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  • Two Years

    Today my husband and I have been together for four years, and my sister has been dead for two. This is just one of a lifetime of anniversaries I will have to celebrate without her. As we come to two years I am struck by how it feels both like a lifetime has passed since I last held her, and yet her death still feels as raw as if it were yesterday. I have found that death has the ability to poison the present, future and past, turning happy memories into painful reminders, and making futures seem bleak and endless. Death has a power in it’s ability to change everything, not just the one who has lost their life.

    If she were here today my sister would be twenty-one, my little sister should be all grown up, yet she will stay forever frozen in her teenage years. Today I mourn what I have lost, and that is my whole universe, but I also mourn what she has lost, her life and with it opportunities and experiences. It is hard to imagine all a person could have been, but she could have been anything she wanted, she could have changed the world or finished developing her video game, she could have moved abroad and started a whole new adventure. All my sister could have been was taken from her the day she died, the day they missed the diagnosis, leaving us with endless what if’s. I hope one day we have the answers, or at least enough to find peace and understanding but for now, I will mourn the what if’s and wonder if one thing had been different, could everything have been different?

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  • January Journal Prompts

    My two journal prompts for this month are:

    • Write a letter to yourself on the day your loved one passed or a letter to your ten-year-old self.
    • What are three things you can do in 2023 in memory of your loved one?

    The first of these journal prompts was something I did myself as part of my 12 days of grief. It was the hardest post to write and certainly, the one with the most tears shed.

    If I wrote a letter to myself on the day my sister died the biggest thing I would do is tell myself it’s okay to feel numb for a little while, but most importantly it’s okay to take time for your grief and it’s okay to feel.

    This year I want to focus more on my sister’s memory, her favourite film was the Greatest Showman, perhaps this year I’ll be ready to watch it. Sometimes it is hard to do the things my sister loved, because it reminds me that she can’t do them anymore, it’s a guilt I know many of us feel and I don’t think there is a cure for it. So this year I will try and do the things she loved and remember how much she loved them, even if she isn’t here to do them anymore.

  • Everywhere.

    My mother was scared if moved home pieces of my sister would disappear, as if somehow by moving she would be left behind, but I don’t think that’s true. I live in a place my sister has never been to, on a street she will never walk down, and in a house, she will never be made warm it. Yet I still see her everywhere, I still feel here in places she has never been nor will ever go. As if what matters isn’t the place but the love, the memories and the reality of what was. My sister is dead, but I had nineteen years with her, and no distance or time will ever erase that. So for now I will marvel at remembering her in the confectionery aisle of the supermarket as I buy the sweets we loved as a kid, I will pause for a moment in the video game section to wonder what her favourite game would be now. I will embrace her presence just as I have embraced her loss, my sister didn’t disappear when she died, she just stopped living, and those for me are two very different things.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 12: The Future

    My calendar still reads 2023 even though in some ways it felt like my life stopped in 2021, when my sister died.

    Yet 2023 is here, and it doesn’t feel any different from before. I was scared when we went into 2022 that I would feel my sister disappearing, that somehow being alive in a year she couldn’t, would mean a new chapter without her. Yet it didn’t, as the years change I still feel my sister’s presence every bit as much as I have all along.

    The new year may be starting but it can’t away my memories, it can’t bring me a clean slate, it is just another year. The passing of time that will occur infinitely with or without my sister, with or without me. I don’t dread the passing of days, in many ways I marvel at them, at how time can go on, the only consistent in my life. There is comfort in the ticking clock, in my saddest moments stricken with grief I can hear it moving on and on with each tick, a reminder that as much as this hurts right now in this moment, it isn’t forever. That’s not to say I won’t always grieve or have moments my loss hits me so hard I can’t breathe, but when I am in those seemingly endless moments, I know they will end. It is that knowledge, I take comfort in.

    As I go into 2023 I will strive to follow my heart, and my instincts and create a life of happiness, a life of connection, a life of grief, and a live my sister would be proud of.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 11: If I Could Talk to Ten-Year-Old Me

    I feel like this trend takes on a new meaning when I think back to my childhood self, I have said before childhood will always be an idealised time for me because my sister was in it. Yet if I could talk to my ten-year-old self I would write her this letter:

    Dear me,

    It’s been a while how are you? I miss how carefree we used to be. I suppose you’re wondering what will happen with your life, will you become an astronaut or an explorer, do we fulfil our dreams? Spoiler alert, we make new dreams, but we do.

