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Nothing stopped after Denise died. As we drove to her funeral, cars passed us en route to jobs or errands. When I'm in my own car and a funeral procession passes me, I think about how the lives of the grieving people are halted for that brief moment while the rest of us continue with our lives. I always thought the cruelest part of Denise's death was that the world didn't stop to acknowledge she was no longer with us.

While we trudge down the path of grief, we find our routines have been interrupted. All we want is to lie down and let the busy world go by, but we must continue to turn with the rest of the planet. We have to function, even when we don't think we have the strength to do so.

Also, we must move on with our lives although our loved one is no longer with us. Each day we do new things and experience life events without him or her. As we age and celebrate birthday after birthday, the deceased will stay as we last remember him or her. Although I have advanced through my twenties, my sister forever remains two weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday; she will always be that way, even when I am in my fifties. My husband, Joe, never met Denise, and, if we have children, they will never know their aunt.

A great wave of sadness overwhelmed me when Denise's friend Kristy had her first child, just over a year after Denise's death. Denise had been Kristy's maid of honor the summer before she died. Kristy said that when she learned she was pregnant (only months after Denise's death), she had an urge to call Denise and tell her the news because they had shared so much throughout their lives. Kristy called me the day Courtney was born and I went to the hospital to see her. I didn't expect it to be such a sad time for me, but as I sat in the hospital room with Kristy, her husband Terry, and other family members filtering in and out, someone was missing. Driving home, I sensed a large black cloud hanging over me. It was too hard without Denise. I wanted to be happy for Kristy with her new baby, not sad that my sister was gone.

Two years after Denise died, my brother Brian married. I expected his wedding day to be difficult. I thought we would be sad that Denise wasn't there. That wasn't the case, and I didn't feel sad when he and his wife, also named Denise, had wed mist child, Jordan. It was different somehow, probably because we had continued to move on with our lives without her.

Six years after Denise's death, my own wedding drew near, and I wondered what it would be like minus her presence. I contemplated whether I would feel sad because she wasn't going to be there to celebrate it with me. As the day drew closer, I had many dreams in which she was at the ceremony although she was dead. I arranged for Mom and Joe's mom, Beverly, to light a candle for Denise and for Joe's brother, Andy, who was fatally stabbed in 1991. The anticipation was harder than the event. I sensed she was there with me in her own way.

We spent much of our childhood together dreaming, whether it was creating make-believe situations or planning our futures. Denise was a part of all the dreams I still cling to, and, as I look back, she knew them better than anyone else. She wasn't there when I finished my bachelor's or master's degrees though, and she won't be there the day I have children or accomplish the rest of my goals. Life goes on without our loved one.

It's sad to us that we move on and fear we are forgetting him or her, but we have memories, something no one can take from us. When we realize we won't lose our memories of the person, we then begin letting go of the feelings and emotions affiliated with the death. It's much easier to release the loved one intellectually before emotionally. We never get over a death. Instead, the person always remains a part of us.

pp.85-87. Exceprted from "Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling" by Michelle Linn-Gust, M.S. Published by Chellehead Works. Copyright 2020. 

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