Fifteen. That’s how many years have passed since my sister was stolen from us. Fifteen years. Some that have creeped by with ache and anger. Others, like this last year, that galloped by full of goodness. Not related to her being gone of course, just a by-product of living. Even in fifteen years I still spend chunks of time wondering what it would’ve been like with her here. Curiously imagining how she would’ve changed and grown. We were 18 and 19 when she died. I had just spent my first year away at college and she was close behind. We were about to take a leap into our twenties – that decade of figuring out what you think and feel and believe and like and don’t on your own. And she was gone. Taken. I was altered. Sometimes I wonder who both of us would have been if she was still here.
My family started a tradition on this day, somewhat unplanned but consistent. Every year we – my dad, mom, sister, and I – get together and have lunch. We have lunch as a core unit. We laugh and share stories and memories. Sometimes we tear up and sometimes we sit silently. We never wanted to celebrate her dying but instead this lunch is like our protest. It’s our protest against death: you cannot remove her from us as much as you cannot remove the love that connects us all. It’s comforting. My parents are remarried to new partners, my youngest sister is a grown up now (oh my!), and I’m carrying along my own treasure. My little chunky toddler made lunch extra interesting today. Between devouring food and pretending to drive my dad's car (while honking the horn with his belly), he certainly spread sunshine around.
When I started this blog it was to share about living with grief. Living and longing still. We were approaching the ten-year mark of Rachael’s death. That number hit me hard. It was a third of my life, a decade - a ringing, dangling, round number. I imagined writing here about the experiences of growing through and around grief. Then, of course those who read here know, we lost our twins. And as my world crumbled again with less violence but similar force, I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I did the same thing after we lost Rachael. I process through words on the page. And in doing so I’ve had others reach out to say they needed to read them, which feels like a small redemption.
I bring that up because I have been blocked. This is the first post I’ve written in 7 months. Not because there haven’t been things to say or new understandings or even beautiful stories to share. But every time I’ve gone to put word to page I’ve stumbled. It hit me today why.
Today, as I tried to find the words to post a picture on Facebook in honor of my sister I couldn’t gather them. I couldn’t find a picture that was new, because there aren't any. I couldn’t express how sometimes I feel like I can cheat death and still experience her in my life ... and sometimes I feel like I can’t remember what she sounded like at all. I couldn’t let the tears fall all the way down my face today. They stopped at my lashes and crawled back into my eye sockets. I’m afraid to grieve right now.
As open and raw as I usually am about sharing my life story, as much as I try to give room and permission for feelings to exist, as much as I try to live the very things I advise therapy clients to do – I’ve been blocked by a fear that grieving will somehow threaten this current happiness. Because what if I get too sad and seem ungrateful for my son. What if something terrible happens. What if I don’t get another blessing. And I really hope we get another blessing.
This is my new grief insight to share. It changes again. Grief hasn’t gone away; it shape-shifted on me. It looks a little bit like guilt and a lot like fear right now. The brain-based side of me understands that I do not need to feel guilty for longing for my twins back or for longing for my sister Rachael to be here. I recognize that feeling those things does not make me any less in love for the ones I have here. Saying it out loud (or at least on this page) is an effort to tell my heart it’s okay to let out its breath now. I posted a beautiful video a on the L&L Facebook page from a woman that said it perfectly:
"But you're allowed to miss what you had and still love what you have... One does not negate the other. One does not replace the other."
Heart, can you hear that? It’s okay to want both, to miss one and embrace the other, it’s okay to love all of it. It's okay to wish for the past and not want the present to change. Guilt and fear aren't needed here. You can laugh and grieve and love and long all at once.
I hope to start writing more again. I have stories I’d like to share beyond grieving. Things about parenting and marriage and everyday lived experiences. Things I’d love to curl up on the couch and talk to Rachael about in the way that we used to sneak into each other’s rooms after bedtime and talk til morning. Perhaps I could share those here too? Perhaps this blog can shape-shift too.
My beautiful sister Rachael. I remember snapping this photo on a disposable camera in the middle of a giggle fest. We were up really late, we were really hyper, and we were laughing a lot. I don't remember what about but sometimes when I look at this I can feel that same laughter fill my bones. Some things time can never erase.
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
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