Grieving the loss of my sister Carrie

Thank you all so much for your condolences regarding the loss of my sister. It helps a lot to know so many people are thinking of and praying for me and my family during this difficult time. Love, Amy


A sister is a gift to the heart,
a friend to the spirit,
a golden thread to the meaning of life.
— Isadora James

Living a Nightmare

It’s been two weeks since I received the devastating news in the middle of the night that my sister died in a car accident. As the coroner said the words over the phone, I felt like I was living a nightmare. Through the seemingly never-ending river of tears that night I had to ask my husband Jody, “Is this really happening?

I waited about two hours before calling my parents in Michigan. I wanted them to get as much sleep as they could before I uttered the words that would turn their world upside-down.

That was the worst night of my life.

Some days I still think that this all must be a horrible, awful dream and I pray that I will wake up. Yet I don’t. I am already awake.

The Reality

It doesn’t seem possible that my little sister Carrie Scislowicz — my only sister — could be taken from this world at the age of 31. She was just really getting comfortable with who she was and she was making a difference in the world.

The truth is she’d been making a difference in the world for years. Carrie entered into Narcotics Anonymous at the age of 19. Throughout the years, she’d overcome many obstacles in her life and inspired those who met her. Narcotics Anonymous became her second family and she was instrumental in so many people’s recoveries.

My sister — who earned her law degree three years ago — had been working as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities and she was great at her job. She not only advocated for the people who were her clients, but she also helped friends and friends of friends to get the assistance they needed for themselves or their loved ones.

She was compassionate, silly, intelligent, passionate, fun, witty, sarcastic, daring and loving. She was so amazing.

Emotional Rollercoaster

In the past two weeks I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions — sadness, anger, rage, confusion, disbelief, guilt. I expect this to go on for a while. It still feels so surreal. Although I’ve seen her totaled car, read the accident report, talked to the coroner, planned her memorial service, delivered her eulogy, buried her cremated remains, and packed up and moved her belongings from her apartment to my garage, I am still having a hard time accepting this is real.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

The Broken Puzzle

I spent some time at the cemetery this morning talking to Carrie. It felt so foreign to sit there in the grass, talking to the ground while the tears poured down, down, down.

I’m trying to make sense of it all, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle with pieces belonging to several different puzzles. They just don’t fit.

A Long, Winding Road

In less than two weeks there will be another service to remember Carrie, this time in Michigan. Until that is complete, I don’t feel like I can truly begin to heal. I can only process so much at one time.

The sadness washes over me in waves. I grieve until it hurts so much that my mind must turn it off for a while. I take a break. I try to do normal things. Today I played in the leaves with the kids. And that was good.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I am thankful for the so many yesterdays I got to share with Carrie throughout the years. She was so much more than a sister to me. She was my best friend.

She won’t be forgotten.

Carrie, Ava, Julian and me – Halloween 2009

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May She Rest In Peace

Guest post
My dear friend Heather from A Mama’s Blog wrote this beautiful tribute to my sister Carrie who died unexpectedly this week. At this time I am unable to form coherent sentences, so with her permission, I am reposting it below.

If you read my blog regularly, you know one of my best friends is Amy whose blog is Crunchy Domestic Goddess.  In the last post I wrote about my friends who I have been friends with since our children were born.  Amy is one of those friends. I’ve written a lot about Amy over the past few years.  She has been there for me in every way possible and then some when I was fighting cancer, going through a divorce, and dealing with my mom’s sudden illness and death.

I received some heartbreaking news from her yesterday morning.  Her younger and only sister, Carrie, was killed in a car accident Monday night.  She was returning from visiting friends in the mountains, the roads were icy, and the weather was bad.  Carrie lost control of her car and was hit head on by a truck.  She passed away instantly.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know Carrie too and she was always a joy to be around.  She had a beautiful smile, and I can’t recall ever seeing her not smiling.  She helped all of us out with our kids when she could.  For our surprise going away party for Julie, just weeks ago, she watched several of our kids, so we could have an adult party.  She was a terrific aunt to Amy’s two children, and she was an amazing sister to Amy.

When I first heard this terrible news, I started to cry, and cried all day off and on. So did my friends.  We are all in such disbelief, shock, and grief.  Carrie was only 31, had recently finished law school and had a job advocating for people with disabilities.  It is tragic her life was cut so short.

I visited Amy briefly on Tuesday, and it is not often I am at a loss for words.  But I was, and still am.  I wish there were magic words I could say to make this terrible situation go away.  Nothing anyone can say or do will bring Carrie back to her family, or ease the pain and anguish Amy and her family are in.

I think about my friends, and my own two sisters and brother.  While losing my mom was awful, in some aspects I think it is more “natural” than losing a sibling so early in life.  Parents age- our siblings and friends are supposed to live long lives, and certainly not die in terrible freak accidents.

