My older sister died last week. She had been sick for a couple of years, getting progressively worse, and finally passed away in her sleep. We, my family, had lots of time to get used to the idea of her dying so it wasn't a shock.
My first reaction was relief. It was finally over. Her pain and suffering, the anxiety, the worry, the dreadful anticipation of what we knew was going to happen, etc. Then a calm kind of sadness descended. I had several teary moments but nothing terribly emotional. I went into action mode to arrange travel to be with my family. Once there, my job was to look after my elderly parents. Comfort them, take them around, shop for them, get them to the funeral, and so on.
The funeral was very emotional. It was beautiful (for a funeral) and a celebration of her life, but of course we were all hurting and teary. I gave a tribute at the service that I could barely get through, but did.
The entire ordeal was hardest on her husband and kids and my parents, of course. And my siblings and I all tried to be supportive and loving.
The week passed and I returned home yesterday. I was glad to get home, but then a different kind of sadness descended. A much more intense kind of grief. I had a few serious sobbing sessions and feel generally tired and emotional. Kind of on the verge of tears the whole time. The reality of my sister's death is sinking in and I can't get the image of her lying in the casket out of my mind. Or her coffin at the graveside. The loss is now real and personal.
Is this normal? Is it a case of my job of parent caretaker being done, and now it's my turn to grieve in the safety of my own home?
How do I proceed? Just let it all happen? Let the feelings and the tears take their place?
Or should I distract myself? Should I do hobbies, or read, or other distracting pursuits to take my mind off things?
I don't want to mope, or dwell on my sister's death of my own sense of loss. I know this too shall pass but I'm kind of having trouble with now.
How does this go?
Asking the same question 5 years out for a (very) loved one. I have no idea but a week doesn't seem like nearly enough time. Go easy on yourself for now.
Love and hugs.
That's a lot to swallow, OP. But it's perfectly natural to feel the way you do. Don't ignore it, don't try to distract yourself, just allow yourself to mourn and help yourself move on.
Seeing a suffering loved one pass after a long, rough battle can be a relief for all, including the deceased. Don't feel guilty at all. Think about how she's not in pain. And that now that she is gone, you and your family and her friends can begin to adjust to life without her and carry on and remember the happier times instead of the painful times.
I'm sorry for your loss, truly.
So sorry for your loss.
You're grief sounds similar to my initial reactions to when my parents passed away. It's helpful to open up to your parents any other siblings too (if you have any) even if you aren't super close to them. I went to see a therapist a few times, and they gave me this advice (opening up to family members about the pain you've gone through) and it proved super helpful.
It's important to remember that everyone goes through the grief process a little differently, and there really isn't a "defined" way that we deal with this. Also, you might feel sad for a long time, but this is normal too.
I recently lost my dad to pancreatic cancer, which is aggressive but he hung on much longer than anyone expected. I thought I was all grieved out during his decline but I was wrong. Nothing really prepares you for the grief process; you will grieve in your own way. Don't beat yourself up for feeling overly sad, not feeling sad enough, or that you're not grieving the way people think you should. You will think you're fine one day, then the next it may hit you hard or seemingly out of nowhere, and you might think "What the fuck is wrong with me?" Just cut yourself some slack and ride it out.
Your grieving process sounds totally normal to me, OP. Please take good care of yourself as you grieve, as I'm sure that's what your sister would have wanted.
bit of both maybe. definitely get some good movies. sleep as much as you can for a week/weekend.....then cry n deal. if you watch holocaust movies it makes it all so much easier. nothing can compare etc. not meaning to be glib, been there got the t shirt and eaten the pizza. take it easy.
You must've been an amazing sister. She's at rest, and now it's your turn to cry, let go, and take care your needs.
You are completely normal, OP
Is there anyone within your family you can share these feelings with?
It will get harder before it gets easier. Anyone who depends on you should be told to ease off for a while, that includes professional connections.
