Katie's Voice

The Best Things People Said to Me After My Sister Died

Ok, so my husband is the person who said–and says–most of these things to me. And no, people aren’t generally quite as specific or direct as this. But perhaps, if you know someone who is grieving, this list might give you some ideas. 

  1. I will check in on you, asking you specifically how you are doing in terms of your grief. I will do this on a regular basis (once a week, once a month) for as long as you need it. I will even set a reminder on my phone to do it. If you don’t want to talk about it, just tell me.


  1. My sister, Dorey, at Healing Horse Stables in Pesotum, IL (the equine therapy program she founded)

    I understand that all your griefs are connected, so you will grieve your mother, your pets, your first marriage, your career, the horse farm where you grew up, and all your other losses extra hard during this time.


  1. You can tell me as often as you need to, in as much detail as you wish, about your grief. I will not feel burdened. It matters that you cried in the car on the way back from the dog park. I cannot offer any solutions, but I will listen.


  1. When someone dies who has known you your whole life, it may feel like part of your identity has died. I will listen to your old stories, the details of your life and your life with her: how you fake-fought about who would get your cocker spaniel, Amber, on your bed every night when you shared a room; how she used to talk as she was falling asleep, making less and less sense.

    Dorey (older) and me as kids


  1. Your life has meaning, even without your connection to her. Your presence in the world is different from hers, but just as important. She may have helped hundreds of people by being with them during hard times, working with them at her therapeutic riding center, and visiting them as a nurse or chaplain, but every life has ripples that are not always easy to see.


  1. There is no timeline for grief, or for joy. You may feel both within the same minute. Ordering a gardenia bush—your one exception to choosing native plants these days—may bring delight and also hollowness, because she will never see it, never smell its heavy fragrance that your mother, she, and you love.


  1. Missing the stupid things—the ritual exchange of “you’re weird,” the pet medical advice when you know you’re going to the vet anyway, making chocolate chip cookies just the way she liked them—is normal.


  1. Write as many words about her, and your loss of her, as you wish. Maybe people will eventually read them; maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Write them anyway. Write thousands. It’s not selfish, and even if it is, that’s ok. You don’t get a prize for “best bereaved person.”


  1. sisters laughing (I’m in the glasses)

    It will get better. It will never go away, this loss, this emptiness, this ache, but it will be less intrusive. Eventually you won’t cry every day. Eventually you won’t reach for your phone to call her. Eventually you won’t think of every vacation in terms of whether she would like it: beach or mountains, warm or cold, cathedral or moors.


  1. Keep talking about her. Don’t be afraid of your own pain, or causing it in others. She did not disappear out of your memories. Anyone who ever heard her giggle will never forget it. She was here. She was real. She still is.


10 replies »

  1. That should say: Sending you love. My heart goes out to you for your loss. I appreciate how you relate how you are moving through it and what people could consider in reaching out to others going through their grief. Reading has helped me and I believe it will help others too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My son has terminal cancer. I’m about to start per-bereavement counselling. I knew Andrew as a teenager in Ilkley, it sounds as though he has been brilliant. My partner and I have realised that our lives will never be the same again since Rob’s diagnosis and we have worse to get through. Sending you and Andrew my best wishes. Jenny (nee Hutchinson)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so very sorry. One thing I read suggested that we should resist advice to “fix” our grief or “return to normal.” As you say, we are changed by grief, because it is part of the love we have for someone. I hope the counseling is helpful. And yes, Andy is wonderful. But no single person can be everything. I am lucky to have other people—and pets—as support too. (Though Andy’s humor and sarcasm is wonderful—part of why I married him!) ❤️


  3. I’m one of those people with genetically cheerful chemistry. My dad was like that, too. When my daughter died in 2009, I cried A LOT, maybe more crying than I had done in my whole life up to that point. Sadness felt very natural, biological. Like it was supposed to happen that way. I cried in front of people because it felt natural. I thought it was an excellent way to express grief, and the crying slowly and naturally stopped. I can replay Dorey’s laugh and giggle in my head any time I want. I’m pretty sure I’ll always be able to do that, because her happy noises made me laugh, too, and are therefore unforgettable. And I can still feel my daughter’s forehead on my cheek and her hand in mine. I’m sure I’ll never forget the way those things felt. These are our blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are blessings. But right now, they also bring tears for me. I never laughed with anyone the way I did with her. I’m so sorry for your loss, and so grateful there are people like you in the world. ❤️


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