Julie Vaillancourt / Anne

Julie’s Experience of Surviving Sibling Loss and Continuing Bonds with Anne

Sibling loss survivor, Julie, talks about the complicated and evolving relationship with Anne, her sister who died by suicide.

In this episode of The Broken Pack: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss, a podcast, Julie shares how she found solace in the love and support of her family and Anne’s friends.

  • Julie’s sibling loss  grief has transformed over time, becoming a part of Julie’s life rather than an overwhelming presence.
  • She emphasizes the value and gift a stranger gave her allowing her to make a journey to understand her sister’s pain and death a bit more.
  • Julie shares ways in which she ensures her children know their Aunt Anne.

Additional key points:

  •  Dr. Dean and Julie explore the double disenfranchisement of sibling loss when a sibling dies by suicide.
  • Julie shares the impact her sibling loss had on her marriage.

Content Warning: Information presented in this episode may be upsetting to some people. It contains talk of suicide, substance use, and addiction.

  • If you are in the US and need support for yourself or someone else with suicidal thoughts or other topics discussed in this episode, please call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or Text your 5-digit ZIP Code to 435748 (HELP4U) or call a warmline. For more immediate crisis call 911, 988, or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • In the USA an updated directory of warmlines by state can be found at https://warmline.org/warmdir.html
  • A warmline directory for trained peer supports in over 20 countries can be found at https://www.supportiv.com/tools/international-resources-crisis-and-warmlines (some of these may be hotlines)

    sibling loss survivor Julie and sister Anne
    Transcript

    Dr. Dean: 

    Hello and welcome to the Broken Pack, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss, a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling loss is misunderstood. The broken Pack exists to change that and to support survivors. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Dean. In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Julie about the loss of her sister and to suicide. We also discussed how the kindness of a stranger and connecting with others has helped her in her loss as well as where she is and what she wishes she had had in her grief. Content warning information presented in this episode may be triggering to some people. It contains talk of suicide and substance use. Resources are located in the show notes. So, would you like to introduce yourself?

    Julie: 

    sure. I’m Julie and I am 42 years old and I am a mom of, a seven year old Milo and a four year old jj. I am working at a Montessori school and I do, subbing and administrative help I’m from Oregon and I live in Oregon.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Thank you for that introduction. before we get started talking about, your loss. I wonder what you wanted me and the listeners to know about your sister.

    Julie: 

    Yeah, so Anne Ann Marie is, she was about almost two years older than me and she was, Beautiful, spunky. She definitely marched to the beat of her own drummer always. she was charismatic. She was brilliant. And if she were here right now, she would argue that I was always the one that got the A. So I was very, quote unquote book smart. And she was just plain smart. she could tell you like, all the justices in different states, she was very politically aware. She loved reading and learning about different cultures and history and she was just like a sponge. she was very smart. She had a lot of knowledge and she definitely had no problem Showing off that knowledge. she was just a very interesting person to be around. It was never a dull moment. She got into trouble a lot cuz that happens with people who are just big personalities. she loved breaking barriers and breaking rules and just like was a very intense person. and all of that it, it rolls very nicely into her labels that she got as a child for better or worse, ADHD potentially bipolar, depressive, well, all of that. and yet just an amazing human to be around. So, yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    She sounds like a really, like you said, an amazing human. what was your relationship like with her?

    Julie: 

    Yeah. so I don’t really, I have very, a very poor memory of my youth, but my mom and dad told me that we got along really well. We played together really well. and I think it was maybe late. Elementary school, early junior high and high school where, you know, she just definitely needed to do her own thing. So we had started having troubles then, I was the annoying little sister. She was the one who just had big ideas and, and I didn’t really fit into those. she felt like whatever was mine was her. So we got in a lot of arguments about Hey, those are my shoes. Hey, that’s my makeup. unfortunately, I think because of her kind of, confidence and esteem issues, there was some bullying and so I reacted to that. So we had a very tumultuous, like tween and adolescents, tween years and adolescent years together. and then we did our own thing, in our twenties and, and we really came back to each other in our late twenties and, early thirties. at that point she, she needed a lot of support. She had a lot of issues and addictions, food, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, so many things and I. She kinda yeah, we just bonded over that cuz I had similar patterns, but never to the degree she did. So we could talk to each other. we had the same upbringing. We, we were able to hash things out together and, being sisters was something that, that nobody else had, besides us with each other. So, so we really started coming back. To each other and I would, visit her at rehab and it, it was like a beautiful, beautiful time. And then that’s when it ended.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm. Do you have other siblings?