Allow yourself to feel the grief. You have experienced an extreme emotional loss
Good luck, OP
In “Saying Goodbye: How Families Can Find Renewal Through Loss,” Barbara Okun and Joseph Nowinski argue that medical advances are resulting in longer periods of chronic but ultimately fatal illnesses. Whereas death was often swift in Kubler-Ross’ era, these days it is increasingly the norm for people to live with a terminal diagnosis for an extended period of time.
“Death has become less of a sudden and unexpected event,” write Okun and Nowinski. “In its place has become a process that begins with life-threatening diagnosis, proceeds through a period of treatment (or treatments) and ends in eventual death. This process means that both the terminally ill and the family are increasingly confronted with the need to ‘live with death’ for a prolonged period of time.”
The authors have a developed a contemporary Five Stages of Family Grief: crisis (the family’s equilibrium is disrupted with the news of the illness); unity (everyone pulls together and does what is necessary); upheaval (guilt, anger and resentment may surface as the illness increasing impacts everyone’s lifestyle); resolution (dealing with caretaker burnout, addressing long standing issues with the patient or other family members); and renewal (balancing grief with celebration and moving forward as a family).
Okun and Nowinski position their book as road map, but they are realistic: It’s still possible to get lost.
“Lest readers think we are suggesting that this process we call ‘the new grief’ leads to some invariably happy ending, in truth this is not always the case,” says Nowinski. “Some families falter even at the unity stage. Others suffer with resentments and other unfinished business, rather than confronting these things. However, depending on how both the patient and his or her loved ones choose to approach end-of-life, death can lead either to a tangle of loose ends or a departure point for moving forward.”
Like illness, grief also can be chronic. “We do not believe that grief simply ends,” says Nowinski. “Relationships are much more complicated than that. For many people, mourning does not end, but merely ebbs and flows.”
There is no such thing as normal grief; we're all individuals. You were so lucky to have a close, loving relationship with your sister, and I know that you will cherish her memory forever. I'm sure that such a wonderful person will be sorely missed by all. Is there a special way to honor your memory? Perhaps plant a tree, make a small charity donation or volunteer for a cause she loved? Personally I would celebrate a loved one's memory by visiting a place she truly loved on a regular basis. You need to be extra good to yourself by pampering your body during this mourning period. Talking to others may or may not be beneficial, depending on your personality. Sending you a huge hug.
Experiencing something very similar right now. Good luck. It's very hard.
One thing that helped me...
I put something out that always reminds me of her -- Canada Mints Wintergreen (the pink ones). She always had them in her place.
Its silly, and it doesn't mean the same to my brother/cousins. But it means something to me. I look at the candy dish and I think of her. And I smile.
I love R-9's quote from Okun and Nowinski that "For many people, mourning does not end, but merely ebbs and flows.” At 59, I have lost parents, family and many friends to death, and I know that grief is different in each case and impossible to anticipate or categorize. For loved ones who have been gone for years, I still think of them often with a smile. At other times, I still feel intense sadness and loss. Sometimes, even years later, that sadness sneaks up on me at odd times. OP, your grief process sounds normal and natural. It will take time, it won't be easy, and it will never completely go away but with time those feelings of loss will become fewer and the moments of smiles and happy memories will become sweeter. Hugs to you, OP.
"How do I proceed? Just let it all happen? Let the feelings and the tears take their place?"
Yes and yes. But I think all grief is individual. There is no "normal" grief. I've written a bunch of things here I've deleted because they didn't seem right.
The only thing I guess I can say is that there is no time frame for grief. Massive hug, and let us know how you're doing.
When my dad died and I vented here, DL was unbelievably kind and supportive.
My brother passed away suddenly last year. I've lost a parent and two of my best friends to AIDS, but none of them hurt as badly as my brother dying. There's something about losing a sibling that just guts you. Cry when you need to cry, be good to her kids, be good to yourself and your parents.
