I’ve been considering writing this post for a while now, and I finally got a stretch of time where it is just me, my laptop, and a whole complicated mess of thoughts that I need to get out. As I’m writing, I’m already tearing up and sick to my stomach. I hope that this post helps whoever reads it, in some way.
I have lived an extremely privileged and blessed life, but I, like all humans, have experienced some heartbreak- breakups, disappointments, letdowns. I have never gone through the pain of losing a child and I can’t even imagine how that feels. But I can tell you that so far, losing my sister is the most gut-wrenching, permanent terrible pain I have ever felt. It stays with me every single day, but certain times it hurts more. Holidays are hard, birthdays are hard, and occasionally something extra hard comes along.
A few weeks ago, my hometown lost another bright, shining child and it stirred up a storm in me that had been relatively calm. I say child, but Carter was my age. He was smart, athletic, and loved by so many, as was evident at his service. I said this on Instagram, but I’m not going to pretend that we had stayed in touch or that we were ever very close to begin with, but we did grow up in the same little school in the same little community. For my birthday in 5th grade, he and one of our classmates choreographed a dance to the Thong Song as my present. (Weirdly enough, Sisqo re-released it the same week that Carter died, and the morning after his service, the original was on the radio.) His big sister was my best friend’s sister’s best friend, his little sister was always around for birthday parties of mutual friends. His mom basically took charge of Candace’s funeral. Our families were intertwined, as were many from St. John’s/ Olney.
My heart breaks for his whole family and everyone who loved him, but my thoughts have constantly been on his sisters. They now have the scars that will heal, but never go away. It’s like we’re part of a terrible club where nobody wants membership. Honestly, I wanted to write this post to let people who aren’t part of the club to know how to treat us.
We’re fragile, sometimes, but not broken. Losing a sibling is a thing that happened to us, but not who we are. I actually had someone introduce me as, “the one who’s sister died” to her husband and I was floored and hurt.
Let us talk about it, but don’t force us. It took me a long time to be able to talk about my sister. I actually told a lot of my sorority sisters at first that I was an only child, with no further explanation but then felt so guilty about it after. Now, I have no problem talking about my sister. Even my best friend in the whole world has started asking me more questions about her. I love it. But it took me a long time to get there.
We need to cry sometimes. Little things, or big things, may sting in a way that not even we understand. Unfortunately, I’ve been to four funerals for “children” (anyone in my age group or younger) since college. Each one has been hard in different ways, each one has left cracks. So have weddings, or friends’ fights with their own siblings. It doesn’t matter if it’s logical, it’s still there.
We all handle it differently. I went to school literally the day after my sister died. Granted, I was fourteen so my classmates were also fourteen, but someone actually told me that I was lying about my sister’s death because how could I possibly be in school? I will never forget the slap in the face that was- was I a bad sister for not sitting at home and crying? Support us by letting us do what we need to do to support ourselves.
This might just be me, but I never know how to react when people tell me they’re sorry when they find out that my sister died. I usually pretend like I didn’t hear that because how do you answer? “It’s ok”? Because it’s not ok. If I’ve ever acted weird in a similar conversation, I apologize. I just don’t know what makes sense sometimes and I navigate it the best I can.
Think of it this way- if you have a bottle of perfume and lose the cap, there isn’t less perfume in the bottle and it doesn’t smell any less sweet, but the bottle looks different and it’s not quite as complete. It’s still functional, but different. Above all, remember that we’re still ourselves, just missing a piece that we had before.
The biggest takeaway should be this: we’re human, we hurt, and our feelings may not make sense to even us. Just stick with us while we try to figure it out.