Since in my last post, I appear to have appointed myself Queen Of Everything What Knows Everything, I thought: why not carry on dishing out unsolicited advice? In fact, why not continue doing it for ever? Or at least for a few blog posts? But this time it’s much more important than offering pointers on the Seriously So Hard life of a TV monkey (after all, who cares about us really, right?).
Sometimes I get hits on my blog from people who have googled “sibling loss”, “sibling grief”, or, heartbreakingly “my sister just died”. I think some of these readers have stuck around, and I’m so glad about that.
I have been there too. When my lovely H died suddenly, I found myself plunging into the web like never before, looking for something to soothe my ravaged soul, some building blocks of sense and order with which to start scrabbling together the huge bombsite that my life had become.
Four years later, I still sit googling her name at work sometimes. Or trawling through deeply depressing grief websites. Or typing “crying” into Last FM.
As I wandered the web in those early days, I was looking for someone who understood, who had been there, who could tell me that I would not always feel the way I did then. I could not believe I would ever feel OK. I remember saying to my dad, quite matter of factly “I’m 23 and my life is over”. I wondered how I would fill the years that stretched ahead, before I died too.
What I found were a lot of other people who were also spinning around desperately, looking for the same thing as me. And I found advice for looking after bereaved children whose siblings have died. Which was sometimes useful, but, you know, I don’t think my mum would have been quite happy to instigate the advice “let your child sleep in your bed if she wakes with nightmares about her sibling”. And there was advice for old people whose spouses had died.
Their was nothing for people like me: young enough to have decades to map out without my darling sister, to have a career to build and my own family to make, to want to go for cocktails as well as cry; old enough to not be able to climb into bed with mummy when the going gets too rough to cope with.
The fact is, most people don’t die young and in tragic fashion. Though the papers seem full of such stories (and how I scoured the newspapers after her death, comparing the losses to my own, relieved to find that people went through worse), it’s really quite unusual to see your own sister’s face on the front of the paper, aged sixteen and beautiful and gone. So it’s really hard to find any voices to relate to.
So I’m going to try to write a few posts that might act as a sort of Bereaved Sibling’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not a great galaxy to be in, let’s be frank, so I hope that by being the voice I spent so long looking for, I might help maybe one person, maybe two. Who knows. It’s why I add tags like “sibling loss” to my posts about H, and it’s why I want to attempt this little project.
I’m not the world’s leading expert on the matter, and not everything I say will apply to everybody. But I lost my little sister, and I miss her so much. I’ve been going through the grief process for four years, and I’m fairly confident in saying that I have established a New Normal, whatever that is. I’ll never get over it, I’ll always be sad. But I know now that I can be happy too, alongside the sadness. So I think I’m as qualified as anyone to share my own experiences.
So, if you have just lost a sibling (or, actually, anyone you love deeply) and you’re feeling as much of a big mess as I did four years ago, let me begin with the one thing you desperately need to hear, which I believe is true despite the fact that no, you will never “get over it”:
It does get better. I promise you it gets better.
You will not always feel the way you do now.
I’d like my future posts to be a little longer than three sentences! So please if you are reading, and you’re newly bereaved, and you’re thinking “oh god how do I deal with Christmas parties in this state?” or “gosh is it normal to listen to Without You quite so many times on repeat?” or “why can’t I stop eating cake, the least I could hoped for was that the grief would make me skinny!” or just “how do I keep breathing?”- whatever- e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here to let me know what you would like me to write about.