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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Remembering Larry Bogdanow, Part II

My brother & I on the Staten Island Ferry around 1973?
Thought for the day: I just reread my post from February 22, 2012. I wrote it two days before what would have been my brother, Larry Bogdanow's birthday.  I said most of what I feel comfortable saying publicly about him then. However, on June 29th it will be a year since Larry lost his battle with brain cancer. Thoughts & memories arise daily. It is part of the normal mourning process. I often tell clients to use writing to help with grief. As hard as it is to do, as a psychologist who has helped people deal with loss throughout my career, I need to share some of my thoughts today in hopes that it will inspire you or help you share your memories of a loved one who you are grieving.

Time is the ultimate healer, but time alone is not enough to complete the mourning. First, let me say, time is deceptive. In some ways, it feels like the events of last year happened yesterday. Since my brother's illness & demise was very rapid. No one had time to digest the fact that he was not going to be with us within weeks of the discovery of the recurrence of the cancer.

In other ways, time has seemed to move slowly. The normal joy of each holiday that has passed was burdened by the reality that my brother would not be there to celebrate. His birthday & Father's Day also were clouded by what we were missing. In my posts I shared some of my grief. I have tried throughout this year to take the time to experience the feelings, write about them or speak with someone when they arise.

In Victorian times, mourners wore black clothes for a year & stopped wearing jewelry or wore jewelry with the picture of their loved one. I stopped wearing black within a few months, but for this past year except for a few professional appearances or religious holidays, I stopped wearing jewelry. I never wore jewelry until I began to make my own several years ago. Once I did, it began to give me great pleasure to wear my creations. Somehow, I have not felt comfortable wearing jewelry since my brother's death. My brother would probably have thought this was unnecessary, but for me it seemed like a small daily reminder that life has changed & I am not ready to be fully joyful.

I'm not religious but know that in Jewish tradition music is not allowed during the first year of mourning, it's a bit like lent. I did my own version by not listening to music on the radio for this year. I did watch TV & went to movies so at times I heard background music, but wrote off listen to music or singing. I love music & I love to sing, but during the first year after I lose a loved one, I give them up. I only sang when I was at religious services. When I saw the documentary, Once Upon a Dream, I was inspired by the children's accomplishments. Afterwards, I searched for renditions of Over the Rainbow & shared them on my blog posts. I made another exception when I went to my camp reunion. There I sang the songs that Larry, my friend, Amelia Samet Kornfeld, (who also lost her battle with brain cancer not long ago), & I would sing together as children. I know I will sing again & listen to the radio, but I needed the silence to leave space for the thoughts, memories & feelings.

Most religions have traditions for mourning that last about a year. Knowing that a year has passed will mark the time for me to let go of my personal "lent" related to mourning my brother's passing. I read an article in Psychology Today by one of my facebook fans, Dr. Craig Malkin, who is also a psychologist. The article proposes that secure relationships, starting in childhood, lead to secure adult relationships & more exciting adventurous lives. At the core of the research is a study by Mary Ainsworth who found that securely attached children, those who felt their mother would always be there for them, attacked the world with gusto & adventure. Internalizing that feeling of security lasts a lifetime even after the mother is no longer present.

Yesterday, it came to me that I no longer have anyone who really knew me from the day I was born. My mother, father, eldest brother & grandmother have been gone for many years. Having Larry was like an extension of the secure attachment our mother gave us to explore the world. He would always encourage me to explore my dreams. In addition, he was an added memory bank for me. I relied on my brother's memory for things I was not sure about. I can't ask him to help me remember things from my childhood anymore but that sense of security he & my family gave me to live adventurously, live on inside me. I have become the holder of so both memories & dreams.

I don't know what happens after we leave this world, but I do believe that we all live on in the memories of those we have touched in our lives. My brother touched not only me, my family & the friends he knew & loved, but also the strangers who visited the restaurants, theaters, homes, & educational facilities he designed. About a month ago, by accident, I discovered that a new friend, Joy Rose, the founder of the Museum of Motherhood in NYC & Mamapaloosa, knew my brother twenty years ago. Her son went to nursery school with Larry's daughter. Larry helped her design a kitchen in her apartment for free.

Larry designed & organized a group of friends to help build a community center in Guatemala thirty years ago. My sister-in-law went & visited the facility this year. While there, she told a young woman that her husband had designed & helped build the center. The woman immediately took my sister-in-law to meet her father. At their home, her father showed my sister-in-law a picture of Larry & his crew of volunteers.  His daughter was too young to know Lorenzo (Larry) personally, but had heard about him for many years. My brother followed his dreams, left his mark. The world is a better place thanks to his creativity, passion, philanthropy & love.

Make time for your dreams. They can help you leave a mark. Dreams live on. If you would like to share a story about someone you have lost & how their dreams live on, please do, it may help someone else as they work through their grief.

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