OP, read "The Grief Recovery Handbook" by John James and Russell Friedman. It will answer your question and more (SPOILER ALERT: there is no "normal" way to grieve, and various combinations of feelings come and go...it's not a chronological process).
If you are willing, find a grief recovery seminar or group that developed from these writings. I linked below.
Though it may seem cheesy or even gimmicky, I can attest that these elements are practical and helpful. And to be clear, they are non-religious.
Thanks for the responses. Very helpful.
I'm back at work today and it feels very weird. I feel anxious and vulnerable. So strange.
Big hugs to you, Op. Thank you for posting this. You've received some good advice here. My dad died three months ago and I'm finding it really difficult to come to terms with it. I know this sounds crazy, but after he died, every time I saw a feather on the ground, I imagined that it was a sign from my dad telling me that he was ok and that I would be too. Silly I know, but it helped me to get through the first few days after his death. Take care of yourself, sweetie.
R1, late to the wake
First off, I'm sorry about your sister.
Don't worry about whether your grieving is "normal" or not. Everyone goes through it a little bit differently and there will be times during the first year or so when you "have a moment" as you remember your sister and the holiday or event at the time.
Every journey of grief I've experienced has been a little different. That I've had as many kind of worries me to some degree! A friends suicide caused me a long drawn out grieving process that must have lasted close to a year. When my 2nd parent died, I discovered that I hadn't really processed everything from the first parents death so it was like a double whammy.
You'll be fine, just be patient with yourself and ignore others who tell you to "move on". It does take time, and the intensity of the sadness will diminish over time - but it you will feel better - in time.
OP, I am so sorry for your loss. You don't mention your/your sister's age but probably young?20's, 30's, 40s? I am so sad for your parents and your sister's husband and (very young, I assume?)children.
I think all the feelings you mention are perfectly normal, including feeling tense at work. It probably feels and will for a while, like an "abnormal" environment - you're back at work, a familiar place - but everything (in your life) has changed. As other posters say, be kind to yourself; take it easy.
Maybe was just me, but I was angry, short-tempered, at work and in general, after my mother died (she died of cancer, it was expected, but I was surprised at my reaction). Everyone grieves differently.
You have your own grief but you can probably find yourself helped - maybe - by concentrating on your family members (as you hae with your parents) and their grief. I can't imagine what your nieces/nephews(?) are going through; I was enough of a basket case when my mother died when I was 34. Keeping your sister's memory "alive" will be helpful; I found myself talking rather constantly to friends and acquiantances about my mother, and of course sharing memories with family members.
The loss of a sibling is profound in its own way separate from loss of a child, a parent, a spouse. When my mother died (sorry to go on and on!), her sister my aunt (to whom I was VERY close, and thank God I had her for 15 years after my mother died) was weeping and wailing and I nicely (I wasn't annoyed! just a teensy bit surprised) asked her about it and she said, just imagine how I would feel if my brother died (I have one sibling my brother.)
And then it all made sense - it reminded me of animals and litter mates - I am NOT being facetious! Perhaps it seems a strange comparison, sorry (I tend to bring back thoughts to the animal kingdom sometimes: cats and dogs mourning "relatives", Bambi/her mother, etc. - sorry.)
Take one day at a time, and the poster who suggest perhaps availing yourself of therapy might have good suggestions: even where you work may have an EAP program.
Again, my thoughts and prayers.
Grief is different from any other emotion I've ever felt, partly because it comes in waves. I could be doing something completely ordinary when suddenly I would be hit by a wave of grief so strong I wasn't sure I could get through it.
I felt sadness at times in between those waves of grief, but nothing like those moments. They were so far beyond sadness they didn't belong in the same category of feelings. I let myself feel them because I had learned the only way to get through an emotion was to go ahead and feel it completely but I admit there were times when I wished I could obliterate them.
Gradually over a period of months and then years the waves of grief subsided, became less frequent and less devastating. One day I realized I had not felt overwhelmed for some time. I also realized that when I thought about the person I was mourning I was beginning to find joy and happiness in the memories. I knew I was healing.
