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World Mental Health Day 2018: Letting Go of Guilt and Grief

The anniversary of my brother’s passing was on Monday. This year, I didn’t do anything on social media. No childhood photos, no tributes, no music videos from singers and bands he loved. I usually find it to be cathartic. However, this year, the feelings have been different. This year, it wasn’t simply “I miss Matty, I’m sad he’s no longer with us,” this year it was more about what the anniversary represents.

At this point, whether anyone has wanted to or not, my family has adjusted to life without him. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss him or don’t think about what life would be like if he were here (I went to text him a few weeks ago over something dumb Ronnie had said on Jersey Shore Family Vacation and it was like, “oh…oops. Guess I can’t.” I hadn’t done that in years.), it just means we’re past the initial shock and the pain has slightly lessened. Now, the anniversary represents the day life changed forever, and I am angry.

I am angry that it happened at a time in my life when things were coming together, only to have it be blown apart in roughly 24 hours. I am angry that someone made a horrible judgment call and he lost his life because of it. They don’t realize that they took a part of my family with him, and I hate them for it. I hate that I constantly feel like I’m bobbing along in water, fighting to not completely fall apart, especially this time of year. I hate feeling like I’m playing catch up in life, knowing that a large part of it was having to “take time off” so to speak to mourn, for the initial shock of his death to wear off. The year after he died, I tried so hard to go back to “normal” in a short amount of time. I tried everything to speed up the process, and it bit me in the ass and I feel as if I’m still paying for it.

I know I hinted last year that I wasn’t still in sad mourning mode, but I couldn’t articulate what it was. I wasn’t sure what it was either. I think this year I hit the nail on the head–now that the dust has fully settled, I’m seeing just how big the impact of Matty’s death really is. I don’t want to keep the feelings in, I want to normalize them. I want someone else who is going through the same thing to not feel guilty that they’re angry about their own lives instead of wearing all black and weeping over a photograph on the anniversary. Death has a ripple effect on the living, it would be weird if it didn’t. It doesn’t mean you hate the person, it means you hate what happened to the person and what the anniversary does to you, and that you even have to acknowledge an anniversary. My brother was only 30 when he died. I’m going to be turning 33 in a few months, it’s fucked up and not fair.

With today being World Mental Health Day, I really wanted to share this. Again, I don’t want others feeling alone and I don’t want to keep it bottled up inside. It is okay not to be okay every once in a while. It’s important to tell people things you may be feeling as they may be able to help. If they don’t like it, they’re probably not worth having around. I do miss my brother, I’m just unhappy with the aftermath. Perhaps now having said it, the guilt will ease up and I can actually relax and begin to let go. Let go and allow myself to enjoy things, to make the most of life as I’m still here. 

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getting fine at 29, Health, Love, Personal

The Painful Awareness of Aging

While trying to come up with a loving tribute to my brother to post as a Facebook status as today marks three years since his passing, I just couldn’t. I tried so hard, but everything came out so angry and negative. Earlier today, while shopping with my mom (our tradition to help distract from the day,) we walked into a Disney store, and the first two displays were Star Wars and Marvel Comics. To make matters worse, a very wistful version of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” was playing in the background, and all I could think of was that he’d either be angry that there was so much merchandise (angry that Disney, Disney!! of all things owns Obi-wan and Wolverine, and that Disney is totally fucking over X-Men because of Fox, blah blah blah) or beyond excited that there was more access to things that he once loved. I burst into tears. I had to leave the store. Last night at work, every minor thing was pissing me off. I couldn’t focus, I felt panicky all night.  Obviously, this day is always going to be sad and weird and hard. But the last two anniversaries, I didn’t cry on the day. I didn’t have borderline panic attacks at work the night before. Things were always just…meh. The weeks leading up to the day have always been anxiety producing, but as it got closer, it would kind of stop til I was just…meh. Why is this bothering me so much on this particular anniversary?

Oh, that’s right. Two months from Monday, I’m going to be thirty. I’m going to be the same age as my brother was when he died. Barring any sudden terminal illnesses or freak accidents, once I hit thirty and three months, I will be officially older than my older brother. To me, that is the meanest and cruelest of reminders that he’s gone. I can’t wrap my head around this. I mean, logically, yes, it makes sense that since my brother is no longer alive and I am, that I would out age him, but emotionally, it’s scary and weird. Thirty is crazy enough, but this? This just adds a whole new layer of hurt. I am dealing with this alone, and it’s hard. Who do you even talk to about this? This isn’t like a dating problem or something more universal, this is something most people don’t ever have to even think about. The last time I sought professional help in dealing with grief, the shrink more or less told me that the solution was to get a better job and a boyfriend. I’m not even kidding, that is what I got for $120 a session. I’m not trying to be a special snowflake, poor Princess Furey, but this is really hard. Anything age related, and I can’t handle it.

