I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of my sister’s death and I had someone say to me, “It’s been such a long time now, it’s time to move on.” Such an interesting concept, isn’t it? This person felt that because I mentioned it would be five years this Sunday, that I hadn’t moved on. First of all, I don’t believe you really do ever ‘move on’ from losing a limb of your family. You press forward and learn to live with the loss of that limb, but you never actually move on like you would from a bad breakup or an old job. I mean, how do you ‘move on’ from losing your sister? There was a feeling that was very clear to me the night I got the call that my sister took her own life: I would never have a sister again. Even twenty years from that night, I would still not have my sister back in my life. That is not something you ‘move on’ from; it’s something you learn to live with.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the good intentions that person’s comments were born from. They want to make sure that I am not living in the grief of the past, letting myself stew in the tragedy. They didn’t mean to forget my sister or what happened to her, but only want to see me happy and living in the present. Totally get that and agree that it’s imperative to not let grief consume you and to turn grief into something that can make your life, and others’, better. I make a conscious decision everyday to use the energy of the grief from losing my sister to make this world a better place for those that are still here. Whether it’s speaking out about suicide, or continuing her legacy of having an amazing career, or simply not letting a day go by without realizing that I have the opportunity to take a breath that my sister will never have again.
In honor of not ‘moving on’, but learning to live with an incredible loss, here are five things my beautiful sister, E, taught me during her time here:
Defy The Odds
My sister was never afraid to go where women had never gone before. She went to Harvard and then MIT and became a mechanical engineer for the government. She had to constantly defy stereotypes of what women should and should not do in their career, and made a place for herself among the guys.
It’s Never Too Late To Say You’re Sorry
I grew up with an immune disorder that my sister never did quite understand. Her patience level was low when it came to my parents having to take the time to take me to physicians, and she hardly had the empathy for days when I could barely move because I was in so much pain. Then, she got sick herself, and realized the severity of what I was dealing with. As she dealt with her own journey of hopping between doctors and visiting the ER, she told my mom that she was so sorry that she wasn’t more understanding of what I went through as a child, and that she now understood. That meant everything to me.
Balance Your Life
My sister spent the majority of her life focusing on her career, and not on building relationships with family and friends. So, when she was unable to work for a brief time due to medical issues, she did not know how to cope or who to reach out to. While we were all there for her, it was difficult for her to let us in or understand how she could lean on the relationships in her life. It’s important to make time for those happy hours and girl lunches and family barbecues because there will be a time in your life when you need someone to be by your side caring for you. We all need each other, and we can’t lose sight of that on our climb to a standout career.
Believe In Magic
I’m eight years younger than my sister, so we always seemed to be in completely different phases in our lives. It was most obvious when I was still the age that I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and everyone else! While I was still searching the skies for Santa’s sleigh, my sister was preparing to graduate from high school.
There was one particular Christmas we were driving to Wisconsin to visit my grandparents, and I just did not want to be away from home. As I stared up at the dark sky, my sister pointed out a red flashing light in the sky and completely convinced me that it was Rudolph’s nose shining from Santa’s sleigh. I completely fell for it and it made my entire Christmas that I saw Santa’s sleigh in the sky.
By taking a small break from being a ‘cool’ teenager, my sister turned a not-so-great Christmas into a magical Christmas. We can all add a little more magic to each other’s lives on a daily basis through the small things.
Never Underestimate Who You Are
Unfortunately, this lesson came after her death. My sister completely underestimated her worth to her family and numerous other people. She will never understand the impact she had on the world around her. We all need to spend less time listening to how to advertising expects us to be, and more time appreciating who we are. We might not be the model wife or career woman that we’re pressured to be through movies, television shows and advertising, but that doesn’t mean we’re not perfect the way we are as our unique selves.
So this year, I will continue to not ‘move on’, but will continue to implement the lessons my sister taught me in my daily life. I will hold my head a little higher and smile a little brighter because I know what a great legacy of lessons she left behind for my life.
Here’s to you, E. Continue watching over us this year. Xo.
- Marji J. Sherman