One of the things I learned about myself in the grieving process is that I'm not a person who loves easily, but I'm also not a person for whom it is easy to give up on love when I've found it.
I tried a couple of grief support groups that were recommended by friends, but neither of them felt like a good fit. If I had it to do over, one of the things I would do for myself is try harder to find a group and to be less willing to dismiss those groups I found. I understand they're very helpful in the healing process.
I wasn't able to make use of any of the kind of literature on death and grief that was quoted above until I was pretty far along in the process. Most of what I tried to read was intellectual rather than dealing with emotional healing and it wasn't helpful until later.
I wish the very best for you, OP. You don't have to do this alone.
Grief is very personal. Don't do anything that might be self destructive and don't fight or argue with yourself about any feelings that might arise. Your feelings are what they are.Don't fight them, just go with them, it will eventually pass.
Grieving is a process that no two individuals go through the same way and over the same amount of time. It is a process that takes time and you will feel different emotions at different periods. A week is far to soon to be questioning whether your experiences are normal or not. Give yourself the time you need and accept that what you are feeling at any given moment is what you are feeling. And that's OK.
Losing a brother or sister is very hard. Give yourself leeway and time to feel sadness.
When my sister died 10 years ago I would find myself driving to work and suddenly crying on and off for weeks afterwards. As everyone has said grief is individual and everyone processes the death differently and normal for you will be different. My sister and I were 18 months apart in age, we were both single and we were one unit in the eyes of the rest of our small family. So her death left a huge hole in my life. But my life went on and the grief subsided and the pain abated. If a few months from now you are still feeling her loss as intensely as you do know, and you find it hard to talk to other family members or friends about it, you might consider grief counseling. But otherwise just know that it is a process and after the passage of time you should find your equilibrium.
My sister was 63. She was 16 years older than me and almost like a second mother. We were close and had a unique bond. She made me feel special and nurtured and loved and protected. I could always talk to her or turn to her for help. Plus, she was just a hell of a lot of fun to be around. There are (or were) seven siblings in my family. I'm the youngest and live the farthest away from my family.
She wasn't perfect, obviously. And I think (if her behaviour and the things she would say are anything to go by) there were some undiagnosed mental health issues that crept up as her illness progressed. She alienated a lot of her friends and fought with some of my other siblings. To give her credit, she made peace with everyone she had fallen out with once it became clear that she was going to die.
But she and I never fell out or had harsh words. We were always good.
I just got back from the gym and feel surprisingly better. Not much of a surprise I guess. Exercise is always good.
I've already decided that I'm going to be very vigilant about my drinking and eating in the next few months, so that I don't do too much of either. I'm trying to grieve in a healthy manner, if that makes sense.
"He or she that we love and lose is no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are."
Three of my siblings died while in their 40s OP. I found the quote above enormously comforting and true OP, so I thought you also might find them to be so.
For me the sharp grief has faded, however, I find that I miss them more each day. Not in an unhealthy way, but just as others here have described- in warm memories of laughter, bemusement and even annoyance.
That's why the above quote is true at least for me. While my siblings were alive, they were physically wherever they were, but not as much in my heart and mind. Now that they no longer physically exist, they are now in my heart and mind; with me wherever I go.
I don't believe in ghosts but I damn sure believe in memories. Perhaps they're the same things.
Grief is not necessarily a linear process, OP. Even if others make you feel like it ought to be.
What's weird to me now is the physical toll grief takes on your body. I'm tired all the time and feel kind of ... heavy ... if that makes sense. My head feels like it's filled with cotton. Anxiety, I guess. All I want to do when I get home from work is have a long nap and just sit in front of the TV or the computer. And it's harder than usual to get up in the morning.
Also, my appetite, while not gone, is diminished. This is a good thing since I wanted to lose ten pounds anyway. The Grief Diet. Don't try it if you don't have to.
