with Grief: A Sibling Viewpoint
By Rick Edler
TCF, LA/South Bay, CA
We Need Not Walk Alone,
The national magazine of The Compassionate Friends.
Two things happened to me on January 11, 1992. I lost my brother to death,
and I lost my parents to grief. My dad, the one who seemed to always have
the answer to my questions, the “rock” in the family, the
one whose job was to fix everything, completely lost it. The fear, anger,
and shock in his eyes when told that my brother had died are engraved
into my memory. He fell limp in the arms of my mother and me in the emergency
room at UCLA medical center. This was the first time I had ever seen my
parents lose control. At that moment our roles switched.
“I’ll take them,” I said to the nurse as she handed
me a bag labeled “EDLER.” It was the personal belongings of
my brother. I quietly took them and placed them in my car. For the next
three months, I seemed to make many of the decisions. It was not a courageous
leader rising up to the occasion. I was the least common denominator.
My parents, although they tried, could not help me. They were trying to
deal with the tremendous grief themselves.
For this reason, I put off dealing with Mark’s death for many months.
I cried and felt sad, but never addressed the issue. My friends were concerned
and asked how I was doing. But no one, unless you have been there,really
wants to hear the true answers. Mark was the only other person in the
world who was a combination of my mom and dad. My friends could not relate
nor would I want them to. I would never wish this upon anyone. But this
left me alone to deal with it and I chose to put it off.
After three months I met a gentleman at a family retreat with a group
of which my dad was a part. Kevin had lost his brother to suicide about
nine months earlier. He was farther along in his “coping”
than I was. I could talk to him about Mark, mention Mark’s name
and share stories without making the whole room uncomfortable about the
I saw someone who was dealing with it and it gave me hope. There is a
certain vocabulary that you learn after going through this that no book,
no story, and no amount of explanation can do justice. I don’t talk
about certain things with my friends because I do not have the time or
energy to explain (or try to explain) the many feelings I am having. Kevin
understood. He had the vocabulary.
This was the first step into healing. I came to grips with the reality
of my new life—different than the one before, but there was no going
back. At this point, I went on autopilot. I remember many events of the
three years following the death. My girlfriend and I broke up. My parents
changed houses. I went through the many firsts, but just kept moving forward.
I was not depressed, however. My lows were not very low. But my highs
were not very high.
I became involved with The Compassionate Friends sibling group of our
local chapter in the third year. I did it half out of responsibility to
my parents and half out of the knowledge that if I was running the meeting,
then I was in control of how much sharing I needed to put into it. Kind
of a control thing. To my surprise the meetings have become so beneficial
to my healing that I am surprised at myself. By sharing with others, I
feel that I help them and in turn myself. Many feelings, thoughts, or
emotions that I may have thought were just mine, I have found are universal
with others. After three years I began to come “out of the valley.”
I can only say that by looking back. Hindsight has allowed me to see my
steps of healing. I stepped into the role of being strong for our family
because I felt that was best. Many others I have talked to mention a similar
reaction. Your parents are barely
able to deal with their own grief. The last thing you want to do is bring
more pain on them, so, you don’t share with your parents.
Last July at The Compassionate Friends conference, many parents walked
up to me and asked, “How do I know if my son (daughter) is dealing
with this? I am concerned since they do not tell me anything.” “You
don’t know,” I answered, “and neither do I, but unless
you see something obviously dangerous, they are dealing with it in their
own way at their own speed and you may not be a part of their grieving.”
I now have a different outlook on life. It is precious. I feel that in
my new life I am closer to my parents. Each one of us has to live our
lives 1/3 better in Mark’s memory. I value my friends and time more.
I can handle stress much better. Just think of the alternative. I have
become a better person by helping others. I like the new personI have
I would trade it all in a second!