Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Grief

So my sister died last week.  She was 26.  She had been battling her demons for along time, and they finally won out.  I'm glad she's not struggling anymore and is at peace.
  Death, though, is a lot more complex now that I'm trying to deconvert from Mormonism.  Before, when someone died, it was easy to say, "Oh, you'll see them again in the Celestial Kingdom" (Mormon Super-Heaven, basically).  But hearing that so many times from a formerMO standpoint, I really understand how empty those words are.
   It's along the lines of "If you live well, God will rewards you".  Maybe it's because I"m a person who enjoys instant gratification, but I feel if I'm going to sacrifice and "be good", then I deserve a reward here and now.  Along the same lines, I have seen how little it means to think that Stef will be waiting on the other side.  Because it doesn't change that she's dead; it doesn't change how she died.  It just feels like an empty promise.
   I've watched how her passing has affected Mom, and I don't think she feels comforted by that thought, either.  Of course, part of it may be because of how my sister lived her life.  She had severe eating disorders, was into pot (and possibly other drugs), and was a severe alcoholic.  She slept around, was unfaithful to her husband (possibly both husbands, we don't know), and didn't believe in God.  So when my mom and step-dad were talking about seeing her in heaven, mom was worried.
   She kept saying things like "Well, Jesus forgave the prostitute."  It tore me apart. Not only did she have to grieve because her baby was gone, but now she's coupled with the uncertainty of whether or not she will see her daughter again.  And I think that's a terrible thing to go through. Not just during Stef's life, but her death as well.
   As for me, I'm unsure what I believe.  But when I stood over her body  at the funeral home, I told her that I hoped in her next life, she had less pain. I would hate to think that this is the only life we get.  Even an eternal life in perfect heaven with perfect people is less preferable to life here and now.  I wasn't super close with my sister, but it makes me sad to think the only "real" life she'll ever know revolves around addiction and self-hatred.  It makes me hope reincarnation is real, and she can learn from her mistakes and try again.  To think that this life is it, then we're judged and spend eternity living the consequences of that is really upsetting.
   I think my sister knew the end was coming.  We have always had an adversarial relationship, but in the last few months had talked things out.  We said what needed to be said, and apologised for what we needed to.  We were almost to the point where we could be friends.  And this sounds terrible, but I'm not sorry she's gone.  Because she had told me that she knew her habits would kill her, and that she was in a lot of pain. She was tired of trying for recovery, tired of letting mom down, and tired of feeling out of control.  I think this was the only way for her to find peace.  It tears me up, because she hated our dad so much, but died just like his side of the family: alone and drunk.
   I wish I had been better to her.  She told me once that it was for the best that I couldn't have kids because I was a terrible mother to her.  We were 13 months apart-how the heck was I supposed to be a good mother?  But it's true-I feel like I raised her. Mom was either at school, or at work, and there was no one else.  Did I screw up?  Of course.  And I keep telling myself that kids can't raise kids.  Especially kids that were damaged themselves.  But I look at the course our lives took, and I feel selfish. Selfish because I have a great marriage, and a relatively stable life, and she didn't.  I feel like I went wrong somewhere.
    Some of her recovery journals talk about how I would call her "fat, stupid, and ugly", and how much that affected her.  On one hand, I feel like I caused her eating disorder.  On the other, I'm angry because she called me names right back (what sibling set doesn't torture the other? especially in a broken, dysfunctional home), and yet I'm the bad guy.
     I'm irritated at mom, because all she remembers is the "bright, caring girl who had a lot of love to give (yes she had some issues, but she was getting better)".  The Stef that I knew was lying, manipulative, sociopathic, and jaded.  Yes, she was capable of good things; she helped others, was supportive at time, and was good to her friends.  But that's not the sister I knew very well.  My sister and I were always in competition for what-we felt-was a very finite amount of Mom's love.
   So do I have survivor's guilt?  I don't think I do, really.  I feel guilty that I wasn't better to her, and then I feel worse for trying to rationalize circumstances.  Overall, I don't know how to feel.  Except maybe relief.  Relief that the roller coaster is over, she is safe now (wherever she is), and that she is free from her chains.


  1. Very, very sorry for your loss. If it helps I've worked as a hospice and haven't known anyone who doesn't experience conflicted feelings, even with considerably less baggage to work through. There is no wrong way to grieve. Hugs.

  2. Oops, I meant to say a hospice nurse.

  3. Oh dear-lady, I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I hope your mom can find the comfort she seeks and that you find/accept your own peace, no matter how different it looks from your mother's memories.

  4. Reincarnation doesn't sound all the bad to me either. So sorry for your loss....that is so sad. One of my best friends who grew up in a bad home situation killed himself. And I remember thinking the same: we miss him, but he's out of all this pain and misery.

  5. I stumbled upon this post by accident, and so much of what you said rang true for me so I wanted to respond; your situation sounds very similar to me and my sister, who died in 2009 when she was 25. It took me a solid year to work through everything, and I still re-work through it from time to time. Take the time to grieve, feel everything - pain, relief, anger, sadness, unfinished business - there is no wrong feeling, as Angela said. She was someone you've known your whole life, for better or for worse, and for whatever reason that though helped me find acceptance in all I was feeling, including the loss of having someone I could discuss my childhood with. And seriously, I wanted to kick my dad for only remembering the good stuff - he was even attributing some of my good deeds to her! WTH?

    1. Did your dad eventually get past the wanting to canonise your sister? Because it's really, really hurtful to me to hear my mom say every good thing that my sister did, as if it erases all the bad. :(
      I'm sorry for your loss, as well. Any other advice for working through it?