Exercise still makes me feel good, though. I'm not overdoing it. I'm doing just light 30-minute cardio workouts. But I always feel much better afterwards.
I spoke to my 84 year old Mom yesterday on the phone. She's having a very tough time, obviously. Lots of weeping and thinking over the past. But she's always been very emotional.
My Dad tends to keep things to himself. He cried a little and is obviously deeply hurt, but tends not to let it show too much. He's 90 and he just sleeps in his chair as he listens to his radio programs or the weather network all day.
Bereavement Support groups help enormously.
Your intense grief is about facing your own mortality not hers.
Grief is the price of love.
Lots of compassionate advice on this thread.
My approach has been to allow myself to process things on my own timetable. It is true that everyone reacts differently, unless they are trying to fit themselves into bromides about grief, which makes things worse.
If you need to talk, seek out someone who can listen without shutting you down.
OP there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone is different.
Give yourself some time.
Grief= "wishing things were better, different, or more_____." When you do not have the chance to make them so.
I also recently went through some grieving, it's so hard. Like another poster, I imagined sings from the "beyond" every time something fell in my place.
So sorry for your loss, sending you support and hugs OP.
I lost my younger sister 13 years ago and I believe there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to grieve. I chose to talk to people about my sister, my younger brother couldn't do so. We both had to deal with her loss in our own ways and support each other, our parents and her husband. I liken it to being swept out to sea - sometimes it pulls you under, other times you can tread water. You will make it back to shore eventually though.
Don't listen to folks (however well-meaning) who expect you to get back to normal within a few weeks - in my experience you don't 'get over' the grief of losing a sibling, you get through it. It took me a couple of years and some bereavement counselling before I felt like my life was back on track. The way I felt about the initial period of loss was an adjustment from 'the absence of her presence' to the reality of 'the presence of her absence' in my life - I don't know if that makes sense? I think you're doing exactly the right thing in being aware of eating / drinking / exercising - you need to take care of yourself and it's easy to lose sight of that while you're feeling emotionally & physically depleted.
I honour my sister now by helping to raise money to combat the illness which killed her. I can still dissolve into tears on odd occasions - a song from our childhood on the radio while driving to work, thoughts of what her life might have been like (she was only 30, married but no children), but there are many happy memories which make me smile too.
I hope you can take some comfort from the support and understanding shown by other posters on this thread.
I lost a nephew to suicide two years ago and I found out some time afterward that a co-worker didn't think I should grieve because it was a suicide.
I had left that job by then, which is a good thing because I'd have ripped that cunt a new one.
Sometimes I'll cry over a loved one that I lost years ago. You move on but you always keep your memories of those you loved.
OP, it really is a process you should feel free to define for yourself. There's nothing wrong with tears; you release tension and energy. If it's too much, the body will fatigue and you'll have a rest. If it's not enough, the tension and energy will build up until the body breaks down releases enough tears. There is nothing wrong with you.
The upside of grief is that when you think about your sister and things she may have said to you, you will really listen to her. You might even finally understand what it was she was trying to tell you. But you'll have a lot of time to think about the conversations you had and the things you did together. And that's really nice.
You'll also have the opportunity to honour the love she felt for you. Her love will start to inform your life, her life will start to inform your life, and there will be things you maybe never even considered doing that you will now pursue and succeed at because you believe in her love. Because to honour your sister's love, you truly learn about loving yourself, to love yourself as much as she loved you. It is a great way to remember someone you really loved.
People respond to the loss of a loved one in different ways but try to keep it positive, just let it flow. Death is a natural part of life and so is your response to it. It's not something you "get over" or to be done with, it's something that will continue to inform your life and what you choose to do with it, how you spend your time and how you invest your time in others. Don't be afraid of it, embrace it. Embrace your loss and you'll be fine.
