These past few weeks have been some of the hardest in my life. Briefly, my older sister passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. She was very young and we were very close. She was more than a sister. When I was young, she was my protector. My savior. She was like a mother to me (our own mother had a lot of problems).
Losing her was the biggest shock of my life. So young. She was only 5 years older than me.
I traveled last minute 2000 miles to attend her funeral. Delivered the eulogy. She was an extraordinarily kind person. Quirky to be sure. But generous — to a fault actually. She had some rough times because she trusted the wrong people and helped folks who took advantage of her.
But I loved her so much. I miss her. It’s been weird not goofing around on Facebook, something we did often even with the distance between us.
How am I doing? As I write this, I’m okay about 95% of the time, and then I have these meltdowns that come out of nowhere. Usually no more than one or two a day, but on one spectacularly bad day, I had four.
I’m doing what I can. Made some healthy positive changes. I started a new exercise program, which is going well. Went to my doctor for a checkup and some screening.
People have been quick to step in, as they always do when someone dies, with their platitudes and thought-terminating cliches. “She’s in a better place.” “It’s part of God’s plan.”
And I, predictably, wince and turn away from them. I try not to hold it against them that they want to move on as quickly as possible from this. To feel like they’ve helped and then change the subject.
I’d flee from this myself if I could. But I can’t. It’s with me now. This will never un-happen so I have to live with it. Live with the details of her passing, the disappointments of both the life she was living (a stressful one, as a single mother) and the sadness of what she will never get to do (she had so many plans).
I have to live with the fact that she left behind a son, a teenager, one of the most mature and extraordinary people I’ve ever known. I’m not big on children, but I love that kid. He reminds me so much of her.
It will always have happened. She will always have been gone too soon. And that is some bullshit. I’ve been every flavor of upset over this. I was even angry for 24 hours straight, after the initial shock wore off. Maybe this doesn’t sound weird, but I’m basically never angry. Especially not in a sustained way. I feel anger some now, but usually in flashes. It’s been, mostly, replaced with sadness and fear.
Well, sometimes. I am okay 95% of the time. Whether that “okay” feeling is numbness or contentment, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t want to know. I just know that I’m making it through the day.
I know intellectually it won’t always be quite this hard. When my father passed away two years ago, grief moved and transformed over time. So slow. So painful. But it did change. It was, undoubtedly, the hardest at the very beginning but continued for a long time intermittently with nasty little surprises and reprisals when the grief hit the button in the box.
But I also know that there’s a lot of pain between now and the place where it starts feeling lighter. Sometimes people refer to this state as “back to normal,” but that’s a misnomer. When you lose someone you love, it never feels normal again. Not really. You change. The loss is always a part of you. But you’re less perturbed by it.
My mother said once that I have a hard time getting over things because I have a good memory. “If you could only just forget, you’d feel better. Forgetting helps us let go of the pain.”
And so I find myself asking, “How long will it be until I forget?”
Maybe never. Maybe for me it’s not about forgetting but learning to remember differently.
I can tell you this: I will never forget my sister. Or everything she did for me. But I must find a new version of myself who can handle this.