78 Months: The Other Side of Grief

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7 8 MO N TH S

the other side of grief N AT H A N W AY N E C A R P E N T E R

This booklet contains honest and sometimes contradictory journal excerpts and memories from my brother’s life. I N T E G R AT I N G G R I E F

Read ideas on how to better heal from grief and loss from Dr. Angus Fletcher. KEY IDEAS

On the last page I provided a summary of key ideas that helped me develop the memorial.



N AT E ’ S J O U R N A L : W H AT A D E C A D E . I ’ V E L E A R N E D S O M U C H , M O S T LY F R O M M Y M I S TA K E S . I C O N T I N U E TO M A K E T H E S A M E M I S TA K E S . I T ’ S B E E N H A R D B U T W O R T H I T. I T H I N K I ’ M F I N A L LY G O I N G TO M A K E I T T H I S T I M E . » I W E N T TO JA I L . I S N ’ T T H AT M E S S E D U P. I ’ M H O M E L E S S , NO LICENSE. I LIVE IN A CAR. I’M IN REXBURG. I HAVE CRACK ADDICTS AS F R I E N D S . I ’ M O N P R O B AT I O N FO R A N AT H A N W AY N E C A R P E N T E R .

My brother Nate was an amazing dichotomy. Tall

and handsome but humble and self-effacing. Selfless, sweet, and kind but had no trouble destroying a bully. He was fiercely loyal but often betrayed by his friends. Painfully romantic but unlucky in love. A rebel and an angel, a sinner and a saint. He was courageous, even in the face of crippling adversity, and social shaming. His hugs were legendary and his singing sweet. A friend to the outcast, the underdog, and the forgotten. A heart so big and soft it was easily bruised and broken. But those who would hurt or threaten others were swiftly reminded that his fists were as hard as flint and he had no fear of pain or reprisal. He died November 1, 2015 and we haven’t been the same without him.

YEAR. I HAVEN’T GONE TO CHURCH F O R A M O N T H . I A M H I G H R I G H T N O W. I H AV E N ’ T S H OW E R E D FO R A W E E K . M A N


I ’ M R E A L LY M E S S E D U P ! » T O D A Y I S A S U N D AY. I T W A S A G O O D D AY. I S H A R E D MY TESTIMONY IN CHURCH. IT WAS A C K N O W L E D G E T H E H U R T.

Simply acknowledge the hurt of bereavement. That

acknowledgment releases deep parts of our brain, like the emotion centers of our amygdala and the memory networks of our thalamus, to begin processing our grief. The processing takes time, and we will never forget the loss. But gradually, our extreme symptoms of grief will ease, returning us to our regular emotional balance. And to ease us through this mourning transition, the acknowledgment of hurt also helps us in another way: it reassures our brain, There’s nothing wrong or weak about feeling overwhelmed with sorrow. That reassurance boosts our neural self-worth, reducing our risk of developing depression and preventing our grief from being compounded by shame. Fletcher, Angus. Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (p. 130). Simon & Schuster.

I N S P I R E D . I S P O K E F R O M T H E H E A R T. PEOPLE WERE SHAKING MY HAND A N D S AY I N G , G O O D J O B . T H AT M A D E ME FEEL WEIRD BECAUSE IT WAS THE S P I R I T, N OT M E . S O M E S A I D , “ T H A N K Y O U F O R Y O U R T E S T I M O N Y ” A N D I F E LT G O O D I N S I D E T H AT I H E L P E D S O M E O N E THROUGH THE SPIRIT AND HELPED T H E I R T E S T I M O N Y. » L I F E I S S T R E S S F U L .


I WISH IT COULD ALL BE CHURCH A N D D O U B L E- D AT E S . I LO V E L I F E ! N O T SCHOOL. » LAST WEEK I WENT TO MY HOM ECOM I NG. IT WAS DUM B BECAUSE I D R O V E A L L T H E W AY T O B L O O M I N G T O N T O P I C K U P M Y D AT E . H E R D R E S S H A D BROKEN SO SHE DECIDED NOT TO C O M E . T H AT S U C K E D . S O I W E N T W I T H A N OT H E R G I R L N A M E D H E AT H E R . I T W A S S T U P I D . » T H I S P A S T W E E K I TA L K E D T O BISHOP AND SETUP UP AN APPOINTMENT TO GET ORDAI N ED A PRI EST AN D GET M Y PAT R I A R C H A L B L E S S I N G A N D I A L S O W E N T T O T H E T E M P L E W I T H M Y FA M I LY. I T W A S R E A L LY S P I R I T U A L . » I G A V E A TA L K A B O U T T E M P L E S AT A YO U T H T E M P L E E V E N T. I S T U T T E R E D A N D W A S E M B A R R A S S E D. » TO DAY I G OT I N TO A


