I’m often asked, “How are you feeling?” or “How are your Mom and Dad doing?”.
I’ve been told, “I don’t know how you do it…” or “You are just so strong.”
Eleven years later and I still don’t know how to answer those questions or respond to those statements in real time.
I appreciate them, don’t get me wrong! I love that people take the time to reach out. It brings my heart great joy to know my parents, brother and myself are on people’s minds. I love that Jordan is remembered and she is loved by so many!
I just don’t have any words in the moment when people ask me.
And, if you know me, I typically can talk your ear off! Or, write a novel-like post just by simply listening to a song on the radio and it “reminded me of that one time…” and there I go on a rant!
But this… grief, loss, death… it’s something that makes me feel so much yet it’s impossible to put into words.
I’m going to try really hard to put what’s in my heart onto paper. (Errr… screen? So many old sayings just don’t translate well with technology!)
However, I’ve tried to write on this topic so many times in the past… and I end up erasing. I’ve even tried to read up on this subject, but there is hardly any literature on sibling loss. My mom has found great solace in reading; there are lots of books devoted to the loss of a child. The literature I’ve found on sibling loss is more psychological in nature and not so “comforting” or therapeutic.
Which, I get. I can’t get my thoughts out, so why would I expect the same from others. And, not because the feelings aren’t there. But how do you explain the sensation of both numbness and overwhelming emotion? How do you hear a song on the radio that makes you burst into tears one day, yet a month later you blare it loudly with the windows down, while singing your heart out, and smiling because it reminds you of her?!
How is it possible to feel so little, yet everything, all at once?
I know grief is different for everyone. How can it not be? We are all individuals, each one of us unique, from our biology to our upbringing. My brother, sister and myself were all raised in the same household, by the same parents, surrounded by the same village—yet we all turned out to be so different. (In some ways… we are alike in some ways, too. Read: we are all extremely stubborn!)
Even within our family, grief is different. Yes, we all lost Jordan, but to each of us, our relationships with her were unique. I can’t imagine losing Jase. Becoming a mother has opened my heart up to an entirely different level of love, concern, and yes, anxiety. There are times my mind races to terrible places (what if this happens?… what if that happens?…) The sheer thought of something happening to Jase is enough for my stomach to churn and my chest to tighten. Sometimes, the thoughts don’t escape my mind as easily as they enter and I’m left imagining these terrible scenarios for hours on end. I can’t imagine that this is the reality my Mom and Dad live with daily. I sometimes wonder if Jordan’s accident has caused my “mom anxiety” to be elevated.
Even though Travis is my younger brother, he has always been extremely protective over me. I can only assume he felt the same for Jordan since we were the “girls” and he was our brother. Travis also was present on the scene of her accident. I imagine the images he has of that night left a mark that is not erased.
Jordan and I were five years apart, which, growing up was a pretty big age gap. When Jordan was younger I “babysat” her a lot. I remember giving her baths and helping take care of her. As she aged, we were always at different stages in life. When she was 5 and I was 10, she was into “playing” and I was a little too mature for playtime. When she was 10 and I was 15, she was into Mary Kate and Ashley movies, and I was beginning to hang out with friends and go out. When Jordan started high school and I was in college, we started to finally be on the same page… we liked the same type of music, could finally share clothes, and even dated guys who were in the same grade! (Weird… I know… but hey, it worked out, because I ended up marrying him!)
We all lost the same person, but that person was unique and special to us in so many different ways. There are places in my heart that only Jordan can unlock; there are memories and secrets that only she knows… Losing her isn’t just sadness due to her death… it isn’t just missing her because she’s no longer here. Grief is an ongoing battle because that relationship is forever changed. (Not gone, because I continue to keep her spirit and memory alive, but, yes, forever changed.)
I will never have another sister. I will never be able to fill those places in my heart. Does Jase bring me joy? Absolutely. Do I have fun and enjoy memorable moments with my family? Yes. Am I happy? I am.
But…. Happiness is not the opposite of Grief. I’m allowed both. I am both. At times, simultaneously, which is the most difficult thing to explain.
Grief is confusing. It’s exhausting. It can be filled with fury. It can also be consumed with compassion. At times it makes me irritable, and at times it softens my heart.
It also causes me to build up walls, to retreat, to numb myself…
Only to realize that being alone isn’t any more comforting, so I rebound to the opposite extreme for love and comfort. And, while sometimes, that is nice… it still doesn’t bring her back. The love of friends, or of my spouse, isn’t going to fill the voids that only she can.
Grief is also something that doesn’t abide by a calendar; I don’t just miss Jordan on her birthday, on holidays, on the day of her accident.
I miss her when I have to sign a Mother’s Day card.
I miss her when I make new friends, and the first “get-to-know-you” questions are about your family.
