I've lost a lot of people in my life: my parents, step-parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, even a great-nephew. I've suffered a miscarriage and grieved over broken relationships/friendships and my divorce. To say that I've learned how to process my grief is an understatement. It's become a pretty typical process for me and while it does vary slightly from rote sometimes, it's usually a fairly compact process for me.
And then there's this.
Mary was my sister. She's as much my sibling as anyone else in my life has been that I've called a sibling. Yet because I didn't grow up with her (or even knew she existed until I was an adult), she's always seemed distant, so that closeness I share with my brother and sister I grew up wasn't ever there between us. We loved each other and I don't question that. But through the last few days I've felt almost guilty for my grief and sadness over her death because I didn't know her well.
Our sister Linda grew up with Mary. She shares memories and stories and a history that I never had. They had Christmases and birthday parties. They shared Sunday dinners and family vacations. Mary was also close to her children and grandchildren. She spent every day of her life (from what I gathered) focused on her relationships with her family.
Mary and I shared a few emails and two phone calls. Yet, she's still my sister. She was the only person who told me that my father (also a man I never knew) talked about me constantly and loved me deeply. Mary, upon discovering how much I want to move to New York asked me instead to move to Texas where "you have family." She accepted me, sight unseen, circumstances unknown. Mary loved me unconditionally. I was her sister and that's all she needed to know.
So while her family is grieving for the woman they knew, I'm grieving for the woman I didn't know...can never know.
This is something I've never dealt with before. Grieving for lost memories is one thing. Grieving for memories that will never take place is totally different. This is new territory for me and I hate how it feels.