Monday Mournings: The Death of a Sister

Susan Oloier, author and writer; mother and wife. In my previous life I was a third grade teacher and Reading Specialist until my husband and I decided to quit our jobs, sell our house, and buy an RV to travel the U.S. for a year with our then two-year-old son. Now I write and take care of my kiddos. I was raised in the Midwest, lived in Phoenix for quite some time, and now reside in SW CO.

DW:  Who was the person who died?
Susan:  My sister-in-law, Sara. Her death last year dealt a devastating blow.

DW:  How old were you at the time?
Susan:  Early 40s.

DW: How old was the person? 
Susan:  36

DW:Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen? 
Susan:  It was sudden and tragic. Sara was driving home from work, and there was a horrible car accident. No one else was involved. Somehow, she wound up hitting a concrete light pole. I believe they had to use the jaws of life to extricate her. She was taken to the hospital with countless injuries. I can still picture her lying there—so much herself, yet so very different. She never did wake up, so my brother was faced with some extremely difficult decisions. To this day, no one knows what happened.

DW:  Did you and Sara ever talk about death? 
Susan:  We never really talked about her death. Though, I would occasionally bring up the life-limiting diagnosis of my younger son with her. She was so warm and loving with him; very compassionate.

DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before this person died? 
Susan:  Yes. Many. Family pets (don’t laugh), all of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, two miscarriages, a close friend to cancer, and way too many children of other families who had children with Trisomy 18—my son’s diagnosis. In fact, after Zane was born, we were told to expect him to die within a few months. So death seemingly has been a companion lately.

DW:  Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving? 
Susan:  I found people to be very supportive. There was a lot of family around after Sara’s death. But everyone was really in shock. I helped my brother and Sara’s parents plan out the memorial, and I helped officiate. So, in addition to grieving, I found myself in the role of supporting my brother’s grief, as well.

DW:  Is there anything you wish you’d done differently with Sara?
Susan:  I wish I would have reached out to her more, gotten to know her better. We were just coming to a point where we were feeling so much like sisters. So many times I get caught up in the minutiae of life that I tend to let too much time go by between calling someone. Maybe we’re all a little guilty of this. But it will always be my regret with Sara. I wish I could tell her how much she meant to me. But somehow, I believe she already knows that.

DW:  Was she buried or cremated? 
Susan:  She was cremated.

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you'd like to share? 
Susan:  I believe grieving is a life-long process sometimes, especially when death is untimely. I learned this from all the babies and children who have died as a result of complications associated with Trisomy 18; I’ve learned it with Sara. One critical thing I’ve discovered is that loved ones don’t want us to forget those who have passed. So we need to keep talking about them and not be afraid of hurting those who remain by bringing up their names. They’ve already been through the worst. We need to keep them alive in spirit, in heart, and in memory. It’s when others stop asking and talking about the deceased that it becomes especially painful.

DW:  I couldn't agree more.  Last but not least, were any songs played at the memorial that were
important to Sara?  
Susan:  There’s one from Rascal Flatts that was their wedding song, but it’s still too painful to have you play that. I can picture them dancing together at the reception to it. Instead, my brother made a slideshow using In My Life by the Beatles. Listening to it (even today) brings me to tears and makes me think of the memorial. It is so very fitting, though. And Sara’s parents are huge Beatles fans. 

This one goes out to Sara...