“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.” ~ Alice Walker
I lift my head up off the toilet and make my way over to the sink. I wash the residue off my face and stare in the mirror. Sunken cheeks. Hollowed eyes. Water dripping off. I am a disaster a pitiful mess. An empty vessel of grief and self loathing.
Twelve hours before
I hear the officer say the words to my parents. I don’t comprehend. I ask my mom what the fuck is going on. It is the first time I say that word to her. But she doesn’t remember when I mention it to her later. They are at the bottom of the stairs with the officer and I am at the top, alone. Part of me hates him. He brought horrible news. How could he stand there so stoically and tell us this? How could it be true? I know it isn’t his fault, but my irrational self needs someone to lash out at.
Part of me wants to go down, but I don’t. I have to be strong. I don’t feel strong. I feel gutted. I feel unwhole. A part of me is broken forever, and I am not sure how to fix it. If I even want too. If I even could.
I choke back sobs as I pull myself around the corner, unseen from my parents and the officer. I never thought you could fit your fist in your mouth, but I try too so I can stifle the sounds back into my body where they pound like war drums. It is war. Grief is war.
My mom tries to bestow motherly comfort, but she is broken. we all are.
I must be strong.
We have to go to the hospital. It is where they took her…I can’t even think about it. I had been getting ready for bed, I had to get up at 4:30. I go to grab clothes, a North Face fleece jacket, nike zip pants, my favorites. But now I know I will never wear them again. They have become contaminated with the stench of death.
As I am fumbling through my drawers pulling clothes half hazardly, until I find the comfort of familiarity, I try calling my boss. How silly of me. It is dinner hour. The restaurant is swamped with happy go lucky eaters who have no clue that down the road life has shattered. Death came knocking.
I leave a message. I think I apologize half a dozen times, like it was my fault, like I was the impaired driver. I caused all of this. Maybe I did. She had asked me to go running with her. Thoughts are jumbled running a marathon through my head. Politeness. Of everything my parents teach me politeness comes to mind. I have to be polite. No matter how much I want to lash out.
We drive to the hospital. If it was New York I would have walked there. But this is before that. This is my life splintering into a million pieces. I imagine, quite like a bomb. My heart is blown up. I am a shell shocked victim going through the motions. Albeit a polite one.
I am walking in to those toxic doors. My boss calls. Apparently I did make sense. She tells me not to worry, to take all the time I need. I thank her. And apologize again for the inconvenience, because of course death is always planned. Maybe all the apologizing is for my own sins. Maybe it will bring her back.
As we walk through we get the “Look.” It is the look people get when they try to feel sorry for you all the while being grateful they aren’t the victims. They are just the bystander. Like grief is a spectator sport. Maybe it is and I was the lucky participant. That week I got a lot of looks.
They take us to a room. There she is. She looks like the dolls I used to wrap up and put in their beds. Except she is life size. And broken. And her porecelien skin is dirty and bloodied from the pavement. She isn’t a doll, because she once was alive. She once breathed. And laughed and gave the best hugs in the world.
Now she is just a shell. In her pink Under Armor fleece. Her once glossed lips bloodied, her perfect brown hair meticulously brushed in a tight ponytail forever mussed.
It looks like my sister laying there on the gurney. But it isn’t her. My sister was vivacious and sarcastic. She was alive.
I look at my phone. I should be in bed. I should be getting ready for work. I should be anywhere but here. I want to run. I want someone to tell me this is a joke. Better yet I want HER to tell me it is a joke. To jump up and say gotcha!
Instead silence. Not even the hospital could drown out the numbness with noisiness. It had to be quiet. Like the shell of my sister.
The Next Day
I try to drown myself. At least I think that is what I am doing. Can one drown onesself on the shower?
My mother always said if I stayed in the shower long enough I would turn into a prune. Could I die by letting my skin turn pruney and fall off?
So many thoughts none are coherent.
I sink down to the tub floor and sob and panic and sob.
I have never had a panic attack. I have only ever read about them. Oddly they seemed more glamorous in books. The evidence of my implosion are washed away as the water flows over me. That shower isn’t just my death but also my sanctuary of having to face the day. Face the world. Frankly the world can just fuck off.
I don’t shrivel and die though I would love too, Instead I do what feels natural and like a junkie getting her next fix, I lean over the drain and throw up. It isn’t glamorous but it is oddly soothing as the water washes the bile down.
I had tried to run earlier. On a tread mill, but still. I had only lasted a mile. Me who would push myself to spend hours obsessing over miles and caloric burn couldn’t run.
My addiction to running wasn’t quite as comforting as it use to be given the circumstances.
Vomiting on the other hand mixed with the pitter patter of the water, the stream pounding my heart, was peace.
For a moment.
Before it all came rushing back.
I had to get out, not out of the house like I was going to with my brother and sister-in-law. I had to get out of my body. My mind my soul.
Dull the pain.
It was the cowards way out, but then being a martyr never sounded like much fun either. All the Saints I had learned in CCD had all died painful deaths.
Errands upon errands, who knew so much went into a funeral.
I didn’t eat. It was like a badge of honor I held to my heart. One more bitter reminder. A taste of agony I could leach on. My sister wasn’t in pain. Hell they said she probably never felt a thing (like I believe THEM) supposedly she was in glory. But I was, and I wanted my suffering to not just be off the heart, but of the body. I wanted to drain my mind of all rational.
It was a slow brutal suicide. Going down Alice’s Rabbit Hole and hoping I got buried alive with no bell to ring for help.
Visting hours, funeral, burial. I wanted to stick a coffin bell like the ones during the Cholera outbreaks, hoping maybe it was all a joke like candid camera. Except it wasn’t. Days, nights, hours, minutes, painful reminders of what wasn’t there. Still isn’t.
I look at my dripping face, I have snot coming out of my nose. I look like a crazed Halloween costume. Except it isn’t Halloween, it is life.
My life I am living. I feel eaten up by guilt. Which just makes me want to puke again. I am alive and my sister isn’t. This is how I am living my life. She would be ashamed. She would slap me upside the head. It makes me feel worse.
Slowly, I climb through the fog. Like an emaciated deer, I am emaciated except for the deer part, like someone getting her sea legs. I try. I try to walk again. To breath again, to live. It isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t done stoically like some might think. And it sure as hell isn’t pretty.
But then grief isn’t pretty.
Slow and steady like the tortoise, the sun starts to shine, flowers start to bloom. A year two years, three now six.
Slowly I make my way out of my own grave. It isn’t pretty.
I am not the scared girl I was, that night, knowing my world had changed, but not knowing how to cope. In reality no one knows how to cope with something like that. No one can plan grief and you can’t ignore it. You learn to live with it. You learn to work with it.
Most importantly you learn to honor it and you live. They would want you too.
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4 thoughts on “Play by Play of a Sister’s Grief”
Oh, honey, I feel your pain and I just cried with you. Thank you for being brave enough to share your grief, it helps those of us still floundering with our own.
Sending you huge hugs love. Thank you for your sweet words. It means a lot. Writing has been major therapy for me. An outlet to make sense of something that is so senseless. I hurt that you are in that club. To say it sucks is probably the worst understatement. If you ever need a friend, I am here. SO much love to you <3
And to you! Both of my shoulders are always open to you, whatever you need 🙂 The way I see it, by translating pain into art (of any kind), the people we’ve lost live on forever.
Thank you sweets I appreciate that so much! <3 I agree completely. They definitely do and they definitely will. Love is the one thing that death can't kill and with in love lives the memories. Huge huge hugs <3