This week marks a year since my baby sister went to be with the Lord.
Losing a sibling is one of the hardest things that a person can go through. It’s losing an integral part of your whole being. The only way I can explain it is; it’s like losing a limb. It’s like have a piece of your heart ripped out.
You can learn to live without this piece or this limb. You can learn to function without it. It won’t be easy but you have to.
Life is a wheel that keeps on turning. The world sometimes has no empathy for your grief. Grief makes people uncomfortable. They don’t usually know what to say to you. They don’t know how to act. They are quick to mutter condolences and then they run off to the safety of happiness. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them.
When my sister died, there was a lot of pressure for me to be okay. I put the pressure on myself. I didn’t want to feel the loss and emptiness. I wanted to revel in the knowledge that my sister was really resting peacefully. So I camouflaged. Boy, was I good at it.
Concerned friends would ask how I was doing and I was quick to say I was fine. Quick to offer them a smile. I thought the philosophy of fake it till you make it would work for me. That I would wake up and really be okay. That I’d wake up and have a genuine smile.
I got worse. The emptiness, the loss, the pain, it got worse. Because I was pushing it down. I was holding it in. I remember going to bed every night and crying myself to sleep. Waking up in the morning, washing my face and plastering a smile for the world to see that I was okay. If they truly believed that I was fine, then may be, I could be fine.
I started to fall sick. I was sick every other week. I was weak. Most days I didn’t want to leave my bed. But I had to show up, I had to be fine, I had to smile. I had to be okay. I was in denial.
I was also angry. At myself, at the world, at God. At myself because I wasn’t bouncing back, at God for taking away this sweet 22-year-old. I’ve seen miracles but I was angry that the miracles didn’t reach her.
I felt guilty for having been the one who lived. The one who didn’t suffer the pain she did. I felt guilt for being alive and experiencing things she’ll never get to. I felt guilt for any genuine smile, or laugh I had.
I felt like a failure. Before my biological mother passed away, she’d asked me to care for my baby sister. I felt that I had failed her.
Eventually, I got tired of faking it. It got too heavy on me. My mental health was affecting my physical health. I was listless and lethargic. I was exhausted from crying. I tried to numb it all with bad TV and even worse books. I knew that I wasn’t okay.
It wasn’t until Paps, having noticed my not-me-ness, suggested I see a counselor. I did. And the world of good that did me, I will never be able to fully explain. My journey to healing, was long but it started with me first acknowledging the fact that I wasn’t okay.
I shook my fist at the sky, asking God why, I cried into my pillow and felt sorry for myself. God took me back to the pain I witnessed my sister go through during her cancer fight. He took me back to watching her writhe in pain, to watching seize and having no way to help her. I saw the memory of having to keep her temperature down when she got a fever. And all that pain, I saw it, but I didn’t feel it. What I saw was a once vibrant girl be eaten up by cancer and it’s treatments. It makes me, in a way, glad she is resting in a place of no pain.
Have I healed? Yes. Do I still cry myself to sleep like I did in the beginning? No. Do I still find myself with phantom pain, like a person that lost a limb? Yes. Am I okay? Yes.
If you’re going through something like this, don’t be afraid to reach out. You are not alone. I’m here for you. firstname.lastname@example.org