June 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Tun

Tomorrow is my sister's birthday. She would have been 41, except of course she will be forever frozen at 37. Tanya was only 20 months younger than me, so she always enjoyed the time between June and October, as it was the only four months of the year she could claim we were just a year apart in age.

It's a cliche, and I'm sure you've heard it before, but you never get over losing someone you love. It's not like a wound that heals over. It's more like losing a limb. You learn to live without the limb, but it never grows back, and you never, ever forget that it's gone.

What's more, grief is not at all as you'd expect it to be. My sister had been sick for many years and her death, though shocking, wasn't entirely unexpected. I had actually visualised myself at her funeral many times before. I assumed that I would wail; I'm a very emotional person and it seemed like the logical response. But I didn't wail. I didn't cry. I didn't even shed a tear for weeks.

And in the months and years afterwards, though I would break down on occasion in the privacy of my own home, I found that a wall built up around me in relation to my sister. I could talk about her with friends or my parents and stay completely devoid of emotion. Worse. I became guarded, defensive, almost hostile. I didn't want to visit her grave and I didn't want to meet with her friends to remember her. I'm sure the psychological explanation is that I was protecting myself from overwhelming emotion, but I still felt guilty for not opening up more. It seemed disloyal to Tanya not to demonstrate to the world how profoundly I missed her.

Strangely, though, the nature of my grief has changed over time. It's been three and a half years now, and the bodily tension I feel whenever I think or speak about my sister is starting to dissipate. And she's popping up in my sleep. Over the past several nights I've had recurring dreams about trying to contact Tanya - I have her phone, or I've lost mine, or I can't dial the number - and I wake up feeling like I've lost her all over again.

This morning my husband asked me if I'd like to visit Tanya's grave tomorrow, on her birthday. We could take the kids - they are young and unburdened by adult hang-ups, and always love to visit their auntie. I automatically said no, as I always do. I don't want to visit her grave. I don't want to see a headstone reminding me that my sister has died.

But then, suddenly, I started to cry. And I realised that I do want to go. I want to connect with my sister. I want to leave purple flowers, and Werther's Original Caramels, and Cote D'Or Bouchee chocolates. I want to acknowledge her life, and how much she is still with me. I want to demonstrate, in some small way, how much I still adore her.

Which is also the reason I am writing this post.

Happy Birthday Tun.

44 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday Tanya xxxxx

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  2. Thinking of you and your family, and I hope tomorrow lets you connect with Tanya in the way that is most comfortable for you.

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  3. Kirsty - Coffee, Cake and SundJune 17, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Kerri, this is just beautiful and perfect way of saying that grief takes on many guises and it isn't the same for everybody. Much love to you and your family x

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  4. Beautiful post

    hugs xx

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  5. thank you for sharing your sister Kerrie.
    Grief is so individual isn't it? You really don't know how you will respond until you are experiencing it. 
    I cried when i read the final paragraph. I have seen my husband go through the same process.
    again, thanks for sharing and happy birthday Tayna xx

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  6. Beautiful Post Kerrie, thank you for sharing it with us.
    Happy 41st Birthday Tanya!

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  7. Touching, and beautiful post, Kerrie x

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  8. Sending you love and hugs.  I was the same in regards to my mum.  Never showed anyone I was grieving. Actually didn't even show myself I was grieving.  It caught up with me eventually.  Thinking of you tomorrow. xx

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  9. Wow, Kerrie. I think this is so great that you are going - such a breath through for you. 

    The purple flowers made my heart leap. They were my sister Valda's favourite colour, and we would take purple flowers to her grave all the time. As my Mum has always said, "It gets easier over time, but you never forget," which I think is just the way it should be. Happy Birthday to Tanya, and love to you. xxx

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  10. Kerrie,
    A beautiful birthday message xxx

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  11. My closest brother has lost 2 of his babies in the last 10 mths (one 6mths old & one just 3 days old) and it has been heartbreakingly hard for all of us. 
    Words cannot describe how monumental it all is.But my kids, like yours, have helped me lose the hangups about visiting those babies at their graves.  To me it is a reminder that they shoudn't be there in the ground- they should be here with us.But my kids just accept it and look forward to going; to sing to them; play music to them; hug the ground as if they are hugging their cousins.....all in all they remind me that the love we have NEVER EVER goes....we just change the way we give it.I'm glad for you that your husband had the love for you to offer and I am glad for you that you have the strength to go.  xxLove & HugsRuth

