Six months and counting…

It’s been six months since my sister died.

I can’t quite believe it.  Time moves differently when it concerns the death of someone you love, because you don’t want it to move at all – dragging your feet as it forces you along.

I wasn’t sure what to write today but wanted to write anyway, so I went back to The Five Stages of Grief website to see if that sparked anything.  At first, it didn’t.  I’ve already written about denial and the other stages just don’t seem to be anything that I’ve gone through in the past months.  Plus, the descriptions of the stages seem incredibly corny – annoyingly so – it’s worded as if talking to a baby.  So, instead of reading those very thoroughly, I just focused on the words:

Denial.  Anger.  Bargaining.  Depression.  Acceptance.

And realized, I’ve dealt with all of them.  Not in the last six months but in the last seventeen years.  Ever since she was diagnosed with Lupus, I’ve stumbled upon some form of each of these “stages.”  Any unwanted drastic change in someone’s life is bound to cause any one or all of these.  In my case, it was this damn disease.  Did I go through the stages in order?  Eh…not really.  Do I think the corny definitions are true? Maybe superficially, but we all grieve differently – so while I can define the stages for me – I’m guessing they weren’t  the same for you.

Where does that put me now, then?  I’m not sure.

I push it away.  I avoid it.  I hold my breath til the moment passes.  I ignore it at all cost.   Except for days like today where thinking about her is entirely unavoidable.  Where I can’t help but look at the million of pictures of her on my computer or listen to a voicemail that I, luckily, never deleted.  And it’s still all there…the mixed emotions, the guilt, the grief.  I found it oddly comforting.  To cry.  To feel it all, even if I only let myself for a few moments. I imagine it will be like an old friend after a while.  One that comes to visit unexpectedly. One that I can visit at a moment’s notice.  Like today.  When I can’t believe she’s been gone so long.

Memorials…a form of self-torture?

My cousin just got a tattoo of my sister’s name on her shoulder.

Seriously.

My sister’s name surrounded by stars, covering her entire shoulder.

Seriously.

Seriously?

Not that I didn’t think of getting a tattoo that represented my sister… I did.  But, I then opted for a bracelet that held a tiny bit of her ashes (and by opted, I mean I found a bracelet online that I intend to buy eventually…).  My hesitation is that I don’t always want to remember.  My sister has set up permanent residence in my brain and like some annoying upstairs apartment neighbor, she stomps around a lot, especially those moments when I want peace and quiet.  Okay, that’s probably my worst analogy to date…but hey…whatev.  The point is – when I’m not extremely focused on something, she’s there.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.

So, when she’s not…when I get a respite, it’s kinda nice.  So, there’s this back and forth – I love her, I love my memories of her, I love the things that remind me of her – but all of these have the potential to make me sad – quiet sad, angry sad, happy sad, sad sad.  So, are they good or bad?  Or some weird in-between?

I was talking to the admin of Remembering our lost Siblings about this.  I decided it was time to change my FB pic from my sister and me to something else…  It felt like I was betraying her.  Or making some grand statement that I was over her death.  I am not.  But that picture made me sad to see all the time, so I decided it was time to change it…..I never knew I would cry over changing a FB profile pic.  But, it was super difficult.  So, I related this story to the admin and she replied:

“On my phone I have the screen set to a picture of my brother and I…. It’s like a weird form of torture?!? I love the pic I want to see him but at the same time it makes me sad?!? IDK either!!! What I DO know is, it’s ok not to know… To give myself time to figure it out. Personally I am VERY happy u shared your dilemma. I believe by knowing another person feels the same way it validates the feeling… tells me I’m not alone or nuts… I’ll let u know if/when I change the picture.”

And she’s dead on…  Because (1)  I, too, have a pic of me and my sister as my phone’s background, which I probably won’t change…and (2) it does feel a little like torture.  I want to see her…but it hurts.  I guess the difference between this and the FB pic is that I’m only inflicting pain on myself with my phone.  With FB, I could have been upsetting other people…so maybe that’s why I felt more compelled to change it?  Maybe, it’s going back to that cultural thing I mentioned last time – that pressure to be positive or at least present yourself in a positive, nothing’s wrong, my-sister-didn’t-just-die sort of way…

Obviously, people feel differently about this (referring to tattooed cousin).  Maybe, having something real, tangible, and even tattooed is comforting – some connection to a past loved one.  And, I did want something like that.  I searched my sister’s room up and down, inside and out, and nothing, not a single object, shouted at me and screamed: HERE IS YOUR CONNECTION WITH YOUR SISTER IN THE GREAT BEYOND!!!  I really wanted something to physically hold onto…  Oh well.  Guess that’s not my style.

Who would have thought you could have grief styles?

I can think of no good way to end this tonight.  I’m tired.  In re-reading this, though, I did find an unintended pun.  A slice of black humour pie, anyone?

That awkward moment…

…when you inform someone your sister is dead.

I’ve occasionally wondered how I’m supposed to talk about my sister…  What happens when I meet a new person and they ask about my family?  Should I speak as if I only have a brother…or should I talk as if my sister is still alive?  Thus, avoiding all awkwardness or should I just be honest?  Live brother.  Dead sister.  Deal with it.  I have to.

I don’t know that I could ever act as if I have just one sibling…that seems weird and is a lie.  I’m not good at lying – my facial expressions are a direct link to whatever thought is occurring in my brain at the moment it is occurring.  No filters here.  My brain/face glitch when I lie.  So, I can’t act as if she didn’t exist.  And, I don’t want to.  At the same time, culturally, it doesn’t feel like I’m supposed to talk about her death, either.  Don’t want to ruin the mood…of whatever more positive mood is going on…  Gotta be normal.  (I guess this would be a good future blog topic, but is not the point of this one.)

Today, I had my first experience with informing someone that she is dead.  Specifically, I told my new dentist (as if dentist experiences weren’t already horrible enough!).

Convo (going over health history):

Dentist: Any history of autoimmune disease?  Fibromyalgia?  Lupus?
Me: My sister had Lupus.
Dentist: Had?  Lupus isn’t a past tense disease.  She has Lupus.
Me: Not if she’s dead.
Dentist: Well, I put my foot in my mouth there.

Then, of course, the dentist apologized for my sister’s untimely death and asked a few more questions.  But, in a way, it was kind of funny…awkward funny.  Maybe it was even cathartic just to talk about it out loud for a moment…because I don’t talk about it that often.  I think about it constantly, but rarely am I going on and on about my dead sister (except here in the blog, of course – ha!).  Again, cuz that’s just not the cultural norm.  And, people don’t bring her up to me, because they don’t want to chance upsetting me.  Fully understandable…because it’s quite possible I would get upset.  But not bad upset.  There’s not a “bad” upset in this case.  I’m “good” upset over her.  Every heart ache, every tear expresses my love for her.  That’s fine by me.

Though, I’m guessing the dentist will avoid correcting past tense usage from now on!