Reach Through: On Grief, Love, Loss and Letting Go.
Nine months ago, I was sitting in my living room, dazedly lost in thought as I stared out the window at the black of a bleak winter’s sky, writing about my scope of grief in the recent wake of my brother’s passing.
Untethered, unbound, disoriented, lost — I wrote my way through those worst months, trying to make sense, trying to find the light, trying to put words to the disorganization, disorientation, and mass deconstruction going on in my mind.
Tonight I am sitting at my desk staring out at a similar cold tipped sky, still writing about loss, and trying to finish up my grief book.
It is nine months later, and I’ve just left my parents’ home. Another Friday evening of heading up to that old house on the hill — the one we grew up in, the one my brother never really left — and trying to pull us together, be present for my parents, and find what is good in life. How far we have each traveled, in our own ways, in the span of just nine months.
I wonder at times what it is to be my parents.
They are in the autumn of their life, and they have lived the fear that every parent most fears: the loss of a child.
I’ve grieved with them these past nine months. Watched where they have tried to move through it and keep moving forward. Watched where they have splintered and cracked. Watched where they have tried to find resilience and reform. Tried as a daughter to simply be present, to make space for all of it, and offer love where I can.
This life will break your heart upside down and inside out, without any rhyme or reason; I’ve learned you can still keep loving anyway. I think often how Life got the seasons all wrong. Brent and I were supposed to bury Mom and Dad. Not the other way around.
Sometimes Life will do that: get it all wrong. Get the seasons all mixed up, and then have the audacity to ask us to keep going and keep making new seasons. We move through and forward as best as we can, but sometimes, like the golden teardrops falling off the tree outside the window, you just have to release and make space for the starkness of grief.
Tonight I grieve for my parents. I grieve for the world and the terrible pains it holds.
I grieve for a friend whose father is dying as I write these words, who is about to take her own terrible passage of losing and loving and everything that falls in between. I grieve for my brother, there is so much he never got to do, to be. And I grieve for all of those who’ve passed too soon, as I think about the fact that he got 39 years when there are some who get far less.
I grieve for you. For me.
If you are reading these words, then you have known loss in some shape or form. Maybe your story is vastly different. Maybe it’s oddly similar. Comparison doesn’t really matter, for our losses — those chunks that were ripped from our hearts — are incomparable. No two will be alike, no love or grief will ever be the same.
But even so, as I sit here writing, I’m thinking about those who may read this. I’m thinking about the places you may ache, and if words can be medicine, I’m putting the intent of love and healing into mine and offering it to you in these letters. Letting my heart split and spill for the courage we all show, and the fierce tenderness it takes to try for love in this space.
My parents split my heart some days; it shouldn’t be like this, yet this is what it is. The longer I love and go, the more I know — you can learn to stay open anyway, smile over the spills, keep on going. Keep on loving. Keep on grieving. Keep on doing your best to stand straight, to rise up and answer the most important question that is your Life.
Sometimes I think I’m getting that question right.
Sometimes I don’t even know what the question is.
Sometimes I’m just a kid who misses her brother and still can’t believe he’s gone.
Sometimes he comes and tells me that it was simply his time, that his work here was done, and that I’m still here because I have work left to do.
Sometimes I don’t know what to think.
And sometimes he feels so close that I lift my hand towards the sky, as if we are all in a giant bubble and the other side is right there — just a breath away — and he is lifting his hand and reaching back. If I press hard enough, I can almost reach through.
We are asked to accept some things that feel pretty unacceptable in this life. Things that are not fair, things that don’t make sense, things that can’t be taken back or changed. The kind of things that forever alter and reweave the fabric of who we are.
We can’t do the work of grief for one another or take on each other’s lessons when we have our own to learn. But we can support one another as a collective. We can make space for all of our aches and for all of the places we are finding healing. We can let our hearts split and spill and mend and repair and fill back up, and we can continue to try with ferocity and tenderness to reach for love.
Losing Brent taught me to love even harder. It’s like love became my superpower that got me through that dreadful time, and every time I chose to open my heart and keep believing in the goodness of life — kept choosing love — my heart got a little bit bigger, a little bit deeper, a little bit more unconditional in nature.
I don’t know what it is to be my parents; I know what it is to be a daughter; I know what it is to be a sister. And in the end, that’s the best that any one of us can offer: our own experiences, our own stories, our own understandings, our own wisdom. The courage to ache where we ache, and make space for each other’s aches.
My family is still living this story as we go. We all honor him in our own ways. Dad turns on the Patriots games, makes an extra bowl of chowder for Brent, lays out his Gronkowski jersey and hopes he’s out there somewhere, watching and cheering along. Mom still talks to him every day — she doesn’t want him to think we’ve forgotten him — and posts pictures on his Facebook wall of football quotations and family photos to remind:
He was Here. His life meant Something.
As for me, I hear him in the wind. Know him when the water rushes by making everything clean and clear and new again. See him in the sky when the clouds part and the sun streams down and you can’t help but know that we come from Love, were always Love, and in the end, will go back to Love. Feel him on the other side of the bubble lifting his hand, pressing, pressing, pressing…
The veil is but a wisp of illusion.
One of these days, I will find a way to reach through.
BethAnne Kapansky Wright is a Clinical Psychologist in Anchorage, Alaska who enjoys writing, illustrating and creating. She specializes in dealing with women’s issues, life transitions, trauma, grief work, and finding healing in our relationships, especially our relationship with our self. She believes in authenticity, intuition, the power of love, finding laughter and joy, and learning to be more fully human. She is the author of the grief book Lamentations of the Sea (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2017). She is also the author of the poetry books Freebird Fridays (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016) and Cranberry Dusk (Blurb Inc., 2016). She can be found musing, writing, and reflecting on life at her website.