Building a Sisterhood

The end of June is always a tough month for me and for my family. June 26th this year marked the 11th anniversary of my younger sister’s passing.

Some years are harder than others, and this year has been especially rough because she would have turned 30 years old this fall. I think my family has been hit especially hard this year. I can hear it in my mother’s voice.

I miss her. It’s like the air I breathe is thinner without her. My quality of life is different. My longing for her and the relationship we built grows stronger each year. My wondering what she would be or how she would be now rack my thoughts all the time.

A dear friend of mine pointed out to me last week that I make great efforts to build a strong network of sisters around me, not necessarily just for my own benefit, but to support and encourage each other. I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s true.

When I feel my lowest, I look to these sisters I’ve found over the years. A few particularly special ones have helped me keep it together when I couldn’t do it on my own; when I didn’t feel I had enough to take care of myself after taking care of my family. They’re who saw me grieve when I couldn’t allow my parents to see; they’re who checked on me and sat with me as I dealt with family complexities.

When I was the one who had to be strong for the family, to be their rock, these sisters made sure they were mine. And, in turn, I make sure that I do everything in my power to take care of them. I don’t look to them to replace my sister that is no longer with me, but I look to them for outlets to provide support, love and encouragement that I can no longer use toward her. It’s still in me, and it has to go somewhere. She would approve.

I think of my accomplishments, and I think of the opportunities I’ve had to be there for people the way that I’ve wanted to be there for my own sister. I hope that she would be proud. I hope that she would smile and laugh, and when I meet her next in heaven, I hope she does a little dance before she throws her arms around me. I can’t wait.

I will continue my efforts and being who I am for her, in her memory. I am nothing if not dedicated to my sisters: my rocks, my inspiration, my advisors and confidants. I had almost 19 years with my own, and I have my entire adulthood to enjoy these new chances at sisterhood. That means everything to me.

A Warrior’s Wall

I don’t honestly believe that time heals all wounds.  In some instances, like love, I do think that time can mend things and eventually open you back up to the possibility of a new love.  However, in other areas (like loss), some wounds just aren’t meant to heal.  Some people are irreplaceable, and they leave a void when you lose them.

Even with such loss, you may never find adequate closure.  The wound may stay fresh, but you have to find a way to continue moving forward.  I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to… but you should.  The tough part about loss is that we humans like to believe in something called hope, and sometimes hope leads us straight onto a path of denial.  When you lose someone, you don’t want to believe it’s true.  You don’t want to believe that the last time really was the last time.  You hope it’s wrong.  Even if you know for sure that it’s right.  They’re gone.  You still hope, against the odds, that somehow some miracle will bring them back.

But nothing will.

One of the scariest things I’ve learned about loss is that I have to depend on my memory to keep my lost loved ones present.  My mom said to me, about a year after my sister passed, that she’s been writing down all of her memories of my sister.  She’s afraid she’ll forget something, and she believes forgetting dishonors my sister’s memory.  My mom hasn’t completely moved on, and I don’t think she ever will.  And I’m not even saying that she should.  But I worry about her.  I worry that she’s so focused on my sister’s life that she’ll completely lose the opportunity to live her own.

Losing memories of my sister worries me too.  I don’t think I’m all that great at grieving, honestly.  I always have to be prepared to be the strong one; ready to pick up the pieces when anything goes wrong.  I can’t let down the wall and be vulnerable if I have to be my family’s warrior.  When the wall is up, you learn to smile a lot.  You have to.  A million things could be going wrong, but you have to keep it together.  Show a brave face to people, so much so that they don’t know the difference between true happiness or the wall.  They don’t recognize the wall because the brave smile becomes the default.  Smiling is my grief mechanism.

Maybe it isn’t the best thing, because I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t dealt with everything I feel, but at least I acknowledge that this is what I do.  There are very few people that I let see the other side of the wall, perhaps because I worry that someone doesn’t really want to know everything that I’ve been through.  I also have learned that, in the past, I trusted too easily.  I don’t want to continuously repeat the same cycles.

At the end of the day, you’ll find me smiling.  Every once in a while you may see some other emotion flash through my eyes, but I pick it back up and keep pushing.  My baby sis would have it no other way, and it brings me great joy to keep working toward accomplishments that I know would have made her proud.

The wall is up high, but I know when to bring it down.