The agency we have to grow into, because we didn’t grow up with it
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited my brother and sister’s graves.
That wouldn’t necessarily be considered odd, except that I visit the cemetery almost daily.
My grandparents, uncle and dad are buried next to each other.
My brother and sister are also buried together, but not at a place I can get to without going through security. By default, not somewhere I can be in alone.
Often sibling relationships are contextualized within other familial relationships, tethered to parents and children, making it harder to zoom in on those relationships by themselves.
I’ve felt that especially postmortem, the role that family systems play in how we grieve and how we remember those that are gone.
I’ve felt too the complication of grieving and remembering differently from each other.
Of holding different secrets.
Of knowing which secrets of your own are still kept safely.
Of feeling the tug of little eyes and ears looking for explanation to accompany what they can feel energetically.
The well of emotions that come upon children no matter how long adults have normalized them, forgetting how to track what they carry.
Older siblings serve as important tiers in family functioning, setting the bar of how parents incorporate themselves into sibling relationships.
Setting too the bar of how aunts and uncles and grandparents will relate to their children.
There’s a fusion that parallels any segregation, making it clear which relationships include or exclude others.
This week my sister is on my mind, as I think about why I don’t feel the same serenity in the cemetery where she is buried.
As I think about what keeps me from involving others in my grief or memories.
As I feel what is just hers and mine.
I believe and know from experience that we do not draw the same sides out of each other, and especially in families.
How we tell stories of who someone is, or was, or wasn’t, will sound like hearing who they were to me. Will be my interactions and observations.
I think about how grateful I am to have aged in my family, and what dynamics that has changed. There’s a nimbleness that is new.
And yet living into what has changed heightens my awareness of what it means to experience loss as a child, and how that shapes your ability to act and react and influence outcomes.
I take for granted that harmony in relationships comes from a redistribution of decision making.
The barrier it is to emotional closeness when you can’t authentically react or decide.
The barrier of having needs that require adult support.
The ambivalence towards so many things and people.
The crises that look but never are actually muted or complete.
The strengths that you don’t know if you have, except maybe when you’re in crisis.
What I’m sitting with is once again the reaches of adultism in our family lives, even and while we age.
What I’m sitting in tonight is the effortfullness in seeing power dynamics that aren’t evolved.
Of seeing the impact that things that feel in the past have on our present selves.
Of remembering that disempowerment is more than just a feeling or inner state.
Of learning how to be in control while being seen as in control.
Of getting to practice making decisions so that those impulses become comfortable and easy.
Of feeling like you can hold onto what’s yours and yours alone, while remembering what memories you haven’t experienced.
Grief triggers are as ordinary as shame triggers, and as jarring as trauma triggers, and all of them fade out of our consciousness with time and frequency.
Claiming back what has stopped being tracked isn’t the right choice in every season, but getting to choose what to hold onto for yourself is about agency. Both real and felt.
Some of the work we need to do to understand accountability in our home lives will take us to those places. Families. Grief. Unique experiences.
I’m not sure what season I will be in where I can open up some of these boxes, but I’m frequently becoming more conscious of making decisions.