How Do I Grieve You, Sister?

We lost my older sister to cancer in February, which now seems like a different time altogether. It is surreal to live without her. It feels like these three months have flown by — how have we gone on for so long without her here? And yet, because of the current circumstances, it also feels like a lifetime ago that we were consumed with her illness and death. The pandemic has certainly complicated my family’s grief, but regardless, the grief is still very present.

I started this post shortly after she passed. It contains many feelings and questions that I will be asking for a very long time to come. 

I wish you didn’t have to leave us. I wish you were still here, laughing and making jokes, giving us a hard time.

Sister, we were supposed to grow old together. All of us. We were supposed to be the Golden Girls, living together in a one-level ranch and taking care of each other as our skin wrinkled and our hair went white.

I know you didn’t want to go. I know you wanted to stay here with us. I know you tried, so hard, to beat that cancer back, to destroy it and rid it from your body. I wish you had been able to; I wish the cancer had been weaker and easier to overcome. I wish we could have helped you fight it more tangibly. But the best we could do was stand beside you and walk the long road to chemo infusions and clinical trial sessions and oncology meetings. The best we could do was have hope and check in and watch the kids and love you in every way we could until the end.

It will never feel like enough. It will never feel like we did enough. It will never feel like we had enough time with you. It will never feel like you had enough time with your children.

How do I grieve you, Sister? How do I grieve you when I feel like you can’t possibly be gone? This devastating reality is too much for my heart to grasp. We grew up together, but we were also supposed to grow old together.

How do I let life keep going? How do I keep moving forward, getting up each day to care of my little ones, do laundry and dishes, write and work, talk with friends about normal things? How do I do all of this when my heart is screaming, “stop!”? How do I pay tribute to you in these every day moments that are somehow still happening despite life being changed forever?

How do I grieve you?

I look at pictures and videos of you. I watch you laugh. I watch you, so full of life. I look at pictures of you holding my babies. It’s hard for me to think that these are all the pictures and videos we will ever have of you. There won’t be any more after this. There won’t be pictures of you with my children as they grow older. There won’t be pictures of you with your own children as they grow older. These are all the pictures we’ll ever have of you. But it’s not just pictures.

Everything we have of you is all we’ll ever have of you. The text messages and cards, the gifts and souvenirs, the memories. The ones we have are the only ones we’ll ever have. There will be no more. There will be no more phone calls, no more holidays together, no more lunches out, no more laughter and long talks with you. Every day will be different now.

Instead, there will be a longing, an absence in our hearts as things go on without you. There will be confusion and disbelief as we figure out how to grieve you. There will be gaps and holes that only you could fill, and they will never be full now.

How? How are you gone?
How do I grieve you?

You Went First

You always went first.
Of course.
You were the big sister,
the firstborn.

You always went first,
and we followed behind.
We, who came after,
we, the younger ones.

You always went first.
You set the bar,
the example.
You showed us which way to go.

I remember that day,
half our lifetimes ago,
when we dropped you off at college.
You were the first to go.

And not just the first sister,
the first in a long line
of generations past,
who never had the chance.

You made it possible for us to follow.
You made it possible for us to go too.
You were strong and brave.
You made it look easy.

And now? This time?
We didn’t want you to go.
We wanted desperately
for you to stay.

But you were, as always,
the first to go.

And now? This time?
You fought. You resisted.
You were strong and brave.
You tried not to go.

Did you think that
you had to be strong for us?
Did you try to protect us
from what was happening?

You went first again.
But we wish you hadn’t.

We wish you hadn’t gone.
We wish you could come back.
You should still be here
with us.

3 thoughts on “How Do I Grieve You, Sister?

  1. It took me a while to get through this because I miss her too. I wish we could have more time with her and our kids would get to know her more. I’m glad she got to meet them.


  2. Once again your words resound with true feelings. Sometimes for me grief is just putting one foot in front of the other. We miss Melissa and her smile lives on.


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