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Letters to Nowhere

Friday, September 23, 2005

The gift of grief

My son and I had an appointment today with the therapist that is trying to help him come to terms with my brother's death.

It was our 2nd meeting; the first consisting mostly of me giving her some family back ground. Boy, was that a story in and of itself.

James was fairly nervous. He knows this isn't a friend. He knows she will talk to him about "Uncle John". He started being silly and acting up, acting very much younger than his 8 years. While he's in the bathroom she assures me his behavior is normal. He's stressed. It happens.

She suggests she and I talk.. almost like he wasn't in the room. "Some kids hear best when they overhear" she says. I know exactly what she means. So we do. She asks me what I'd like to see come of our family meetings. I tell her I feel like I can't quite offer James what he needs to comfort him. We talk about how James seems to be effected by the loss... How his sleep is disrupted... How I am doing/dealing with the loss of a brother... How glad I am to have had the time I did with my brother before he died.

James has stopped coloring and is silently crying. It breaks my heart to see and I call him up on my lap and tell him the things he's heard so many times while she watches quietly.

You know Uncle John loved us very much, right? He wouldn't want you to be sad. He probably misses being with us too. But he'd never want you to cry. He'd want you to remember how much fun you had with him.

It's OK to be sad and cry sometimes. But I think he'd rather you laugh at the memory of him being silly and playing with you. Uncle John is very lucky.. If he had not moved to Georgia he would have never known you very well. And you are lucky.. You got to love and play and really get to be a very good friend for Uncle John. You're going to be OK.. it will get better.. a little at a time.

I asked if he knew I loved him.. when he shook his head No.. I said in a shocked voice.. OH MY goodness. I'm not doing my job! My James doesn't know I love him.. oh what shall I do.. they're gonna put me jail.. in an admittedly silly and over exaggerated voice that all ways makes him smile..

As we were leaving she asked me if I'd ever read the book "The Gift of Grief". It's about how grief is a sign that you've loved. It asks the question, "Would you rather never have known/loved that person to save yourself the pain of grief?".

As James walked ahead and out of ear shot I said "Do you remember when you asked me last visit how I felt about finding my brother's body? That was my gift, my blessing. I had the chance to tell him I loved him, to kiss him, to smooth his hair back one last time before the strangers took him away and painted him up for the family. I'd never give up that last 10 minutes with him."

She smiled at me.. took me by the hand and said "You did well comforting him. There's not much else you can say to a child. He doesn't understand the gift of grief. I'm glad you do. It will help me help him. I'll see you two in two weeks. Oh and you're right. He will be OK. You both will."

But damn I miss him...

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