losing my estranged sister- grief, survivors guilt, SI

wisteria

Confident
my sister died the end of Nov from breast cancer. turns out the breast cancer gene runs rampant in our family, something I'm guessing neither of us knew. my sister was estranged from the family, but we reconnected when our dad died 10 years ago, and 8 years ago i travelled 3000 miles to spend the summer with her family (she has 3 kids). I absolutely loved it, I loved being a part of her family. she wanted me to stay but I didn't. I returned home and she never talked to me again. I thought about writing (she's anti-internet, anti-cell) but I didn't. when she had cut me off the first time (before our dad died) I used to write, send postcards, xmas cards etc, each time hoping for a response and being so disappointed when I heard nothing. Next thing I know her ex texted me that she was sick.......4 hours later she was gone. 😥😥😥😥😥😥 She found out a year ago she had cancer. Even under the threat of death she wouldn't contact me. I was and am devastated.

I tried to write her a thousand letters since she passed, trying to process my grief. I feel like I'm getting no where. It just hurts so damn much. To someone who struggles with feeling unloveable, this is just further proof that I am unloveable, unworthy. Then I feel 'survivor's guilt' for living......I spent a lifetime being chronically suicidal, but guess who does NOT have the breast cancer gene? 6 out of 7 females on my dad's side died from breast cancer. I'm the 'lucky' one, yet am I living life to it's fullest? Appreciating every moment that I have? Short answer, no. Longer answer, no, instead I'm really struggling with suicidal ideation, consequently feeling like a spoiled brat for throwing away this precious gift of life.

I don't know where I'm going with this. 3 years ago my mother told me she 'never had any love for me.' I crawled into a hole and barely made my way out of it. Just when the light at the end of the tunnel starts to get a bit brighter *BOOM* my sister dies. I just can't believe that I meant nothing to her. How do you not feel worthless after that?
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
I'm so sorry @wisteria . I don't really have words atm, but the pain or reality of going through what you have with your FOO, Idk the answer because I've never found anything that over-rides the beliefs that come from it. Or even the pain of repeated fractured hope. I can only say, every relationship takes two. Hugs to you. 🫂

ETA, same situation with genetics for my family, But cancer normally takes about 5 factors to grow, having the gene doesn't guarantee getting it and not having the gene does not guarantee not getting it (it just usually shows up earlier when genetic). She would have been expected to have it at least 2 years before it was discovered (likely even more), and feeling as she did, as well as doctors visits, tests and treatments might have also influenced her decision to not correspond. As well as what was going on in her own life. I can understand not telling anyone, especially if it's common in the family. She may well have expected to have more time. And she may well have struggled with SI too, who knows. I hope you will remember that at least the time you did spend together was very positive.
 
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Friday

Moderator
(she's anti-internet, anti-cell)
I lost nearly all my friends when I had to go to face-to-face or nothing, due to a stalking issue for several years.

That I couldn’t use a phone/email/etc.? Said nothing about how much I actually liked/disliked, loved/hated, thought about ANYONE else. I was simply limited to in person contact.

Nor does it say how any of them thought/felt about me. It might mean they DGAF about me, that they weren’t willing to actually come see me; or it might mean they thought I hated them, or DGAF about them. Or any of a thousand things. I usually just take it that they have lives equally -but differently- limited. Tied to phones, and computers, and schedules that simply didn’t allow for seeing anyone who wasn’t living the same kind of life, where phone calls and FaceTime have all but eliminated taking the time to visit in person. Not dissimilar to all the other ways that people live lives limited by work, kids, money, geography, etc.

I absolutely loved it, I loved being a part of her family. she wanted me to stay but I didn't.
^^^ THIS ^^^ says how she actually thought & felt about you. She was limited (whatever her reasons for doing so) to being in contact with the people in her daily life. And she wanted you to be one of those people.

this is just further proof that I am unloveable, unworthy.
Or it’s proof that you struggle with feeling unlovable. Rather than what anyone else feels about you?

For example… did you absolutely love being a part of her family, or did you despise her & her family, and wanted nothing to do with any of them, so you made sure that you’d never have to see/speak to any of them ever again?

You know how you felt. That you didn’t speak a word to her in 8 years doesn’t mean SHE (and her kids, etc.) are unlovable, nor that you didn’t -or don’t- love them. You had your reasons for leaving. None of which are likely to be about how loveable she & her kids were.

I know it’s a lot easier to see how your own actions don’t mean something different than they did, or how your own motivations are unaffected by whatever someone else imagines. And easier still, to outside perspective it, when there is a whole durn rainbow of possible reasons and motivations. Either way, though? It’s a step towards relinquishing attempts to control others into thinking/feeling about you, the way your feel about yourself.

I just can't believe that I meant nothing to her.
Yay! It’s a great thing to not believe. As it’s clearly untrue, from what you’ve written.
 
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arfie

MyPTSD Pro
rocking you gently and crying with you, wisteria. . . when one of my estranged family members dies, i feel the death of hope and? ? ? even in the cases where there wasn't much hope, even a little hope is a terrible thing to lose. in the cases where i sincerely wanted to close the social distances, the loss feels tragic. i let myself grieve.

rocking you gently and crying with you. . .
 

wisteria

Confident
^^^ THIS ^^^ says how she actually thought & felt about you. She was limited (whatever her reasons for doing so) to being in contact with the people in her daily life. And she wanted you to be one of those people.

