Sometimes in sororities, something so unimaginable but so tragic happens that I pray it never happens to any of you: you lose a sister. I’d seen it happen from afar to acquaintances before and was struck with a little pang every time I saw an Instagram post of a big who’d lost her little. “Wow, I can’t even imagine,” I’d think for just a second before scrolling onto the next picture of a puppy in a basket and forgetting about it immediately. I had no idea what that felt like–until I lost a sister a little more than a month ago. It was completely unexpected, and I can’t even begin to explain the feeling I had when I answered that call from my pledge sister, telling me that we’d never see, talk to, laugh with, or share a drink with our pledge sister ever again. It knocks you completely off your feet and takes your breath away. You always think you have more time, and when you realize that time was stolen away from you, it’s a pain you’ll never recover from.
After the reality of the situation sets in, you’ll probably be hit with a serious wave of guilt. If only you would have known, you wouldn’t have gossiped about her, you would have gone out with her instead of making up an excuse to stay in, and you would have talked to her every moment of every day and cherished every valuable second. The reality of the situation is probably pretty far from that. There were times she probably pissed you off, because that’s what people who are close to each other do. I’m here to tell you that’s normal and part of life. Of course, we always wish we would have done things differently, but if everything was perfect, we wouldn’t feel so strongly about this loss.
Losing someone you shared such an intense, important part of your life with is a pain unlike any other. I’ve lost family members before, but this is so different. It’s a different kind of pain. It’s sharper from the shock of losing someone so young and more vast because of every moment you’ve shared together. One of the things I’ve learned from losing my sister is that the pain is so hard because the love was so deep. If you hadn’t loved her like yourself, it wouldn’t feel like a part of yourself was missing. The pain is horrible, but never forget that it comes from a place of immense and immeasurable love.
How do you even begin to get over such a tragedy? The answer is simple. You don’t. There’s no magical remedy on Earth that can erase the pain of something like this. Losing someone you considered closer than family is a pain that will haunt you for a long time. What you will do is adjust. Eventually, the pain will be less constant. One day, you’ll tell a story about her and find yourself laughing. It’ll surprise you and you’ll feel a little guilty at first. Should you be laughing? Think about what your sister would want. She’d most likely want to be remembered for her fun times, the silly slip-ups she made, and the nights that neither of you will ever forget. When you can laugh or roll your eyes telling a story about her, you’ll know you’re on the road to healing. Eventually you’ll be able to look at your Facebook “friendship” without an onslaught of tears. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t still creep up, but some of them will be happy tears, and you’ll probably laugh a little when you find pictures of yourselves from freshman year–and let’s be honest, all of our Facebooks from freshman year are an absolute disaster.
The best way to deal is to lean on each other for support. If anything good came from losing a sister, it’s been regaining the friendships of some of the girls I’d let slip away over time. There’s no lesson so profound in death as that life is precious, fleeting, and too short for drama. Reconnect with your pledge sisters. Share the memories of all the good times, and let the bad ones slip away. Mourn her death by celebrating her life. Have a drink in her honor the next time all of you are in the same city. Death is special in that although it separates you from the dead, it brings you together with the living. Cry on your sisters’ shoulders and trust that you’ll be there to have each others’ backs. You were the ones who knew her and loved her the most of all, so make the most of that by loving each other and remembering what brought you together in the first place.
Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t take your sisterhood for granted. Love each other and cherish each other. Most of all, forgive each other’s mistakes and go easy on each other. Don’t learn the hard way like I did that there’s no pain deeper than knowing you could have made just a little more effort and been a little more forgiving to have had only good memories with these sisters you have such a short time on Earth with. The truth is, you never know just how much time you have, so cherish every second with each other. Hug each other and mean it. Forgive each other. Truly, deeply love each other. And never forget the sister who brought you back together and taught you just how precious life and sisterhood really are. .