When Friends Say Cruel Things It Sticks With You

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It is strange how negative words can stay with us for a lifetime and hurt long after they are spoken. Today, I was reminded of a conversation I had way back in middle school. My friends and I were having a conversation about birth order statistics and how the oldest is often the smartest and most responsible in the family – which apparently was the case in all their families.

I mentioned how that hadn’t really happened in my family as I was the youngest and yet I was the one in the gifted program, the one who got straight A’s, and the one who was least likely to break the rules. My sister was very smart in her own ways, but not overly academic or intellectual.

One of my friends (or more likely a frenemy) replied, “Well, maybe your sister is the pretty one then.”

Before I could digest this insult or respond, one of my other friends chimed in assuring the group that my sister was no looker either, which made everyone laugh. I didn’t let on that I felt anything, but inside I was crushed. I felt ugly and I also felt bad that my friends had insulted and made fun of my sister.

To this day, remembering this conversation makes me feel ugly, plain, and rejected. I wish my friends had been more careful with their words.

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YA Book Review: “Without Tess” by Marcella Pixley

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“Without Tess”, written by Marcella Pixley, is one of the best YA novels I have read in a while. I rarely give books five stars when rating them, but this one I did. The story revolves around the main character (Lizzie), and her dead sister (Tess). Lizzie is the younger sister by a couple years and was only 10 when her older sister tragically passed away.

The real star of the novel is Tess. As you read through the book and relive vibrant memories Lizzie shared with Tess, you come to both love and sometimes dislike Tess. Tess was a true believer in magic. She was creative and passionate. She was both loving and loyal, but at times cruel and violent. She was mentally ill, and at times downright psychotic. This novel is a lifelike retelling of what it is like to grow up with an extremely mentally ill sibling. It addresses the love, the hate, the sadness, the pain, the rage, the guilt, and all the other emotions that come along with such a disturbing family dynamic.

I had a deeply personal connection with this book, both as someone who grew up with a mentally ill sibling, and someone who eventually lost that sibling, mostly due to that mental illness. At one point the book even made me tear up, which is extremely rare for any book to do. Definitely recommended!

Is suicide an unforgivable sin? A bit of hope for those left behind.

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I am feeling impressed tonight to share something very personal….which is kind of odd because what I feel I should share actually happened over a year ago. However, I just feel very strongly that I am being asked to share this and hope that maybe it will help someone somewhere who is dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide.

Now, first off, I want to say that coming from a conservative Christian family, I was always taught that suicide was a sin that would get you sent straight to hell. It was murder and since you would die from the action before you could repent of it, you were out of luck if you later regretted it. Personally, I always doubted this belief, but when my sister committed suicide almost two years ago, these thoughts did make me worry about what would happen to her. I hoped and prayed that God would have mercy on her since she had been in horrible physical, emotional and mental pain at the time of her overdosing, but I didn’t really know what she was thinking or feeling the night she took far too many pills and then went to bed never to wake up again. I still wonder if she really knew she would die from her actions or was just desperate to rid herself of the pain, but I don’t know for sure and probably never will.

Anyhow, the incident that really affected me and made me feel that she was ok happened about 6 months or so after her death. I had already dreamed of her many times, odd dreams of doing routine stuff like shopping together or fighting like when we were kids. None of my dreams of her were realistic or made sense in the waking world…until the night I went to sleep and had the following dream:

When the dream began, my sister and I met in a huge hall or maybe an entranceway to some building that I didn’t recognize. When we saw each other, it was like we could communicate telepathically. I knew she was dead. She knew she was dead. Both of us knew how she had died and what it had done to those she left behind. She apologized to me, the most heartfelt apology I have ever gotten. She explained how she never meant to hurt me or her other loved ones. She admitted that she made a huge mistake and regretted it.

At that point, I asked her what had happened to her. I will never forget her answer. She told me that God was so much more loving and forgiving than we could even imagine. That God forgave her and was giving her a chance to work it out and try to make things better. It shocked me to hear these things since my sister wasn’t a Christian or religious in the conventional sense. She had always had curiosity about God, but had pushed religion away due to the strict and overly judgemental religious upbringing we had as kids. She never explained exactly what God was having her do, but just that he was giving her the opportunity to make up for her mistakes in some way.

At that point, we hugged and it felt so good. It felt like her. It smelled like her. I had all the senses that I normally have while awake. After we hugged, she just kind of dissolved into light and was gone and the dream ended. In the morning, when I awoke, I can not even describe the kind of relief this experience gave me. It brought me closure and gave me the chance to say goodbye. To me, it will always be more than a dream, but I realize it is easy to be skeptical when you haven’t experienced something like this yourself. Anyhow, I just hope that maybe this simple but meaningful experience of mine may encourage or comfort others going through similar things. Please feel free to leave a message below if you have anything to say on this topic.

Once a sister, always a sister

My last blog entry was about my grandfather’s death (he passed away just a couple weeks ago). Exactly ten days after he died, I got a call from my sister’s fiance saying that she had also passed away. Of course, her death was unexpected since she is only 35 years old and wasn’t severely ill that any of us knew about. We knew she had some health problems, but none of us thought her life was seriously in danger.

I was stunned when I got the news and before it even registered, I felt dry sobs rack my body. I think I was too shocked for real tears to even form, but the fresh wave of grief had to come out in some way. I kept hoping it was a mistake, but when I spoke to the hospital nurses and the coroner, I knew it was no mistake.

I don’t want this post to be all depressing and whiny, but I also want it to be real. To be quite honest, my sister and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. We weren’t what you would call close, even though I think both of us really wanted that intimate relationship…we just didn’t know how to overcome certain obstacles that stood in our way.

However, regardless of whether we were extrememly close as adults or not, I can’t envision my childhood without my older sister. Growing up she was a mystery to me. Since we were six years apart in age, I always looked up to her. She was allowed to do things I wasn’t and could easily accomplish tasks I struggled with. She seemed ultra cool just because she was my big sister.

Of course, since we shared a room until I was 11 and she was 17, there were plenty of fights to be had as well. I was tidy and she was messy, I was cautious and she was bold, I was a tomboy and she was feminine…pretty much whatever I was, she seemed to be the opposite. Yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper…two halves of one biological whole. Maybe that is why I now feel like a part of me has died with her.

So to my sister, my “sissy”, wherever you are, if you can hear me, I just want you to know I miss you and I loved you more than you probably even knew. And as Diana Ross and the Supremes once sang, “Someday, we’ll be together”…