I've been in a tough spot lately.
My sister is going through a major medical event and I've been struggling with how to support her.
On the one hand, it's easy. Send a text! Give her a call! Mail a card! On the other hand, it's not easy. I don't think she really wants to talk about it and she has plenty of people closer to her other than me to offer support. I've tried texting and calling, but she is hot and cold on whether or not she returns my texts or calls. I don't judge her for that. She's totally allowed to respond or not respond, especially when she's dealing with something difficult.
My problem is my own feelings. They are ugly.
And I will be honest about them out loud with my boyfriend and here on this blog only.
When I think about my sister and how I can support her, I immediately feel resentful. I feel angry, and I feel hurt. This sister was not supportive to me during infertility. Not only was she unsupportive, quite honestly, she was cruel. I wrote a very popular blog post about some of the things she said to me over the years. They were unhelpful, unnecessary, and just plain mean. She vaguely apologized many years later but that's about it. I was excited at the time and wrote a post about it, thinking it might be the start of a new phase for our relationship. But it wasn't.
I love my sister, in case that isn't obvious. Our relationship has an incredible foundation because she was the greatest big sister to me while I was growing up. She played with me and took me places and did fun stuff with me all of the time. I missed her badly when she went off to college. But, relationships change and evolve over the decades, and we haven't been extremely close in a really long time. But the love between us is definitely there.
So I recognize and accept my conflicted feelings. I respect the fact that I'm still hurt and angry, and I can still be supportive to my sister anyway. Because of the pandemic and the precautions I am taking, I don't feel like it's safe to be around my family. Therefore, I can't visit her or provide any direct care. (My boyfriend says she doesn't want this from me anyway and I think he's probably right. She has other people in her life that can help her directly right now.)
I decided to mail a care package. It's better than nothing. I can't be there physically. (This pandemic sucks!!!) And she doesn't really want to talk to me about it. Also, if I'm being honest with myself, I don't want to be the person in her life who listens in detail. It's too hard for me. Too lopsided, too off balance. But I can let her know I'm thinking about her and that I love her.
To problem solve, I focused on what was most important to me in the moment: showing my sister my love. As I felt my resentment and anger from past hurts, I acknowledged them. And then I returned to my focus, put on a mask, and went on a quick shopping trip at the nearby drugstore for care package goodies. It was fun.
So I mailed her a bunch of random things with a card (that did NOT say "Everything happens for a reason" or "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" or any other bullshit platitudes that anyone in pain doesn't need to hear). I sent a fancy chocolate bar, some magazines, some fun Valentine stuff I saw on the shelves, soft fuzzy socks, and a small stuffed animal. I figure everyone likes mail that's not a bill. :)
That's where I'm at. It's hard. I don't like how mean my sister was when I was going through the darkest time of my life, and I also haven't forgotten it. I don't like how my feelings about that resurface when I think about how I can support her while she's going through something awful. But I'm only human.
I love my sister. Feelings, relationships, navigating trauma, and life overall... It's all complicated.