    Julie: 

    Mm-hmm. Yeah. I have, excuse me, sorry. You said I was gonna cry. You were right.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Take your time.

    Julie: 

    Okay. Yeah, so I have an older brother, his name is Mike. He’s 12 years older than me. and he is also profoundly deaf and had been since birth. So, he was often at boarding schools and things, so we definitely saw him. But, he wasn’t really as much of the picture in terms of the sibling, sibling group. he didn’t really grow up with me in a lot of ways and, Of course we love him very much, but just didn’t have the same relationship, unfortunately with him that I Anne.

    Dr. Dean: 

    And he was, significantly older than both of you, it sounds like.

    Julie: 

    Right. Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. So almost like an only child and then the two of

    Julie: 

    Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm. Yeah. it sounds like the relationship with you and Anne, is it Anne or Anne Marie.

    Julie: 

    Oh, well, it’s Anne. Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    Dr. Dean: 

    so it sounds like the relationship with you and Anne changed over time of adolescence that’s. normal, what we would expect. I think in your writing, to me, it sounded like over recent years, it changed again

    Julie: 

    Right, like in her last few years we got a lot closer. and I really owe that to a friend of mine. He’s from Lebanon and he was, this was like a couple years before, maybe three or four years before she died. And I just in, we were just talking about families and our siblings and in passing I’m like, yeah, I haven’t really talked to Anna. Like, I don’t know, maybe it’s been a year. And he was just like shocked. He’s like, how? You have to like, even if you’ve had a rocky past, and even if you don’t get along and even if your personalities aren’t the same, like you, this is one of your most important relationships. You need to talk to your sister. And so I reached out to her and I’m just so grateful to him and I’ve told him as much because since then we did Become closer and start valuing our histories and how important that is to, to have such a shared bond and shared parents and all of that.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah.

    Julie: 

    yeah,

    Dr. Dean: 

    and your parents are still alive.

    Julie: 

    they are. Yeah, they are. And they’re wonderful. yeah, they’re, they’re, very present in my life and my children’s lives, and it’s just amazing. Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    So thank you for sharing all of that. I am wondering what you would like me or the listeners to know about the story of losing Anne.

    Julie: 

    Yeah. well, it was very traumatic. She, she died by suicide, which it’s interesting. I’ve listened to a lot of your, Your interviews, and it’s not uncommon, sadly, when you lose a sibling middle age, it seems to be that suicide is, maybe one of the, the top reasons. so yeah, so she, she had been in and out of rehab, for. A few years really struggled with alcohol addiction and, her food addiction and just her depression and all, all of those things just I think, came to a head. And a year before she died, she and I were talking and she, she told me, I think I might jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. And I knew that was serious, cuz I know when they tell you a plan it, it’s to be taken seriously So, we, I told her I loved her. We’re all here for her, all the things. and then, yeah, so one of my last interactions with her, my first child, Milo, was born. She came to visit him. She was drunk. I don’t know if I can fully blame it on her. At some point, baby almost fell, so I don’t know if like she dropped him or in the passing him back to me. It just wasn’t, but she was drunk, so I think she thought that I was upset. I wasn’t upset. I, but I also had this ink like. I wanted to email her after she had left and say, Hey, listen, no worries. you’re fine. It’s fine. we’re all good. And, after a conversation with my husband who brought up the point of like, Hey, she, she needs some space. she’d articulated many times that sometimes having a family who was so loving and so supportive and so just never giving up on her was actually hard for her because she had a very low sense of self-worth and didn’t feel like she deserved. All of this support. And so I was yeah, I hear that. So maybe I’ll just let her reach out to me. And then she never did. And then three months later, I did see her one more time at my father’s 70th birthday party. and then three months later I got a call from my dad at work and he said, you need to come home. And I said, well, can you just tell me over the phone? And he said, no. And so I was like, okay, something’s obviously wrong and. It was interesting on the drive back to his house, I was going through all the things okay, if somebody’s dying, I literally went through this mental list of if somebody must be dead, I hope it’s this person first, and this person next, and this person next because I don’t know, for some reason that ritual really stuck out with me. And, and in a way I felt guilty about it, but I was categorizing it by who is the most important in my life? And it was a very unconscious kind of thing. Mm-hmm. But I knew, it wasn’t good, whatever I was about to come to.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm

