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Chapter Seven: Study #3: When home shatters: The death of a brother or sister

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

The tale of sibling grief implicates you and me. If you are blessed with a brother or sister, you are vulnerable to loss. Unless he and I die together, by fluke—or in a nuclear holocaust—Nick (whom you already know from my “Vigilance” myth) will survive my death, or vice versa. But my brother is still alive and my only sibling. Therefore, unlike my downright raw presentations of my mother’s dying and my talk with Nicole at her Nana’s death, this chapter is based upon my experiences once removed from being a participant. However, I gained knowledge and absorbed sensitivity as advisor to Freda Woodrow’s (2006) doctoral dissertation at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Like unto the above mentioned portraits, nonetheless, my narrative communicates the experience with my hearthead. I tell the whole tale in a nutshell, using ordinary speech. Everyday language captures its emotional resonance. It also spits out, as it were, all the ambiguities that plague sibling grief. The story reads fresh. It’s full of noise. If you have experienced the death of your sibling, I will only judge the story adequate if it should draw you into your own grief episode such that you lose your place in my text … to find your place within your own. If it provokes memories, may it also evoke emotions, even trigger tears. Although Woodrow shares the credit for this earnest and engaged chapter, she deserves none of its blame.

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Chapter Six: Study #2: The first talk to one’s child about death

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

“When Nana died” (Alapack, 2001b; 2005b; 2006a) is an intimate study. It is a triple first: my first conversation about death … with my first child … whom death was visiting for the first time. Nicole, my beloved daughter, was four years two months old at the time of this first “appointment”. Ruth, her Nana, her mother’s mother, died of cancer. Since this death also mattered fiercely to me, the universe scheduled me an appointment. About this “imperative moment,” I feign no neutrality or disinterest. I am a living witness. Coiled within the spiral of events, I never pretend to stand outside them. The data itself is the story. My narrative hides nothing. Its warmth and transparency showcase Aristotle’s affirmation: one is wise to seek no proof about what is self-evidently true. Like “Vigilance,” this story is existential, but not a myth or an interpretative story. I wear no mask of an “implicated alien,” not by a long shot! Here comes an unvarnished account of a fragile father, flying by the seat of his pants, reflectively highlighting its sense and drawing from it general psychological insights.

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Chapter Twelve: Divorce

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,

Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place

Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.

Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,

Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth

Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,

Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf

(Eliot, 1936d/1963, p. 196).

Divorce is a man-made disaster. It is also a death experience from whoever’s perspective we view it. For one spouse, the end of the marriage is a living death. For the other partner, divorce terminates death by granting a new lease on life. If there are children of the union, another can of worms opens. What does the divorce mean to the child? Debates rage furiously concerning the positive or negative consequences on children, short and long term. Always there is a settling of the estate, the dividing of durable goods. Never is there a way to divide the non-durable goods. It borders on mouthing a cliché to say that the topic requires a book by itself, or a library shelf of them. One chapter cannot do the topic justice, but it would be ostrich-like to print a book on grief omitting it. How to address the matter?

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Chapter Three: Phase III: Recovery—The power or failure of the imagination

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

According to mainstream literature, the conscious decision that dwelling in the past is fruitless inaugurates the third stage. Life must flow forward into a new future. If you are smiling at this vain hope—that the rational brain plus self-aggrandized willpower can put a stop to the grinding grief-machine—I share your dubiousness. Freud’s language puts teeth into that marshmallow description, one vague enough to mean almost anything. He also demonstrates that the detached brain has precious little to do with it. The key is that the bereaved is able to imagine a new future approaching like a snow storm.

For Freud, recovery means that the overwhelmed individual, who had psycho-spiritually beaten himself half to death, finally has severed the link and is capable of re-investing in life, and even of forming new ties. In a nutshell, the individual regains the capacities—Freud’s hallmarks of maturity—to love and work.

Of all the ambiguities generated by our de-ritualized culture, top-shelf is the acceptable time to cease grieving … publicly. When can we say, “It’s finished. Get ready world! I’m back.” If I desire to date again, for example, or to initiate another intimate partnership, when can I go back into circulation without tongues wagging? Especially if I’m a … woman! Since I’m back in “circulation,” I must be “on the prowl” right? Our culture has no acknowledged time of mourning. In traditional cultures, the period is as rigid and as simple as taking off the black dress of mourning that you had been wearing for a year. In Vietnam, traditionally the widow and her children are prohibited from marrying until three years after the death. Don’t hold your breath. In the West it will never be that simple again; a throwback is not even desirable. But a peek at some tradition-bound ways will give us a frame of reference, some realistic para meters, and help to put the matter into a historical and cross-cultural perspective.

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Chapter Fifteen: On murder in Albert Camus

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

“The eyes do not shine, they speak … Everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality”

(Levinas, 1961/1969, p. 21).

The partners in this chapter’s dialogue are composite figures (Alapack, 1988a; 1988b; 2006b). To create them, I draw upon my experiences with both murderers and health care professionals. In order to challenge you and myself concerning murder, I imagine the real (Lynch, 1960). It is ordinary to draw from a wealth of personal experiences to capture an essential meaning. Ken Kesey (1980) taps into his work as an aide in an Oregon psychiatric hospital to depict pathological dependency in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Daniel Panger (1979) uses his intensive and extensive work with cancer patients and their families to write The Dance of the Wild Mouse, a fictional portrayal of the alienating impact of technology on a man facing a death-threatening illness and his woman reeling in horror that she will lose her beloved man. Only narrow, rigid positivist ideology disrespectfully reduces such heartlines to mere fiction.

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