In early August of 2015, my sister took her life.
After receiving the news of her death, I made a promise to myself to grieve openly and genuinely. No hiding. No judgement. No timeline. It was time to stop pretending and living according to other people's expectations. I would no longer display a false self or smile to help others tolerate the pain that I radiated. I wouldn't. I couldn't. I was heartbroken and my life would never be the same. I had just lost my sister, surrogate mother, mentor, and protector. My soul mate and advocate. I was terrified, and felt utterly and completely... alone.
It's been almost a year and a half since her death, and the loss still leaves me feeling haunted, stunned and breathless, as if it just happened yesterday. Sometimes I awaken in a panic only to realize that it wasn't a dream, and that the hopes I had for rekindling the closeness we once shared have already been shattered.
Elizabeth was fifty six; eight years older than myself. She was always the wise, responsible one...the strong one...the one who, in the midst of a traumatic and chaotic upbringing, managed to maintain focus and drive headfirst into every one of her goals, including a master's degree, athletic notoriety, a full and active social life and, eventually, a beautiful family. She had it all. She was humble and kind and I deeply admired her. She was the family go-to. In the midst of any crisis, she was there with an easy answer, making the rest of us look like life amateurs...which, indeed, we were.
Our bond was the earliest and most important of my lifetime. It was the impetus for all I've been able to accomplish, and from it, came the strength and wisdom that would help me to survive the mess we came from. Her six year struggle with mental "illness" (I prefer the term anguish) created the sense of urgency I needed to put together the broken pieces that resided in (both of) our bodies. It revealed itself at random times and would eventually manifest into debilitating anxiety and depression. Classic PTSD.
When the puzzle started coming together, I didn't want to accept it.The suicide removed all remaining doubt, and I knew my days would be numbered if I didn't find a way to make some sort of peace with it. Every one of my siblings (including myself) has made at least one attempt at suicide. For the first time in years I felt deeply concerned for my own well being. I had never truly given myself permission to come first in my own life. That was about to change.
I decided that my grief journey was sacred, and that nothing and no one would stop me from my right to process this devastating loss in a deeply authentic way. I had already lost my oldest sister Sue tragically, nineteen years earlier, at the age of thirty nine. Not Elizabeth too. It was more than I could handle. This was my time and my sacred journey.
Little did I know everything was about to change.
R Jade McAuliffe-
Author, coach, mom and poet; believer in things unseen.
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break."