If a tree falls in the forest w/ no one to hear . . .

Discussion in 'Loss of Sibling' started by ParaMouse, Feb 1, 2020.

  1. ParaMouse

    ParaMouse Member

    I just learned of my brother's sudden death 2 days ago. Our relationship was complicated, and yet when I heard, I cried for several hours. I haven't really stopped.

    We were both abused children. As my brother grew older, he resented our mother for not stopping it, & me for not catching as much of the abuse as he had, although I have my own scars, both physical & emotional. I guess he needed someone to blame. Although I had idolized him growing up, he grew cruel & hateful, eventually abandoning the family after grad school, also leaving a confused & hurting first wife. My last contact with him was an argument over his unwillingness to speak to our dying mother, or acknowledge the funeral. He told me that he had told his new wife & kids that we had been killed in an accident so his wife wouldn't try to find me. She had wanted to meet me.

    He died last week from a heart attack. Someone from his wife's family found a cousin of ours on the internet, & notified her. I was notified by an aunt, & have been promised the cousin will call to tell me what she knows, but so far, nothing. After all the dust settled, I realized I still mourned him. I had hoped we would someday reconcile. I was shattered at his death.

    My company gives 3 days' bereavement, so I took it, hoping for more information, & possibly offering my nephews the possessions I had saved that I know he planned to give them one day. I searched for his 3 best friends from high school, only to find they already knew.

    To add insult to injury, my mother & I were left out of the obituary, & no service information was published, although none was mentioned when his wife passed a few years ago. I think they cremate & celebrate life instead.

    Worse, because no service was mentioned, my boss began calling the next day, insisting that if no Christian burial was taking place, then my leave might be canceled. She has called constantly over the past 3 days. All I have wanted to do is talk with the relatives here to see if we needed to do anything. I've notified others, & have basically tried to make sense of things. I'm a model employee of many years, so it's not as if I've given my boss cause to doubt me. The policy states they need some type of proof of death, & no mention of how the three days have to be used. I like my job, but could never have focused on work with all these sudden emotions. I needed the time.

    So far, no one has sent condolences of any kind. I don't know if there was a service, & because of this, my boss has decided not to send the flowers or card the company normally sends to the employee's home, which is standard practice.

    I am having trouble digging my way through all of this. At the heart of all of this is grief for a brother I grew up with, and will never reconcile with now. I am southern, and some rituals represent closure, & an avenue to express grief. None of those have been available, & even my friends have neglected even to express sympathy. I feel so lost for so many reasons right now.

    I am grateful he found ways to deal with his abusive childhood, although I know the after-effects lasted until his death. I have posted a picture of us as children on the online guest book, thereby announcing that I do still exist. I suppose I hope his sons will one day be curious enough to want to know me so I can tell them only the happy times, the adventures, etc.

    But for now, I am utterly lost. Grief without closure is terrible. He was the last surviving member of my immediate family, & I just feel alone in the universe right now.

    How does one grieve for an estranged family member?
  2. fourcorners88

    fourcorners88 Member

    I'm sorry to hear that your grief has been unacknowledged by so many. It's one thing to be in deep pain, and another when your loss isn't validated. That's really hard. You shouldn't feel like you have to prove your right to grieve.

    No matter your relationship with your brother when he died, he was your brother. Grief can get complicated when you're estranged, but no matter what, there will always be a bond between you - he is still your brother. As hard as it is to remember, your last argument doesn't define your relationship. Even if you haven't seen him in awhile I'm sure you grieve the brother you knew growing up and the relationship you didn't get to have with him as you got older. It sounds like there is a lot of hurt that led to that estrangement, that he pushed you away because he was hurting himself and it was his way of coping. I'm sure that was difficult, both then and now. It's especially hard when it feels like things weren't resolved and that you didn't have a chance to say goodbye.