    The thing with growing older is everything changes, we get taller and have our first kiss, we marry a great guy who makes us so incredibly happy, our sisters are the witnesses as our wedding right before a global pandemic. Oh and our sister dies, one year into our marriage we have to say goodbye to her. We will wish we could have changed it, but we can’t. It will be hard, like learning to live with half your soul missing. It will be scary, surreal, but it will happen.

    We’ll cry hard twice, first when she dies, then again when they say her death was preventable. We will continue to cry, the tears hitting us in silent waves that crash against the shores of our mind. Our grief will blindside us time and time again, we will survive, but sometimes we’ll wish we didn’t. We will wish we could trade lives like pokemon cards and give up ours for hers, but we can’t. We’ll ask the Drs if we can donate our organs to save her, we will offer up our heart, while they just shake their head. We will wish we could have taken the pain away from her, had it instead. We will find out shortly after her death that we do have the same condition that she did, we will wonder why we get to live. We will live anyway even when it is hard, especially when it is hard.

    We will use our pain to motivate our quest for knowledge, we will learn and grow and know more about the inquest system than we ever wanted to know. It will be hard, but we’ll do it, for her.

    We will spend the rest of our lives in half-memories, and half-realities, we will use our pain to help support others. We will be in the presence of the kindest people, and the ones who tried so hard to be kind but didn’t know how to.

    I wish I could tell you how to change it all, I wish I could really send this letter but I can’t. For now it serves as a release of the pain, a reflection of a brighter time and an acknowledgement of the joy still to be found in the world. Our sister dies, and it’s every bit as horrific as you can imagine, and even when you feel like youcan’t survive it, you do. My ten-year-old self you have mountains inside you, I just wish you never had to climb them.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 10: Living with Loss

    Today’s topic is a tricky one, as helpful as it would be there is no guidebook to grief, no one way to live with loss.

    When my sister died I searched the Internet for clues, how do you navigate a life with loss? I found a sea of voices not unlike my own, who were doing what I was, and still am, grieving with no guidebook. Grief is so profound in its agony, it is impossible to ever truly master it. I never will. I will go on grieving for the rest of my life, how could I not. It is something I have found peace in, grief as the price of love. Yet it doesn’t make it easier to navigate.

    If someone asked me the top three things that have helped me in my loss, I would say they are connection, letting myself feel and memorials.

    Connection was one of the first things I craved after my sister died, I felt isolated and alone in my loss. Meeting people who had also experienced loss helped me feel supported and heard. It gave me hope. I became a part of the community of mourners, each of us in the club we never wanted to join. United in our pain, united in our loss.

    Letting myself feel, was a tough one, I was scared of the pain of my grief, but feeling it was the only way I could truly move forward within my grief journey. Letting the tears fall and allowing myself to hurt, was inevitably painful but also empowering. I found a strength, a courage within me, that had been there all along and now in my time of need shined through.

    Memorials are something I have been adding to over time. First I bought a candle to light in her memory, then created a star chart. As time passes I find the little things in my home that are a tribute to my sister and keep her close to me. As we come up to two years since her passing, I still feel her loss every bit as much as the first day. I hope as I enter my third year of grief, I find new ways to keep my sisters memory alive and honour my existing ones.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 9: Feeling

    The pain of loss is unimaginable, so it is not surprising that sometimes feeling can seem impossible. When my sister died I was responsible for organising things, and in that time I set my grief to one side, or at least I tried to, that was the time I felt numb. Sometimes I think fondly of that time as if my body and my mind found a way to get me through it, to give me the strength to face the aftermath of my sister’s death and the formalities that inevitably followed. There is a comfort in feeling protected by one’s own soul.

    I was scared, I saw on a daily basis the way grief shattered my parents. I was scared that feeling would mean I could not cope, and as a consequence be unable to fight for the answers to the questions surrounding my sister’s death. Answers we as a family deeply needed. However, I was wrong. When I faced my grief I was not shattered into nothingness, as I expected, the pain was just as harsh, just as raw as it always was and the tears that flowed seemed to open an ocean in me. An ocean of grief, one I will spend my whole life learning to swim in. When I allowed myself to feel, to truly feel, to stop holding back my grief, I was set free. Avoiding her loss whilst simultaneously facing it on a daily basis, with formal letters and arrangements, had left me trapped between feeling and doing as if I couldn’t do both.

