Here we are.
A full 18 years out from the time my sister Jessica died. A lot has happened since my complete and total breakdown 2 years ago in my home office. A LOT.
For instance, I started therapy, and finally got a diagnosis. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it helped me get a grasp on how I wanted to move forward. Being able to decompress with someone who was neutral was great, but it also made me feel slightly alone. Two things have happened since I’ve opened up about being EXTREMELY saddened by the death of not only my sister and now my brother, but my Granny Blackburn, my uncle, and both of my grandfathers.
People stopped listening. I became comfortable with grief being my long-term partner.
Sure there are those friends and family members who check in every now and again, and I appreciate every single time that they reach out, but overall, no one wants to sit and listen to someone cry about how much they miss someone because for them it’s exhausting. I get it. It’s exhausting to miss the people too, and unfortunately, grief ain’t courteous. It gets deep down in your soul and tends to ravage it. I feel like I was robbed of important time with each of those individuals, but really robbed with the death of my sister when she was 18. It’s not something that I’m just all of a sudden going to stop talking about, and I’m realizing that folks are leaving me over it.
I guess that’s a risk that I’m willing to take at the moment. I know that I’m still among the land of the living and that those people actively avoiding me are also alive, but if I could explain to them all at once what goes through your head – all of the possibilities that are no longer possible.
She’s missed my wedding, the birth of five of her nieces and nephews. The graduations of our brothers. She’s missed family trips, birthday parties, and just goofy moments in general. She’s missed officially calling Mr. Houseful her brother-in-law. She’s missed all of that, and no matter how much time passes, we won’t forget that she’s missing.
That’s the problem with navigating grief. You don’t want to go down a dead-end – which February seems to always be for me. My heart feels heavier each year she’s gone instead of better. The anniversary always does that. I always feel like I relive her last two weeks on Earth because it was just us. It’s like a really sick and twisted Groundhog’s Day. One that challenges you in ways that you can’t imagine, and instead of just being a replay of every.single.thing that happened during those two weeks just a short thirteen years ago – it’s also the time when everyone walks around you on eggshells because they just can’t handle hearing again how sad you are, or maybe even crying. The avoidance is what hurts the most, and usually, it eases up in March, but it’s always the loneliest in February.
This reminds me of the week after we buried her. How empty and quiet our house was. I didn’t go back to work because I was still too dumbfounded to serve anyone anything. I worked at our local Dairy Queen in Wisconsin while I was in college, and I was the opener. The only person old enough to do so, and still attend classes. I didn’t feel like being around people who were cheerily buying Blizzards and ice cream cakes. Jessica had spent a couple of days at work with me just sitting in one of the booths people watching. It’s odd to me now. She just sat in the furthest corner and watched out of the window. Like she knew what was coming and kind of wanted to absorb everything that she was about to leave behind. I wish that I was more receptive back then. I would have told her so much more. More of my dreams, how I still wanted to marry Shomari no matter how much we were fighting then. I would have taken her into Milwaukee so she could see more of where I traveled on the weekends. I would have, should have, could have, and didn’t. Instead, we did the same old, same old, and I am left with this feeling of guilt for some reason. Like I should have just known!
Mr. Houseful asked what would I like people to do during the month of February. I’m not quite sure, but I sure don’t want them to avoid me. I don’t want them to fall into silence because they don’t know what to say. I want them to think of me the same way they do the other 11 months out of the year. Yes, I will cry. Yes I will be sad, but I still want, no, NEED the interaction of my friends. Probably more so during this month than any other. I always tell people, that holidays aren’t always so sad for me, because I’m usually surrounded so much that it’s hard to stop and think and be sad. The kids keep me up, but they don’t understand the grief that mom has from losing someone who they have never met. Well, not quite yet anyway. The ladybug tries, and she asks lots of questions and it affords me the luxury of telling her ALL about her aunt Jessica. The crazy things that we used to do, and say, and even sing. The fact that she would have LOVED Bruno Mars like we both do. Things like that.
I’m not sure I’ll ever NOT be able to cry. Looking at the photo makes me tear up. We had so much fun. We had so many secrets. Now I have a hole in my heart, and while it is being mended with each passing day, it will never be the same, and I’m sure I’ll always feel this way.
I want to pay respects to her yearly, but also daily because she was just that awesome.
Rest well, Jessica.