Exactly 12 years ago today, I lost my only sister. It took 9 years before I could talk about it, and another 2 years to make any kind of peace with it. I came across something recently that read “Your story could be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison…don’t be afraid to share it.” So, in honor of my sister, I’ve decided to finally share my story in hopes of bringing a bit of support and comfort to anyone out there experiencing the pain that I’m all too familiar with. This is the story of my silver lining…A Journey from Grief to Enlightenment.
My sister, Sally, left us suddenly and unexpectedly on December 22nd, 2004. Leaving my family in a state of tragedy we never thought imaginable. Looking back 12 years later, I’m not even sure how we survived this period of our lives. Most everyone is familiar with the 5 stages of grief…Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Without going into too much detail with these 5 stages, I will tell you that I experienced every single one of them…and then some. I think the only thing that saved us that first year was our lack of memory. Big chunks of time are missing from our lives that we still can’t recall. I’m guessing this is a coping mechanism…our bodies way of surviving the shock.
Luckily, almost exactly a year after Sally’s passing, my first niece was born. To say she was a Godsend is an understatement. Her arrival helped shift our focus from the numbing pain to an element of joy. She single handedly saved our lives, especially my mothers.
The next few years went by in a haze. I continued on with my life but, of course, nothing was ever the same. The anger I felt was debilitating. My behavior was destructive and I didn’t care. I lost all ability to be happy for anyone experiencing something good in their lives. I was a guarded shell who only cared about finding the next party or individual to take my mind off the pain for a few hours. Sometimes locking myself into a dark room and not resurfacing to even shower or eat for 3 days at a time.
Then something amazing happened…the birth of my 2nd niece. I remember this day so vividly. Walking into the hospital room where my sister-in-law held this beautiful newborn baby girl. My brother leaned over to kiss his wife while my other niece moved in closer to stare into her baby sister’s eyes. Witnessing this loving scene of my family woke something up inside of me. After 5 years of life without my sister, somewhere she was whispering “You see Lacey, this is what life is all about.” In this moment, I knew my initial dark stages of grief would begin to lighten.
Over the next 5 years, the devastating grief began lifting bit by bit as time went on. Even though I was no longer spiraling out of control, I was still closed off and destructive with my relationships. All types of relationships that is…friends, coworkers, family, boyfriends, etc. I was still just this shell of a person, a broken spirit walking from day to day on this planet.
The next turning point in my life happened 2 years ago when I lost my beloved grandparents within 4 days of each other. My grandparents were my martyrs, my mentors, and my 2nd parents. They had helped raise me from infancy. They were 90 years old when they passed and lived an incredibly full and enriched life. My heart broke all over again when I lost them. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was treating their passing the same as my sister’s…devastating, dark, and tormenting. This was the biggest turning point in my struggle with grief as I realized I STILL hadn’t made any kind of peace with the loss of my sister. In truth, I had no faith left. No faith in God or Buddha, in the Earth or Human Beings, no faith in myself or anything around me. Like I said, I was just a shell.
A couple of months later, I left my career behind and boarded a flight to Bali. I spent the next several weeks alone with my thoughts, practicing yoga, and allowing myself to get lost in a foreign land. I remember one night in particular during my time in Bali. I had been practicing yoga all day in a place that was very similar to a sauna, drenched from head to toe with sweat and exhaustion, I jumped into my housing’s pool and began to float for what felt like hours. Feeling weightless on top of the water with nothing in my line of sight except for the starry sky, I suddenly realized that I was content with being alone and with my thoughts. That I actually liked myself! THIS moment marked the beginning of my Journey from Grief to Enlightenment.
“Sometimes you have to self-destruct in order to self-discover and understand that the only person you have to learn to let go…is you.”
– r.m. drake
I would love to tell you that when I returned home to the States I had it all figured out. Quite the contrary actually! I had no job and ZERO direction for what was next in my life. I only had the beginning stages of restored faith and clarity. And, for me, that was enough. My journey to Enlightenment didn’t happen overnight. It revealed itself in stages over the next year and a half. During the first 6 months of this journey, I began living life more freely with an open heart. I’m only human so, of course, I still made some mistakes and bad decisions along the way. Suddenly, I began to notice a shift. I no longer enjoyed some of the things I used to enjoy. Or some of the people I used to enjoy for the matter. I found myself in situations and places that made me want to run…to escape. The things that had been a huge part of my life were no longer feeding my soul.
I like to call this my “Big Bang” transition during Enlightenment as everything began changing in a significant way. My heart and mind began opening more and more while certain people in my life started dropping off like flies. People that had been in my life for 20 years and thought would never leave my side. If you ever experience Enlightenment, and I hope you do, this will no doubt happen to you. Prepare yourself as this is part of your growth process. After these unexpected breaks in my life, I felt very confused and betrayed. Not only because they had left my life so easily, but also because they showed no desire to fight for me. I had spent half my life lifting these people up with support and encouragement. But, when it came time to do the same for me, they just couldn’t manage. For a few months, I looked for the answers as to why this was happening at such a positive and true time in my life. Was I the problem??? Because if I was, I wanted to know. Truly. I wanted to fix it and make strides to do better moving forward.
Soon, clarity set in and I realized this wasn’t the issue. I wasn’t the problem and neither were they. We were simply on different paths. The things that were important to them were no longer important to me. I was seeking unconditional love, support and respect in my relationships. Because of where they may have been in their lives, and the personal issues they may have been dealing with, they couldn’t find it within themselves to truly give what I was seeking. And I could no longer give what they were seeking. It doesn’t mean we are bad people or that we didn’t love each other. It just means we were no longer serving each others lives in a progressive way. Of course, things could have been handled better by all parties and a lot of hurt could have been prevented. But, sometimes we have to learn the hard way. If you find yourself going thru a similar experience, just remember…if you are meant to be part of each other’s lives, you will find your way back to each other. Eventually you’ll end up where you need to be, with who you’re meant to be with, and doing what you should be doing.
As my vision grew clearer, I began understanding that death doesn’t have to be so final. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you must have faith that our souls still exist after we leave this Earth. Do I believe in God…yes. Do I believe in the power of energy…yes. Do I believe in some sort of afterlife…yes. Do I believe in different forms of spirituality…yes. I also believe that my sister is with me. Now and forever. As are my grandparents. I feel them in everything around me…their energy, their soul, their spirit.
My journey finally brought me to a place of peace. I am truly enlightened and experiencing life in a better way than ever before. Always remember, what you allow is what will continue. If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.
As for me, I’m finally flying 😉
“Some lives are linked across time, connected by an ancient calling that echoes through the ages”
My Sister: Sally Paige Wall