What does it mean to be brave? What are qualities must a person portrays/demonstrate to be considered a brave person?’
It’s been 4.5 years since I last saw my sister in person, and for the past 4.5 years, I tried my best and did everything I could to build a life around grief. I thought I was brave and strong, but recently I realise I am not that brave after all, and I guess I am still grieving my sister’s death.
Before she died, she kept prepping me every night, about her death and said, “No matter what happens, you got to promise me that you do not end up in a dark place. You do not spiral and end up diagnosed with severe depression. Mummy and Daddy are going to lose one daughter, if they were to lose both daughters at the same time, they won’t be able to deal with it.”
And for the past 4.5 years, I did everything that I could to ensure that I do not spiral and end up in a dark place. To my friends that had been sending me messages occasionally reminding me that I’m stronger than what I believe. Thank you for constantly checking in on me and sending me messages via the different social media platforms, and these messages kept me going when my world seems to fall apart.
4.5 years is neither a short period nor a long period. Several key milestones happened during this period, and I always wish that you were here with us to witness those key moments and be proud of us. Throughout the past 4 years, there were several times when I couldn’t sleep at night, and I turned around and look at your empty bed, and just wish that I could have a ‘heart-to-heart talk’ with you. And on my darkest days, I would hug your all-time favourite soft toy to sleep, hoping that everything will get better.
When you first passed away, I used to hear your voice or dream about you once every ½ month and I would always wake up in tears, missing you badly and wondering why did you have to die at the young age of 26.
Now, the dreams are less frequent and there are several times that I would wake up with a smile on my face instead, as I recall vividly the way we used to bicker and insult each other daily.
Everything seems perfect, I found the perfect way to build a like around grief, until one day I received an email.
That was the day that everything started to crumble and the pain I felt on that day was excruciating it reminded me of what I felt 4.5 years ago on 18 April 2018.
I was supposed to host an event at the church where my sister’s niche was located at. I chose that venue because I wanted my sister to ‘be there with me on that day. I was going to make my way down to the church to pay the deposit over the weekend when I receive the one-liner email.
“ Sorry Phylicia, as we are undergoing a major renovation, we encourage you to find an alternative venue.”
I read the email once, twice and before I knew it, tears started flowing down uncontrollably. I tried to think of a solution logically, but I could not. Having read the email while at work, I gave myself a time limit of 15 minutes to cry before heading back to my classroom.
As much as I tried my best to control my tears, I couldn’t. And that was the exact moment, I knew that despite countless attempts to build a life around grief, going to work every day with a sunflower personality, I am not that brave after all, deep down I am still grieving her death every day.
Perhaps I’m not that brave after all, because it takes a lot for me to open up to friends/colleagues that I met after 2018, to share with them about my sister, her illness and her death. Instead, I would rather let people believe that I am an only child or that I am not close with my siblings.
If I met you after 2018, and if I have shared with you, it probably means that we are close enough and I treasure the friendship that we shared.
As I reflected, I realise maybe building a life around grief isn’t about being brave all the time.
Maybe it is about how do you pick yourself up each time.
How do you label and validate the emotions that you are feeling?
How do you ensure that this episode doesn’t cause you to spiral?
How do you talk about the feelings and emotions that you are experiencing?
54 months later, I am aware that I am not that brave after all, but one day I will get there.
Accepting that my sister is ill, accepting the fact that my sister will not be able to live long and that before I turned 25, I would lose my sister were difficult moments in my life.
Coping with her death and building a life around grief is just as difficult.
To all that are reading this post, and are trying very hard to build a life around grief, just know that you are not alone in this battle. It is always going to be an uphill battle, there is always going to be another mountain, but it is about the climb. Some days, grief is going to hit you a lot harder, just like how I was in so much pain upon receiving the email. Just always try to remember that our loved ones would be so proud of us for attempting to build a life around grief, and for not being brave all the time.