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  12. Oh Ruth that is just too too sad. I am SO sorry. But the kids are amazing, aren't they? Boo has never met her auntie, and yet talks about her cheerily as if she has. Your kids playing music to their cousins is so incredibly moving, and just the way it should be. xxxxxxx

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  13. Kerri, I am glad you wrote this. It is a reminder to value our loved ones in the here and now and also that grief has many guises. Hugs to you today. And for Tanya too xo

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  14. I'm sure she knows.
    The ones left behind just do whatever we have to do, whatever gets us through the night. Some will only take a day to feel comfortable sharing their loss publicly, some take years, some never.
    You loved her and miss her, that's all which matters.
    Big hug Kez. xx

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  15. Beautiful post and a lovely comment from Ruth. xoxo

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  16. She will always, always, always be with you, Kerri. Very moving post xxx

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  17. PinkPatentMaryJanesJune 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    Oh Kerri, I'm thinking about you. Your love for your sister always shines through in every post you've written about her, and it's just lovely the way you celebrate her life. xx

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  18. Thankyou Kerri. Times like this the blogosphere & twitter totally rock. Being able to talk enables the amazing support network to kick in. But it takes courage to be vulnerable and today your post showed exactly that. Take care & go gently. xxxx

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  19. Kerri,  I never met your sister, yet I can't help but feel a sense of her from your beautiful writing. She may not be physically here - and nothing can make that better - but something of her soul lives because you love her, and your children love her, and that will never end.  Because the truth is, none of us are just ourselves, we are all part of those we love, and who love us.

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  20. Oh Kerri, my heart just broke a little. 

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  21. I don't really know what to write. Because it will seem dumb.  So I will just say that this post was a poignant, familiar read, and it made me sob. I feel lucky to have read it. Thanks a bunchy for writing it.  xxx

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  22. Oh Kerri, I feel for you. It  is so hard to lose someone, and it is even harder to come to terms with it, if ever. I am still in a grieving process for my Mum who died 19 years ago - I am only just showing emotion.
    Hugs to you and your family x

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  23. Lots of love and hugs xxxxxx

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  24. Such a beautiful tribute to your sister...thanks for sharing a little bit of her & yourself with us xo

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  25. Oh, I so get all of this. My sister has been gone for far longer than she was here, 19 at her death nearly 33 years ago. But losing my Mum last October has provoked the same response/defence in myself. I worry what will happen when the dam breaks, but also fear it won't break and this outer skin of ice will hold me frozen inside it forever.

    So damn hard, especially as I am the last survivor of my family.

    {{HUGS}} which I never send, but so required in this case.

    Oh, and though many don't know - I too am a Tanya with a y.

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  26. As tears blur my vision, I'm thinking of everyone here who has lost someone. Life is about truly feeling the depths of sadness and the highs of elation. Not everyone understands that - but you do.  

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  27. Kerri, I commented on Mamamia. The same applies, here ........xxx

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  28. Hi lovely Kerri, Thank you so much for sharing. Although we've never met I feel like I know you through your blog and I'm sending lots of love and support to you. Will be thinking of you tomorrow. Kirsten xxxxx  

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  29. I didn't know that! There aren't many of you around. Thanks for telling me, and I am so very sorry for all your losses xxx

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  30. Wow... That's not quite the right response I guess but I really 'felt' that post Kerry. I struggle to comprehend the pain you have felt but having lost several people close to me in the past few years I do understand that inability to really 'let go'. And I am sure, as your sister watches over you, she understand it too. Leave the purple flowers and the Worthers - take whatever you think she might have liked for her birthday. She will love to see the kids playing and being happy xoxoxoxo

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  31. Dear Kerri sending you Love & Hugs Tanya is with you forever in your Heart .

    Take care from Jacki xxxx

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  32. Thinking of you and your family, xxx
    Happy Birthday Tanya

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  33. Hi Kerri, I posted on mamamia but just wanted to let you know that I have been, and will be, thinking of you today. Happy birthday Tanya. X

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  34. i hope you and your family have gotten thru today. after 9 years of missing my dad and thinking about him constantly, i still take it one day at a time. and NO Kerri, time isn't the great healer. it does get less painful and there are less tears but you are aloud to have as many bad days as YOU need and want. *i still do. you and your sister must have been close and i think she would be proud that you are finally able to write about her and express how much you miss her. well done. xx

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  35. Somewhat belatedly, I just caught this beautiful post. Thank you for honouring your sister with us, your readers. 

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