Ten Years: Letters and Grief

“You have moments of grief in life, and if you can put pen to paper and capture that, that’s something wonderful. I can revisit actual songs about past deaths, and I know that emotion is as true now as it was then.” ~ John Lydon


Letter writing. It is a dying art form, replaced by Facebook statuses and hundreds of e-mail chains. Don’t get me wrong, my sister’s memories and On This Day’s are part of the reason I have kept my Facebook, which has to get the cyber cobwebs dusted off quite frequently. I still can’t bring myself to erase it. To erase that cyber piece of her.


But the digital world, is cold, less personal. It is her letters that give me something tangible to hold on to, to connect with. To let me reread words from a voice I haven’t heard in ten years. To touch the stationary she picked out for me personally because she was thinking of her baby sis. They vividly refresh a personality and voice that slowly has diminished as the years have carried on going from one to ten since I last spoke to my sister. Since I heard her voice that wasn’t in a voicemail, or responded as she called my name, which was usually a nickname. Shared a joke and heard her twinkling laugh, or my fav, her awesome hugs, which she gave the best of and I think she has since passed on to our niece, who also shares her name.


A Decade

Ten years feels like eons. And yet it also feels like yesterday. While time is marked, grief is a web that holds you in its clutches, sometimes tighter, sometimes looser depending on the day or even the hour. It is illimitable. Some days it passes more easily and others it is like a boulder pressing down suffocating you. It feels like you can’t win. You can’t move.


As each year has passed, I am always amazed at the changes. At life, whether we wish it too or not, it keeps going on. Now we are not just reflecting on years, but an actual decade. And a lot has happened to distinguish the time of then to the time of now.


From life events of moves, graduations, babies being born, to the more dated of fashion (sorry Sugar) pictures becoming more grainy, and of course the technology. It is hard to believe that flip phones were still a thing ten years ago and not just a James Bond prop. The passing of years is much more distinguishable, but the grief is not.


Time Doesn’t Heal

I have talked about this a lot that time does NOT heal all woulds. It is catchy, but very definitely fake news. Whether it was seven-thirty at night on October 2, 2010 when the police knocked on our door, or today October 2, 2020 our hearts forever have a hole of someone whom we loved so much and still miss tremendously.


Our hearts paused, like a broken Grandfather’s clock. And when they started beating again, it was missing a piece, a piece that for the last ten years we have been figuring out how to live through our grief. Because that is the only way too. You can’t bottle it up. You can’t ignore it. You can’t put wooden planks over your heart and hope it won’t collapse in. Because no matter how you try to ignore or hide, the hole is still there. Your heart is still missing a piece.


Time Teaches You How to Deal 

But you can go through and by going through, it is scarring over and each new layer further gives you strength to continue and to navigate the cliched phrase of the new normal. Memories don’t dissipate with time. They don’t magically make you unsad, but you learn to appreciate the funny moments, the special moments, the ones that make you smile if you let them.


And you learn that your scarred heart is a badge. A badge of love. Because to have a scarred heart means someone touched your life. They meant something to you. You loved them so much that now they no longer walk this earth, a piece of your heart is gone. Hatred is not the other side of love, but grief. I repeated this quote often in the days and months after she died:

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”


It is so accurate. To grieve so deeply, is to have loved just as much and time does not change that, it just teaches you how to navigate it, how to live for yourself and for them when they can not, and how to honor your loved ones in a way that they would be proud.


Hey Sprout

A couple months ago I decided to finally sort a box of memorabilia. Paybills, tickets, airplane tags, and Jacquie’s letters. Letter’s that had travelled with me from New Hampshire to New York, where every so often one would fall down from my French memo boards like a sign. When I made the move a year and a half ago back to New Hampshire, they travelled back with me, albite thrown haphazardly not knowing when and if I would go through them, but knowing they were joining me wherever I went.


For they are a reminder that even when my sister was pulling all nighters during finals, busy with friends and boys, stressing over work and her every day life, she still had time to stop and write a letter, usually in response to the ones I sent her. But still, she had time to stop and mail it and even if she didn’t, she would make time. Letting me know that she was thinking of her crazy (her word) baby sister.


For they are a reminder that even when my sister was pulling all nighters during finals, busy with friends and boys, stressing over work and her every day life, she still had time to stop and write a letter, usually in response to the ones I sent her. But still, she had time to stop and mail it and even if she didn’t, she would make time. Letting me know that she was thinking of her crazy (her word) baby sister.


Over the last ten years I would give anything to receive another letter from her, but I am grateful for the ones I do have. A few years ago, I got her signatures of our nicknames Sugar (her) and Sprout (me) tattooed on my wrists, so that I would always have a visible tangible piece on me. They were copied straight from one of her letters. A figure skate something we use to do together.


Ten years is a long time, but not long enough to erase all the pain. But then that pain is a reminder to be grateful for all the moments I had with my big sister and best friend. Thankful for the memories that I can hold close to my heart, and especially the pictures and letters that make me smile even when I cry.


I miss you so much Sugar. I hope you are u there dancing your heart out and serenading all the other angels to 98 Degrees. I’ll be drinking a PSL for you today. Love you Big Sister. <3

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7 thoughts on “Ten Years: Letters and Grief

  1. So beautiful! You have given a voice to all of the emotions one must deal with when grieving. You also express how there is no timeline and limit on healing but a forever process as one moves forward. I am very proud of you and your remarkable talent which is a true gift to all of us. Love you past all the numbers ❤️

  2. Beautiful Katie. My nan passed 12 years ago and it seems forever since I saw her but also shocks me shes been gone so long. I find it sad almost looking at old photos at the quality and the changes since that persons gone because things change so much, even in a year. Sending you lots of love and I adore your tattoos it is a lovely way to remember her x

  3. My love, this is the most touching post I have ever read, thank you for touching my heart and putting into words such a powerful post. I think it’s especially important how you highlighted that ‘time does not heal all wounds’. It’s so easy to throw that phrase around yet what you said instead is so much more meaningful, so much more compassionate – ‘Time teaches you how to deal’. You have such a way with words Kate – and a beautiful gift of writing so powerfully. I am sending you love today and always, and I know that your sister is with you every step of the way, I love your tattoos – even when you can’t see her, she is always here. I love you <3

  4. Kate!!! First off *HUGSSS*!!! It’s so profound and beautiful that you can share these precious intimate thoughts, moments, and letters with us. Our sentiments are with you <3 I honestly love and adore that she used to write you letters and cards, a writer just like you it's so perfect <3 But you're right, no matter how much time passes by there are wounds in our hearts that may never heal, but at least you have everlasting memories of her. that you can hold onto to and she'll always be with you!! Love you so much xoxo

  5. Kate, this genuinely made me cry – what a moving and beautiful testament to your sister. You’re right, time doesn’t heal – it just passes by and as more goes, more has gone and whoops I guess you’re living with it now. Your sister’s letters were so warm and full of personality. She sounds like such a loving sister and I can’t imagine how hard it would have been losing her. Sending all my love to you <3

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