Today would have been my sister Renee’s 21st birthday. Unfortunately, she’s not alive to enjoy it – she died in an apartment fire about two years ago.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been going through the grieving process and it has been really, really tough. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the things that I’ve felt along the way and some of the effects it has had on me and my family. I’m mostly writing this post because I’m hoping it will be therapeutic for me. That being said, maybe someone who is experiencing similar things will find this post in the future and me sharing my feelings and the effects this tragic event has had on me will help that person. Before I get into all that, though, a few words about my sister.
Renee Ohrn – My Awesome Sister
Renee was everything you could want a young woman to be. She was kind, intelligent, and outgoing. She went out of her way to make others feel comfortable and safe. She loved and laughed and lived as hard as anyone I’ve ever met in my entire life. She was a true beauty and an amazing athlete. I swear she squatted and benched better than most men I’ve met.
When I think of my sister, I can’t help but feel she was basically the best of my brother and me. I also think about the impact she had on the people who met her. She was only 19 years old when she died and close to 1,000 people showed up to pay their respects. I could hardly believe it.
Modern psychology says there are five stages of grief that a person goes through in order: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. I can’t say that I ever denied what happened to my sister, but I can definitely say that I’ve experienced both anger and depression over the last year and a half.
I was angry that my sister died due to something that had an improbably small chance of occurring. I was pissed that she was the only one who died (not that I wanted other people to die, I just didn’t want Renee to die). I continue to be upset that she didn’t get to experience the rest of what promised to be a full and exciting life. I’m still angry about these and other things from time to time.
I have been depressed on and off since Renee died. I don’t believe it is a clinical depression, but it has lead to me laying in bed and thinking things like:
- Why even get up? Nothing you do today will matter because you could die at any moment.
- Who cares if you get work done today? There’s always tomorrow – unless there isn’t.
- Why do you even care about doing your best? You shouldn’t care – no one will ever remember you anyways.
The depression I’ve experienced has made me cynical and has lead to me being negative almost all the time. I don’t want to think about the future, don’t want to make plans, and I don’t get excited about the things that I used to look forward to. For example, Angela and I are saving for a house right now and I find it really hard to get pumped up about that. Before this happened, I couldn’t imagine thinking the way I do a lot of time.
Sometimes I can’t work because I’m just paralyzed thinking of the unfairness of life. My sister didn’t deserve to die, but she did.
I don’t want to go out and do anything fun. I mean, why is it fair that I get to live this life and Renee didn’t get to?
Effects on My Family
I have a great family, but when I say “My Family” at this point I mostly mean Angela. She’s the one I live with. She knew Renee and loved her.
My grief has made me an asshole sometimes. I know it has, and I know when I’m being one, but I find it really hard to snap out of it. Angela is the one who has had to deal with that.
In spite of all my negativity and the sullen attitude I tend to adopt, Angela has been my rock. She has supported me and loved me even in the moments where I have just been unbearable to be around. I cannot imagine going through this process alone and I feel so lucky to have a supportive wife who I can lean on.
What I’ve Found
Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to the realization that you can’t really control how you feel sometimes. This came as a huge shock to me because I’m a big control freak and I had convinced myself that I was totally and completely in control of my feelings all the time. Newsflash: that’s not true at all.
I don’t want to be sad or angry or depressed, but sometimes I literally cannot help but feel that way. There are things I can do to mitigate those feelings, but they’re often just temporary fixes (and unhealthy, at that, like eating a box of donuts).
I’ve also found that you can’t do everything on your own. You have to talk to people and ask for their help – even if you really don’t want to. I’ve never really been one to ask for help, but over the last year and a half I’ve learned that I have had to, otherwise, I will never get better.
From Here, Where Do I Go?
Honestly, I’m not really sure. I know that I have to go on living my life – enjoying it while I’ve got it. There’s nothing really else to do.
I’m relearning how to relax. For the first 6-7 months after Renee died all I did was work. I’d wake up at 5AM, workout for an hour, and then I’d work until 10PM. I made a ton of money, but the stress was eating me alive. The positive thing for me, or so I thought at the time, was that I didn’t have to sit idly and think about my sister. What I learned is that you have to idle your brain sometimes. I’m learning how to do that again.
I’ll be fine, though. I have a loving wife and an awesome puppy. I live a good life and don’t really want for much. I’ll keep on living and trying to take advantage of the life that I do have and I’ll encourage others to do the same.