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Letting Go: Moving On After Loss
By Casey Lee

I grew up in a picturesque family with two parents madly in love with each other, two beautiful older sisters, and a comfortable middle-class Midwestern upbringing. Because my sisters are respectively nine and eleven years older than I, they were married and had children before I reached that point in life; I was the Maid of Honor in both of their weddings and enjoyed every moment of being there for them during these monumental moments in their lives. My parents prided themselves on being doting grandparents, and I devoted more nights to coloring “My Little Pony” pictures and watching cartoons with my nieces and nephews than I did to partying when I was an undergrad.

Despite these happy times, my sisters were gone from my life by the time I turned twenty-two. There was not a tragic car wreck, a devastating battle with cancer, or a freak accident. In fact, as far as I know, my sisters are both healthy and happy as can be, but they have no contact with my parents or myself.

During the planning of my recent wedding, my sisters were offended by a reason of which I am still unaware. I honestly have no idea why I was so bitterly cut out of their lives. I was met with blocked Facebook profiles, rejected calls, and nasty e-mails whenever I tried to resolve whatever the issue was with them. They have since cut off my parents, our grandparents, and almost every other member of our extended family, with no explanation other than to say it’s too painful for them to talk about it.

This sudden loss of my sisters and their families for reasons I cannot, and may never understand, was absolutely devastating to me. How do you handle losing someone when they have a deep-set hatred for you but refuse to talk about it? Do you throw away all of your childhood photos? Do you tape over the countless VHS tapes of three sisters playing together happily? These are questions I still ask myself often. In fact, I still can’t bring myself to take down the little art projects my nieces have tacked onto my fridge, despite the fact that almost two years have passed since I last saw them.

I was forced to try to find some way to explain to people why my sisters were refusing to not only be a part of my wedding, but also to be a part of my life. Every time I tried to explain to people what happened, I could see a look of disapproval flash across their faces.

“Can’t you try harder to make them talk to you?” they would ask.

“Are you sure you didn’t do something very painful to them?”

“That’s just absurd. There must be some reason you can think of; think harder!”

I knew it would be hard for people to wrap their minds around this situation because, quite frankly, I still don’t understand it myself. The lack of empathy and endless questioning by the people around me was enough to tear my heart to pieces.

Although it should have been the happiest time of my life, I sunk into a deep depression as these types of comments whirled around me. I began to associate the painful ordeal with my sisters with my wedding, making me dread any mention of anything new, borrowed, or blue. Anxiety has never been an issue for me, but I began to question everyone’s motives and read too deeply into every comment someone made to me. I felt constantly judged and scrutinized, and it affected literally my relationships at work and in my personal life. I could no longer trust anyone.

A few weeks before the big day, my oldest sister contacted me and asked why she had not been invited to my wedding. I couldn’t believe she could even ask such a thing, so I asked her in a dumbfounded fashion if we could please get together and talk about what had been going on for the past several months. She refused and said she would come to the wedding only if we didn’t talk about what had happened. After all the pain I had endured during the planning of my wedding, I told her I couldn’t emotionally handle her being in attendance if she would not even discuss our relationship. Her voice escalated and she asked me to never contact her again, and that was that.

I have been married for almost a year now, and I still have not conversed with my sisters. They did not attend my wedding, and they have not attempted to contact anyone in my family since my big day. My wedding was beautiful, but as I danced with the love of my life at our reception, I couldn’t help but wish that my two nieces were spinning around in circles under the disco ball on the dance floor beside us.

I have sent my sisters letters telling them that the door is open on my side if they ever want to make a reconciliation and discuss what all of this silliness is even about, but apparently the door is still closed on each of their hearts because I have not heard back. I know that even if we reconcile someday, things will never be the same as they once were.

However, knowing that I have made efforts to resolve things has been therapeutic for me; a close friend of mine who is also a family counselor has encouraged me to write letters to my nieces and nephews when I begin to miss them terribly, and I do this often. I have a small, wooden box under my bed that holds these letters, and if I ever see them someday, I will pass them on to them when hopefully they can make sense of why I disappeared from their lives. I know they are still too young for me to establish contact with them, so I will patiently wait for them to find me if they choose to do so someday.

While I still experience a sharp jab in my chest every time I hear one of their names or see a picture of us as a happy family, I am slowly learning to deal with this loss and embrace each day as it comes. As much as I would love for my family to be as happy as it once was, I have learned several lessons from this experience.

After watching my parents literally age before my eyes because of the emotional hardship they have been put through, I have come to recognize the power I have to either make the lives of my family better or ruin them. I refuse to ever use that power negatively as my sisters have done.

I have learned that communication is key, and unless you’re willing to be proactive about a problem, there’s no use in even bringing it up or holding a grudge. If they had just been honest with me, I am confident that my sisters and I could have dealt with whatever the problem was and moved on with our lives.

Most importantly, I have found that there are things in this life that are beyond my control, and I can choose to allow bitterness to wrap itself around my heart, or I can choose to allow both positive and negative experiences to help me grow and influence the way I live my life. I choose to do the latter; I choose to take control.

Casey Lee Bio:

I am a 22-year old free spirit, learning and growing each day as I make it through my first year of teaching English at the high school level. So far I have learned that teaching can be painful at times and victorious at others, but through it all, I am learning as much as my students, if not more, and I’m excited to show up to work each day because I never know exactly what will happen.

My passion lies in trying to help my students learn that writing is a beautiful means of self-expression, not something to be scared of or avoided. I may not reach every single young person that sits in my classroom, but it is surely my aim to try.

I once heard a quote that I remember each day as I prepare to teach: “A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” My goal is to equip my students with the tools they need and watch what wonderful things they will create with them.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading and writing, which is probably a prerequisite of being an English teacher. I also enjoy spending time with my wonderful husband and family, as well as cooking and enjoying the beauty of the ocean near my home.

I hope that my story was able to bring you some clarity and joy within your own life.

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