Grief and Love
By Guest Contributors Bess Auer and Boris Garbe
There is no single piece of advice to help you through the passing of a loved one. Each person must find their own way, learn to process and survive.
Actor Andrew Garfield described grief as love unexpressed, but perhaps grief is instead the very expression of that love. How else can we explain the sound our heart makes as it calls to those we have lost? Bess Auer and Boris Garbe share stories of the memorable pains they have and how they dealt with the grief they felt.
Boris Garbe Explains
“I was at a restaurant across the street from Mills Gallery when I received the phone call. My dear friend and colleague Chris Fio had been killed in a terrible car accident.
I honestly don’t remember much of what happened after the call. I have always wondered if this is how my brain decided to protect me from the pain. Because I journal every day, I have been able to go back to those early days in June of last year. I wrote in two or three-word entries: Bad day. Sad today. This is awful.
It was awful. And it is awful. And my number one question will never be answered: Why?”
I remember April 27, 2012, clearly. It was my birthday, but that’s not the reason that particular date stands out. That was the day I grew older than my older brother Grant.
In 2008 Grant died unexpectedly at age 41, leaving behind three small children and my grief-stricken parents. I had to be there for them, pushing aside my own grief to help handle things like funeral arrangements and financial decisions.
Overwhelmed and Drowning
Boris: The first three months after he passed I was broken. I cried every day and couldn’t mention his name without feeling every part of my body tightening and wanting to rage. I was angry. Furious.
Awful, I keep coming back to the word.
The memory of Chris is becoming duller and less sharp with each coming day. Chris was happy. He was fulfilled. Many of his personal problems had been reevaluated and dealt with accordingly. On my advice, he began to talk openly about the issues that had plagued him all his life. We shared a lot in common. Abuse, alcohol issues, not feeling worthy.
Bess: People underestimate the impact the loss of a sibling brings. There are no books written about it, no specific word in the English language to label a person who has lost their sibling. But when you have shared an entire life with somebody, and they are ripped away, it feels like part of yourself is ripped away, too.
Grief is like an ocean. When my brother first passed, I was overwhelmed by the stormy surf, crushed, and drowning. But over time the waves subsided, leaving me room to breathe and to get on with life.
On occasion the waves would rush back in, threatening to once again overwhelm me. I still had to find a way to go about my day. I had to find a reason to get out of bed, even on the darkest of days.
Surviving the Hardest Times
Bess: When Grant first passed, it felt like the memory of my brother was immediately beginning to fade. I was panicked that his children would not remember him and people would forget him, erasing him as if he never existed. As his name began to be left out of everyday conversations, I searched futilely for ways to keep him here, to keep him relevant. These were some of the lowest times I knew and I felt like the dark surf had swallowed me along with my brother.
Boris: We had, without ever willingly agreeing to do this, started to help each other. We had started encouraging each other to talk about our monsters. We wanted to be better humans, and we both realized we had been giving an opportunity to help, and we were more than ready to do this.
And then he was gone.
Finding Resolution through Reflection
Bess: Time has given me perspective. It doesn’t take away the grief; it is still just as profound, but I have learned to embrace the darkness and the light. As friends later posted a picture of my brother or mentioned him in a fond memory, the ocean’s waves would rush back in. This time, though, the surf brought in happiness along with the grief. My brother was still living through those thinking about him.
Boris: I now understand that Chris’s passing was a profound loss for me. My support system, once activated, worked well and my family and friends held my hand as I walked through the more difficult parts of this experience. At times I felt his passing was like the loss of a son. But I now realize that the Universe had simply allowed me to meet a younger version of myself, one whom I got to help, encourage and guide. I got to show a young Boris a better life.
Bess: I’ve had the honor of watching Grant’s children graduate high school, college, and even his oldest marry. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.” I now understand life and death are experiences we all will have and neither is quite as final as it seems.
Grief never disappears, but I now feel like I am walking on the shore with the waves gently lapping at my feet. And as writer Vicki Harrison once wrote of surviving grief: Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.
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