(Almost) 6 Years Later

Oh August, how I hate thee.

Yes, there are lots of family and friends birthdays to celebrate, but deep down I despise August.

I can’t believe that is has been almost 6 years since Jen’s passing. It seems almost incomprehensible. However, the dates don’t lie, and August 17th will be here in a few short days.

I’ve been struggling with what I want to do to honor Jen on her 6 year Angelversary. Do I want to keep it low key? Do I want to have a nice dinner and have her favorite meal? I still have time to figure it out, and I’m not gonna let it stress me out.

Jennifer

And since it has been 6 years, I thought it would be interesting to see how far I’ve come in my grieving process (because you never stop grieving).

Below is the same questions from a grief survey I took almost 4 years ago. You can see my progress by comparing to how I was feeling back then.

Answers in purple are updated answers.

1.) Are you:
[   ] Single
[X] Married
[   ] Divorced
[   ] Remarried

Well that was nice to check off ❤

2.) Are you:
[   ] 0-19
[X] 20-30
[   ] 31-40
[   ] 41-60
[   ] 61-100

3.) Are you:
[X] Female
[   ] Male

4.) Are you:
[X] Heterosexual
[   ]  Bisexual
[   ] Homosexual
[   ] Other

5.) What is your ethnicity: Caucasian

6.) Describe any experiences of deep loss or grief that you have experienced during your life.
I’ve lost my paternal grandfather Poppop, paternal grandmother Nanny, and my little sister Jennifer

7.) Has someone close to you ever died?
[X] Yes
[  ] No

8.) Was s(he)/were they a:
[   ] Parent
[   ] Child
[X] Best Friend
[   ] Lover
[   ] Caretaker
[X] Other: Sister

9.) Have you ever experienced deep grieving?
[X] Yes
[   ] No

If yes, please describe in any words that you would like – brief, or detailed, or poetic, or emotional, etc…what grief has felt like for you? Did you feel anger, or remorse, or sorrow, or rage, or guilt, or acceptance, or numbness, or all of the above and more?
Grief feels like a constant tightness in the chest, numbness, and you feel disconnected from the world around you. It seems like you are in a tunnel, and everything around you is speeding by, and you don’t have the energy to desire to pay attention. You feel so many things all at the same time (anger, sorrow, guilt, abandonment), that you are physically and mentally exhausted

10.) How long has it been since you experienced this loss?
6 Years

11.) Do you feel that you have gained any acceptance within yourself about your loss, or do you continue to greatly suffer over it?
I think that I can say that I have accepted Jen’s passing. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her, but I have come to accept her death, and more importantly, honor her memory.

12. How did this loss/grief change your perspective on life, or change your life in general?
I’m still very cautious, and worry a lot about people I care about. I will call you if you don’t let me know that you got to where you were driving to safely. I am also trying to not let things bother me so much (easier said than done), and I’m trying to genuinely be a nicer/better person. I am working on trying to be more engaged with people, and truly listen when they talk (not be on my phone). As my husband says, “You will never have that day with that person again,” so I want to make the most of it. I am also trying to take better care of myself, and go to the doctors for physicals and checkups.

13.) What did you feel that you needed, during your time of struggle, from other people?
I wish people were mind readers, and knew that I was upset about Jen. Sometimes, is is hard to tell people that you are sad because you miss someone who is no longer here. I also needed a lot of alone time, but needed distractions at the same time. I didn’t always want to go out and do things, but when the mood struck, I really needed to go out and have some fun. I think my friends and family did an amazing job at that.

14.) Were the people in your life there for you? Did they comfort & console you, or did they bother you by trying to remove your suffering through any means (ie, telling you that everything would be okay, or telling you to “get over it” or “deal with it,” or offering advice that bothered you, or asking you to hide your feelings or not cry in public, etc). Please describe these experiences, both positive & negative, here:
6 years later, and my support team has changed a bit. I still have my family and closest friends, but I also have new people in my life that I feel understand my grief better than others, usually because they too have lost a sister. At this time, I don’t find anyone who tells me to “get over it” but that may be because I’ve removed those sort of people from my life.

15.) When you faced loss, how did your body feel? Your emotions? Your thoughts? Your life overall? Did you obsessively think about certain things?
My body was a mess. I gained a lot of weight because I ate my feelings. I lived by the mentality, “I’m sad. I deserve this cake/brownie/ice cream.” My skin was terrible, and Aunt Flo just would not go away. (I later learned from my doctor that too much stress can cause that). To this day, there are times it literally feels like I have on a very heavy backpack that is pulling down on my shoulders. My emotions were all over the map, and I would be very cranky, and snap at people. I obsessed over so many things, it is hard to count.

16.) Have you had any positive growth or realizations in response to this experience?
I feel like I am a stronger person emotionally. I don’t hide or bottle up feelings, and express myself the way that works for me. 

17.) Did anyone say anything to you or do anything for you during your time of grief that really helped you? What did they say or do?
I have so many people who did so many amazing things to support me during the first few years. People made homemade gifts, donated their hair in Jen’s memory, and I’m also so blessed for all the “Thinking of you” messages on the 17th. One the best pieces of advice that was ever given to me was, “Never apologize for your tears.”

18.) Did you experience guilt or “If only I had…” bargaining types of feelings?
Of course. “What if I was a better sister?” “What if I told her more I hated that motorcycle?” “Why Jennifer? Why not me?” But you can’t dwell on these questions or you will make yourself crazy.

19.) How did this affect your spirituality and/or existential views? Did you feel comforted by your views (ie, they are with God now) or disturbed (how could God take my love away from me?) or both or something different? Did your views change as a result of this experience?
My husband is Jewish, and I am Catholic. As a result, we both follow each other’s religions (to an extent). I’ve learned a lot about how death is perceived in Judaism, and how it compares to Catholicism. I always find Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) services difficult, and ask a lot of questions about the traditions and meaning behind the holiday. Sometimes, I get mad because Jen was not sealed in the book of life.

20.) Did certain people remain by your side, and/or did others abandon you or disappear whom you expected would be there? Did people around you seem awkward with your pain, or try to get rid of your pain, or did they openly listen to you or hold you or simply be present with you lovingly?
Four years after I originally look this survey, and I would say that there have been more people that that have disappeared, but I’m not too upset by it. Like I said, I am a stronger person and would rather have a handful of close friends, then a lot of acquaintances. 

21.) 19. What book(s) or movie(s) or website(s) would you recommend, if any, as something that really helped you to cope with or understand grief/loss in your life?
Besides this amazing blog, I still have not found any books, movies, or websites that helped me. There is not a lot of options for sibling bereavement. 

22.) If you could offer words of inspiration, or consolation, or wisdom to someone who has just lost someone whom they love dearly, what ideas, or words, or stories, or poems, or anything at all, would you share with them?
I wouldn’t offer any advice. That is not what someone who is grieving wants to hear. Nor would I tell them “what worked for me” because they really don’t want to hear that. I would simply tell them how sorry I am, ask about their loved one, and listen attentively. I may also bring over a baked good (everyone loves cookies).

It is interesting to see how much has stayed the same, and how some of the bigger ideas on grief have changed.

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