When Alyssa was getting sicker, I found myself deeply researching grief – I wanted to "prepare" for it, whatever the hell that means. I immersed myself in memoirs written by dying people to see their thoughts at the end; I read research on how the death of a loved one alters your brain; I wanted to understand what was happening when somebody that had been there my entire life suddenly left. In that research, it wasn't uncommon to read that the second year is harder. I reflexively dismissed that notion as bullshit. I figured there was no way I could struggle more than I already had.
And here we are, a year and change later. My brain is foggier than it has ever been. I find myself searching for anything to make myself forget time is passing me by, immersing myself in as many roles as possible to make a difference.
I thought that baring my soul and my grief so publicly would prevent any of the fog and struggles that come with the depths of grief. I've found that by being so honest about my grief in my writings, I'm hardly honest in person. I hate ever allowing myself to be sad, down, or not engaged so as not to make anybody else feel “bad” for me. My parents find out how I’m feeling by reading the pieces I write, not by me confiding in them how much I miss my sister because I know how horrible they would feel to know that it still eats at me every single day.
As much as I write and advocate for vulnerability, those closest to me hardly ever see me let my guard down, so as not to appear “weak” – the very same word I so desperately despise. I want to appear happy and vibrant all the time so people know that I am a vibrant person that loves life and the world around me. I burden myself to be “strong” all the time, only letting my guard down when I’m alone and usually late at night.
I want to talk about my sister to people, I want to share stories about her, and I want to keep her soul alive. I can hardly remember her voice and or her laugh. I’ve woken up in a world without my sister for over four hundred days, and there are still days it takes the tattoo on my arm to remember that she’s gone. I no longer get the urge to text her or call her, but I still tag her in almost everything I ever post on Facebook. I still wonder if she would approve of the outfits I wear. I wonder – then get angry and heartbroken – about the life she could have had, had she had a bit more consistent health.
One of my most important values is being honest in my writings. Even right now as I write this piece, I am searching for the right words to have that uplifting conclusion, though in many ways I’m struggling to find hope. I’m terrified of letting people down. I’m horrified that by allowing myself some space to step back and realize how traumatized I am, that I am somehow letting somebody else down, either at work or in life.
I am an advocate for emotional vulnerability. I want my writings about myself, my sister, and grief in general to be honest and representative of at least my mind throughout all of this. My brain is foggy. This piece feels weak, and so do I. But I’m tired of letting myself feel weak, when I know that I need to be fair to myself.