    I don’t like to say grief made me stronger, as if anything good could ever come from my sister’s death. Stronger isn’t how I would define my journey, yet as time passed I felt I was able to connect more with others who had also experienced loss. I developed a sense of empathy far beyond what I had before. I carried on the memory of my sister in the choices I made, and the work I did. I began volunteering for a health charity that supported others with the condition my sister had, and in time started hosting for a bereavement charity. I would have done neither of those things if my sister had not died. Yet they are two experiences I feel enormously privileged to be able to take part in, and I have learnt so much from them. I consider them to be moments of light in my life, times I look forward to giving back, time I volunteer in the memory of my sister. Being able to give that time, and experience has given me the chance to honour my sister, her loss and her life.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 8: The Happiest Year of My Life

    As posts begin to circulate and we wish each other a year of happiness, it is something quite haunting to know the happiest year of my life has already happened.

    To know it will never get better than it has been, because it can’t. There will never be a year I feel happier than the ones I had with my sister in them. Despite such a grim reality, I have found peace with it. My childhood shall forever be a shrine, a perfect time where everything was magic, all the bad moments blended into nothingness, because it will always be the time I had my sister.

    I don’t need a happiest year, because I had nineteen of them. I don’t grieve for what I will never have again anywhere near as much as I grieve for what we she will never have again. I am happy to be condemned to a life of loss, it is a price I gladly pay to have experienced such incredible love.

    There are lots of things I remember about my sister, I could write novel after novel, about how I remember, faintly, but I remember, meeting her for the first time. I remember video games and play sword fights, Peter Pan, and Mulan, I remember fierceness and life, I remember bravery and courage.

    I had the enormous privilege of being raised free. My childhood, our childhood was never constrained. I have spent a lot of my life being told my father must be disappointed to only have daughters, but he never was. He just wishes he could have the one he lost. That is the deep love I was blessed to grow up with, I was taught to feel passionately, to never hold back, never be afraid to do something, and that I was no different from anyone just because I was a girl. It was that home, that nurture, that raised us, that gave us strength.

    My mother loves literature, the type with happy endings, where pride and prejudice are overcome for true love. That love of literature, of words, has held me in my loss, has comforted me in my grief, and has been a refuge in my darkest nights.

    I am a collection of memories, of years, of experiences. I don’t need another happiest year, because I have a lifetime of love to carry me forward. As I go into 2023, the book hasn’t closed, I did not leave her behind, instead, I will carry my sister with me through every chapter of my life.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 7: Guilt

    As the year draws to a close guilt is my 7th day. That feeling I get whenever I feel happy, whenever I breathe, I get to be here and live another year, but I have to face it without my sister. I feel guilty that I get to live and she didn’t, as irrational as that may be, it is my truth. Every moment I am alive I am getting older, and that is an enormous privilege, I am 26, and my sister will always be 19. Each birthday I have feels wrong, and each year that passes feels impossible. How can a year pass? How can I get older without her?

    Somehow despite its oddity, there is comfort in each new day, in the routine of the universe. The evenings will dim to darkness, and the morning sun will light up my living room, and the silence I once run from I will slowly learn to sit in once again. Grief has taught me that comfort comes from the most unusual places, it’s 2 am tears and the familiar sound of cars in the distance, the hum of their engines a reminder I am not alone, life goes on just outside my window.

    Yet as the guilt sets in, I remember how every step is a step for two, not one, how every word I write, everything I will ever do will inevitably be influenced by her. It will be influenced by her because she existed, and because she died.

  • 12 Days of Grief – Day 6: Memorials

    When my sister passed the Covid restrictions meant we could not have a funeral as we normally would, nor spend time with our family. This made it really hard to have any kind of memorial. So instead I decided to find my own ways to remember my sister. I started with a candle and when the amber haze she loved so much lit up the night sky I watched the candle flicker in the dimming light. I began to write poetry, something I have always enjoyed, I opened up to the page, every feeling raw and painful, every memory happy and heartbreaking. I immortalised my sister in words, in art.

    My sister wasn’t a big fan of having her picture taken so I do not have as many photographs of her as I would like to display around my home. I had seen some beautiful star charts people had bought, commemorating key dates in their lives, like first dates and graduations. I have always felt a comfort in the night sky, how vast it is, with thousands of stars like a map to the soul, the enormity of the universe and being a part of it made me feel connected to my sister even in death. So I created a star chart of her birth, I took my time and it became a therapeutic process. Once complete I added a section of a poem I had written for her, had it printed, and framed it.

    These little things, these reminders around a home she has never been in, as we moved after her death, bring my sister into my daily life. I could never forget her, or the pain of her loss, but there is a comfort in seeing those things and remembering her, when once remembering was only pain, now it is love.