It’s not like I remembered

 la familia

It’s not like I remembered.

That’s what I kept thinking as I sat with my family going through old pictures. I’d seen the photographs a hundred times but this time I was seeing details that I’d never noticed before. Art on a wall, a book on a table, a tree in the background…

I drove down the street of our childhood home. The old house was torn down long ago but I have memories of the new house too. The house on Simmons. That phrase kept coming up in conversation as though the street was its own habitat or a moon orbiting a world that everyone else lived in but us. The road used to seem so long when I was a kid and now it didn’t. The houses were closer together, the yards smaller. It’s not like I remembered.

I got to see a video of my sister’s wedding from 1991. It was such a tumultuous time in my life. I was a mess inside, suffering from anxiety attacks and night terrors. I was in college at the time and I barely made it to class most days. I was so surprised to see how happy, pretty and normal I looked. It’s not like I remembered.

The week leading up to my sister’s memorial was full. I kept wondering how I could be so sad and so peaceful at the same time. Those feelings were oddly compatible in the shadow of my sister’s death. I felt surprisingly detached from the sadness of the past. It was all from the here and now. The kind of sadness that comes from holding space for the grief of others more than my own.

The memorial was at my mom’s house. I drove separately from my husband and kids in case I wanted to stay longer. As I approached my mom’s street, I had a sudden urge to keep driving. Maybe I could go to a bookstore or just sit alone in a parking lot. Anywhere but there. I knew I had to go but the feeling to run took me by surprise.

My siblings have a different father and there were a lot of cousins from their side of the family that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. I laughed at how some of them went up to my 23 year old niece and thought she was me. I’m 44 years old! I guess I’m frozen in their memories as a young girl. Not that I’m complaining.

I didn’t realize until the day after the memorial that I’d given myself a deadline. I subconsciously told myself that life would get back to “normal” after the day was over. I wouldn’t feel so sad anymore. I’d start cooking dinner again and want to read to my kids. I’d walk the dog and the heaviness would dissipate. I didn’t realize that I’d set an imaginary deadline until I found myself getting angry. Angry that life is supposed to move on now but I’m just beginning to grieve. The plans and preparations kept me busy last week and now that’s over.

I’m not angry today. Just weepy. If I didn’t watch the news I’d never know that hurricane Odile is making its way up the Baja peninsula and is set to drench southern Arizona by Wednesday. How fitting. After the downpour the night of my sister’s death, storms will forever be linked with her memory. I’m prepared to ride it out and go with the flow. To keep safe but not resist.

Hurricane Odile

29 thoughts on “It’s not like I remembered

  1. This really spoke to me, Karen:

    “I didn’t realize that I’d set an imaginary deadline until I found myself getting angry. Angry that life is supposed to move on now but I’m just beginning to grieve.”

    It’s odd how the days just keep dawning after loss. People move on. And you stay stuck. At least for a while.

    I’ll be thinking of you as you continue to mourn, knowing that there is no time limit for sadness and longing.

    Prayers to you, friend.

    ❤ Dani


    1. It’s almost like heartbreak takes us on a trip and then we’re expected to come back from that trip and relate to everyone like we did before. But we’re forever changed by the experiences we had on that trip. It’s not a bad thing but hard to adjust to. Thank you for your prayers and support Dani!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen, I have been thinking of you, and am glad to hear you survived that unique turmoil that is the funeral/memorial process. When I get impatient with an emotion, my best trick is to consciously lean into it, and see if that helps in any way. Now, generally I’m talking about non-specific “blues,” and certainly not of the caliber of sadness with which you are dealing, but perhaps just giving yourself the permission to let it hang out might usher is out the door a bit faster.

    I am still praying for you and your family, and I am hoping you feel better day by day!


    1. I completely leaned into feeling like a mess on Monday and it definitely helped. I cried as much as I wanted/needed to, which was a lot. I feel like I’m settling in to the ups and downs which are sure to come and I’m going to remind myself to lean in like you say. Thank you so much, Josie.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand. I hesitated to drive down my parents’ street a year after my dad died. But I did. And the house looked ok, just different than I remembered. I’ve realized some things are better held in memory than held up to the light of day.


  4. Dear Karen,
    I’ve been thinking about you so much and have been sending you wordless hugs and vibes. If only I could do more. Be kind to yourself and soak in the love and support I know your close friends and family will wrap you up in. Wrapping you up in a virtual hug of my own. Xo


  5. Grieving is a process and god bless you for being willing to go through the process. There seems to be so many experiences we have that are not what we think they are supposed to be like.
    I send blessings your way as you walk this life one step at a time. Hugs, Brenda


  6. I’m sorry Karen…
    don’t be angry…all the hoopla and memorial and people getting together is what gets us through those first rough days, allows the shock to hold us and let us function. It’s after, when the reality and enormity set in that it gets to be time to grieve fully.
    Allow that, it’s ok.
    I’m sure there will be many more “nudges’ (winks in my vernacular) coming…heed them and enjoy them.
    The veil is thin, and that’s such a blessing as we grieve.
    love you


    1. It did get us through, gave us something to focus on. It feels enormous. I feel like I’m being spiritually guided through this but I don’t recognize it as it’s happening. Only later can I point to something and see it as a nudge. Thank you for your words and love. I feel them.


  7. They say that there are stages of grief. That’s not what I found when my sisters died. I would be OK and then remember and then be sad again. The hardest thing — still after 14 and 5 years — is that when something happens that I want to tell them about and would suddenly realize that I couldn’t.

    Take it slow. Do what you need to do, whatever that is, without feeling guilty (towards your sister or towards your family). Wounds need time to heal.

    (I found long walks with the dog to be wonderfully therapeutic. They never care if you cry or get crabby or just want to sit and be miserable for a while. They don’t judge!)

    Liked by 1 person

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