Coping With Death: Loss of a Sibling
A Little History
I am a 40-year-old woman with one sibling—sister named Liz. I am a mother of one and an aunt of two. My sister was 3 years younger than me, so we are pretty close in age. We grew up together, but I can remember all the times that I told her that she could not hang out with my friends and me because, well, you know, we were so much cooler than kids her age.
Of course, there were times, though, that my parents made me take her with me. And boy did I think that was horrible! Who wants their younger sister tagging along with them? I know I am not the only older sister to ever think like that. In fact, most older sisters probably didn't want their baby sister hanging out with them. I never thought about the fact that one day she may not be here.
I took for granted having a sister when I was younger, but as we got older, those 3 years did not mean a thing. We were friends. We lived close to each other. We had kids who were similar in age. We talked, we laughed, and we cried.
My sister and I both have this genetic disease called MEN1, which affects the endocrine system. It creates tumors on the endocrine organs. Sometimes the tumors secrete an excess of whatever that organ normally produces. For instance, we both had secreting tumors on our parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium levels, therefore, we had excess calcium in our bodies. We had to have our parathyroid glands removed so the tumors no longer existed.
My sister and I also had tumors on our pancreas, but hers secreted and mine did not. One thing the pancreas does is create gastrin, which stimulates acid production in our stomach. Gastrin was overproducing so much in my sister that it was creating holes in her intestines, and she had to have surgery after surgery to try to close those holes.
Sadly, her body could not take anymore, and she passed last month. Though she was sick for a long time, it is still so hard to take in that she is no longer here. It does not feel real, and it definitely does not seem fair.
Why Did This Happen to My Sister?
It was so hard to go to the hospital to visit my sister. Liz was so easygoing and had such a good heart. It was hard to look at her in so much pain. I often thought about why this was happening to such a good person? Why is it that she had to endure so much pain and suffering? I also felt guilty at times. This is kind of hard to explain. I did not feel guilty like it was me making her sick but like she must think why was she picked to be the sick one?
What she had to go through for all those years was so unfortunate. She had two children who she loved dearly and who she would do anything for. I can't image what thoughts were going through her mind those months that she was in the hospital. She was depressed and helpless, and it breaks my heart. I can still see her face in my mind—the worry and the sorrow. My eyes never stay dry when I think about it.
She went through many ups and downs while in the hospital. Times of critical condition and then times where things looked up. It is unbelievable how strong she is. I have no idea how she went through the things she went through. Not only did she have to deal with the illness, but she had to deal with the emotional part of all this. I just feel knots in my stomach when I think about the mental effects that this must have had on her.
Liz was only 37 years old when she passed. The last couple of months of her life she was in a hospital bed and she had not been able to walk for a few months. She was on a lot of pain meds, and her quality of life was not good. Although I know this, and I know that she is no longer suffering, it is the hearts and minds of the living who have to deal with the loss. The deceased no longer suffer, but the living do.
Am I Really Coping?
Well, there is a whole lot that goes along with the death of a loved one. Even more so when the loved one dies young. My mother had to deal with the loss of a child which is the hardest thing any parent has to deal with. Then there are the children losing their mother. The kids now live with my mom and step dad. It is a whole new life for them. All of them. I am hoping they move closer to me soon for extra support.
As for me, I am okay and then I am not. Whenever I think about her I cry. I know she is not here, but then I realize she really is not here. But then I think that she is not hurting either. So, although I want her to be here, I do not want her to be hurting.
I want her here not hurting. That would be ideal. So we are coping. We are making it work. We are trying to work together to make everything as normal as possible for the children. One thing I learned a long time ago is how to be strong. Even when things are tough, you need to keep going.
Being sad all the time, not taking care of yourself and moping around will not ever change the fact that your loved one is no longer here. And one thing is for sure, your loved one would not want you to be in any sort of depressed state in which you cannot function or take care of daily responsibilities.
So I am going to be strong—strong for me and strong for her. There are things here in life that need taking care of, so although I am sad and mad, I need to be as strong as I can be.
The Living Are the Ones Who Suffer
As I mentioned briefly earlier, the living are the ones who suffer. The deceased have passed on and are no longer dealing with illness. They are no longer dealing with the pains or worries of this life. It is us, the living, who withstand all the pain of death. It's the ones left behind who really feel it the most. Thought these feeling are completely normal, understandable and necessary for proper healing, these feelings are also selfish.
We feel this heartache because we want that person here, but what would that person be feeling right now if they were here? Would they be hurting and suffering? What would they be going through? That is the way I try to think about it. It is not a bad selfish because it comes from love, but we tend to push away the fact that life for our loved one had been hard.
I really do hurt because I want her here, but when I think about her state in the months preceding her death, I realize that she is at peace now.
Hardest Thing in LIfe Is the Loss of Life
My sister and I lost our dad when we were kids. It was confusing at that age, but I adjusted really well and I did not have any negative impacts in my life because of that loss.
But I have to say that this experience has to be the hardest thing that I have endured. I just feel really sad when I think about it. I know she had so much more life to live. She touched so many people in a positive way. I feel like her passing is such a shame. Why, why, why?
I am a spiritual person. I know I do not know all the answers and sometimes we never know why something has happened so I try not to question God's plan. But I will not lie, there are times I do question things and can't help but wonder why.
Maybe she was needed in heaven? Maybe our dad was ready to reunite with his daughter. Maybe God has other plans for her. I know she is watching over all of us in our family now and she has been restored to the Liz she was before all of this illness. The Liz who was pain-free, healthy, and always happy.
I cry because I am sad, but I smile when I think of the good times.
If I can give any advice to anyone who is dealing with the loss of any family member, it is to keep that person's memory alive and to think of all the good things. The good things are what get us through! Think about the peace that they now feel and the freedom they have received from their pain. If you are dealing with a loss right now, I am sorry. I am hopeful you will get through this and am sure your loved ones are watching over you. I heard someone say, "Why do the good die young?" Because God needs more angels.
Dealing With Loss
How are you coping with your loss?
© 2017 Jennifer M