All my travels over the last day were delayed; each airport another challenge. I’ve managed to get “randomly” selected for three different security checks, the weather in July has been too poor for airplanes to land, and one plane had to idle on the runway for 30 minutes because of too much fuel….I didn’t know that was a thing. The day has been filled with more waiting than I anticipated and the resulting boredom has provided me with much time to think; time, that until this point, I haven’t really taken or even wanted to take. I had my moments, but they were just moments.
The first two weeks after my sister’s death there wasn’t much time. We were busy with the memorial service, family gatherings, sorting out her affairs, and making decisions that no one in my family ever thought we would have to make. Since then, I have had my own life to catch up on and get organized before departing overseas for my studies. Any leisure time I had, I filled. Many areas of my life were on hold these last few years, and I’ve recently felt the need to catch up on living and enjoy my renewed sense of vitality. I’m still healing, so enjoyment of life needs to be a priority. There were many dark and down days, but I am finished with them. For whatever reason, I still have my life. Although there were times over these last years, I would have rather not had my life; I am so grateful to still be here; I would not trade anything about my situation because everything I’ve gone through has made me who I am now. It sounds very cliche, but it’s true; I’d never go back to my old way of existing.
The only thing in this life I would change is to have my sister back. I believe the reason why this grief is different than the pain I faced with my illness, is that with my own struggles I always felt some sense of control. There were days I survived on nothing except sheer willpower. And, although I often got down, I always found ways to get myself up again. Unfortunately, there is nothing about this recent reality that I can change. It’s new territory, and it’s uncomfortable.
I know my sister’s death is not something I will get over quickly, and that only time can make it feel ok – but at the same time, I know it will never feel ok. It isn’t ok that she made a stupid mistake, it isn’t ok that I am missing a sister, it isn’t ok that my parents had to deal with the loss of a child, it isn’t ok that my nephews no longer have their best auntie. Nothing is ok with this situation!
I recently watched a TED talk on grief; the speaker said that we don’t need to “get over” grief. We experience loss, but we feel grief, and we feel it because we love. If there wasn’t love, there wouldn’t be grief, so grief is not a bad thing. But, even though grief is there, we do need to get on with life and have some sense of resolution.
That’s all true, I’m sure, and I guess that is what I’m doing. I am getting on with life and letting the grief comes when it comes. It tends to hit me in waves, and usually at inconvenient times, like when I am getting my bags searched by airport officials. Grief doesn’t come on the evening of my support group; it comes when I am living my life as usual, and suddenly I remember that something very dear in my life is missing.
I wish I could schedule in grieving time, but it doesn’t work that way. The best I can do is incorporate ritual and self-care to help me deal with my feelings I’ve been lighting candles for my sister and taking the time to nourish myself, whether it be through exercise, a bath, or quality time with others. I’m doing what I feel I need to do, while not letting myself beat myself up over “could haves” and “should haves.” I know I am not the only one who feels like they could have done something to prevent this tragedy, but I also believe that when our time comes it comes. Thinking in this way gives me some sense of peace. It might seem ridiculous, but after years of spiritual practice, studying The Art of Dying and reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead, I thought I’d be so much better equipped to deal with the loss of a loved one. In some ways, it all has helped, but nothing could have prepared me for this. Life can change in an instant, and it did. I wasn’t ready, but I would never have wanted to be ready for this.
Photo: Michelle Leela Grace