    Julie: 

    you know, he, he shared with me the news and that she had, she had jumped off the bridge like she said she was going too. And,

    Dr. Dean: 

    hmm.

    Julie: 

    mom, my mom’s a flight attendant. She was in Hawaii at the time, so, My dad was able to get ahold of the airline who got ahold of her and she got off her plane in Hawaii and they told her she was just hysterical in airport hours and hours away from us. The whole thing traumatic. So

    Dr. Dean: 

    that sounds definitely,

    Julie: 

    anyway,

    Dr. Dean: 

    and. Yeah.

    Julie: 

    alone, and as a mother now I can’t even imagine. But you know what? She came back and she said she was so grateful because so many people were just, loving her and hugging her and getting her water and supporting her. So she wasn’t really alone.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    mother would’ve gone over to her and helped take care of her, which they did. So, so, yeah. So she came back and, Anne, Anne had actually flown all the way from Philadelphia to San Francisco with this plan in her mind. And, didn’t pick up her luggage from the, the, baggage claim. And so that was returned to us and we were just desperately hoping for a note, and there wasn’t one. So we just put the pieces together, which we, we knew she was depressed, and that she was having such a hard time with her, her addictions and, and yeah. So that’s that’s the story. And then we all went to San Francisco and we took a, a little, We actually have like boats that go out and you can spread ashes in the San Francisco Bay. And she loved San Francisco’s, her favorite city in the world. So we, we did that and that was the end.

    Dr. Dean: 

    I’m so sorry. That does sound awfully tragic. I don’t think I realized that when you messaged me that the story about going to the bridge wasn’t, was that at the same time that you went to spread the ashes?

    Julie: 

    No, it was about a year later. Yeah, year and a half later.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Oh, so in the immediate aftermath, did you feel supported?

    Julie: 

    Yes. yes and no. I was, I was in so much shock. I didn’t really know how, the thought of am I supported or not? Just wasn’t even there. It was just

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm. Oh, of course, right.

    Julie: 

    grief. Mm-hmm. But, my sister-in-law, so my husband’s sister, Just was incredible. when she found out, she didn’t even ask. She just flew up from Denver cuz I had a brand new baby, a four month old baby. She flew up from Denver and took my baby. It was just you do what you need to do. I am here. Just the biggest showing of love,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    know, cuz my husband and I were recently married and I’d maybe seen her three times in my life or something. And that’s what she did and it was just such a generous and powerful display of support. and so yeah, she just took care of Milo while I wailed in my bedroom and, got her obituary ready. Like all the things that need to happen after someone dies. And so that was amazing. my parents of course, We were fully supportive of each other and fully grieving our own grief. And so, I never felt like I needed more from them and they didn’t feel like they needed more from me. In fact, if anything, they were just like checking in on me all the time. I was like, dude, we’re good. don’t worry about me. and yeah. And then another, person at work who really supported me, just this one nurse who like came up to me and was just when I was alone in my office. And she’s just like, if you need anything at all, if you need to go home early, you’re good. And, and everyone else, and I’m not blaming them at all. you don’t know what to say to somebody when this kind of thing happens, but everyone else is just like

    Dr. Dean: 

    Right, so.

    Julie: 

    nothing. It was like nothing. It was like, it wasn’t like they were like, Hey Julie, like chipper. but everyone just put their head down, right? Because they’re like, they don’t want to hurt, to like hurt me by opening up anything. And so everyone’s just being very careful. but I really appreciated just that very simple kind gesture of I acknowledge you and I know this is really hard for you to be back at work after a week, So, and then of course the story I told you about with, the woman I went to the bridge with about a year and a half later. she also lost a sibling two addiction. And so we just instantly had a bond. And I didn’t know the woman, I don’t really know her now. We just had this amazing bonding, journey to the Golden Gate Bridge together so I could float, throw some flowers off and think about her and be with someone who, who got it, you know? So those were the big supports. When I look back on, on that time.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. How did you meet her?

