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Sister2Sister

How To Go On Without Her

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I am new here, and drowning in despair. I lost my younger sister less than 3 months ago. She was diagnosed with a rare cancer last year, but did well.

The doctors said it was" not curable, but it was treatable." I went with her to her chemo treatments and helped her in any way she needed. We also packed many good times in to that year, going to movies, plays, celebrating holidays, and just sharing quality "sister time." We had hope and faith, and death any time in the near future was not even a consideration. When my sister began having some distressing symptoms, we got her to the hospital for fluids, however what came next was a devastating shock.  The doctor told us my sister's kidneys were failing and she was septic. Within a short time she coded, but they brought her back and she stabilized, but then she coded again and I held her hand as she slipped away. This nightmare unfolded within 7 hours of getting her to the hospital.  A part of me died that night too. I am back to work. and I finished cleaning out the apartment (another "ending"), and I am still handling the practical matters that one must deal with when someone dies, but I am empty inside. I lost the closest person in my life, she was my best friend and my "every day person." We grew up in a chaotic household, which made our lifelong bond even stronger. We got each other through our parents deaths, and shared all of life's good and bad. Our other sibling rejected us both for 6 years after our mother died, and only surfaced again when she heard of my sister's illness. Now she has distanced again, and offers no support, but only contacts me to discuss "money." The existing sister has a husband but I essentially lost my entire family, and  have been left alone at the darkest time in my life. I miss my sister so desperately, and long to text or call her throughout the day like we used to. Life has lost all meaning and I often wonder why I am still here. I know others on this site can relate.  This is the hardest loss of all. Any input is welcomed, because none of my coping skills work for me anymore. Thank you.

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My dear, I'm so pleased that you found your way to us, but also so very sorry for the reason that brought you here, and for the pain of losing your beloved sister. Please know that we are here to hurt with you ❤️

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I am so sorry for the loss of your sister.  I could relate to much of what you wrote, because I grew up in a very dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and a mental and abusive mother.  Us girls clung to each other.  There were five of us girls and the eldest's son was adopted by my parents when her other son was killed and she was left quadriplegic from a horrid car accident 50+ years ago.  Throughout the years I have been through much, but my sisters were "forever", the one stable force in my life, we always had each other.  We used to take my oldest sister out to eat and shopping once a month, we'd come from all over the state to do so.  Over the years another sister has become blind, and another yet has a hard time walking without falling (she was also damaged in the accident), so it's been up to me and my youngest sister to drive them around.

My oldest sister, Donna, passed away in March.  Peggy fell again and has been living with a severely crushed vertebrae since May 10, awaiting surgery July 31.  It's disconcerting that we no longer can have our Sister's Reunions (my husband passed away during one 13 years ago), or get together monthly.  It feels like Donna was the glue that held us together as we rallied in our support for her...but now that everyone is aging, it's getting more than challenging.  We still keep in touch by phone and see each other when we can, once every few months.

Our father passed away many many years ago, and other mother four years ago, and when Donna passed, it was so hard, the beginning of the end, it felt.  Through everything she was quick witted, kept her wonderful sense of humor, and was inspiring to all of us.  Her worst disability was her inability to communicate...they butchered her vocal chords the night they tried to save her life 50 years ago.

I do know what it's like to be left alone and missing those that you love.  I want to share with you the tips I've learned over the years since my husband passed, in the hopes that if even one of them helps you, that is good.  The two top tips I think are the taking a day at a time, and learning to look for and embrace what is good in life...living in the present.

TIPS TO MAKE YOUR WAY THROUGH GRIEF

There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.  Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.

 

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Thank you Marty and Kayc for your prompt reply. Kayc I am so sorry for all you have gone through in your own life, and from what you describe it sounds like it was terribly traumatic.

 Like your Donna, My mother also lost her ability to speak in the end, and it was heartbreaking to see a woman who had "the gift of gab" all of her life, suddenly be cruelly silenced! My sister was similar to Donna too, in that she maintained her zest for life ,and sense of humor, despite having a rare and unpredictable cancer diagnosis. She  even went out shopping (her favorite pass-time) for 8 hours three days prior to her demise. I thank you Kayc for the very helpful suggestions for ways to get through this debilitating sadness and lack of motivation.

Ironically I work in the Mental Health field for 30 years, and have run numerous bereavement groups, and individual sessions with my clients. I also have a Pet Bereavement Organization and run support groups in my community since the 90's. Because of this, people expect I will know how to cope with losing my sister, however all my experience and training has not prepared me for a loss of this magnitude. I admit to feeling helpless in my grief, and the "assumption" that I am handling it, leaves me lacking in the very support and caring that I need so desperately at this time.

Thank you for listening, and my heart goes out to you and all of the grievers who come here in their time of need. I will keep coming back because sometimes we find kindness in places we never thought to look. Peace & Healing, (sister2)

 

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Having the head knowledge and going through it personally are two different things, aren't they.  It reminds me of anticipatory grief vs reality hitting once someone passes with finality.  We can think we'll know...but knowing is quite a different matter.

I am so sorry you are finding yourself without your sister.  I can only hope your remaining sister will realize the value and importance of knowing what she has while the opportunity exists.

Thank you for your work, it's a hard job, I'm sure many have appreciated your efforts on their behalf.

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