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Grief and Unexpected Loss: When Normal isn’t Normal Anymore

I cried today… I was sitting in the middle of my lunch break, in a busy school lounge. I was halfway through my meal and I just suddenly felt empty. My stomach began to hurt and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster. I quickly got up, walked down the hall to the restroom and avoided all eye contact. The second the door closed behind me I broke down and gave in to the grief. I cried for a good five minutes, cleaned my face up, composed myself and made my way back to my seat in the lounge. Although I could feel a few stares, I sat in silence and tried to finish my meal. I tried  to just be normal.

That’s the thing, nothing is normal anymore. She’s been gone for over a month now. She was one of my best friends — like a sister to me. But first and foremost, she was my husband’s baby sister.

Words that Changed My Life

At 5:43 a.m. I rolled over and saw the missed calls. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. It was their first bike ride together as brother and sister, and I never in my life thought it would be her last. 

I can still hear those life-changing words from my husband over the phone. The words that still haunt me and send chills down my spine. “Melissa is dead. Can you come to the hospital?”

Although I heard the words come out of his mouth, I didn’t believe him. He repeated himself and then I just knew that it was true. I knew he needed me —  and I knew life would never be the same. 

I instantly called my mom as I watched my two-year-old sleep. When I heard her answer the phone, I started hyperventilating. My mom knew something was wrong, and with a shaky voice and a broken heart, I finally got the words out of my mouth. My brother came over quickly to stay with my baby so I could rush to the hospital. So many thoughts and emotions were going through my head — more than anything I just wanted to get to my husband.

I ran to him by the emergency door entrance and hugged him as he cried in my arms. Here I was clinging to the love of my life, and I could feel every inch of him broken and in pain. I tried my best to keep it together, wanting to hold him for as long as he would let me. A part of me was hoping and praying that we’d walk in to the hospital only to find out that his sister was actually alive. Then we saw his parents. That’s when I knew it was real.

Innocent Questions

It’s been really hard without her. It’s even harder when my little one looks so much like her. She misses her Tia Melly so much. How can a little tiny person with a such a big heart begin to comprehend that her Tia is no longer with us?

“Can we take a walk to heaven?”

“Maybe we can fly a plane to heaven to bring Tia Melly back?”

“Jesus is calling my name so I can go to heaven with Tia Melly.”

“I want to pray and ask Tia Melly to come back.”

“Why doesn’t Tia Melly want me anymore?”

Just a few of the very hard questions and comments that my little one has been pondering with the last few weeks as she learns to deal with her own grief. I told her that Tia Melly is in heaven with Jesus now and that she has angel wings. I call Tia Melly her guardian angel. But I don’t know if she really understands.

Handling Grief in the Day-to-Day

My sister-in-law left her car parked at our house the morning of the accident. It sat in front of our house for a few days. Seeing it almost gave me comfort thinking she was inside waiting for us. The day after she passed my little one saw her car as we pulled up to the driveway. She immediately got excited. “Mommy, Tia Melly is here!!” I looked at her and said “No baby, Tia is in Heaven.” She still proceeded to walk into the house and search every single room. “Where is Tia Melly?” Melissa would often hide from her and my daughter loved to find her. In that moment, with tears coming down my face, I was speechless. I realized that no explanation would ever be enough for a child who just wants to play hide and seek with her aunt. 

I’ve lost loved ones before. As a teenager I lost my paternal grandpa, and it was very hard for me. A few years ago, I lost my maternal grandfather, which was also very difficult. But losing a loved one so unexpectedly, with no warning signs or time to prepare, is devastating. I don’t think anyone is ever okay with death, but losing someone so tragically is devastating. As a mom, the hurt just seems to go to a deeper level.

I hurt so much for my husband, and ultimately I hurt for our daughter, too. So small, inquisitive and kind, my little one is dealing with separation anxiety now. She fears being alone; she gets scared any time she is without her parents. She doesn’t want to go to school, but instead just wants to be with her family. In her little brain, I can imagine her thinking she may not see us again if we leave her.

A True Sister-in-Love

Grief Melissa 2

Melissa wasn’t your ordinary person. She was kind, loving and self-less. She was with me the day I gave birth. I was so grateful as she helped me get dressed, cleaned and showered up. In my role as a mother, she was such an important person to me. She loved my little one so much, and everyone knew it.

She was my go-to person for when I needed a break, which meant she’d come over and entertain my baby so I could shower in peace, do laundry, dishes, or anything around the house. She’d sit there with me and just listen to me. I could talk to her about anything, she would even let me vent about her brother, my husband, on a few occasions. Not once did she judge me, take sides, or make me feel anything but understood and appreciated. She was absolutely the best sister-in-law a girl could ever ask for. I may not have known her for very long, but it didn’t take long for us to connect. Our friendship was instant. She was more than just a friend, she was my sister, my family.

Life is not the same with out her, nor will it ever be. I feel like I’m missing a piece of my heart. I feel lonely. The type of lonely that hits you the second you wake up, and you realize that this is real life. That kind of lonely.

Because of this grief and great pain I feel, I can’t even begin to imagine how my husband feels as her brother. I pray that we, as a family, can get through this together, and that I can find the words and comfort for him and for our beautiful daughter. I pray that my daughter can remind us that we have a reason to live life to the fullest and to press on.

Surviving the Storm of Grief

The pain of grief comes in waves. Very much like the ocean, it’s calm one day and rough and stormy the next. One day I’m fine, and the next minute I’m crying over the sink as I’m putting dishes away. It’s unfair to think of what happened to her. She was hit by a car while on a normal bike ride. Cycling was her thing. She would wake up in the early hours in the morning and ride. I remember telling her on many occasions that she was “crazy.” Not because I thought bike riding was dangerous, but because she would willingly wake up at 4 a.m. to ride. Who does that? She did, well, at least she used to.

I wish I had the right words to end this post. I wish I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wish my heart didn’t ache every time I look at my daughter and think of how she’ll have to grow up without her Tia Melly. But I don’t have the words, and I don’t see the light. At least, I don’t see it yet. All I know that in the midst of grief, I will hug my daughter a little tighter every night, talk to her about her Tia and teach her to be as kind, honest and beautiful as she was. 

Have you lost a loved one unexpectedly? Would you share your grief and ways you were able to overcome? 

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