I want to start by saying that there is no universal way to deal with loss, everyone experiences this differently and copes in ways that come natural to them.
I’ve suffered a few losses in life, of things of value, of people; some that left by choice and some that had no say in the matter. Of all the losses, the loss that cut me the deepest was the loss of my sister.
I was born in 1989 and she was born in 1988, as imagined we lived very similar lives, went to the same nursery, primary, secondary school and to the same university. We were forced to be very alike from when we were young and my mother would dress us in twin outfits; if time and fate had permitted, we could have very easily been twins. Our lives were so entwined in each others, we knew instinctively what the other wanted and how one felt without the need for words. We saw each other as clear as day for the people we truly were; she saw me and she took me as I was, flaws and all. My friends were her friends and her friends were my friends and when we didn’t have friends at all we were there for each other. Life never really felt lonely as long as we had each other, fights and all.
This all started in 1989 and ended in 2012. You see I had a dream; that I could be like the people I saw on TV. I dreamed that I could travel and become a supermodel and I could be the one that put my family name in the clouds. So I left home; I left in January in the pursuit of discovering myself and she passed away a few weeks after that. You see, we had never really been separated until this. We had shared life together, the ups and the lows, the tears and the laughter, until I left.
I was in New York when the news broke. My other sister and best friend called me and her first question to me was ‘Are you alone, are you sitting down’? Until today I have anxiety when people call me past midnight and I also wonder why there’s the need for someone to be seated to receive bad news. Back to that snowy cold unfaithful evening; she said to me ‘Somi is dead‘ and I replied ‘No that’s not possible, it can’t possibly be’ because death is something we hear about other people’s old parents and grandparents. It’s never something that happens to people we know and to young people too.
My first reaction was firm unshaken denial. I thought my sister did not know what she was saying; surely she heard wrong, she couldn’t possibly know the truth. She had to be wrong. Upon confirmation my second reaction was to negotiate, I went outside in -4 degrees and I got on my knees in the snow and I wept to God, I begged him to perform all those miracles we had heard of in the bible. I traded things, I told him if he brought her back I would be good and I would follow all the 10 commandments to the T. After a few hours she was still dead. At that point I felt inconsolable, I felt shattered, I felt like there was no point to life and that everything we lived for and fought hard for was a lie. I cried more tears than I knew I had in me; it hurt and it wasn’t the kind of pain I had ever been through.
I couldn’t identify this sharp pain that caused me to lose my breath at random moments or why I had to hold my chest to prevent it from falling off. It was blind pain; not the type you could ever describe. After that I felt angry; at myself for leaving, at God for allowing it to happen, at the universe for succumbing and at her for leaving me. I had to travel almost 20 hours from New York to Dubai to Lagos to Port Harcourt to be with the family in the dreadful state I was in; I checked in crying uncontrollably, I boarded the same way, waited for my connecting flight in tears that truly blocked my sight and by the time I got home I was too numb to be in shock at how I still had any tears left.
This is by far the worst thing that has ever happened to me. To lose my almost twin sister and to go on living. The worst part about loss after loss in itself is the fact that the clock still ticks, the sun still rises and sets, the world does not stop to notice that my own world had crumbled, people are still capable of laughter, the company you work for doesn’t shut down. Life as they know it keeps going on. My life had paused, I was in-between shock and numbness, I wondered how the earth still moved and I wondered how I still carried on. 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016…. The clock kept ticking and time kept passing by.
Below are a few ways I coped (and I’m still coping).
I always surrounded myself with love, I stayed around family and friends that loved me and I pulled my healing from them.
I allowed the pain to flow, I cried when the tears came, I felt the intense pain when it knocked, I called her phone endlessly, I wrote her numerous letters, I remembered her, I talked to her, I felt her, I never hid from the pain that any of that brought. You must allow yourself to feel the pain.
I accepted the reality that she was never coming back and I had to forge a life of my own. The most painful reality I’ve ever had to embrace but it was necessary.
I realized that I wasn’t the only one hurting and I had to be there for other people in our family and lives that had also lost her; I was there as much as I was able to for them, I was the strength they needed.
After a while, I started to fill myself with various things to keep me busy with life and to distract me from the pain that was threatening to own me. I was still alive and I had to rejoin the land of the living; so I did.
If you’ve lost someone, I sympathize with you. I’m sorry life made you go through that. You never stop missing him/her and life without them never gets easier but you teach yourself to survive. Day by day, month by month, year by year; you choose to survive, you choose to be present, you choose to thrive, you do it for yourself sometimes and other times you do it for them because that’s what they would have wanted but you do it nonetheless and in the process of this you become a stronger person, your weakness gives you strength.
A part of me died with my sister Somi. I know this and I’ve accepted it. Not one day goes by that she’s not present in my heart. These words I write are all beneath the tears I still have no control over. I had a sister and I lost her and she will always be in my memory or in my heart but never in the universe next to me and whenever I refer to her now it will always be in past tense.
Dear person suffering from loss, you are a survivor, time really does heal, the wound will ALWAYS be there but it won’t always feel so sore; as bleak as life looks, you will manage it until you start to thrive in it. Trust in your journey, trust in the process, feel the pain and learn to live with the nagging feeling in your heart.
Please if you have any tips or coping mechanism you’ve mastered please do drop them in the comment section, I want to learn, others want to learn. Let us help each other.