Mother’s Death Leaves Her Brother Adrift

Dear Vicki: Our dear, sweet, loving mother passed away last year and it has been a tough road for our family. She was the glue that held us all together, but for my brother Arnold she was also a lifeline to reality. Arnold is in his early twenties, still lives at home, and never went to college. He is a quiet, sensitive guy who worked in a convenience store and loves photography and drawing comics. He could easily get lost in his art or watching superhero movies, often forgetting to eat or even get to work on time unless Mom reminded him. Since she’s been gone, Dad stays at his law office late and Arnold has lost his job. I have my own family now so can’t really move back home to help out. I think dad will be okay, but I’m really worried about Arnold. How can I help him? Signed: Sad Sister

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Dear Sad Sister: My condolences on your loss. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but it’s especially hard to lose a mom. Most mothers have a lot of Earth energy in their personalities – family and home sit in the Earth element – and they often are exactly what holds everyone together. Earth people love focusing on home and family, and making sure everyone’s needs are met. No doubt you all miss her love and affection, but Arnold is also missing more than that. He is missing the structure and boundaries that she would have provided for him because of the way they related on the Five Elements model.

It’s very likely that your brother is a Water personality.  Everything you said about him, and some things you didn’t, describe Waters perfectly. They are quiet and sensitive people, usually passionate about art or some other solitary endeavor, and not very interested in the type of learning that requires a structured environment like college or even a tech school. They do love to learn, but in their own way, on their own time. As you can tell, structure isn’t something Waters have an abundance of, or necessarily appreciate. In nature, if the two most structured elements attempt to structure water, it rarely goes well. Water will rust metal and rot wood. In nature, only sweet gentle earth can successfully provide structure for water in the form of riverbeds and shorelines. And it’s the same way with people and relationships.

Your mother’s Earth and your brother’s Water related on the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model. That means that your mother would have gently helped Arnold structure his life in a way that felt natural and certainly caring. In truth, your father has lost his wife and you have lost your mother, but your brother has lost not only his mother but also his primary source of structure. Without her, his attention and focus are going wherever they feel called. That could be following the muse of creativity with his drawing, reading up on new ways to think about or do almost anything, or thrilling over the newest adventures of popular superheroes in the cinema. What he won’t be doing is remembering when he has to be to work, cleaning his room, or focusing on anything else that isn’t on his radar as important. What Arnold needs is a new form of acceptable structure in his life, so let’s look at how you can help him.

Since Earth is what helps structure Water in a way that Water accepts, what Arnold really needs is more Earth energy around him. Nothing will ever take the place of your mother, but there are other ways to build Earth energy for your brother. Over the years, we’ve discussed many of them in this blog. For Arnold, you could try painting his room yellow or encouraging him to wear yellow clothes (which might seem staggeringly cheery to a Water who probably prefers colors like blue and black). It might be easier to get him to wear a tiger’s eye or rose quartz pendant 24/7, which might seem “artsy” to him. And if you’re lucky, he could develop a fondness for the taste of lemon balm tea or the scent of peppermint essential oil. All of these are good possibilities and will help Arnold build his Earth to help structure his Water. And because Water is the seat of imagination and creativity, if motivated Arnold might even come up with interesting new ways to incorporate these suggestions into his life.

But there is one other very important way to help Arnold bring more structure to his life and you are the perfect person to undertake it. You don’t mention what you think your primary element is, but the fact that you have written to me on behalf of Arnold suggests that you have a good amount of Earth energy yourself. That you already have your own family also supports this possibility. I am certainly not suggesting that you move back home, but I would like to encourage you to spend time with Arnold to help anchor him. Perhaps you could invite him to dinner once a week or include him when your family goes to the movies or on other family outings, ideally outside in nature (which really builds Earth).

Family is what is really missing from Arnold’s life, especially since you no longer live at home and your father’s approach to managing his grief is to work longer hours. Family time builds Earth energy for everyone involved, even loner Waters. Offer a ready ear if Arnold wants to talk, whether to share a crazy idea he has or reminisce about your mom. All of this will support and even build up his personal Earth energy, and from this will come a bit more structure. You can also lovingly share with Arnold the concerns you expressed in your letter and see if he has any ideas for structuring his life a bit more. If you can do this, I truly believe it won’t be long before Arnold is moving in a positive direction through the water of his life. Blessings to you!

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