In the months following the birth of my nephew, my brother was diagnosed with a second brain tumour and began further treatment, Christmas came and went, I gave birth to my first child, my brother's tumour stopped responding to treatment and shortly after the birth of his son, he lost his fight for life. My sister, sister-in-law and I used to meet up weekly with our babies. We'd have lunch, chat and try to be a comfort to each other. We were all grieving in very different ways. I don't really remember much of that time, lost in that haze of bereavement but I know there were times when we laughed and times that we cried.
During this time my sister's depression was increasing and her dependency on others was also increasing. She was drowning in grief and it wasn't just grief for my brother but also for the life she once had, the life that she thought she'd had, the happy daughter that had been stolen from her, the security that she'd once known. My parents went away and my sister's dependence switched heavily to me and my sister in law and lost in our own grief, and trying to deal with being parents, we didn't handle it very well. We argued, over something ridiculous really, but that afternoon my sister attempted to take her own life. I will be forever grateful that she didn't succeed that day, and forever grateful to those that helped me and her. It took me a long time to forgive my sister for what she'd tried to do and for me to gain more understanding of depression and helplessness that she must have felt. I can remember the relief that I felt when I collected my parents from the airport, that it wasn't my responsibility anymore. I'm not very proud of how I handled things back then. Over the coming months my sister had counselling and she got better. It wasn't a sudden thing, it was a gradual process and sometimes she'd have backward steps along the way. The good days eventually outweighed the bad. Time passed, we healed but we continue to grieve and that will never change. My sister has a new partner now and life has changed a lot from that dark time.
Whilst my sister was battling the dark cloud of depression, my eldest niece was fighting battles of her own. She'd fought her father in court and "won" but the scars left behind were far deeper. It wasn't a simple case of getting him behind bars and that was that. She was entitled to counselling from the NSPCC because of her father but she wasn't able to have it until after the court case. It took a year for it to get to court so by the time she went to counselling, she'd reached a stage of locking everything deep inside her. She was too old for a child counsellor and too much of a teenager to really open up to anyone new. When she turned 18, we discovered she had an eating disorder. She's now 21 and has just recently been admitted as an inpatient into a unit for people with eating disorders. My sister is documenting her experiences in a blog of her own http://psychomum-todaystheday.blogspot.com/ so I'm not going to do the same. Life with someone with an eating disorder puts more pressure on a family than I ever imagined.
I mentioned in my first post that my sister fell off her pedestal for me when I was 12 years old. And I am sure I have raised some memories for my sister that have been difficult, she may well be wondering what I think of her now. She has faced a parent's worst nightmare and she has always been there for her children even when they have pushed her to the absolute limit. I have only touched on some of the things that she has faced. She doesn't consider herself a strong person but she is one of the strongest people I know. When I was 12, the sister I held on my pedestal was not really my sister but just who I imagined her to be. My sister is not perfect, who is? She still on occasion battles depression but she's winning the fight. I am proud to call her my sister. I am proud of how she has handled things, especially the last few years. Life has dealt her a difficult hand but she remains big hearted, generous, kind, and steadfastly loyal to her family and friends. She is an amazing person and I am honoured to be a part of her life. So sis, chin up and lets take on the next battle together, hand in hand.