On Losing a Sister: Two Months On


Today, the 17th of January, marks two months since my sister died. This blog is for travel. It’s a happy, positive place. And yet it’s a personal place. It’s my place. I do not want to write several posts on my situation, but instead, I would like to dedicate just one post to her. I think she’d be chuffed to bits with that. I’m not trying to narrate a sob story (though it certainly is one if I’ve ever heard one), but just to record my thoughts. To record how grief affects someone. To document suffering. Because it is carthatic. Because no one’s life is as sparkly and pretty as their Instagram. And if it is, well, you should never take that for granted. 

As my dad said in his eulogy, this is the one opportunity he had to tell everyone who knew us and Caitlin what we have been through for the past seventeen years, with her final six years being the hardest. And then we’ll shut up about it. And move on. Because that’s what you have to do. Well, this is my eulogy. I’m not going to tell you all the details of her life and all the shit she put up with 24/7; you can read bits of that here. But I’m going to tell you about how I’m doing two months on from her death. Nothing but honesty. No sugarcoated bullshit. Our grief is very different to other’s grief when they lose a loved one. We grieve for her life as much as her death. 

I can’t believe two months have passed already. Two months since my heart was shattered into pieces. Two months since I lay on the carpet of my student house in Exeter screaming at the top of my lungs. Screaming “I don’t believe you” and “I can’t believe this is happening”. Two months since my life turned upside down. Everything has changed. It feels like the only things that have stayed the same throughout all of this are my parents and boyfriend. Other than that I am living in an alternative, unimaginable reality. 

Some days I don’t even feel alive. I’m numb and spaced out. I’ll find myself staring into space for 20 minutes and don’t even realise I’m doing it. Sometimes I struggle to even eat or leave the house. I’ve been having more panic attacks than normal, which is terrifying. I find myself reading back through our old Facebook messages together even though I know it’ll set off the tears. 

You learn so much about yourself at a time like this. You learn how fucking strong you are, but you also learn that you can’t cope sometimes and that’s okay too. In the last two months, I have tried to make a couple of plans (as simple as going down the road to Cardiff to celebrate New Year’s or meeting up with some of Caitlin’s friends) which fell through because I could not cope. It hits you in waves. You think you’re okay and you’ve got it together one second, and the next you’re bawling your eyes out. Sometimes I cry so much I feel like I’m going to puke.

And then I hear your voice in my head telling me to suck it up and get on with it because that’s life. It’s that humbling attitude of hers that I will miss. Because when I’m being a “monster princess” (which was Caitlin’s final nickname for me – I only found out about it after she died) I’ll think of you and I’ll laugh. Last night I managed to shave the skin completely off one of my fingers whilst showering. You would have laughed at me for being such an idiot, but I’m struggling to complete the simplest of tasks at the moment. 

Luckily I managed to survive this weekend in Belfast without crumbling. I had a fantastic time to be honest. I wish I could come have back to you, like I did from my travels, with lots of gifts and stories to tell. Gaz and I are going to continue buying bears wearing t-shirts/hoodies from our travels in your honour. We’ve built up quite the collection in the last few years. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any on this trip because Belfast is not a touristy place, but you would have just said we were making excuses. One day we may have children and give them your bears, telling them about how amazing their aunt was. I know you would have been an incredible aunt. I think if you were still alive and we had a baby girl you would have forced us to name her Caitlin, as you always thought so highly of yourself. We wouldn’t have been able to talk our way out of that one. You also always thought so highly of our relationship and I could not feel luckier for Gaz to have your blessings. Because let’s be honest, you always thought your opinion was far more important than dad’s or anyone else’s anyway. “It’s all about me” as you used to say when you were very little. If you were reading this right now you would not be very happy with me for including that. Sorry, Caketin. Oops, sorry again. 

But now I’m back from Belfast and reality hits again. It felt like I was being told for the first time all over again. Like a plaster was being ripped off me for the second time. In Belfast, I was in a little bubble and I had such a fantastic time with Gaz. And then I came home. It’s currently 12:45 pm right now and I’ve crawled back into bed because I’m feeling so down. I bought a gym membership at the beginning of the year (as you may have read in my 21 Before 21 post) and have only managed to go twice because I cannot bring myself to leave the house due to emotional exhaustion. It’s easy for people who are not in your situation to make judgements on everything you do and what decisions you are making, but until you are in this situation you cannot judge. 

Throughout my life, I’ve always told myself I did not want to be dictated by my home situation. At university, no one knows about Caitlin (or at least they didn’t until now) and I could just be “a normal teenager”, like Caitlin always wanted to be. For the past 5 years, my mental health has definitely been on the rocks and it’s going to take me a very, very long time before I’ll feel up to seeing friends again. I feel like I’m on another planet to everyone at the moment. I can hardly cope with immediate family let alone the rest of my family and friends. I’m an introvert at the best of times, let alone now. I’ve always found comfort and shelter in being alone, and these last two months have been no different. 

I don’t know what the message of this post is. It was just utter word vomit. Believe me, I do not take my life and all the good things in it for granted. I’ve always been an optimist, a dreamer and a hard worker, and I always will be. I will rise up stronger from this, as I have done in the past, and will be a better person because of it. Thank you, Caitlin, for blessing my life with all your happiness, optimism and laughter, in the face of adversity. You will inspire me not to take my good health for granted, to always give back to others and to achieve wonderfully brilliant things despite any setbacks that may get in my way. As dad said in his eulogy, the saying “worse things happen at sea” should really be changed to “worse things happened to Caitlin”. I love and miss you more than anything in the world and always will do.

So go tell all your loved ones that you love them. Give them a hug and thank them for all they’ve done for you. Never take anything or anyone for granted. Because in one split second everything can change for the rest of your life. 

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