You know how you felt. That you didn’t speak a word to her in 8 years doesn’t mean SHE (and her kids, etc.) are unlovable, nor that you didn’t -or don’t- love them. You had your reasons for leaving. None of which are likely to be about how loveable she & her kids were.

It’s a step towards relinquishing attempts to control others into thinking/feeling about you, the way your feel about yourself.
wow, @Friday you've brought up some great points. thank you for that. Like she wanted me to stay, maybe cuz she knew she wouldn't keep in touch with my otherwise, since she only kept in contact with people in-person. And she was def loveable, even if I didn't keep in touch with her. The last bit is something I'll have to ponder. Not sure what DGAF is tho- is there an acronym list somewhere?

rocking you gently and crying with you, wisteria. . . when one of my estranged family members dies, i feel the death of hope and? ? ? even in the cases where there wasn't much hope, even a little hope is a terrible thing to lose. in the cases where i sincerely wanted to close the social distances, the loss feels tragic. i let myself grieve.

rocking you gently and crying with you. . .
@arfie the death of hope.....exactly. I had always hoped she'd 'come to her senses' and reach out to me. And of course I feel so guilty for not reaching out myself. Her kids are older teenagers now...not exactly the age where they care about an aunt they've only met once.......but I still hope someday they'll reach out. but why would they? I send them holiday cards (easter, st. patty's day even), but really, we barely know each other and our family wasn't taught to connect.
 

wisteria

Confident
I'm so sorry @wisteria . I don't really have words atm, but the pain or reality of going through what you have with your FOO, Idk the answer because I've never found anything that over-rides the beliefs that come from it. Or even the pain of repeated fractured hope. I can only say, every relationship takes two. Hugs to you. 🫂
@Rosebud Okay, I really need to find an acronym list because what the heck is FOO and ETA? LOL (that one I do know!) "repeated fractured hope" hits hard cuz it's so true. I try to tell myself essentially what you said- that she had so much going on- doc visits & what not- it's just so hard to wrap my head around absolutely no contact, not even a final letter? a message through her family? something? but nothing. Honestly tho, I don't think she knew it was common in our family. I certainly didn't until our uncle told me 4 of 5 of his aunts died from breast cancer. I was blown away. If I found out I had the gene, I'd sure as hell tell her. I guess she figured I'd find out through her death. Her ex told me. It was only then I got tested.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
@arfie Her kids are older teenagers now...not exactly the age where they care about an aunt they've only met once.......but I still hope someday they'll reach out. but why would they? I send them holiday cards (easter, st. patty's day even), but really, we barely know each other and our family wasn't taught to connect.
reach out not expecting a response.

If you mean it tell them you understand you aren’t part of their lives but would like to meet them if at any stage they care to- and on their terms. Tell them you loved their mother.

It doesn’t matter what age you are - hearing a welcome with no pressure ( as opposed to a conditional - I care but want contact and on a timescale and whatever else) is often welcome - even when emotions are too big or conflicting to act on it . If you are clear it’s an open ended offer you can feel you have done what you want but then don’t wait for them- the disappointment of each day without phone call or response would build up too much. Continue as you are, building a life in which you can be emotionally comfortable in. Then - if they do contact it’s a bonus, and a double bonus- you’ve become best placed to meet whatever you all want from that contact .


I am so very sorry for your loss. Complicated grief is not made easier by time or distance at all.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
I'm sorry @wisteria , FOO = family of origin; ETA = editted to add.

Sometimes too, if you are lucky someone might tell you before they die that they were too self-centered, or out of touch (or.. or..), which is why they did (or didn't do) what they did.

Yes it is complicated and hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it, But many have experienced it and it is a deep wound to heal. You are not alone.

Best wishes to you. 🫂
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
but really, we barely know each other and our family wasn't taught to connect.

ditto here. if only it were as easy as the justers keep saying. . . in my own birth family, estrangement is our most sacred family tradition. on my mother's side we can trace the tradition all the way back to the luther wars in central germany, 15th century. those papist/protestant divisions are sacred to this day.

i once had one of those larger than life dream where god, herself, told me that parting the red sea was child's play compared to parting the bloody fields between estranged family members. getting to know one another is allot harder than sharing dna and swapping store bought cards.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
Very sorry for your loss. I also have an estranged sister, and the last time I saw her was when our dad died, 13 years ago. She is not ill, but she is disabled. And she also quit talking to me. Even though I tried to connect with her multiple times, she wouldn't. In fact, the last time she told me never to contact her again.

I just can't believe that I meant nothing to her. How do you not feel worthless after that?

What I have learned is that it is not about me/us at all; this is ALL about her. I had to learn to let go of her (or more, the idea of her).

Our worth should not and does not come from others; it comes from inside us, from who we are.

I tried to write her a thousand letters since she passed, trying to process my grief.
I'm wondering if you are writing those letters uncensored? I do a lot of writing, and I write letters to help with grief. What I found is that the first several tend to be what I think I should say and feel. It isn't until I write without thinking about it (without, that is, censoring what I'm saying) that I express myself fully and start to feel better. Yes, that includes all the anger and hate and ugly stuff I'm thinking and feeling.
this is just further proof that I am unloveable, unworthy.
Hm...no. All it really shows is that your sister was unable to express love or care toward you. For whatever reason.
 
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