I thought I’d be writing about my sister next Tuesday, the second anniversary of her passing, but apparently grief doesn’t adhere to schedules. I didn’t expect today to be so hard. I find myself preoccupied thinking about how two years ago she was still alive, granted she was in the hospital very ill but that had become her routine during the last year and a half of her life: hospital, rehab (to regain her strength), then back home. Then a couple weeks later she’d be back in the hospital again. This happened so many times I just expected her to go home again. But her body had just had enough. The truth is that my sister drank herself to death over the course of five or six years. We tried everything we could to save her. To make her see reason but she was in such denial, that it wasn’t the drinking that was making her ill. She could always find an excuse how it wasn’t that. In short, she just didn’t want to save herself so there was no way we could save her. That’s what the disease of alcoholism does, it robs you of the ability to see the world clearly. All it wants is for you to feed it and to make sure you do so in isolation. Alcoholism robbed my family of the beauty and radiance that was her. She was the most creative, kindest, and she always had a positive outlook on life that was infectious. Then life dealt her several hard blows that she just was unable to recover from mentally or psychologically. Alcoholism saw the cracks and like a weed it began to grow through those cracks and split her apart. Watching her crumble under the weight of everything was heartbreaking. I wish the doctors and nurses who treated her those last weeks could have known the true her. I wish we could have found a way to turn her around and see what was happening. Instead, I’m sitting here writing this with a pile of tissues beside me wishing I still had my sister in my life. I’m my mother’s caregiver and she was the only one of my siblings who would reach out to me, on a regular basis, just to see how I was doing. I would give anything to get just one more text from her. Just one more kind word from her. I miss her so much, my heart still feels like it is breaking.
When she first passed, the grief was overwhelming but soon subsided enough for me to breathe again. However, over the ensuing months, I’ve been surprised by what will trigger my grief and plunge me again into deep sadness and loss. Last summer I was shopping and saw this necklace that she would have loved and I was half way to the cashier to buy it for her when my brain caught up to my excitement and cruelly reminded me that she was gone. I don’t know how long I stood there in the middle of the store just holding this piece of jewelry my mind focused on the effort of not completely breaking down in public. It felt like I had just lost her again. It was 17 months after her passing and it felt like a Band-Aid had been ripped off again. The wound of her loss felt so raw it took my breath away. That has happened several times. I’ll be doing fine and then an odd thought will cross my mind and all those emotions just come back to me. That’s how grief works though, and for me it’s been helpful to not fight it when I don’t have to. It helps to feel the pain and loss because she did mean so much to me. Don’t push it out of your mind. Don’t try to control it. It’s a natural process that everyone feels differently. I’ve had people ask me “Aren’t you over it yet? It happened two years ago.” I tell them grief has no timetable, it’s a process that lasts the rest of your life. I’ll feel it when her children get married, when they have children. The hardest part of losing her wasn’t losing her exactly, it was losing all the future events without her, all the memories she should be a part of that she won’t be. There will always be an empty space in family photos where she should be.