Just because we smile and laugh, does not mean we miss them any less…

This will be a very hard post to write, so please bear with me….

Grief is the most complicated process a person in life will ever go through, at least it was for me. My sister passed away on May 20th, 2015 very unexpectedly with no signs that she had been living with a heart defect. I know that processing through the loss of a loved one is hard for everyone but it made it even harder that I did not get to say goodbye nor was I able to tell her how much I loved her and just how much she completed me.
I truly believe there is no bond like a sister’s bond. We spent 22 years making memories and strengthening our friendship. Sister’s can relate to each other in a way that no one else can. Throughout the years, I just got used to being called Rachel and her Sarah. We were two peas in a pod and I think we were similar in a lot of ways. Rachel would come down to the kitchen table and she would notice that I was wearing one of her clothing items right away and she would say “Did I say you could borrow that?” The next day, I would catch her wearing one of my clothing items. This continued over the years and it became and inside joke between the two of us. We continued to develop a lot of inside jokes and secrets over the years that we would only share amongst ourselves.

When my beautiful sister was taken so unexpectedly from this earth, a large piece of my heart went with her. The pain in my heart is a constant reminder of my love for her. I would not trade the memories and love of 22 years to have the pain be gone although some days the pain does feel unbearable.

We all grieve differently and it is impossible to know what another person is feeling inside. We as humans get very good at putting on a show for the world that says “No worries, I am fine.” However, it is usually far from the truth. There are a lot of days that I do not feel fine but I put on a face that says I am. I use humor to cope most often and those are usually the days I am hurting the most.

The first few months after my sister had passed, I found it very hard to smile, and when I did smile, I felt this intense guilt. I would tell myself “How can I be smiling right now when Rachel is not here.” This went on for months and months. I would feel even guiltier when I would laugh. Eventually, I was able to tell myself that Rachel would not want to see me like this. She would want me to live my life and continue to work on being happy. I have felt happiness at times but I must admit that I have yet to feel true Joy since she has left this earth, and maybe I never will. I read an article about losing a sibling in which they compared the loss of a sibling to losing an arm. Although you learn to live with the pain and the “new normal”, everything about your life is now different. The hole in your heart is permanently there despite what you do.

What I found to be helpful in coping through grief:

Exercise , it was my saving grace. I was running a lot during that period of my life so I signed up for my 2nd marathon.

Tea. I drank a lot of chamomile and lavender tea to help me relax. I still enjoy tea.

Journaling. I wrote down what was going on in my head and it helped me feel less alone.

Sleep. Although I was not sleeping well, I did try and take a lot of naps.

Spending time with family. It is comforting to surround yourself with those who are experiencing a similar pain and who can help you share memories of your loved one.

Be gentle with yourself. Seriously. Do not beat yourself up because you feel like you are scattered and unable to get through your daily routine. This is a normal part of the grief process and it can take a long time before things even feel remotely normal again.

I also want to share something for those who are helping someone work through the grieving process. I know that people really do mean well but sometimes statements can hurt even when that is not the intention.

Statements you should try to avoid saying…

“They are in a better place.” This is hard to hear because we believe the place they should be is right by our side on this earth.

“Everything happens for a reason.” Sorry, I just do not believe that.

“You will get over it.”  No, it is not something you ever “get over.” It is something you learn to live with but you never get over it. I think this is the most hurtful statement of all.

“I know how you feel.” Although this may sound helpful, it is not. Not one person can understand how another person feels. We all deal with things differently and it is impossible to understand exactly how another person feels.

“You need to move on.”  No, you should not try and give advice to someone unless they ask you for it and moving on means we should leave the love for our loved one behind. That does not ever happen. 

What is helpful to someone who is grieving. JUST BE THERE FOR THEM. I cannot say this enough. I know it is hard to come up with words to say to someone and honestly, no words are needed.  The company of someone and a hug goes such a long way. I think I felt the most alone the first 6 months after I lost my sister. I know that it is hard to be around someone who has this intense pain and loss, but it really means more than you could know. Tears make others uncomfortable.

I know I am different than how I once was. I do appreciate life more now that ever. I realize how I may not wake up tomorrow so that I must make the most out of each day. I have found myself trying new things more and more and reaching out of my comfort zone. I care a lot less about what others think about me as long as I am doing what makes me happy. I am trying to live my life in my Sister’s honor and hoping that she will look down on me and be proud because she made me so proud in her short life on this earth. I hope she knows how much I looked up to her every day and just how much she meant to me. She made my life great for 22 years and now I believe she is an angel by my side.