Since my sister's death, I've felt rather discombobulated. I intended to post the further story of my trip back to Wyoming, but have not yet finished it. Instead I started to explore this discombobulation I'm experiencing, and found it related to the human need for orientation I blogged about earlier.
We all orient our lives around the people who are important to us, and siblings form one of the basic foundations of our psychological orientation, especially when they are close in age, as Jenny was. I don't know if that relates to my grief, but I'm sure it relates to my discombobulation. My world has turned sideways again. I imagine it is really strong for parents, also; we orient around our children, mothers even more than fathers as the intense importance of those first days, of nursing, feeding your baby and keeping her alive with the milk of your body, must form a bond so deep and permanent and beautiful. How can no sense of orientation arise?
I imagine that the change in my gender presentation affects that need for orientation in others – not only for my family, but for everyone else! I wonder; do people who have a firm basis of psychological orientation find it easier to accept and integrate things like my transition, while for someone who orients around fundamentalist religion and the binary gender myth, gender transitions are very threatening as they challenge that orientation? Perhaps it is the nature of one's orientation that makes it harder for some than others. For instance, an orientation to Christian Science doesn't take much of a hit; the body, and gender, are mortal concepts, and the person, the spiritual idea, is intact and immortal. As my mom said when I came out to her, "Your identity is intact, and it doesn't depend on gender." On the other hand, for someone who orients around a strict brand of Christianity that holds rigid barriers between classifications of man and woman, it must be very disorienting, and alarming – it shifts the layout of their psychological map, as if you were to go to a place in your neighborhood and find that the street you'd traveled a thousand times was no longer there and had never existed. It threatens the fabric of their world, as they understand it; there is no room for acceptance, because to do so would be to change the entire orientation, to change the psychological landscape as much as, and as frightening as, to change one's understanding of the physical landscape. The order of nature has been reversed. The creek no longer appears to flow downhill; it seems to flow up – and never mind that they are finally seeing reality. But someone who orients around the science of observed phenomena might think my transition is really cool. "Wow! Look at that! How beautiful! Something new under the sun." I've seen that reaction from people. Some people seem hardly affected by my transition, but many have either a strong positive or a strong negative reaction.
Regardless, a death in the family is going to disorient the survivors. I believe that the feeling of grief is related to a need for orientation unmet. And until I get completely oriented to a world without my sister, I'm going to remain discombobulated.