C A R A C C I D E N T. I W A S N ’ T H U R T. I K N O W NOW HOW PRECIOUS LIFE IS. I COULD H AV E D I E D , O R W O R S E , K I L L E D M Y B E S T FRIEND. I WOULDN’T BE ALIVE RIGHT N O W W I T H O U T G O D ’ S H E L P. I C A N ’ T TH I N K OF A GOOD REASON WHY I LIVED, B U T T H AT I H A V E A G O O D W O R K T O D O ON THE EARTH. » LILLIE CALLED ME ON M Y B I R T H D A Y. I L O V E H E R S O M U C H ! ! S H E A C T U A L LY, T R U LY, L I K E S ( L O V E S ) M E . I T ’ S T H E G R E AT E S T F E E L I N G . S H E MAKES ME WANT TO BE THE BEST E V E N T H O U G H L A T E LY I H A V E N ’ T B E E N DOING WELL. » I KISSED LILLIE IN THE M O O N L I G H T. L AT E R , W E S AT O N A H U G E B E D A N D R E A D C H I L D R E N ’ S B O O KS TO E AC H OT H E R . W E WA L K E D I N T H E RA I N. WE VISITED A MUSEUM. AND WHEN IT


W A S T I M E T O G O , I J U S T W AT C H E D H E R WA L K AWAY A N D M Y H E A RT B R O K E R I G H T THERE. I THOUGHT I WOULD DIE. » I’M G O I N G TO FA S T TO M O R R O W. M Y F R I E N D IS IN CRITICAL CONDITION. » I’M MAKING RELIGIOUS STRIDES AND I FEEL JOY AGAIN. I REALIZED I CAN’T BE PERFECT B U T I C A N J U S T T R Y. » T H E S AV I O R HAPPY M EMORI ES.

Dwell on happy memories of the people who were,...“most

precious” to us. Happy memories of all kinds prompt our brain to release a little boost of neural self-pleasure in the form of dopamine. The purpose of that dopamine is to train our brain to seek out more of the good that once made us glad, so even though memory pleasure seems backward looking, it’s really a future driver. And in the case of our pleasant nostalgia for the departed, the dopamine gradually pulls us into doing things that remind us positively of our loved ones lost. Drawing us out of mourning isolation and back into the flow of life beyond, it eases sorrow with an active gratitude for what the dead have given us. Fletcher, Angus. Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (p. 130). Simon & Schuster.

W I L L M A K E U P T H E R E ST. M O M ’ S J O U R N A L : Y O U LO V E T O D I V E A N D S W I M U N D E R W AT E R . W E G O S W I M M I N G A B O U T TH REE TI M ES A WEEK TO ESCAPE TH E


M U G G Y S U M M E R H E AT. » Y O U L E A R N E D T O R I D E A B I K E I N O N LY A F E W D A Y S . I FOUND YOU RIDING AROUND THE G R I E F A N D G U I LT.

Complicated grief is grief that doesn’t resolve itself naturally

over time. Instead, it persists and even deepens, triggering psychic disturbances such as depression, detachment, and rage....the source of complicated grief is guilt. Guilt is a complicated emotion. It originates in a neural network whose vast intricacy—spanning from the front of our brain, round the outer sides, and then reaching upward to the backslope of our crown—reflects its complex social function. That function is to carefully monitor our relationships and alert us when rifts develop. The alert registers in our consciousness as a guilty feeling of wrongdoing, even if our only “wrong” has been to live our own life while the other person has drifted on her separate way. And the guilty feeling then prods us to reach out to the other person with an apology, a gift, or some other gesture for repairing the distance. Fletcher, Angus. Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (p. 130). Simon & Schuster.

