Something happened to our family in February that changed everything for me. I received a call from my mom on the night of February 17th that my sister-in-law, my brother’s wife of almost four years, had lost her battle with clinical depression and we lost her to suicide.
I could not believe the words that came out of my mom’s mouth. It didn’t seem like this was possible. We didn’t even know she was suffering, let alone at a point where this could happen. When I thought about her, I thought about her smiles and her laugh. That was the Elaine I knew. The one that would laugh at the stories I told of my brother as a child, the one that made everyone feel so much better about themselves through her grace and her style, the one that seemed to have everything going for her.
The truth of what had happened took a while to set in, and now, almost three months later I still have moments where I wonder how this could have happened to her. How could she actually be gone? The last few months have been weird as our family has tried to make sense of what happened, tried to make some sort of peace with it and worked together to figure out all the little details that come with the sudden loss of a 33-year-old wife.
I work from home, and during the day I am busy writing, working on social media, and doing all the things I do during the work day. Then the kids come home, and I help with homework or whatever else they might need. Then it is time for cleaning and making dinner. By the time I am done with all of that I read a book or turn on the television to watch a tv show or a movie.
I don’t have a lot of time to be bored or to let my mind wander. But sometimes it still does. As I lay in my bed at night, I tear up a bit thinking about her and how she is no longer with us. As I look for a photo on my phone, I see one of her when she was visiting us here in TN, happy in a Cracker Barral rocking chair. When I grab the coffee cup she got me when she lived in South Korea for six months, I hope I never accidently break it, I want to keep it forever. I have to take a moment. I lose my breath and am reminded of the reality of the situation.
My sweet sister-in-law is gone. She is no longer with us. Through her death, my eyes were opened to a few things. Of the struggles others go through, of the battles they face, of the depression that can hit so hard. How life isn’t always going to be wrapped up in a pretty bow. That things can happen that will change everything forever, and there is nothing you can do about them. That others go through similar struggles and tragedies and sometimes we never even know about them. That life does go on, passed the time our loved one left the earth, and we have to figure out how we will continue without them.
My loss is different than my brother’s loss, which is different than my parent’s loss and different from her family’s loss. My brother lost his spouse, his life partner, the one he pictured growing old with, having children with, and having a future with. He lost so much in that moment, and he is the one that grieves the most.
I lost a sister-in-law, one I really only got to hang out with a handful of times but one I knew loved my brother immensely. As an older sister, one thing you want is for your sibling to be happy in life and my brother truly was when he met Elaine. The dreams of the future, thinking about us five, ten, twenty years from now. That is all gone.
Her closest friends lost their best friend, their long-time companion and they will also never be the same. They will wonder what could have been, as the years go by, and she is no longer there.
Her family will miss her in ways I can’t understand. Their daughter, their cousin, their flesh and blood.
As I think about the future, there is so much to be excited about. My boys are growing older, my career is growing, and we have some fun plans for the rest of the year. Yet, I am aware that we suffered a tragedy. That we lost a member of our family. That life has changed for all of us and will never be the same.
On that day in February, Elaine lost her battle and we lost her. In that instant, everything changed. As I look ahead, I know I can never forget her, what she meant to us, what she meant to my brother and we will continue to remember her for the rest of our lives. She is and will always be a part of our family and as time goes by we will remember who she was and how much she added to all of our lives.