Losing Someone You Never Met
***Disclaimer: no names were used to protect the immediate and extended family that are devastatingly affected by this loss. These feelings are my own and details were withheld for the privacy of the situation and for the privacy of the family.
I am a part of this whole other family that I don’t typically talk too much about, and I am the oldest sibling of this family. What this means in the scheme of things is that I have a family that stems from my biological father. They’ve never been secret and have always been so close, but so far away. I had some opportunities to get to know some of the family growing up, but I was never “in” with the family. I was like an idea that they tried to grasp, but never really caught on, like meeting a stranger in the street and being cordial, but knowing the encounter might end just as quickly as it began.
As I got older, I started to regret not knowing the siblings well. Social media gave me an outlet to view their lives and to see what they had going on, and I was able to express my love for them from a distance. Social media gave me the opportunity to find them and to feel like I was a part of their lives somehow. As I got older, I started to realize that knowing them was something I wanted. At that time though, it was too late to get the ball rolling. No matter how many comments I left, no matter how many messages I sent, no matter how many birthday parties I invited them to, our pending relationships still hung in the air. No answers and no comments back made me question my motives.
The time seemed to pass.
I lost one of my other siblings to death; she was the next oldest after me. I had spent time with her as a kid and felt the regret from her loss, that I should’ve made more of an effort. I felt the sadness and the guilt that I didn’t do more with my other siblings. Then I felt like I was betraying my brother and sister whom I grew up with and lived with my whole life. This death hit me in different ways and I still haven’t really accepted the finality of it, even though it’s been a few years.
After that I kicked up my want of being around my siblings even though we were adults, living our own lives. I admired as their families grew and I felt love for them. I even started to chat with some of the younger siblings who were still kids. It was nice getting a glimpse into their lives, if only through photos and status updates.
Until last night, when I got a few text messages informing me that another one of our siblings was fighting for life after a horrific accident. My thoughts immediately went to my sibling’s parents. Losing a child is never something a parent should have to go through. I reached out and the response was devastating: my sibling had passed.
The flood gate of guilt opened and I’ve been struggling with what my next step should be. I partly feel like their lives are none of my business outside of Facebook, but then I feel love and hurt for the rest of the family. I feel sad that I never got to know this sibling at all, and I feel sad that their life was taken away so suddenly. I feel ashamed that I didn’t rush to where they were when they were at the hospital, but then I struggle with the thought of the family being there.
Waves of emotions cover me as I try to figure out my place in that part of the family. Do I stay at the distance I’m at? Should I make more effort? Should I expect them to? How do I celebrate the lives of siblings I barely know and never knew at all? Do they even want me to be a part of their lives beyond the social media screen? I am almost 40 years old. My time has passed to be a “daughter” but has the time passed to be a sister, cousin, aunt, or friend?
I don’t know those answers. I’m not sure I ever will. I’m not sure I can fix anything at this point in our lives. I do know the death of this young sibling doesn’t put anything into perspective other than how short life can be. This death also makes me wish I had known more details of their life, of all of their lives.
Losing someone you never met can be just as sad and unsettling as losing someone you knew. It makes celebrating that life harder because you only know hearsay and nothing more. You have no rapport with this person, but you still feel sad. The internal struggle is real and it puts a damper on things. I do hope the family is able to rely on each other for the love and support they need to move forward as best they can. These times will be trying, and I can’t even imagine what they are feeling. I just hope for the best for them in their journey to healing their broken hearts.