I 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 ❤