“Can’t get over it.”
“It’s time to move on.”
“Wasn’t That FOUR YEARS AGO?”
“Don’t worry. At least you’re still alive.”
Do any of these statements sound familiar? Maybe for some of you, all of them do. Do you feel frustrated and weak when people criticize you for feeling grief over the loss of your brother or sister? Have people told you that you should “Get over it”? If so, you’re not alone.
My sister died in a go-cart accident five years ago. I still can’t even look at a go-cart track without flashbacks. I will never ride a go-cart again, and when I have kids, they probably won’t be allowed to either. Right after Sara died, people were sympathetic when I explained my aversion to go-carts, my friends usually looked at me funny. I could hear their thoughts, “What’s her problem? That was a long time ago.” For them, life went on, but for me, when I see a go-cart track, it’s as if I travel back to the day of the accident. For you, it might be a train track, a specific kind of car, a place, or a ward in a hospital. Whatever your reminder is, it hits you like a ton of bricks, and no one seems to understand why – you especially.
Guess what? That’s normal. It’s okay to remember and feel sad and angry. Even years after the death of your sibling (anyone else) it’s okay to get upset. The only question is how do you explain it to the people who ask why?
This is an issue that is not easily handled. I believe you should only try to explain your feelings to people you really want to understand (i.e. your best friend). Find a quiet place to talk, and tell him/her what cased your brother/sister’s death (if you friend doesn’t already know).
Next, talk about some experiences that you and your friend have shared (trips, activities at school, etc.). I’ll bet you have an experience which ends with…and I’ll never look at pickles the same way again!.” Tell your friend that the event that led to your sibling’s death is like that “unforgettable” time you shared together. Just like you are reminded of each other every time you eat a pickle, you too are reminded of your brother/sister every time you see a train go by, or pass a go-cart track. The difference is that you get very sad and angry when you see these things instead of happy memories. Hopefully your friend will understand a bit better by relating the event to something she knows. Also, it won’t make it so uncomfortable because you will be remembering happy times as well as sad ones.
There will still be people who do not understand, especially the ones you haven’t explained this to. Unfortunately, this is the way life goes sometimes. If someone makes you upset because he/she doesn’t understand and is insensitive, talk about it to a friend who does. Just remember that when someone hurts you like this, they probably don’t realize it does hurt that much. Also remember that their are people who understand what you are feeling. I’m one of them.
Written by: Meghan Young
For Bereaved Families of Ontario