I don’t talk about my grief much in this space because for starters, people who have lost a loved one go through their very own process of dealing with the pain and heartache. It isn’t a universal system. There is no checklist or “how-to” book to help navigate. It is sticky, personal, emotional and a bit of me feels as if I am floating in unchartered waters in terms of my own journey.
What I do know about sibling grief is there isn’t a lot out there. When we first lost Ryan and the loss was so tender and sensitive, I found myself searching and searching the internet for things about the topic. There is tons of information about dealing with grief for parents and children, but siblings seems to be an area not focused on as much.
This is why I need to write about it, so incase someone else is brand new to this journey, they might know they aren’t alone.
In the days following his death, my role as the “baby sister” was thrown into immediate caretaker for my mom and dad. I did whatever they needed me to do. I drove them places, stayed up all night, listened to them cry and plead with God. I coordinated with family members, organized meals and helped plan the burial of my older brother. My days as the baby sister were over. I was throttled into adulthood in a matter of seconds as I helped my parents sort through his apartment, cleaning out his personal belongings, withdrew him from school and closed credit card accounts all the while trying to somehow decide what to keep and what to give away.
As weird as this sounds, he was supposed to be there to help me do this. I was not supposed to deal with family things like this alone. I thought we would be doing this together only fifty years later and it being for one of our parents. I felt so alone and I was no longer the baby sister.
So many times in the weeks and months after I caught myself out of habit, picking up the phone after one of my parents said something ridiculously “parent-like” wanting to call or text my partner-in-crime so we could laugh and shake our heads together. Every time, it was a slap in the face the moment I remembered. I felt alone.
I felt alone because not only had I lost my only brother, but I had also lost my family. I grieve the absence of Ryan but I also grieve the absence of my parents. I have been hesitant to even write about it because it seems so unjust to even say. Now that I am a mother, I know that losing a sibling isn’t even comparable to losing a child.
The first two years, I felt myself needing to ease their pain and fix things, trying to make things perfect for them so maybe they could find a reason to smile, even though deep down I knew that was never possible. Everything about our family unit changed, there wasn’t one area untouched. In retrospect, it was me trying to avoid my own grief by focusing on theirs.
Three years out I look at them and see sadness in their eyes. They are forever changed. We all are forever changed. I accept that no matter how many grand babies I give them, or how successful I am with my life, Ryan is still gone and I am no longer the baby sister.
Now 2 babies later, I miss him in a whole new way. I miss the uncle he never got to be and I miss the bond I know we would have further developed as only time and maturing can do between siblings. I miss the wife he never had and nieces and nephews I will never know. I will miss him when one day (not anytime soon), when I have to say goodbye to my parents and remain as the only member of my family of origin.
I move on day to day not accepting it as God’s plan. I don’t believe he plans drunk driving accidents. I only know that if I can’t find beauty in something than it is my call to make the beauty. This is why I am here. This is why I write. I do it to show you that living your life today is so incredibly worth it. Everyday I do my best, take advantage of my opportunities, chase wild, crazy dreams in honor of him.
Shannon Johnson is a writer, teacher and coach seeking a healthy body, mind and soul. She provides #personaldevelopment resources on her website http://www.smileandwrite.com You can also find Shannon on Twitter and Facebook.
Terezia Farkas. International Bestselling Author, Huffington Post/ CNN contributor, columnist of Depression Help. Focus is mental health. Her bestseller Heart of Love Evolution – Surviving Depression is available on Amazon. Website: www.tereziafarkas.com Follow on Twitter.