    Three days, in my opinion, is a short amount of time let alone having to worry about whether it will even be granted to you. Were you able to get the time? I'm sorry that so many people in your life have discredited your grief and failed to show support or the chance to participate in a ceremony to mourn your brother's loss. I know it's not the same, but it can be helpful to perform rituals yourself to both express your grief and have that moment with your brother. You could light a candle and say a prayer, do something in his honour, write him a letter... Something I found helpful when my brother died was to start writing down memories of him that I didn't want to forget. Like you said, the happy times, the adventures... can you remember any of his favourite foods that you could cook? Any favourite movies or songs? Writing those things down can help you focus on the good times you shared, and what an incredible gift that you would be able to give his kids in the future, to tell them what their dad was like as a kid. Only you can do that.

    Is there anyone in your life who you feel might be open to listening? It takes vulnerability, but maybe you can share some of your memories of your brother and possibly why it's so difficult to feel left out of grieving his death. Your emotions are completely valid, and your grief is valid. I know it's hard, but crying can also be cathartic. There are days when I wish I could cry and let my pain express itself on the outside, but it just wants to stay inside. How has the last week been for you? I am sending you peace and love. You matter.
  3. ParaMouse

    ParaMouse Member

    I'm still working through this. I haven't been able to find out exactly who contacted my relatives about his death. My aunt refuses to say. I can't figure out why.

    If that wasn't bad enough, my boss & supervisor have been beastly. I would never have dreamed people could be so cold. Not only did she call me constantly during the three days threatening to revoke my bereavement because my brother didn't have a church funeral, she decided not to send around a sympathy card, as is standard, if not human. It is unheard of. Several get well & birthday cards were sent around, I noticed. It followed a pattern of exclusion she started two years ago for reasons I never figured out. That, & she told me not to apply for a training position I have been waiting for to open because I now walk with a cane after surgery on my knee.

    I contacted HR & vented her actions from the last 2 years. The rep is flying down in a week to hold a meeting with her & my supervisor. I think they might be in trouble. He is livid.

    I'm still trying to find closure. There is a celebration of life next month, but how does a dead sister just show up? My brother found his happiness by erasing all traces of his abused former life. Do I respect that? I went through the several hundred family pictures of us together. We weren't always estranged.

    This has been very stressful. It's hard to sort out what I feel about losing my brother and the blatant snub at work. Maybe I should take some time off to figure it out.
  4. fourcorners88

    fourcorners88 Member

    I'm sorry you've been treated that way by your work. It makes me feel sick. No one deserves that. Hopefully HR is able to help deal with the situation, but of course their previous actions have already done some damage. To inflict more stress upon you when you're already raw and grieving is cold. It makes me feel sad that some people can just lack empathy and decent human kindness. Just remember that there is still lots of it in the world, and I hope you see it in other places around you.

    I don't know what the right decision is for you or what any repercussions might be in your work, but maybe you're right and should consider taking some time off if that's available to you. Not only because is this loss a lot to deal with, but because your workplace might be the cause of undue stress at this point. Maybe the meeting with the HR rep will scare them into if not human decency, at least with a code of ethics in the workplace.

    It still makes me angry about how my sister heard about my brother's death. He was missing and there was a search to find him, during which my 17-year-old sister was flying in to be with us. His body was found while she was travelling and it was supposedly all over Facebook - still not sure how. So we drove to the airport to pick her up and deliver the news. It turned out that one of her friends had contacted her. No, not to give her condolences, but to say, "did you see this? That your brother died?" like it was a piece of gossip. She was young and quite naive, but I'm still like - how could you think that was okay?

