Honor the Deceased, Even if Relationship Was Broken

When my brother died in the spring of 2007, I barely had time to mourn him. Our elder daughter — mother of our twin grandchildren — had died four months earlier. My father-in-law died the same weekend and we were swamped with tasks. We were also doing all we could to nurture our grandchildren — children who were now without a mother.

Grief was still raw when my brother had a heart attack and died. Apparently, he had survived cancer treatment, but his heart had not. We attended the memorial service on Long Island, flew home, and tried to put our lives back together. Our former son-in-law had moved in with the twins and things were going pretty well until he was killed in another car crash.

Our grandchildren moved in with us and we became their legal guardians. Though I sometimes thought about my brother, most of my thoughts were about raising teenagers. So I was surprised last summer when I started to grieve for him. I grieved for his death and our severed relationship. My brother had severed the relationship, and I did not hear from him for 10 years.

My brother was an expert sailor and I thought about sailing on Long Island Sound in the summer time. One afternoon, we were overcome by a cloud of tiny bugs swirling over the water. Since we couldn’t change tack (other boats were close by), we sailed through them, and tried to keep the bugs out of our eyes.

At six feet four inches tall, my brother was a perfect candidate for the high school track team. He concentrated on hurdles and practiced jumping in our driveway. I would see his head “bouncing” by the dining room window, with a determined expression on his face. With a smile, I remembered the time he loaned me his flashy yellow car to drive to Boston and show off to my college friends.

Our personalities were very different, yet we were brother and sister. I did not know why he severed our relationship, but had an inkling. Now he was gone and our broken relationship could not be mended. Even on the sunny, warm days of summer I felt a bit melancholy. Ten years of life had been wasted and I could not bring them back.

Grief is more than mourning the death of a loved one. It can also include mourning a broken relationship. You may have memories of a similar relationship and, like me, are stuck with these memories. What can we do? Despite broken relationships and words we wished had not said, we can still honor our loved ones.

We can remember happy times and let the rest go.

This spring, when the air is warm again, I will donate books to the public library in memory of my brother. He was an avid reader and so am I. Small as my donation will be, it is a way to honor him, and foster something he loved so much. Think about the ways you could honor your loved one. Pick one that touches your heart and act upon it.

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • sarah says:

    lovely just lovely, having lost my twin brother from a heart attack in my thirties I will think about honouring him. Life is complicated. Your story touched my heart.

  • Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for reading my article. I am sorry you lost your brother so early in life. My brother was a twin, but the second baby died shortly after he was born. Thinking back, I don’t think my mother ever recovered from this loss, but she came to terms with it.

    Harriet