Well hey there friends, it’s been a while. And by a while, I mean over a year. This last year has been… interesting. So buckle up and let’s jump in.
My last post was right after I got my job offer in August 2017. I promise I had full intention to continue blogging, as writing was my side hobby/de-stressor. But life hit me, and hit me hard, and I never felt like I had the right words to address it. But not addressing it felt wrong too, so instead I just didn’t write.
I kept wanting to… but I couldn’t find the words. So, I didn’t.
I still don’t have the words, but now… a full year later… I’m giving myself permission to not have the words. And it’s going to be alright.
Less than three weeks into my new job, my sister in love was sent to the hospital. She was there for a few days when we got the “Hope for a miracle, but don’t plan on it” update. On Sunday, September 24, 2017, just two days after her 28th birthday, Stephanie passed.
How was I supposed to put into words how I felt?
There was a lot that came along with Stephanie’s death. A lot of sadness and shock. A search for peace and acceptance. An eery feeling of deep sorrow but love when all the family and friends gathered for her funeral and no one could talk, but just gave each other “that look” followed by a deep and tight hug. Those hugs that somehow, if we held each other tight enough, all the pain would disappear. The battle of feeling oddly guilty when sharing funny stories (because let’s be real, Stephanie was hysterical) and giggling and laughing about Stephanie, but her infamous laugh not being part of the harmonious laughter. The adjustment of “is” to “was”. The search for a new normal that came with the weeks and months following, when I still saw her on my speed dial in my car every day to and from work. The hard, heavy, wet, full-body sobs when some days the only thing I could do was cry. The self-condemnation that someone was hurting worse than me so I wasn’t allowed to hurt (none of us like to admit it, but you know we all go through this with grief). The fear of my life continuing without getting to share it with Stephanie.
I couldn’t put it into words. I couldn’t write about it. It was hard to talk about it. But it was even harder to go into a world every day, where I was new, and act like my world inside wasn’t crumbling.
In late fall, I went to grief therapy. I wasn’t handling my grief well internally, and it was affecting both work and my personal life. Although I won’t and probably couldn’t describe to you most of what we talked about during our sessions, there was one factor that really stood out to me. One quick conversation of many that really stuck: I was sharing about how angry and frustrated I felt about losing Stephanie – how it made me angry that this happened to my brother and that my niece now had to grow up without her mom – how it made me upset that something like this would happen to a family with such strong faith – how it made me frustrated that Stephanie would miss out on so many aspects of my life and moments that we had talked about sharing. The list went on and on, and at one point (when I probably finally took a breath) she cut in and asked me why I felt so angry. Well, because she wasn’t supposed to die! It wasn’t supposed to be this way! To which she replied… “Says who? Who says she wasn’t supposed to leave now? Who says that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be?” I. Was. Speechless. Uhm… because I said? Because of my brother? Because people shouldn’t die that young, especially when they have a wonderful husband and a beautiful child and so many friends and family to love them? Because.. well I don’t know why. But she wasn’t. I’m not going to lie, I was blown away but also wanted to smack this woman in the face. She kept asking the same question and I kept trying to defend, until I realized that I didn’t have an answer. And she admitted she didn’t either. None of us do. But, it did happen. So since Stephanie isn’t here, what can I do to continue without her? How can I live my life in honor of her? How would she want me to live my life? If she could have told us how to continue on without her, would it have been with anger and frustration? Stephanie was the woman who could crack jokes while battling “an evil tenant in her brain” – she certainly wasn’t the woman that would want us continuing on in life out of frustration and anger. What a disloyalty that would be to a woman who always found the beauty in life, no matter the battles.
So the conversation didn’t totally go like that, but you get the gist. So now my daily mission is to live each day like Stephanie would live. To love deeper and harder in her memory. To document as much as possible, whether physically through photos or writing or by absorbing in moments, because memories last longer than moments.
It’s been almost a year since Stephanie passed. One year ago I flew home to Tampa to visit her in the hospital for a couple days, bracing myself that it may be the last time I ever saw her, but praying and hoping it wouldn’t be. It’s been a year, and sometimes it’s hard. Some days are easier and some are harder. I’m still working through my feelings. I’m still processing through them. I’m still learning how to celebrate the moments in my life without feeling the sadness or bitterness that Stephanie isn’t sharing them with me, but also being happy knowing that she’s still with me.
So, I am going to start writing again. I am going to share about how my first year of being an SA Pro was extremely freaking hard. I’m going to share about how I got engaged to my best friend and adventure partner (!!!) and about how insane (yet fun) this wedding planing process is. I am going to continue to share the real and raw of life, because sometimes it is hard. But sometimes it’s beautiful. And thanks to Stephanie, I’m able to see the beauty of every moment, and I will forever live that out in her memory.