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.

The First Stage: Denial

Supposedly, there are five stages of grief.  Although according to this article, this isn’t true – we are all unique.  Yay us!  If there was one time, I wish everyone was boring and similar, this would be it.  We could all find common ground and say: Hey!  I remember that stage!  That was awful!  Let me buy you a drink!  We could lean on each other and know that we were united in our sorrows.  (This would also make dealing with family members much easier.  You wouldn’t find each others’ coping method completely in(s)ane.)

Also, “stages” seems to imply an endpoint.  All you have to do is get through the five stages and you’ll arrive on the other side – bright and shiny.  Having tackled your grief, you can move on with your newfound appreciation for life, a better and more resilient person.  As nice as that may seem (albeit quite robotic), the notion insults the emotions that I feel, the importance of my sister in my life.  To think I could get over this?  Are you kidding me?  My sister is dead.  THAT will suck forever.

Whether or not these stages are real, they give me a starting point for the blog.  From Kessler & Kübler- Ross’ above five stages website, they define the first stage (DENIAL):

“…the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.”

I find that a rather dramatic definition.  Maybe, because I’ve been in a continuous existential crisis for some time now…I didn’t need a death to make me question life.  I was doing that good and well before this, thank you.

My denial is more subtle and evasive than that – slips in under the door when I’m not paying attention.  And, I don’t think it’s necessarily denial at all.  It’s my default.  I think we all have a default state – a platform of truths on which each of us stands.  Simple, basic truths that define us.  That are there in our unconscious mind, giving us stability and sometimes comfort.  Truths like: I have a mother.  I have a father.  I am a daughter.  I’m an older sister.  I have a brother.  I have a sister.  My default state is to KNOW that I have a sister.  It’s not denial.  It’s that for almost 27 years, I had something, something that defined me, that gave me the title “older sister.”  Something that was a pillar under my platform.  My brain isn’t going to just up and unlearn this in the next couple of months or maybe ever.  So, when I’m not consciously thinking about her being dead…my brain, by default, unconsciously believes she is alive.  That I could call her on the phone at any moment to talk about how much Grey’s Anatomy sucked this week or to apologize for the most recent fight we’ve had or to ask how her last doctor appointment went.  And, I have picked up the phone to call her.  Because deep down within my being, within my own definition of my self and my truths, my sister exists here on Earth in all her bratty and infuriating glory.

Ugh.

Maybe this does sound a bit like denial after all…