My sister passed away about four weeks ago. I had not talked to her in about four years. She made it known throughout the family that she hated me. I believe that she had been depressed, very depressed, for a very long time. Should I have done more? I tried in the past, but when I found out that she hated me and wouldn’t tell me why, I stopped talking to her. I am pretty solid in the fact that this was not any of our faults. But wonder if I should have done more.
Dear Should I Have Done More,
My condolences for your loss, although I suspect you have been grieving the loss of your sister for four years, not just four weeks.
Let me say up front, this is the most difficult My Two Cents post I’ve written to date. Please know I speak to you with a kind and open heart, fully unaware of all of the feelings you may be experiencing. Nothing I say here is meant to hurt or offend.
Are you familiar with the book The Four Agreements by the shamanic teacher and healer, Don Miguel Ruiz? I believe looking through the lens of the agreements may be applicable here. They are:
Be impeccable with your word.
Don't take anything personally.
Don't make assumptions.
Always do your best.
Where the heck am I going with this? Let’s assume you and your sister were living within these agreements.
Be impeccable with your word: If your sister was living this, and she let it be known she did not want a relationship with you, then, she did not want a relationship with you. Nothing you could have said or done would have changed her mind. If you allow this to be true, there is nothing more you could have done to change her feelings. When you tried to reestablish your relationship, I’m going to assume you were impeccable with your words to her. She could not receive them. (You can skip ahead to the last one – because in being impeccable you did your best.)
Don’t take anything personally: You write that she did not share her reason for hating you. This literally has given you nothing to take personally. Had she said she hated your laugh, or the way styled your hair, those things could have been taken personally (even though they shouldn’t be because they’d just have been her opinions, not facts.) You also write that you believe she was very depressed. Her depression was certainly not about you. Your sister was fighting her own battle. Watching a loved one suffer is its own kind of pain. When the person we want to help is unable to accept that help, we are left to feel useless, helpless rather than helpful. Those feelings are inherently personal. But they are not what the other person is intending you to feel, especially when they are in such pain.
Don’t make assumptions: When you think your doing more might have helped her you are assuming you could have helped her. (Refer to content in “Be impeccable with your word” section above.) You can think of 1,000 ways some different outcome could have occurred. You can spend days wondering what she was thinking. All of them would be wrong. Not having answers to questions is a difficult thing to accept. Perhaps reminding yourself that you will not have the answers can bring you closer to accepting the unknowns you are trying to answer. Sometimes in knowing there can be no answers helps to stop asking the questions.
Always do your best: You reached out. You tried. You were rebuked. Do you have other people in your life who hate you? (I’m going to assume not.) Let’s dial this back away from you. She was probably trying to do her best. Her best may not have been anyone else’s best. But it was hers. Hers in the same way her life was hers - hers to live and die, as she wanted. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, I know. Part of what keeps us connecting with each other in this life is the belief that we matter to other people. And to most people, I think we do matter. Other people are on more of a solo journey. Their connections can be harder to come by.
But the larger point in this agreement is asking how can you look to the pain of this loss and transform it? Are there any relationships in your life, if that person was to be gone tomorrow, that you would have unfinished business with? Are there unspoken feelings you want to share with someone? Can you take this pain and turn it into a catalyst for knowing how you want to move forward in your other relationships? What of the love you were unable to fully experience with your sister can you bring to the people in your life now? Can you bring more love into relationships as an offering to your sister? She may not have been able to accept that love in her life, but you can share it out to others. In this way, your pain gains a new purpose, it can transfigure loss into love.