It has been 363 days since I lost my sister in an automobile accident. One year. Most people’s natural reaction is to respond with, “Has it been a year already?” They mean no ill will.
It has been the longest year of my life.
It feels like a lifetime ago since the last time her name etched across the screen of my phone. Our random daily texts were often the highlight of my day. R-rated versions of daily life, parenting hacks, vent sessions and of course, pictures of our body parts captioned, “What do you think this could be?”
It feels like a lifetime ago since I heard her unique laugh. If you knew my sister, you knew her laugh. She laughed with her entire face. She laughed with her entire body. She always laughed until she peed. I called it the “Kerri Ann Cackle.” I am her big sister; it is my job to tease her. Her laugh is one of my favourite things about her.
It feels like a lifetime ago since I felt her warm tongue against my face as she licked me. Seventy percent of our photos together, she is licking my face. It was gross and it drove me crazy. Now, I close my eyes and imagine feeling her breath against my cheek.
It feels like a lifetime ago since she told me exactly how I should be handling my shit. You see, that is the hardest part about not having her here. She would be the one telling me, VERY bluntly, how to move on. We travelled some difficult roads together. We knew we could rely on each other to tell it like it is and rip off the Band-Aid. You don’t like it? Well too bad, suck it up because life is hard and we are strong. The blessing of my sister being so loud and persistent is that I can still hear her.
On my tough days, she would be the one reminding me that life needs to be lived. She did not like sadness or drama. She did not like wasted time or energy. She never understood a quitter. I would have to gently remind her that we are all taking time to grieve. That we miss her in our lives and the impact that has had. She would laugh at me with that unique laugh and say, “You’ve now had 363 days, get on with it already.”
I also have to admit that I am a grief counsellor who has been stuck in her grief. I have struggled with two important parts. Being able to admit when I am swallowed up in sorrow, and being able to admit when I am really pissed off at my sister.
In my circle, I am portrayed as strong. I hear it all the time. “You have been through so much; I don’t know how you do it.” We can find it hard to admit when we are truly suffering because it feels like weakness. Throughout this past year, I have had moments of complete numbing sorrow. The inability to feel anything at all. Trying to catch my breath because I miss her physical being that much. At the same time, I have a job, I have children to raise, a husband and a home. Life does not stop when you lose someone. The world keeps spinning. Admitting that you need to take time away to sit with your emotions is not weakness, it is one of the bravest things I have had to learn to do. Vulnerability can be scary at first, but I feel stronger than ever.
I have also struggled with how mad I am at my sister. I didn’t even realize how much anger I was holding onto until a good friend pointed it out to me. Clearly, my logical brain knows that accidents happen every day. I also know that we can rationalize a million times over. If I were in that situation, I would NEVER swerve for an animal in the rode. BULLSHIT! We never know what we are going to do in any situation until we are in it. That does not mean I haven’t had many intense arguments with my deceased sister, of which I am always the winner, proclaiming her ridiculous reasoning for not plowing through said possum. Obviously, I am still working on my anger. 🙂 If she were here today, she would tell me I need to let that go because it is making me stress eat. She would be hilariously bent over wheezing at the fact I have gained thirteen pounds during said stress eating.
What have I learned in the three hundred and sixty-three days since I lost my sister? Death sucks, dying sucks and grieving sucks. Any person who tells you different is just simply being nice, so just smile. We will always avoid negative emotions because feeling them makes us feel uncomfortable and like absolute crap. If you try to run from them, you are simply prolonging it. You will deflect them onto innocent people in your life. You will be angry with others. You won’t sleep. You won’t eat well. I checked all of those boxes. Then I heard my sisters voice (or at least what I knew she would be yelling at me), asking me why I am living so miserably. She would have used a few f bombs for affect. I was quickly reminded how much precious time I was wasting. She would be the first person to remind me that living like this would not bring her back.
I learned there are no magic numbers. I cried every day for the first eight weeks. Every single day. Then I cried about once a week. The distance moved further apart until about eight months, when I realized I could go an entire month without crying. The first year is always the worst. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, are all reminders of a physical presence missing in your life. I struggled to find how I wanted to wade through all of that. Here is what I realized. It is okay if you don’t want to do anything at all. Many people choose to do memorials on certain days because it is healing for them and that is great. Other people become anxious just at the thought of having to relive this day each year. Do what works for you. For me, I celebrate my sister each time a memory pops into my head. My family talk about her all the time because her presence was amazing and hilarious.
The most important thing I learned this year is that I can let the guilt go. I am an amazing big sister. She loved me and I loved her unconditionally. I could not protect her that night because it was out of my control. I was so lucky and blessed to have had her for all the years she was here. I will spend all the rest of my years being an amazing and loving Aunt to her son.
I hope by me sharing my story, it can help any of you going through a similar experience. Be gentle on yourselves. Any grief journey is a life long one but it does not have to be dark forever.
Much love ❤