real life

'Dear Sam, I lost my sister too. This is what I want you to know.'

Dear Samuel,

My heart aches for you and your family. I really dropped my bundle when I learned of Connie’s passing on Friday night. Today my sister Wendy would’ve turned 42. She died four years ago, aged 37, leaving behind two awesome daughters, a loving husband, and an army of friends and family. I feel your pain.

I’d like to tell you that the pain of grief gets easier, but grief is a different ride for everyone. I’ve never been good at hearing ‘stay strong’ or ‘she wouldn’t want you to feel this way.’ I don’t want to feel this way either, but my sister died and it hurts; she was awesome and now she’s not here and frankly it sucks a big one.

READ: The time to honour Connie is now. Here are three things we can do today.

A couple of months after Wendy died, I saw my psychologist. She had seen me through my marriage ending, so I thought I should check in with her. The most valuable thing she told me was not to wait to feel better about my sister dying, but to instead make space in my heart for where that pain sits. I will never be OK with my 37 year old sister dying, so there was no point waiting to feel better about it. I cannot tell you the sense of relief that permission gave me. To this day those words sit with me. I feel the big stuff, and then get on with it. I might view life through a shattered lens, but I give it a red hot go. I enjoy life because I know how blessed I am to have it. I celebrate birthdays because getting older is a privilege not afforded to everyone.

How Samuel lives with so much sadness and spends his time being there for others dealing with cancer. Post continues below.

When Wendy was going through treatment, there were times she was in hospital for days on end, and couldn’t feel the sun or breathe fresh air. I remember sitting with her on a bench seat outside the hospital one day after one of these stints and she closed her eyes, tilted her head to the sky and felt the sun on her face. We sat in silence, feeling the sun, breathing the air. I do the same thing whenever I can, feeling it for the both of us.


I try to do some of her favourite things sometimes too, like eating mint choc-tops at the movies. She loved that. As a single mum, I don’t get to the movies often, but when I do, I get stuck into a mint choc-top for Wendy. Since today is her birthday, I’ll have a margarita and some turkish delight for her too. She didn’t drink much but she loved a good margarita. Truth be told, I don’t need it to be 9th September for a margarita!

I remember reading once about the wave of grief and how it is pretty continuous for a while, but then there becomes space between the waves before the next crash. It rang true for me. I don’t cry every day anymore, and sometimes now the memories make me smile instead of bawl. For at the least the first two years, when something major would happen, or something funny happened that I HAD to share with her, I still went to call her. I’ve bawled on many a street when it hit me that I couldn’t call her. Don’t feel crazy if that happens to you too, I hear it’s pretty common for those of us familiar with the grief train.

Clare and Wendy as children, and as adults. Images supplied.

Wendy was pretty spectacular. Not being biased, she just was. She was one of those beautiful inside and out, super smart people with their shit together. Hitting hurdles in life often makes many of us wonder ‘what would Wendy do’? (WWWD)

I realise as I type this that I could go on and on. You and yours are truly in my thoughts.

Your village is no doubt supporting you, and will be over the coming days, weeks and months. I hope you are also receiving the gift of food. Not having to think of meals is one of the best gifts to receive when your brain is too full of sadness to remember food is a necessity.

Be kind and gentle to yourself. One day at a time. They will be different; some will be flat out horrendous and others will be full of the good stuff. Feel it all and keep going. That’s all you’ve got to do. Just get up that one more time when you think you can’t. Big love mate.

x Clare

Clare Elsworth is the creator of signature fragrance candle company bbe boutique & the designer behind Australian made travel dress company Stars in her Eyes.

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