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Heartbroken over my brother's death and couldn't even join the funeral

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I am new here as well as is sharing my feelings about my brother's death. First of all, I would like to apologize for my English. I am German but staying in the US for research reasons.

My brother died of a brain tumor on the 18th of March 2020. He was 5 years older than I am: my only brother and my favorite person in the whole world. We have been always very close and the early death of our mom (she died of cancer by the age of 48) has only strengthened our bond. He was diagnosed in December 2018 and it was so surreal. He was feeling good and went back to work only 5 weeks after his surgery. Kept working during chemo and radiation and still felt fine. Last July he took part in a charity mini-triathlon in England. I have seen him last December in Vienna and he was the kind, funny and smart guy as always. A few days before Christmas he started having trouble with his short-term memory. Because of the changes of his health condition I decided to fly to Austria again in January where I stayed for a few weeks. I am glad and grateful for this precious time with my brother although his short-term memory hasn't improved again. I returned to the States in February because I was told that it could take months until the next drastic change and I was already thinking about the time frame for my next visit. Unfortunately, his condition has suddenly deteriorated massively and he passed away a few weeks later. By that time, the global pandemic dominated life and I wasn't allowed to enter Austria to attend my brother's funeral on time. I would have stayed in quarantine for two weeks and in the meantime I would have missed it. My sister-in-law wasn't willing to wait this long because she wanted to get closure for the children and herself.

I am heartbroken and devastated not only by the loss of my brother but also by not attending his funeral. He was always there for me and I feel like I would have let him down. I can't sleep anymore because I feel so guilty amd at the same time I am so sad. I couldn't even say goodbye to him and I can never make it up for missing his funeral! It seems people are surprised that I am grieving by telling me "Well, you knew he was sick and going to die." Accuaintances immediately lose interest when they hear he didn't die of the coronavirus like that makes it less irrelevant. I feel all alone and there aren't any meetings of grieving groups at the time. You may have already guessed that my sister-in-law and I are not very close (she thinks her loss is bigger than mine and makes some kind of a competiton out of it!).

I have no idea how to deal with it. Although I know I will never feel complete happiness without my brother in this world I am wondering how to manage the pain so that I can at least function?

I would appreciate any help and advice! Thank you!

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I'm so sorry for your loss, Bianca, and at a time when you could not be present for your brother's funeral. 


9 hours ago, Bianca611 said:

Accuaintances immediately lose interest when they hear he didn't die of the coronavirus like that makes it less irrelevant.

Read what this writer has to say about A Grief Intensified. A Grief Sidelined. A Grief Forgotten.


9 hours ago, Bianca611 said:

I am heartbroken and devastated not only by the loss of my brother but also by not attending his funeral.

It is never too late to to pay tribute to a loved one who has died. For example, you might construct a ritual or a remembrance ceremony that holds meaning for you and that pays tribute to your brother, or you could write a farewell letter or construct a eulogy to honor him. You are limited only by your own imagination.


9 hours ago, Bianca611 said:

I couldn't even say goodbye to him

In her piece, Goodbye to Goodbye, Darcie Sims points out that "I gave up saying goodbye long ago when I realized that 'I love you' lasts far longer and feels so much better."


9 hours ago, Bianca611 said:

You may have already guessed that my sister-in-law and I are not very close (she thinks her loss is bigger than mine and makes some kind of a competiton out of it!).

"It is simply pointless to compare the magnitude of one person’s loss with that of another." See When Grief Seems Insignificant by Comparison

And although the circumstances are different from yours, I'm hoping this article about disenfranchised grief and not being included in a funeral will speak to you in a way that is helpful, too. See Disenfranchised Grief: Coronavirus Took My Partner¬†¬†‚̧ԳŹ

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Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me and for your kind words. I appreciate the articles you have mentioned and I really found the one about comparison helpful. I found a few littel rituals to pay my tribute but it's not that easy. I am only temporary in the US and staying with a friend. I can't plant a tree for my brother or put my favorite picture of him on the piano. It feels like I can't even mourn properly because I am a guest in someone's house. It feels like my grief is accumulating and I feel lost and all alone without my brother.

