Real Talk: Grief is a shitty road

2020 has been a year.

We’ve all experienced loss of some form or another this year. Whether that was the loss of a physical person, loss of a job, a routine, an idea, or dream; we have all been doing our best to just survive in whatever way we possibly can and I imagine we are all eagerly waiting until we can say, “Bye Felicia” to this epic year.

And since I brought it up, I’ll be the first to share my losses.

And then there was one belle

In August, Blond Belle Carly dropped the very sad news that her, her husband and their dog would be returning to the Southern U.S. in September. Like all good expats here on assignment, if your company tells you to come home, you go. Carly and I had many a wine night trying to find ways in which they could stay… be they business ideas, looking for jobs, or just general scheming, but in the end the realities of their situation set in and we stopped scheming and prepared our good byes.

Being an expat, I know many of my friends will eventually go back to their home countries, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say good bye. It is a loss and you grieve. You think about all of the things you could have done together, the conversations missed, the impromptu cry sessions and moments where you laugh so hard you almost piss your pants.

And then, right when I was busy beginning the grieving process of saying goodbye to another friend, my life was turned upside in a way you know exists, but pray you never experience.

“Because i could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me”

I am no stranger to death, nor of it to me. My grandmothers all died relatively young – their 70s – and my last living grandfather passed away in July of 2020. I have experienced the death of uncles and great-aunts. Those who have died suddenly and those who have lived on hospice care.

In 2008, having just moved to Europe four months prior, my mother died of a massive heart attack. And while I have had my fair share of therapy to bring me to a place where it is part of my life, I certainty have never forgotten the initial moment I found out. Close family death changes you. And you will never know how until it happens.

And so this brings me to the tragedy that is my current situation. My 32-year old sister, Dr. Katherine (Katie) Ray died on September 16, 2020 of what is called a grand mal seizure. Katie was a PhD student and was just five months away from receiving her doctorate (she ended up receiving posthumously from FSU). Like most very smart people, Katie was probably too smart for her own good. She had pride and the risk tolerance of a healthy 20-year old man, not that of a woman who had just had a back surgery in 2019 for a herniated disk and was epileptic.

I am now living out the year of “firsts”. First of realizing you can’t call someone, first in them not being there for major holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, birthdays – and first death anniversary. First in trying to explain to people how you’re feeling when you yourself are not entirely sure. First, with being OK that you aren’t as cool or infallible as you thought.

Where to next?

When I first created Two Bitchin Belles I had all sorts of ideas of where it could go and what journey the blog would take. But 2020 has taught me that my best made plans are just plans and can change at a moments notice. Two Bitchin’ Belles will continue but in a slightly different format than expected. What that will look like is yet to be fully realized… but I certainly have some ideas.

Thanks for reading and staying in touch. My hope for you all is that your 2021 is better – even if marginally so – than your 2020.

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