Very sorry to hear that your sister died. Long-term illness a real emotional rollercoaster. Being a carer as well. It's not at all uncommon to get through the funeral and then be left with intense feelings of grief - the funeral part is the bit we know how to do, it's pretty much scripted and people assume an awkward tone. Don't feel like it's something you have to get over or complete. It's all right to think about your sister and miss her, tom'w, 10, 15 years from now. It will come in waves, it will change, the tone of it will change, your focus will shift and come back to it. You'll be fine.
I love your outlook R44 - I don't think I've always succeeded and I do have regrets, but many of the positive things I've done in my life since I lost my sister have been inspired by her - both by wanting to make her as proud of me as I was of her and by doing things she never got the chance to do.
I just wish I'd been better prepared in some ways - we live in a society which treats death as some sort of taboo when it really should be accepted as part of life. I had to cut ties with a couple friends because they couldn't handle my grief and I couldn't handle their insensitivity.
I hope you are coping with the inevitable down times and drawing strength from your friends/family/memories.
Thank you, r44. I'm not OP but you have helped me as well.
This is all normal - we all grieve differently so let your grieving process take place
Deepest condolences, OP. I have suffered a lot of loss, both parents and a brother. I don't think there is any "right" way to grieve. Or normal way. Just relax and take care of yourself, nurture your own health, baby yourself. And be as present and loving for your family as possible.
And one more piece of advice: do not let the insensitive words of others get you down. People who have not experienced the loss of a sibling have no idea what it is like, and they may offer platitudes that are an attempt to make themselves feel better and not you. These can feel especially brutal when we are raw and tender from a death, but it helps to remember that unfortunately, one of the traits of human nature is that, by and large, we lack empathy for experiences we have not had.
Those of us who have suffered tend to open up to experiencing pain in a new way and that is part of the growth that loss and struggle bring. So just know that people who say stupid things are just clueless, and don't let it set you back in your own process. There are plenty of people out here who know what you are going through and are holding a space for you in your time of struggle.
No, you are grieving totally abnormally. You are very different and unique from other people. Everyone else would really be over it by now. I mean for God's sake, it's been 7 days already. Why so sad?
My sibling died last week and I feel sad. I've even gone so far as to have cried about it. Should I be worried? Am I supposed to feel this way? Shouldn't it be nice that she's dead, since she'd been ill for a while? What I mean is, my sister died but .....What about me?
Ugh, didn't take a brain scientist to figure that the last two comments were written by the same sociopath. Funny how when someone is vulnerable, the fangs come out in some people. Probably should look at that instead of putting other people down, don't you think?
OP, perhaps you did the majority of your grieving while she was alive and you knew death was approaching. Perhaps this helps you to be there for your parents, which is a good thing. It doesn't sound like you don't care, and there isn't any such thing as grieving normally- it hits different people and different situations in different ways. Hope you and your family are doing OK and sorry to hear about your sister.
Thanks, R44. You helped me, as well.
"Funny how when someone is vulnerable, the fangs come out in some people. Probably should look at that instead of putting other people down, don't you think?"
I'm sure you feel the same way about politics on DL.
The intensity of my grief has subsided and I'm back to a calm kind of sadness. I still think about my sister a lot and can't quite believe she's gone.
I'm trying to get back into my daily routine and that helps. But in my off time I'm not sure what to do with myself. I want to go out and do things but I also want to stay home and hide. I didn't do much this weekend apart from a few errands. The majority of the weekend I spent at home with my partner. Napping, reading, watching TV, drinking wine.
Thank god for my partner, BTW. He lost both his parents a few years ago so he knows what grief is all about. He's been loving, gentle, kind, and patient.
I treated myself to a massage on Friday after work and that was nice.
Christmas party season is approaching and I'm dreading it. I'll attend the work Xmas lunches, but I think I'll skip the evening parties.
Glad you have a loving partner while you are going through this. I hope the time when you think of your sister with happy memories and no sadness comes soon. x
Perhaps she'll appear in your dreams OP. My grandmother is often in my dreams. And it's not about anything big. It's like we're just spending time together. There have been dreams where she held me and it was so real and reassuring.