I don’t talk about this often.
And to be very honest, I haven’t spent much time hurting over it either.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if something is wrong with me.
How can it be that two of my siblings died, and I rarely shed a tear for them?
We were always together as a package of six.
Over the years, I frequently described my brothers and sisters as my very best friends.
They were the people who shaped so much of the foundation of who I am.
All of us are so different, but connected by such deep love and friendship.
For a lot of my life, I felt like I wouldn’t be complete without them.
My older sister was the person I looked up to most. I hoped I could be as strong as she was one day. When she started using heroin, that’s when I started to grieve her. She had changed. I no longer recognized her. When she was arrested and spent time in jail, that’s when I felt she was gone. When I found out she had died, I wasn’t surprised. It was sooner than I expected. But somehow I already knew.
Lincoln died 5 months later. I remember holding him in the hospital and briefly thinking, “I wish Misty was here.” She was my protector, and my guiding light before her addiction took her over. If I needed anyone while cradling my dead baby, it was my big sister. But I didn’t have her, and the pain of losing my son was far worse than anything else I had ever felt before. I couldn’t process both at once. My focus went entirely on the shock and fresh grief I felt, while saying goodbye to my firstborn child. In the following years, I realized that I grieved for my sister less because I saw it coming. My earliest grief for her happened while she was still living, but in a shell of who she once was.
Michael’s death was a much bigger shock. He was living in Tennessee. He had come home to visit right before. He was happier than I had seen him in a long time. He had stopped using the prescription pain medications that his body had become reliant on. He mentioned it briefly during his visit: the discomfort. The back pain that used to be dulled by the pills. But he was happy. We thought he was okay. We didn’t know. We got a call not even two weeks later. He had OD’ed and was found on his kitchen floor. That call was hard. I was completely stunned. Michael was my favorite person in the entire world. We share all of my favorite childhood memories. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe it was real.
I was pregnant with Liam at the time. And I was instantly terrified. Misty died when I was pregnant with Lincoln, then I lost him. My focus shifted again. I felt selfish. My brother’s death wasn’t about me. But the fear became much more intense than it was during my previous pregnancy, immediately after Lincoln’s death. I felt like history would repeat itself. I tried to brush it off. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t possible. That things wouldn’t end the same way.
But then they did.
Liam got here safely. I spent 5 beautiful weeks with him, and then he got RSV.
I lost two siblings.
I lost two sons.
In the span of five years.
To be perfectly honest, losing my children trumps everything else. Nothing will ever hurt as much as missing these lives I grew and birthed.
They’re missing parts of me.
But my siblings are too.
Those parts might not be as big, but they’re still important.
And in so many ways, I think I’ve had to compartmentalize my grief so it doesn’t overtake me.
Just as I’ve been learning to live without my boys, I’ve also had to learn to live without my brother and my sister. Our sibling unit of six has dwindled down to four. And all of us have had to adjust to function in a new way.
In some ways, it’s made us closer.
In other ways, it’s created distance.
We’ve all been through so much hurt.
Sometimes I feel bad for not thinking of them more often, when I think of my sweet babies every, single day.
As I’m digging deeper into my grief for my sons….
As I’m allowing myself to hurt and to feel….
As I’m no longer forcing the painful thoughts out of my head…
I feel this grief for my siblings today.
I miss Misty’s laugh and Michael’s sarcastic comments.
I miss staying up late to tell my sister about the boy I’m dating.
I miss Michael’s arms around me, and the kiss he always planted on my head.
I don’t talk about them much.
It can feel like too much to share with people….
All of the death.
All of the pain.
My hard, sad story.
But it is my reality.
And I can’t keep hiding parts of it.
From others, or from myself.