And it brought back many feelings of my mom’s death- again.  All the feelings- the intense pain, and the sense of helplessness.  I had a few friends who told me they could not attend my mom’s funeral service, because they had lost a parent, or a loved one recently.  I understood, and could imagine how they felt, but didn’t really “get it.” Sadly today, I do.  And part of me wants to forget this happened and not think about it death, dying, accidents, funerals, moving on after a loved one is gone, what to say or what to do, anymore.

There will be a service for Carrie on Saturday, and I am going to attend.  It meant so much to me to see the people who had come to say good-bye to my mom with my family and I, and Amy was one of those friends who was there for me on that very hard day.  I hope I can be strong and be a help and a comfort to Amy and her family instead of a hindrance while I try to keep control of my own feelings and emotions about my mom.

I wish I had some clever way to wrap up this post, but I don’t.  Death leaves more questions than answers.  The only thing that does seem to help is time.

To Amy and her family: My deepest sympathies, and may Carrie rest in peace.

Carrie & Amy, May 2010

No Zoo For You: Confession of an Anxious Mommy

Last week when I picked up my 3.5 year old son Julian from preschool, his teacher Miss G mentioned that she’d like to take the four children in the program on a field trip to the zoo or children’s museum the following week to celebrate the last day of school. I was immediately taken aback. My baby riding in a car on the expressway to a destination nearly an hour away with someone other than my husband or me? My heart skipped a beat.

I tried to play it cool because logically I knew that Julian would probably be just fine. Also it’s not like I don’t trust this teacher. She was Ava’s preschool teacher since Ava was three and became Julian’s teacher this year as well. She’s an amazing person and I have no doubt that she would take great care to protect my child on the field trip. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this just didn’t feel right. (It didn’t help that I’d recently watched a 7 minute video of horrific car wrecks that someone posted on Facebook. Why do I do this to myself?)

I emailed a friend who also has children at the preschool to see how she felt about it (and confirm whether or not I was an overreacting freak). She said she’d let the teacher take her kids on other outings before and she was OK with it. But she said she understood how I felt and encouraged me to tell Miss G if I was uncomfortable with it.

I thought about it some more and figured I’d just muscle through it. “Julian would be fine,” I kept telling myself. “I completely trust Miss G with him.”

I saw Miss G at the May Pole Celebration this Sunday and we were talking more about the impending field trip. I must have seemed a bit reluctant because she suddenly said, “I’m sorry, I should have asked you if you were OK with this. Are you?” I confessed. I told her I wanted to be OK with it, but the truth was that I wasn’t completely OK. She offered to let me go along with them, but due to prior commitments that day, I just couldn’t do it. I told her I would be OK and that the field trip was fine. Apparently I lied.

The next day my anxiety disorder – that has been for the most part under control for almost a year – kicked into high gear. My throat felt tight, like it was closing up. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with, as it was one of my many anxiety systems when I was in the thick of the illness. I knew better than to get freaked out about it, even though it’s a very unpleasant feeling, and instead tried to figure out what could be causing it. Surprisingly, the field trip was not the first thing that came to mind. As you may know, we are in the process of selling our house and buying a new one – both of which are causing my stress level to be higher than normal. So I figured it was the house stuff getting to me even though nothing in particular had happened in the last few days.

I tried not to dwell on the anxiety, but the field trip must have been in the back of my mind because out of the blue I decided to ask Twitter (my favorite sounding board) at what age they let their child ride with another person (outside of family) for the first time and if they were nervous about it. I got a lot of feedback. Most responded that it was very hard the first time. Others said they hadn’t let their child ride with another person yet. Others said they do it and it’s fine.

It made me realize that even when my 5 year old was scheduled to go on a field trip with her kindergarten class (also to a destination nearly an hour away), my husband and I were OK with her going, but he was going to chaperone, thus ride on the bus with her and the class and be there for the whole trip. She ended up coming down with the flu and didn’t go anyway, but it made me think, “If I’m not OK with my 5-year-old going on a trip an hour away from me without one of her parents, why would I be OK with my 3-year-old doing it?”

I decided to talk it over with Jody Monday evening and we came to the conclusion that it was totally OK for us to NOT be OK with Julian going on a field trip an hour away when he’s 3 years old. If it doesn’t feel right and is giving me severe anxiety, then it’s not worth it, even if it does make me *that* overprotective parent.

I emailed Miss G and explained how I felt and even filled her in a bit on my anxiety disorder. I apologized for ruining the field trip, but said that I hoped they could still go somewhere nearby to celebrate the last day. She graciously responded and said they could walk to the nearby park instead and that she’d do the zoo trip the following day (on a day Julian doesn’t go to school). I was relieved.

I know there will come a day when I have to let my kids go, but for now I’m OK with the fact that this wasn’t the right time. I’m actively working on my issues again (I found a new therapist) and in time I will be able to continue to work through some of my fears. If right now my mental well-being is more important than a field trip to the zoo, so be it. I have to trust myself and do what works for me and my family. I am thankful I’m now at a point in my life where I can recognize where my fears are coming from and address them. I will get there, eventually.

–Progress, not perfection. —

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