Reflections on a Different Mourning Process – Guest Post by Rachel Honeyman

Rachel Honeyman, a talented writer and social media maven, has written the following piece, reflecting on mourning her brother’s death. It is a potent reminder to those of us in the rabbinate and in all branches of communal service, that responding to loss is a highly individual path. We need to remind those we serve that no two mourning processes will look alike. My thanks to Rachel for allowing me to post her very personal thoughts.

Six months ago, my brother died. It feels strange to say that, but it’s the unfortunate truth.

When people hear about Shaun’s death, the first question they ask me is, “Were you close?” I know the right answer, the answer they want to hear, is, “Yes, very,” but that’s just not true, and I’ve never had an easy time fudging the truth.

And so I opt for the straightforward, real answer – “No, not really.” This answer almost always results in an awkward silence, much like when a person asks, “How are you?” and you answer honestly, “Pretty shitty, thanks for asking.”

The truth is the truth is the truth, but most people just don’t want to hear that.

But as I reflect on the past six months, I see that, even though my brother and I weren’t close, and even though my reaction to his death probably wasn’t the “normal” sibling reaction, his death affected me more than I could ever have predicted.

To be honest, (there I go again), I was a little worried for much of the past six months that I may be turning into some sort of emotionless robot. Let me give you a little peek at how my grieving process went:

• November 9, 2013: I get the call from my sister, saying she’s found my brother, who has died in his sleep. I’m a shaking, sobbing mess, as I call my parents to tell them the news. I also call Shaun’s ex-wife, Roxanne, to tell her what’s happened, and to make sure she is the one to tell Shaun’s two children, Violet and Tristan. This is the hardest day of my life.

• For the next week, I spend my time either crying, or lying on the couch thinking about crying. Pretty normal reaction so far, huh?

• But then about a week later, the crying stops. I start to return to normal life, or so I think. I stop feeling sad, and just start feeling like I should be feeling sad. This continues on and off – during the ‘off’ periods, I do actually feel sad, but these moments are few and far between – basically until about a month ago.

(Okay, as I write out my grieving process, I realize that this is probably not a completely abnormal reaction, but it felt like it at the time.)

So what happened a month ago, you ask?

I’m not 100% sure, but something sure did. Maybe it’s just a symptom of time passing, but over the past month, as my life actually ‘gets back to normal’ I can finally see how not normal the past six months of my life have been, and how Shaun’s death actually did have a tremendous impact on me.

In case you’re not aware, I’m a writer (and if you don’t know after reading this piece, I’m doing something wrong). That is how I define myself when people ask, “What do you do?” Usually, I then have to go into a lengthy explanation of what I ‘really’ do, but actually, every job I’ve ever had, or currently have, is an iteration of that title.

Well, not for the past six months.

After Shaun’s death, my creativity went whoosh, out the window. Sure, I’ve produced written work over the past six months – if not, I’d be unemployed right now – but there’s a big difference between written work, and creatively written work.

I have a theory about why the loss of Shaun resulted in a loss of creativity specifically (besides for the obvious). Shaun was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known. He was a completely self-made man – he taught himself to play the guitar and electric bass as a young teenager; joined countless bands; always found a way to make an honest living; started businesses, including an antique auction house; became his daughter’s music manager – and all without ever graduating college.

I wasn’t close with Shaun – we were 20 years apart, came from totally different backgrounds (his parents were serious hippies; mine were ultraorthodox Jews), and generally had very little to talk about. It’s not that we were on the outs; we just weren’t on the ins.

But when he died, it left a gaping hole in my life – a hole I never knew was filled to begin with.

How do you miss someone with whom you only spoke once or twice a year?

When that person is a part of you, you just do.

You know how, when you get a new car, suddenly you see that car everywhere you go, when you never noticed it before? That’s kind of how I feel now. Now that Shaun’s gone, I’ve never had so many reasons to pick up the phone and call him, so many things I realize now we probably could have talked about.

About a month ago, my creativity started to return, and I’ve produced some of my best writing, and have thought of some of my best ideas, since then. It’s not that the gaping void Shaun left has now been filled – that will probably never happen – but the passing time has, in many ways, allowed me to feel closer to Shaun than ever. I know that must sound strange, but it’s almost like his death gave me a chance to get to know him better than I ever could while he was alive. And as I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve also drawn inspiration from him.

Shaun was a troubled man, and I hope to never experience the hardships he faced in his life, but his creativity and resilience are certainly elements to emulate. Six months later, I can look back and say, happily, that despite my expectations, I have begun to emulate those parts of him.

Who knows where I’ll be six months from now? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the journey.

