He expressed at length of loss and love, and then said, “don’t be scared of the dark.”
…don’t be scared of the dark
A Course in Miracles says that our belief in darkness is what prevents the light from coming in. Growing up Baha’i, I was taught that darkness is not in and of itself anything; it’s merely the absence of light. If you walk into a dark room, all you need to do is switch on the light and the darkness no longer exists.
Darkness to me with regard to grief is feeling the separation that seems to live in the realm between where Dana is now – in the next world – and where I want him to be, with me in this physical one. That grief-space, the grief-darkness-world-place is one I lean in to through prayer and meditation and I can feel the strength, power and love from my brother still.
I can feel him. I really can.
I close my eyes and reach in and I can feel that stillness of who he is now – this great, magnificent soul that I love so well, and I recognize him. Overwhelmed with the feeling of love and connection, the grief-darkness-I-miss-you-I-want-you-back-here-Dana-dammit slips in and the feeling of closeness and of Dana leaves and I am left with only the grief-darkness.
That’s where I see the wisdom in the words, “don’t be scared of the dark.”
The dark is only the dark, it’s the absence of light. My ego is telling me it’s something it’s not, and I slip into the grief-darkness of what I have experienced only by dint of not allowing the light in. My grief – the darkness – is blocking it off.
Dana was born a year ahead of me.
I’m now 45, an age he never got to be.
I’ve physically gone beyond the person that I looked up to for so long, my fearless leader.
I am tasked in this to not be scared of the dark: to remember that I only need to turn on the light.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.