What My Sister Has Taught Me About Grief

131896352-288-k329073I am sitting here surrounded by life and I simply do not know what to do with myself. In times of joy and sorrow I write. Words are always a great comfort for me, so today I will write. Some days are easier than others because I fill my time with daily duties. I move through the motions of working and doing the laundry. Today is not one of those days. Each time I try to focus, my head swirls with thoughts, feeling and emotions. I mean this quite literally. Grief causes physical symptoms such as dizziness and nausea. So yes, each time I attempt just about anything today my head spins with memories, I can hear her laughter, and I grasp for anything to keep my balance. It is quite an odd sensation to feel still while the world moves around you. I have felt stuck in one spot since the day she left.

I lost my younger sister just over a month ago in an automobile accident. She was just about to turn forty-two. For reasons of circumstance and divorce I always felt robbed of a close childhood relationship with her, but we truly worked on making up for that as adults. I cherish the lengthy conversations we had about the mothers we strived to be and felt we succeeded in becoming. She was unbelievably proud of her son. I always made sure she knew that was her success story.

Just over a year ago I graduated and became a grief counsellor. She was so proud of me and the minute my office was complete she had to come for an inspection. “I could definitely spill my guts in here,” she said. She sprawled out on the couch and commented on the calm colours. We made jokes about how this could never be her line of work because she had no patience for people. We always laughed. Little did I know how much more she had to teach me about grief.

It was just like in the movies. My phone rang and on the other end was my big brother asking if I was okay. A very odd question considering nothing new had transpired? My heart instantly began to beat so hard I could hear it in my ears. I said yes why and he simply said her name. I honestly do not recall much more of that conversation but my instincts knew immediately. I do know I was in shock, I do know he told me and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with that information. I wanted him to take it back. Where was the rewind button? It was a spring Saturday morning, the sun was shining and it was a perfect day. In an instant my world went dark and heavy. I couldn’t breathe. I hung up the phone and screamed for my husband who was in the shower. I never felt my body shake like that in my life.

I allowed myself about eight minutes of mourning before I snapped into grief counsellor mode. I swear I heard her say, “well this is what you have trained for, show me what you’ve got.” In my line of work I am aware of how fast this type of news spreads over social media so I had to make sure family was informed. I pulled myself together and went to work. I had much to do, she would need me to make sure her wishes were heard and her son was surrounded with love.

I cooked pots of chilli and pans of macaroni and cheese. I loaded up my car and headed to their home. My husband and I pitched in any way we could. Funeral arrangements, flowers, talking with people, absolutely anything. I had to keep busy. My husband never left my side making sure I ate and tried to get me to sleep.

I couldn’t close my eyes. Each time exhaustion took over and I would doze off briefly I would wake up more overwhelmed with sadness than the last time. I would wake up with tears running down my face. How long was she alone? Why couldn’t I protect her? Why didn’t we get more time? Staying awake and staying busy was far less painful.

What my sister has taught me about grief is that you cannot hide from it. As an educated psychotherapist, I have read about this and counselled others but now I am living it. You can stay as busy as possible and you can take care of everyone, but it will come looking for you. Those times when something hilarious just happened and you go to text her, it will find you. In those times when you see a family photo after she’s gone and instantly notice her absence, it will find you. Those times when you think about the trips you had planned to take, it will find you.

Days like today truly are a struggle. I miss her physical presence. Our connection was unique simply because it lacked boundaries. We could, and did talk openly about anything without fear of judgement. Our relationship was unconditional love, respect, honesty and loyalty. We both agreed the world needed more of this.

I will grieve the loss of my sister until we meet again. Until then I am doing my best to no longer hide from it. I am working on doing a better job of allowing myself the time to feel and process. She has given me the true gift of never putting things off until “someday.” I have always done a pretty good job at making sure those I love know just that, but I will work harder at it. I know she would want me to use my voice to keep helping others, and I will do just that.

