My sister died two weeks ago today from suicide. I busied myself with her memorial service, packing up her clothes to sell to benefit my nephew’s college fund, and even work. For me, writing through the pain helps a bit. I went to the island where I’m working on my second novel and wrote zero words. But I took a few days to allow myself to feel the pain and to cry and mourn. I went kayaking and sea glass hunting and those things comforted me, as did the wonderful meals prepared for me by my book club friends.
Now I know what people mean when they talk about “waves of grief.” One minute, I can be having a conversation about a book and be fine, and the next minute a song comes on and I think of her, and cry again. I thought going shopping because I needed something to wear to the service would be a distraction, but I walked into a store full of things my sister would’ve loved and felt like I got punched in the stomach by grief again. I watch TV with my kids until I’m overwhelmed with guilt wondering what I could have done to be a better sister, and have to crawl back into bed. I sleep more than normal. It’s as though the act of being awake is so monumentally exhausting that I just look forward to the times I can sleep and forget.
I work and write (nonfiction ok, fiction not yet) and then a Facebook notification comes on a photo thread of my sister’s and I’m reading jokes we made back and forth to each other and I wonder how I’m supposed to just still be here when she just isn’t. She haunts me. And I’m so glad. I can hear her voice and laugh and it helps. I don’t know what to say when people ask me how I’m doing. I don’t know what to say I’m thankful for at Thanksgiving when there won’t be any more Thanksgivings with her.
I’m not sending all her stuff to the consignment shop for sale. I kept a few things that were too “her” to belong to a stranger. Maybe sometimes I’ll wear that scarf or necklace, those boots, that hat, and think of her and feel her with me. I wish she hadn’t abandoned me, her son, her husband, her friends and our parents. I got through the denial and anger phases quickly, am I guess firmly in the depression stage, and wonder when the “acceptance” thing happens. I have a therapy appointment. Mostly, I just miss my sister.
Maybe if she had died after a long battle with cancer there would be flowers in my house, cards coming in the mail. But there is only empty loneliness. The response from readers, especially those who have gone through something similar, was phenomenally helpful the first week; the surprising comfort of strangers. Yes, I would’ve liked to go out for a drink or coffee, any reason to get dressed, but no one asks. I think, with suicide, people just don’t know what to say, or maybe they think you need to be left alone. I want to stop crying, to stop being so sad, (I don’t want my kids to see me crying too much) but I don’t seem to have control over it yet. The thing about time healing everything—I really hope it’s true.