The most recent example: crush gone wrong rejected me for a girl that is significantly younger than me. Again, not the worst thing that ever happened to me. It’s not like he cheated on me or the girl he went after had a vendetta against me. But since I have “oh shit, I’m coming up to an age that should be celebrated, not scary but is because of my stupid brother” attached to me, I wanted to punch this guy. I felt so old, so ugly, and so horrible about myself when shit went down. But I couldn’t quite say to him, “You don’t like me that way, I get it. But for fuck’s sake, could she just be a little closer to your age so I’m not feeling shitty about my age more than I already am thanks to my dead brother? Thanks, jag off!” I admit, this is selfish and unfair on my end–I’m totally taking my anger out on this guy simply because I can’t grasp this weird, weird, weird fact. Yes, getting rejected sucks ass, but overall, it isn’t his fault. It’s not Matty’s, either. He didn’t plan this. It’s a hard, strange fact that I’m having trouble with and can’t process. Will I ever get over it? Is this going to taint every birthday? Because those are hard with or without this “death age” thing hanging over my head.

And that is why I can’t do the, “I’ll always love and miss you, brother!” type post on social media this year. As much as I want to, I can’t. I do want people to talk about him. He existed. I can’t pretend he wasn’t born; wasn’t a major part of my life as well as other people’s, like his widow, his friends, our sister, our parents, our extended family. He was. He still is. It’s just that this age thing has me freaked out. It’s not supposed to be this way. But it is what it is. And now that I’ve had the breakthrough (if you’ve read this far, thank you very much.) I can ease up a little more and actually enjoy what’s ahead, which I know he would want.

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Dealing With Death: One Year Later

During the redesign of LivLuna earlier this year, I had the task of deciding which posts would appear on the new LivLuna and which ones would not. When it came to my short series about dealing with my brother’s very unexpected death at the age of 30 last October, I opted not to move them. I thought they were too sad; that they would prevent me from moving on if they stayed up.

 

 

Now I wish I had kept them. This past year has been a mess. Although the official anniversary isn’t for another two weeks, it’s close enough. I had always told myself that I would write a “one year later” piece, where I’d hoped that I would be enlightened, changed for the better, so on and so forth. I’m not quite there yet, especially with the events that followed Matty’s passing–Superstorm Sandy (where I was in the middle of nowhere pretty much by myself,) my grandfather having a health scare, my grandmother passing away, my brother’s dog having to be put down, my dad being in the hospital for two weeks with bacterial pneumonia and not being able to go back to work for four months, my cousin losing his house in a freak lightning storm, all on top of the day to day. However, losing Matty is definitely at the top of our lists. That is the one we’re having the most trouble recovering from.

 

 

 

I was (and still am) determined that I was going to not let the sadness take over. He wouldn’t have wanted that, not wanted the family to fall apart because of his action. So I tried everything to help speed up the grief process–anti-depressants (never again) throwing myself into work, throwing myself into friendships, drinking, weekend getaways, smoking pot, online dating, hooking up, staying out all hours of the night, running for two hours a day, shopping to the point where I had -97¢ in my bank account. Nothing helped–it either blew up in my face completely, or else was a quick fix. The only thing that can help is time, and what sucks is that there is no definitive time frame for grief. You can’t say, “well, in four months, I’ll be here, in six months I’ll be there,” You just have to wait and see, really, and it can be hard. And I want to stress, that this is not about getting over the person–this about getting over the sadness, the anger you have about their passing.

 

 

Matty and his beloved Chuckie, 2010.

 

 

There have been some changes–after re-watching The Avengers in November (the last movie I saw with Matty,) and having a panic attack, I vowed never to see a comic book movie ever again as they were his favorite. In August, I got asked on a date to see The Wolverine. I agreed, and then got nervous–this wasn’t like being at a friend’s house, this in a theater with a stranger who could potentially be romantically interested in me. I wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable if I had a meltdown like I did in November, especially in a public setting. However, I couldn’t hide from the movies, especially one that I wanted to see. So, I kept the date, and…nothing happened. I was fine. I loved the movie, and knew he would have loved it too. Although that’s a small example, it is still a big step, and it makes me feel human, that things are going to be okay.

 

 

I would like to believe that once the anniversary passes, when the majority of firsts will have passed, we’ll be able to really move on. Right now, we’re all in a weird place. I feel like I’m reliving certain grieving points from the year at warp speed. But what is really going to happen on October 8th? As much as I think he would have loved it, I don’t think zombie Matty is going to show up at the house, or the earth is going to swallow us whole. Yet, we’re all feeling this anxiety, like something big is going to happen, but we’re not quite sure what.

 

 

I wish I could offer more enlightenment, but honestly, the only thing I can say is that you have to let time be your friend.You are the only one who can manage your grief, and if other people don’t like it, too bad. As for things to help you move on, they’re distractions, they’re not real solutions. Distractions can be good, they’re necessary–if it weren’t for work or my friends, I probably would be a hermit, hiding out in my room and smoking up all day. But that’s hiding, and you can’t do that. The deceased wouldn’t want you to.

 

 

And as for you, Matty, we love you very much and miss you every day. That will never, ever change, no matter how much time passes.

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