    Julie: 

    So I have to be a little careful because I worked at a medical clinic and I don’t wanna say her name cause I haven’t asked her permission, to share, but,

    Dr. Dean: 

    No, I understand.

    Julie: 

    Yeah, she was a patient at the clinic and I was working checkout and she was checking out from her appointment and her name struck me, as the character in a book that, my sister loved. It was her favorite book. It was about siblings really. And my sister wanted me to read it, and I never did until she died. And I really regret that cuz she and I would’ve really had a nice conversation about, about this book. Anyway, it was a character in the book and I asked her about it. She said, oh yeah, my dad loved this book and he named me after that character because she’s such a strong woman. And I was like, wow. And I told her about my sister and how she loved the book and how she died by suicide, by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. And she started crying. I was like, oh my God. My brother, died by, drug overdose like a year ago and this just very quickly culminated into like a very deep bond. And I mentioned one day when I feel brave enough, I’d like to go to the bridge and throw off some flowers. And she was like, I’m going with you. Her husband used his miles or whatever points to get us there.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Julie: 

    within like a month. It was incredible. It was magic. nothing short of magic. Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    And then even the Uber ride that you

    Julie: 

    Yes. Yeah. So we spent a whole day in San Francisco visiting my sister’s old stomps in her old apartment and or the, at the building. And we got an Uber to the bridge. And when we were pulling up to the bridge, this song came on, which I’d never heard, but it’s a hip hop song by this band named Logic, and the title is The Suicide Hotline phone number. And the lyrics in the beginning are like, I don’t wanna be alive. I wanna die right now. And I turned around, she was in the backseat, and I looked at her like, with the most intense look. And I was like, what the heck? And she, we were both just like shocked. We can see the bridge in full view and here’s the singer on the radio in this random Uber talking about, I don’t wanna be alive, I wanna die today. It was crazy. like the whole, the whole day, the whole experience was just like sign after sign after sign after sign of like, and was wild. So yeah, that was a really special moment.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Well, thank you for sharing that. that idea that people weren’t there, didn’t know what to say to you. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately and I was at a conference recently, in which people were talking about how so many people don’t know what to say and that. We watched a documentary I highly recommend called Speaking Grief. They did a, a version of this, but there were several speakers that talked about how people just will see you in a public space and turn around and walk away. So, it’s not like we’re so not comfortable talking about grief and loss. And then I think if you add in this component of sibling loss, nobody knows what to say to you. I’m glad that you had some support. Where are you with that now?

    Julie: 

    Yeah. It’s interesting now, whenever I wanna talk to my parents, I can, like open door all the time. and whenever her name comes up, which is often we’ll just have a little tear, have a little cry, and then we keep moving.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    it’s, I kind of wish, I don’t talk to my friends about it. Even my friends who knew her, I’m, if it comes up, I’m the one that brings it up. And sometimes, and I don’t blame them for this because they haven’t had this experience and hopefully they won’t have to. cause one of my best friends is like, sis like we go, she and her sister and me go on monthly hikes and I just look at them and I’m like, God, how lucky they are. Right? And so maybe that’s why they don’t wanna bring it up cause they don’t want me to feel bad. it’s already kind of like, yeah, here’s my awesome sister that I’m best friends with and our kids are best friends and but I’m not like a bitter person. but when it comes up with them, it’s me bringing it up. When it comes up with any of my friends, it’s. me bringing it up because it’s May and I think about her in May or because it’s her birthday and I think about her on her birthday. So, sometimes I guess if I really think about it, I would just, it would, it would feel good if my friends were just like, by the way, how are you doing with Anne? Do you wanna talk about Anne? Or you wanna tell me something about how it’s going? And again, I don’t blame them for not, I don’t know if I would, and I’m sure there’s a million things I’m missing and not checking in with my friends about death or not, but so that would feel good. But, I’m still, every now and then I communicate with some of Anne’s friends who weren’t my friends, but they were Anne’s friends and. I, I know I can always bring her up with them because they’ll be happy to share a story or tell me how much they loved her. but yeah, it just doesn’t come up in my daily life too much anymore. It’s been seven years,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm. Oh, wow. Yeah. How are the anniversaries each year for you?