B A C K YA R D AT 6 : 3 0 I N T H E M O R N I N G . YOU ARE A DARE DEVI L, ALWAYS LAUNCHING OFF OF RAMPS. » YOU SCARE ME HOW YOU CLIMB TREES. SI NCE YOU WERE SUCH A MON KEY WE S I G N E D YO U U P FO R GY M N AST I C S . YO U PREFERRED TREES AND QUIT AFTER YOUR FI RST SESSION. » YOU ARE SUCH


A F R E E S P I R I T, I D O N ’ T T H I N K YO U L I K E B E I N G TO L D W H AT TO D O , H O W O R W H E N TO D O I T. » YO U A R E G O O D AT W O R K I N G W I T H YO U R H A N D S A N D L O V E A H A M M E R . » Y O U A LW A Y S L O V E D ANIMALS AND DURING SUMMER OF 1985 YOU WOULDN’T LEAVE TH E POOR C H I C K E N S A LO N E . » A S A K I D , YO U W E R E W O R R I E D T H AT S A N TA W A S S T U C K I N T H E C H I M N E Y, E V E N A W E E K A F T E R CHRISTMAS. » ONCE, OUT OF THE BLUE YO U S A I D , “A N D A T I G E R J U M P S O U T A N D A T E B A B Y J E S U S U P.” » I N S T E A D O F S A U S A G E S Y O U S A Y “ H O S T A G E S .” » YOU MADE JAKE AN D CLI FF TH ROW UP U S I N G S O M E S L I M E Y G O O. » E AT I N G A H OT D O G YO U S A I D , “ I L I K E E AT I N G D O G M E AT ! ” » AT F O U R A N D A H A L F Y O U


F E LT M Y T H R O AT A N D S A I D , “ M O M Y O U H AV E M A R B L E S I N YO U R T H R O AT.” » O N E D AY YO U W A N T E D TO TA L K TO J E S U S ON TH E PHON E. » YOU WANTED TO GO C A M P I N G W I T H TO N Y A N D T H E S C O U T S . YO U SA I D, “ I ’ M A B I G B OY ! I C A N B LOW UP BALLOONS!” » YOU SMASH ED TH E RADIO BECAUSE YOU WANTED TO G E T A L L T H E L I T T L E M E N O U T O F I T. JAKE’S MEMORIES: WE HAD JUST COME H O M E TO S O M E D U D E PA R K I N G I N O U R S P O T. I G O T O U T T O A S K H I M T O M O V E A N D H E G OT A L L U P I N M Y FA C E . AT T H I S N AT E G O T O U T A N D C A L M LY T O O K A SWIG OF EVERCLEAR OFF HIS FLASK T H E N B L E W F L A M E S I N TO H I S FAC E . THEN DUMPED THE REST OUT ON THE DUDES TRUNK AND LIT IT ON FIRE. WE


G OT O U T O F T H E R E . » O N E T I M E N AT E POKED A NEEDLE THROUGH HIS ARM A N D C H E E K AT O U R D I N N E R TA B L E I N F R O N T O F M Y B R OT H E R S . » N AT E W O U L D S H A R E S O R R OW.

An example of complicated grief is found in Shakespeare’s

Hamlet. Prince Hamlet attempts to heal from the loss of his father but is stuck in a destructive loop of guilt and grief until he witnesses the mourning of Laertes. Similarly, talking with someone who understands will help lighten our guilt and remediate the effects of complicated grief. “The relief begins when [others offer] sympathetic comprehension, fathoming what it was that we meant to say.” Fletcher, Angus. Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (p. 130). Simon & Schuster.

GO ON EPIC WANDERINGS, HE WOULD J U S T PAC K A F E W T H I N G S I N A B AG A N D D I S A P P E A R I N T O T H E M O U N TA I N S F O R DAYS O N E N D A N D W H E N H E CA M E BACK HE WOULD BE ALL RAGGED AND SUN BURNED BUT HE WOULD GO ON FOR HOURS WITH A GLINT IN HIS EYE DESCRIBING THE BEAUTY OF THIS EARTH AN D TH E ADVENTURES H E HAD. I WAS A LWAYS J E A LO U S O F H I S C O U R AG E .


J O S H ’ S M E M O R I E S I T H I N K O F N AT E OFTEN. LIKE EVERY TIME I WALK AND SORT O F B E AT B O X A T U N E , L I K E H U M M I N G O R W H I S T L I N G . H E W A S S O G O O D AT A D D I N G L A Y E R S T O H I S B E AT S . » O N C E U P O N A T I M E I N M Y PA R E N T S B A S E M E N T W E W E R E P L AY I N G W I T H C OT TO N B A L L S A N D R U B B I N G A LC O H O L . I T H O U G H T I T OUR STORY MOVES I NTO TH E FUTURE.