    To feel like everyone already knew about your brother's death before you and that you were only notified as an afterthought is so wrong, and even though you might not have been in contact doesn't mean that erases your connection and everything you shared together. I get the looking through the pictures and it's why I suggested writing down memories... it's almost like you have to prove your right to grieve to other people and maybe yourself. I hated anyone saying, "I know how you feel" because I was always like, "how can you know how I feel to have lost this specific person and relationship?", so I don't know how you feel, but I also lost a brother. However, we were close and he was actually living with me right before his death. Still, I was shocked when people said things like, "it's nice you could travel here (an hour away for the visitation) to be here for your parents" and when I would see people in the grocery store or around town, they would always ask how my parents were doing and to pass along their condolences without mentioning anything about how I might be doing. That's why I want to stress that you don't have to prove anything to anyone. I don't know how that must feel, to add estrangement on top of your grief, but I don't think it lessens it at all - it makes it different and adds more layers to it. I think that's a good thing to look through your pictures and remember your happy memories together. It might seem silly, but I've found a lot of power in writing (maybe a letter to your brother), to release those words that you weren't able to say or that he was unwilling to hear while he was alive.

    If the celebration of life isn't until next month, maybe you can take a bit of time to think about whether you should go or not. It's a tough one, and I don't know what the answer is. I would say that it could be helpful to be with people who knew him in his life now and to participate, but I can understand why it's complicated too. Do you know what your other family members are doing? I'm not sure of the situation, but would it be possible to reach out to his kids to give your condolences and see where it goes from there? I know you don't want to inflict any harm, but maybe they would appreciate it, this connection to their dad.

    I think every person is the expert in their own grief, but I wonder if closure is something you should put on hold for now and just sit with it. Maybe it depends on what closure means to you. Some answers might be easier to find than others, and I can see how finding those answers could help. In my case, even I would say I don't really have closure and it's been 3 years. I still have questions that either can't be answered or that those with the answer refuse to give. And sometimes those questions plague me, though less so now. I am still grieving, but that doesn't mean that I don't have moments of happiness in my life too. But sometimes you need to just let yourself be sad, and that's okay.
  5. ParaMouse

    ParaMouse Member

    I'm sure your sister was shattered. It seems almost like there was more value in sensationalism than sympathy. I have to wonder if it's a generational thing. Have we lost the importance of consolation & sympathy?

    It all blew up today. Another supervisor heard about my brother's death, & went our boss to ask why they hadn't known and hadn't done anything like send a card.

    It has been two weeks and my boss has never said anything to me. Only after hearing that I was hurt, did she come to my desk and ask what the arrangements were. She still believes a celebration of life is not the same as a proper funeral, so flowers are not appropriate. I told her a card would have meant a lot knowing my coworkers were supporting me. She exploded. She said she had been busy, & they didn't keep any sympathy cards around. She raised her voice and said it sounded like I was assigning blame. She said she walked all the way across the room to see how I was doing, & and I had tried to make her feel guilty. She actually said, "I never get cards or flowers, so why should you?" ?????

    She does get cards. Lots of them. I personally have sent her several flower arrangements & edible arrangements over the years. I'm the only one who sends her cards for National Boss's Day.

    She wants an apology from me. Am I going crazy? The guy from HR is coming next week. She still doesn't know because he doesn't want her to yet. I am one of the most dependable employees. I needed time to grieve for my brother and find out some details. I could never have gone to work the next day after just finding out about his death. She makes me feel like I tricked her into time off. I hate this. I am having enough trouble working through his death. Now I worry about my job despite being a model employee for several years. This is just crazy.
  6. fourcorners88

    fourcorners88 Member

    You know, I don't think it is a generational thing. My sister's friend was actually an anomaly amongst the young people who showed up for us. I think for the most part people try their best (for the most part!), but it was almost as if the younger people actually knew that they could do nothing to fix it, so they just showed up, shared stories, gave hugs, and were brave enough to be genuine in their emotions rather than giving platitudes.

    It sounds like your boss has something else going on or something behind her strange actions. Not only is a celebration of life just as legitimate as a "proper funeral", but it is a human kindness to send flowers, a card, or do anything to acknowledge a person's loss whether there is a formal ceremony or not. To share with her how it made you feel that your workplace ignored your loss is not something you should apologize for. You haven't done anything wrong. It's promising that another supervisor at your work recognized that there is something wrong with how things have been handled, and hopefully HR is able to get things sorted out. It wouldn't be fair for you to have negative consequences for this. I'm sorry you have to deal with workplace stress on top of your grief.