New friend: “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
Me: “Yes, a brother and a sister.” (because I do have a sister, still.)
New friend: “How old are they?” OR “What do they do?” (Now that we’re older.)
Do you know how awkward the conversation becomes…
I miss her when I see a cute little girl who has chopped off her hair.
I miss her when I’m eating. She loved food. So do I.
I think about the future, how Jase will never get to meet her this side of Heaven.
I think about the Aunt I’ll never get to be for her children she’ll never have…
And it’s not always these intense poignant moments. Sometimes it’s everyday, run-of-the-mill things. Sometimes it’s missing her when everything is normal and the way it should be. Except, it’s not because she’s not here.
But, Grief isn’t just sadness and missing someone.
It’s a weird nostalgia that teeters between fondness and longing. I think of her when I watch Harry Potter (which we do a lot of in this house!), I cried while watching Beauty and the Beast in theaters this past year. It was her favorite movie as a child, and while I wanted to see it, I wasn’t prepared to bawl my eyes out in the theater during every single song.
Grief is guilt-ridden. Sometimes memories truly make me happy; and then you feel guilty for that happiness. Sometimes you find yourself genuinely smiling, and you begin to wonder if you’re a terrible person because you aren’t sad.
Grief is also exhausting. I’ve said I’ve tried to sit down and write out these emotions and feelings for years now, only to abandon the task each and every time. Even today, I started to write, and then decided I was too tired, ate three cookies, and tried to sleep. And, while at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if I can’t write down these emotions… the truth is that I still wrestle with all of these feelings… constantly within my life. Sometimes I say I’m tired when really… I should say I’ve been crying all night, or, I just had a panic attack, or, I’m worried about my family member…
Grief is waking up from a dream and realizing it was only a dream; and that brief moment of having them back wasn’t real.
Grief is lonely. I know that we all feel grief, but we all feel alone in it since the relationships we lost are all so unique.
Greif also takes the form of worry; when someone doesn’t answer the phone. I panic. When I hear a siren, I panic. When I think of Jase growing up, and getting his license, I panic.
But… I don’t just sit around and let my mind wander with all of these troublesome thoughts. I truly smile when I hear stories about Jordan. I genuinely feel love when others bring her up or talk about her dimples. I feel such connectedness when I smile down at Jase and see Jordan in his face.
Jordan was loved and lived a wonderful life while here; she loved with all of her heart. And, she is still loved by so many and I know is well and loving her eternal life in Heaven.
I can’t sit here and write out all of my grief, sorrow and my complex trunk of emotions without also acknowledging the love and faith that enables me to muster that smile, or breathe that sigh of relief.
Yes, I miss her everyday. But, I know I will see her again.
Yes, I feel such agony at times that it brings me physical pain. But, this can’t compare to the sorrow God felt when He nailed His own son to the cross. He sent His son to the cross to die; and while I’m grateful for that, I can’t fathom. I look at my son and I simply can’t imagine.
Yes, the sorrow can be unbearable. But, it’s opened my heart to immense compassion for others.
Yes, I believed in God and the cross before. But, through this event I believe my faith was strengthened, and, I witnessed others being steered to the cross, as well.
It is easy to pick out the bad in death; it’s harder to pick out the good. It’s even harder to type the word “good” while describing my sister’s death. But, it is there. Wrapped in salvation, love, and sweet memories.
I’ve watched other family members pass. Some were blessed with a long and fulfilling life. Some passed after a terrible battle with a disease. I’ve watched friends endure loss. I’ve stood alongside death in many roles—as an outside observer, as the friend of a loved one, as a cherished friend, as a member of the family.
It feels differently each and every time.
And, perhaps, it should.
Each person brings something special into this world, and, even as they part from it, each person continues to have the right to be loved, cherished and remembered: as uniquely themselves, which, in turn, puts a different spin on the grief, too.
We all grieve differently. Just like we all love differently. We all connect differently. We all cherish the many different relationships we share.
I’ll never be able to replace the holes in my heart that are left by her absence. No one can fill that void.
And, just the same, no one will ever be able to experience the tremendous love that only she and I share.
There’s only one Jordie Sue in my life.
I try and hold onto that relationship—both the hard parts and the joyous ones.
One of the last books I recommend to Jordan was Tuesdays with Morrie. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it now contains one of my favorite quotes.
“Death ends a life, not a relationship. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on- in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” ― Morrie Schwartz
Even though she’s gone and I feel her absence daily… I can also still feel her presence. At times, the pain is strong, but the love we shared, and the hope of eternity, sure does feel sweeter.
I have sorrow in my heart, and while sometimes I feel alone in that hurt, I find solace in the fact that it was created by a relationship that is so special, so private, and so unique to only Jordan and myself. No one else on earth can miss her the way I do, because no one here on earth LOVED her the way I did and the way I continue to do.