<img class=”aligncenter” alt=”Photo: Six months ago, my brother died. It feels strange to say that, but it’s the unfortunate truth.

When people hear about Shaun’s death, the first question they ask me is, “Were you close?” I know the right answer, the answer they want to hear, is, “Yes, very,” but that’s just not true, and I’ve never had an easy time fudging the truth.

And so I opt for the straightforward, real answer – “No, not really.” This answer almost always results in an awkward silence, much like when a person asks, “How are you?” and you answer honestly, “Pretty shitty, thanks for asking.”

The truth is the truth is the truth, but most people just don’t want to hear that.

But as I reflect on the past six months, I see that, even though my brother and I weren’t close, and even though my reaction to his death probably wasn’t the “normal” sibling reaction, his death affected me more than I could ever have predicted.

To be honest, (there I go again), I was a little worried for much of the past six months that I may be turning into some sort of emotionless robot. Let me give you a little peek at how my grieving process went:

• November 9, 2013: I get the call from my sister, saying she’s found my brother, who has died in his sleep. I’m a shaking, sobbing mess, as I call my parents to tell them the news. I also call Shaun’s ex-wife, Roxanne, to tell her what’s happened, and to make sure she is the one to tell Shaun’s two children, Violet and Tristan. This is the hardest day of my life.

• For the next week, I spend my time either crying, or lying on the couch thinking about crying. Pretty normal reaction so far, huh?

• But then about a week later, the crying stops. I start to return to normal life, or so I think. I stop feeling sad, and just start feeling like I should be feeling sad. This continues on and off – during the ‘off’ periods, I do actually feel sad, but these moments are few and far between – basically until about a month ago.

(Okay, as I write out my grieving process, I realize that this is probably not a completely abnormal reaction, but it felt like it at the time.)

So what happened a month ago, you ask?

I’m not 100% sure, but something sure did. Maybe it’s just a symptom of time passing, but over the past month, as my life actually ‘gets back to normal’ I can finally see how not normal the past six months of my life have been, and how Shaun’s death actually did have a tremendous impact on me.

In case you’re not aware, I’m a writer (and if you don’t know after reading this piece, I’m doing something wrong). That is how I define myself when people ask, “What do you do?” Usually, I then have to go into a lengthy explanation of what I ‘really’ do, but actually, every job I’ve ever had, or currently have, is an iteration of that title.

Well, not for the past six months.

After Shaun’s death, my creativity went whoosh, out the window. Sure, I’ve produced written work over the past six months – if not, I’d be unemployed right now – but there’s a big difference between written work, and creatively written work.

I have a theory about why the loss of Shaun resulted in a loss of creativity specifically (besides for the obvious). Shaun was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known. He was a completely self-made man – he taught himself to play the guitar and electric bass as a young teenager; joined countless bands; always found a way to make an honest living; started businesses, including an antique auction house; became his daughter’s music manager – and all without ever graduating college.

I wasn’t close with Shaun – we were 20 years apart, came from totally different backgrounds (his parents were serious hippies; mine were ultraorthodox Jews), and generally had very little to talk about. It’s not that we were on the outs; we just weren’t on the ins.

But when he died, it left a gaping hole in my life – a hole I never knew was filled to begin with.

How do you miss someone with whom you only spoke once or twice a year?

When that person is a part of you, you just do.

You know how, when you get a new car, suddenly you see that car everywhere you go, when you never noticed it before? That’s kind of how I feel now. Now that Shaun’s gone, I’ve never had so many reasons to pick up the phone and call him, so many things I realize now we probably could have talked about.

About a month ago, my creativity started to return, and I’ve produced some of my best writing, and have thought of some of my best ideas, since then. It’s not that the gaping void Shaun left has now been filled – that will probably never happen – but the passing time has, in many ways, allowed me to feel closer to Shaun than ever. I know that must sound strange, but it’s almost like his death gave me a chance to get to know him better than I ever could while he was alive. And as I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve also drawn inspiration from him.

Shaun was a troubled man, and I hope to never experience the hardships he faced in his life, but his creativity and resilience are certainly elements to emulate. Six months later, I can look back and say, happily, that despite my expectations, I have begun to emulate those parts of him.

Who knows where I’ll be six months from now? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the journey.” src=”https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/p480x480/931394_446844195405405_320547464_n.jpg&#8221; width=”504″ height=”734″ />

Rachel Honeyman is a freelance writer, fitness buff, and coffee addict, based in Miami, FL. You can reach her by emailing rachel (at) rachelhoneyman (dot) com (website is in the works).

 

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One response

  1. Good post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

    Appreciate it!

    Like

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