But I think the articles will help and I have seen more links to related topics. Again, thank you.

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I am so sorry for your loss of your brother.  My siblings mean the world to me, so I know this was a huge loss for you.  No need to apologize for your English, it's great.  I'm sorry your SIL wouldn't wait for you to come to your brother's funeral, that is so hard.  

22 hours ago, Bianca611 said:

I can't sleep anymore because I feel so guilty

You have done nothing to feel guilty about; that said, I know that doesn't stop how you FEEL.  Just because you FEEL guilty, however, does not MAKE you guilty.  This was all beyond your control  We feel responsible for those we love, we feel we should be able to protect them for bad things that happen in life, but some things such as this is beyond our ability to control...even beyond the doctor's ability to control much of the time.  


22 hours ago, Bianca611 said:

"Well, you knew he was sick and going to die."

That's an inappropriate response as it minimizes what you're going through.  A proper response to you would have been, "I'm sorry, I care.  I'm here to listen."    Unfortunately our society knows little about proper grief response.  :(

I'm sorry that Coronavirus is dominating so much of the world at a time when you're suffering your loss of your brother...to us who are grieving it is not so much the how as that we lost them, no one way is worse than another, the suffering and loss remains.  I've heard it said, "The worst loss there is, is our OWN loss."  That is true.  Comparisons are devaluing and also inappropriate.

One of the biggest helps to me when I lost my husband (barely 51) unexpectedly was learning to take a day at a time....here is a collection of some of the things I've found helpful.  Some of those things might not feel applicable to you because we're all unique, but I hope something is of help to you now and something else perhaps, later on.


There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time. ¬†The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew. ¬†It can be challenging enough just to tackle today. ¬†I tell myself, I only have to get through today. ¬†Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again. ¬†To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves. ¬†The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor. ¬†Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks. ¬†They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief. ¬†If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline. ¬†I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived. ¬†Back to taking a day at a time. ¬†Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Give yourself permission to smile.¬† It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much. ¬†
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself. ¬†We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it! ¬†Some people set aside time every day to grieve. ¬†I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever. ¬†That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care. ¬†You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is. ¬†We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc. ¬†They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group. ¬†If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it".¬†
  • Be patient, give yourself time. ¬†There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc. ¬†They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it. ¬†It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters. ¬†
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time. ¬†That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse. ¬†Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet. ¬†Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely. ¬†It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him. ¬†Besides, they're known to relieve stress. ¬†Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then. ¬†You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now. ¬†That's normal. ¬†Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then. ¬†Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first. ¬†You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it. ¬†If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here. ¬†We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day. ¬†It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T. ¬†It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully. ¬†You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it. ¬†It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering. ¬†It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.


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On 5/19/2020 at 12:34 PM, Bianca611 said:

" Accuaintances immediately lose interest when they hear he didn't die of the coronavirus like that makes it less irrelevant.

Hello, Marty and Kay have responded with wonderful advice as usual.¬† ūüėĬ† I have no siblings so it is a little hard for me to come from a place of understanding.¬† However, this sentence (above) leaped out at me.¬† People's responses are often so peculiar that I have learned to just "let it slide" and let it be because to take it as a personal insult just wastes my energy and I know they don't know better.¬† But that still doesn't take the sting away from hearing insensitive remarks.¬† A loss is a loss, whether it's due to the virus or not.¬†

Also, I suspect people unconsciously want to hear the drama, the gory details etc the same way they want to watch crime shows, documentaries about tragedies etc.  Somehow humans want the negative over the positive.

By the way your English is far better than my German. ¬† ūüĎć

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Their English is better than many American born, especially on Facebook where they're careless!

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