If we can share the story of those we

love in memorable ways, our loved one’s memory is carried into the future. Fletcher teaches us that, “...the relief deepens when the public carries our intended meaning beyond us into future days and places. As that shared remembrance spreads forth, the deep centers of our guilt network gently relax. We come to see that we don’t need to devote our every waking hour to mourning remembrance.” Fletcher, Angus. Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (p. 130). Simon & Schuster.

W A S S O C O O L , L I K E H O T P O TAT O F O R R E A L ! T H E N N AT E G R A B B E D T H E B OT T L E AND GULPED IT FILLING HIS CHEEKS W I T H P U R E R U B B I N G A LC O H O L . W I T H A L I G H T E R T O H I S M O U T H H E B L E W W H AT H A D TO H AV E B E E N A 4 FO OT F I R E BA L L


T H AT R O L L E D A LO N G O U R C E I L I N G ! THE SMOKE ALARMS WENT OFF AND M Y PA R E N T S Y E L L E D “ W H AT ’ S G O I N G ON!?” WE LAUGHED SO HARD AND HE C H O K E D O N T H AT S T I N G I N G TA S T E . TO N Y ’ S M E M O R I E S : W E H A D A N O L D PA I R O F B OX I N G G LOV E S A N D WO U L D S PA R O F T E N S O I K N E W H E W A S A M A Z I N G LY STRONG FOR HIS AGE. SO, WHEN A P A R T I C U L A R LY M E A N K I D W A N T E D TO COM E BOX WITH US I TRICKED H I M I N T R O F I G H T I N G N AT E . I S A I D , “ W H Y D O N ’ T YO U P RACT I C E O N M Y B R OT H E R . H E’S WAY YOUNGER THAN YOU SO I T ’ L L B E A N E A S Y F I G H T.” N AT E ’ S F I R S T P U N C H S W I F T LY C O N N E C T E D . T H E K I D F E L L TO H I S B U T T A N D S TA R T E D C R Y I N G MUCH HARDER THAN I HAD EXPECTED. I


WA S N ’ T P R O U D O F S E T T I N G T H AT K I D U P L I K E T H AT B U T I C O U L D N ’ T H E L P B U T B E S EC R E T LY P R O U D O F M Y K I D B R OT H E R . » I WAS MARRIED, WORKING, RAISING K I D S . I H A D N ’ T S E E N N AT E I N A LO N G T I M E W H E N H E D R O V E U P F R O M U TA H T O V I S I T. I H E A R D T H E B E L L , O P E N E D T H E D O O R A N D W A S I M M E D I AT E LY W R A P P E D I N O N E O F N AT E ’ S S I G N AT U R E B E A R H U G S . I C O U L D N ’ T H E L P B U T L AY MY HEAD ON HIS CHEST (HIM BEING S O TA L L A N D M E S O S H O RT ) A N D HUG BACK. I WAS SURPRISED BY HOW H E A L I N G I T F E LT. I T W A S N O T H I N G B U T P U R E B R O T H E R LY L O V E . I T H I N K A B O U T IT ALL THE TIME.


N AT H A N WAY N E C A R P E N T E R 1 9 8 2 - 2 0 1 5


78 MONTHS.

It’s been seventy-eight months since my brother Nathan

has passed away. In his memory, seventy-eight of the snowflakes found in the fort contain snippets of text from Nate’s journals and memories. THE FORT AND THE SNOWFLAKE.

Like most kids, my siblings and I built

forts. One was built in the rafters above the garage, another in a hole dug in an empty lot behind our house, and during the winter we would build snow forts with Dad’s help. Last February, I found an abandoned snow fort. My youngest son and I and made a small memorial for my brother Nate who passed away in 2015. We hung and lit candles, one for each month since Nate died. The whole structure flickered and glowed warmly in the evening. It was meaningful, and powerful. I hoped to recreate this experience for a wider audience through storytelling and graphic design. S TO RY T E L L I N G A N D G R I E F.

Since we can’t communicate with someone

who has passed away, we feel a rift between us and them. We want to say we’re sorry, or that we love them, or a thousand other little things that are now impossible. Angus Fletcher wrote that sometimes this rift is translated into a feeling of guilt. This kind of grief driven by guilt is called complex grief. Complex grief can fuel long-term depression, anger, and a lack of healing. The remedy to complex grief is storytelling. When we tell a compelling story of those we have lost, it alleviates our guilt. We feel better because, although we cannot speak with the departed, we can speak for them, moving their memory into minds of others who will then carry them and their story into the future.