In the days after my brother died, my concept of what was sacred radically changed.
I know I’m not alone in this. There’s a phenomenon that happens when someone close to you has been lost. The things that Luke liked, the things that Luke loved, the places he went, became special to me. I ritually went to Taco Tuesday because he did. I listened to the music he listened to. I adopted hot pink as a favorite color because, perhaps only satirically, it was his. In the weeks after he died, I looked for any way to honor him, to experience his life for just a few moments.
Eventually I realized what I was doing. I was creating what I eventually called totems. I was making the things Luke liked HUGE in my own life, like the beautiful giant wooden totems. Maybe I was trying in some way to feel close to him again. Maybe I was trying to get to know him better post-humorously. Or maybe I just didn’t know how else to cope with this huge hole in my life.
It didn’t last, however. I used to cling to things like Taco Tuesday and Taylor Swift music with an almost religious fervor. I didn’t know what else to do, I didn’t know what else I could really hang on to. But the thing is, and no offense to any fans, that I don’t really enjoy Taylor Swift music. Luke loved her and I tried to ( seriously, I downloaded all of her music ), but I just didn’t.
I love Luke and I still appreciate the things that he loved, but I don’t cling to them the way I did at first. I can’t make myself like the same things he did, and to do so would be unhealthy. But I can think back on him stuffing his face with carnitas tacos or singing Taylor Swift at the top of his lungs with a smile on my face.
I was in the totem stage for a while, and I think that’s pretty normal. Some of his things are still a little sacred: I have a jacket of his that I will probably keep for the rest of my life, just to remind myself how big he was. I don’t want to forget those bear hugs. But for the most part, my insistence on making anything Luke associated with a part of my own life is now behind me.
Be patient, be patient, be patient. That’s what I’m learning about grief. To be patient with yourself and to recognize that sometimes you need little totems to comfort you, and sometimes you can let go of those totems and that’s okay too. Being patient with your emotions as you traverse through grief is the best thing you can do for yourself.