Please remember that we will always want to talk about our amazing loved ones. I know it can be an awkward topic for some and they aren’t sure how to handle it. We love to recall funny memories and laugh. It is not healthy or normal to lock all of that away and never speak of it again. Memories are made to be shared. Live through them, laugh with them and in the words of my sister, “spill your guts.” 🙂

Much Love ❤

13 thoughts on “What My Sister Has Taught Me About Grief

  1. I lost my sister just over 30 years ago ….I know what you are going through..Slowly all of our memories are filling in the hole she left in my heart..I try my best to keep them alive for her children and grandchildren and now great grand children. Sharing photos and trying to make her seem alive and real to all of them..It does lessen but I don’t believe it will ever go away. Hold your memories close and share with loved ones every chance you can.

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  2. I want you to know that although I only met your sister once, she left a lasting impression on me and I was totally intrigued and I found myself having a hard time not staring at her. My inside thoughts were, wow, that is a person who has such self confidence and assurance within herself, that she doesn’t hold back who she is. And then I found myself saying Awww, yes.. she is truly Christine’s sister. Very similar in character. I didn’t know you had a sister and all of a sudden, your awesome qualities became hers and visa versa. She made me laugh so much that evening and with your kind heart, the two of you are such gifts to humanity. I am confident you will carry on her awesomeness within you.
    You are an amazing grief counselling and this my friend is perhaps a fortunate extra bonus you received. To truly relate, one needs to walk in those shoes. Continue to live life with the happiness you always portray and be as human as you need to be. I admire your strength XO

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  3. I am always here if you need me. I hear and feel your pain…you are MY child. Kerri spent a great deal of time with me as well, from when she was a tiny girl. She always said i was her second mom….and i classed her as another daughter. My days can be rough as well. I have to imagine her voice telling me “really! i ‘think anyone cared that deep except my son” ‘ i am so glad my intuition was right and took the whole family to Mexico. Kerri was my room mate. We laughed constantly….and i listened..i mean really listened. Her own grief with John was so evident, and she just needed to talk about him. I am so relieved Kerri is in a resting place with John. I am sure they will keep a good eye on their son Ewan. Until we all meet again one day….live each day as if it were your last! As my daughter would say “just let that shit go! Love You Always Kerri…and miss you in our family! ❤

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  4. Having just lost my sister last month, I appreciate your words. Today would have been her birthday, so I was remembering her in a more special way. I mentioned to my wife that brothers always have their squabbles, but I can’t remember ever being upset with my sister. An awesome lady, raised three beautiful girls mostly on her own, one of them with special needs, and was active helping her church and those in need. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know her, your blog triggered my remembrance, and I thank you for that. I don’t think I ever told people how wonderful she was, and hopefully some of her goodness has found its way to me. One can always hope. Thank you!

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    1. I also has to celebrate my sisters birthday within a month of her passing. Those milestones once they are no longer with us are not easy. That is in fact my next blog. I am so thankful that you found some loving memories within my blog. P.s. you just shared with me what a wonderful person she was. I can not only hear it, but I can feel it in your words. I want to share some advice that I have really held on to through this. When we lose a sibling we can feel overshadowed. She was a mother, a daughter, and we can at times feel more empathy for those who have lost her, thinking they must be in more pain. We focus on them and what they must be going through. She was your sister. You have known her longer than most. Do yourself a favour and don’t down play your own grief. I miss my sister every day. She will forever be a part of me. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful sister story with me. Much love ❤

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  5. I am so sorry that you lost your sister at such a young age. While I haven’t lost my sister I did lose my son at age 27 so I can resonate with much of your feelings. That phone call and shock and disbelief. I think I will forever be asking “Why him, why me, if only and what it’s.” While I know he is in a good place and okay I really miss his physical presence. It doesn’t seem “fair.” My other 3 son’s have helped me a lot while experiencing their own grief. It’s been 3 years and although I don’t think I’ll ever “get over” my grief I have been much more settled after talking with Tania. Thinking of you ♥️

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    1. I am sorry for the loss of your son. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and others. Those stories do in fact stay with us for a lifetime. It truly is the physical presence we miss most. It really isn’t about getting over any part of it, it just is about the feeling shifting or changing into something a little less painful. Sending you much love as well. Thank you.

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