Dealing with the Pain of Losing Someone Who is Still Alive

by Darcie
young sisters in field

I’m stuck in grief limbo, a murky place of no resolution or healing.

My sister is alive, but I haven’t spoken to her in two and a half years.

The story of how we got here is messy, complicated, and filled with ups and downs. Our story isn’t easily explained, but I will say that fixing the relationship is not as easy as saying, “She’s family, she’ll come around. Keep trying!” While well-intentioned, this would be oversimplifying the situation.

I feel compelled to share my experience as there are certainly people out there who are in similar situations. Maybe that’s you.

I also benefit from sharing my story and feeling the support from others who can relate. It helps to know I’m not alone in my experience.

Direct impact on my life.

As my only sibling, I miss my sister every day.

Missing her takes on different forms.

At times, I feel intense pain and sadness. I reminisce about childhood experiences, conversations, and moments we shared even as recent as several years ago.

There are things about me and our family that she understands better than nearly anyone else.

However, I also think about all the memories that we aren’t creating together.

With Logan’s and my recent engagement, I’ve been thinking more about the children we hope to have, and I wonder if they will ever meet their aunt. If things remain as they are, I wonder how I will explain her absence in our lives in a way that they can understand and also feels fair to the situation.

I feel sad for my sister that she isn’t connected to my parents. They provide me with so much support and, until recent years, provided her with the same. They love us both so much, and it hurts me to think about how my sister is navigating life without their guidance.

Still, there are other days when I feel relieved not to be close with my sister at the moment. All relationships take work, but this one required a lot of energy, and I typically felt like I was fighting a losing battle.

Sometimes I feel guilty for thinking this way, but I’m only human, and I don’t think I’m abnormal for having these thoughts and feelings.

Impact on others.

In the past year, my normally very healthy parents experienced some health issues. My sister is a physician, and she was always their go-to for medical advice. Since she’s not in the picture, they are started calling me as a resource.

In these moments, I feel disappointed that my sister isn’t there for my parents. They need her, and I need her because I am of no help to my parents when it comes to their health.

It also makes me consider what will happen as my parents age, and eventually pass away. I find it hard to imagine my sister not being in our lives as my parents experience age-related health issues. If my sister remains estranged from us, eventually their care and decisions related to their health will fall to me. That will be a heavy load to carry alone.

Dealing with Self-Doubt.

Despite believing that I’ve done everything I can to build a bridge with my sister, I still struggle with self-doubt:

Have I done enough?

Some days, my response is “Absolutely.”

Then there are other days when I feel compelled to do more.

Sometimes I send her a text. She never replies, but I still want her to know that I’m thinking of her. She’s my sister, I love her, and I’ll always be there for her.

I reached out to her when Logan and I got engaged. She was my second call; the first being to my parents.

It was an awkward feeling to be so excited about my news while also feeling sad that I had to tell my sister that I’m engaged through a voicemail.

It’s devastating to think that she probably won’t be attending my wedding, let alone standing beside me like I did for hers.

She’s my only sibling; she should be there.

Moments like this remind me of the conversations we had when we were younger about marrying brothers and living next door to each other. How things change.

Through this experience, I’ve learned that there’s no right answer or easy solution to situations like this, and self-doubt will creep up from time to time. All I can do is what I think is best every day, and that has to be enough.

Coping day-to-day.

Grief and loss are never easy. It’s important to have ways to cope, especially when it’s not necessarily final.

Talking about it helps me sometimes. Logan empathizes well, and my parents understand because they are living it with me. It can help just to express my sadness and my wish that things were different and receive validation, empathy, and support in return.

Other times, however, talking about it only makes me feel worse. I’ll replay past conversations and revisit old issues which result in feeling anger, frustration, and sadness. When I start to go that direction, I know I need to end the conversation.

I never want to give up hope that the relationship will improve. But having hope also keeps the wound open. It’s a loss that I can’t grieve because she’s not actually gone, and it feels like dull ache that’s always in my chest.

Sure, I could try to shut off my emotions in the hope of freeing myself from the pain, but I know that that will only serve to shut off all of my emotions. That’s not an adequate solution.

There’s no one way to deal with it, and for me, it looks different day to day.

But I will continue to hope for reconciliation. I will continue to hope that one day I’ll be able to wrap my arms around my sister and tell her just how much I love her. That will never change.

How do you cope with the loss of loved ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories below.

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