    Julie: 

    They’re special. So her birthday, we often celebrate. Sometimes we’ll have some of her friends over. Sometimes I’ll just think about her. We’ll, raise a glass like if we’re, if I’m with my parents. but then her, her death anniversary is actually May 24th. and I do something different every year. I’ve gone to San Francisco twice now. I, I’m going again this year. just, I don’t know why it’s morbid, but feels good to be in her city and in her space and, I buy a book or two, one book each for my children every year for Anne’s Day. And I, I sign it the date in Anne’s day and one day they’ll know what that means. But she was an avid reader. she just read, read about everything. So I felt like a good way to honor her and keep her connected to her nephews would be to, to buy them books. So we have the whole collection of Anne’s Day books. And so that’s like a little tradition. We check in with my parents and at the time she died, we always call each other and just, let the silence happen during that time. And so, yeah, we have some little rituals that feel pretty good, but of course it’s sad. May is always like a, just get through this month kind of situation.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah, it sounds like you’re finding ways to stay connected to her through those things that you’re doing and also sharing her with your sons. That’s quite beautiful.

    Julie: 

    Yeah. Yeah. We try my, when my oldest son was like three or four, we, of course he always heard about Tante Anne, Tante Anne, my father’s French, and so Anne did not want to be called aunt. She was very against that. So we’re like, fine Tante, which is like the French word for for, and so Tante Anne is how they know her by. And he was like, how did Tante Anne die? And I was like, she died of a very big sadness, like more than you’ve ever felt like, like a real big sadness. And that’s kind of all they know right now, but I’m, gonna be very transparent with them and talk to them about,”Hey, this is in our family and we need to be really careful, and we need to,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah.

    Julie: 

    take this seriously.” So, we’ll get there. Obviously not yet. They’re pretty young,

    Dr. Dean: 

    How old are they now?

    Julie: 

    seven and four.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Oh, okay.

    Julie: 

    Yeah,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Probably not the time to share that with him.

    Julie: 

    no. And of course I have a, a huge fear that I don’t wanna give them any ideas. I, I worry and I didn’t even want children for the longest time cuz I’m like, man, we’re screwed up. I had an eating disorder, I smoked cigarettes, I dabbled with drugs. I like, don’t drink alcohol anymore because I wasn’t alcoholic per se, but it never went well, So I’ve been 11 years sober and so yeah, I got my own things. My sister clearly had, her own things. And they say a lot of that is genetic and my parents shockingly, are like the most quote unquote normal people. So I don’t really know what the heck happened with us, but, they don’t either. They’re like, what did we do? I’m like, I don’t know. Nothing. It’s just the way it is. But yeah, and my brother had depression and so I just feel like I am doomed. I just need to do damage control, and try to like, you know

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    I. Just be aware of all the signs because I’m, my husband would be probably he, I think he thinks I’m a little too pessimistic about it, but, I, I just have a very, big fear. So yeah, I will talk to them about it, but I like, I’m also nervous about it too.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. Has anything changed with, I know you said you weren’t close with your brother, but has this changed your perspective on that relationship with him?

    Julie: 

    It’s interesting, like, it, it hasn’t, we, we check in with each other every now and then. My sign language is unfortunately not great. so we can’t really have deep conversations, but. if, if we’re with each other on Anne’s day or if we just, wanna say,”Hey, I’m still feeling sad”, but, but we never really talked about it. and I don’t, so I really don’t know at all. And this is embarrassing to say now that I’m saying it out loud. I don’t know how he grieved. I don’t know what his process was. I don’t even know if my mom or my parents know what his process was. I’m sure she would know more than me, but, yeah. So, That’s really, yeah. sad too,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah, it’s interesting you used grieved in the past tense. Do you feel that you’re still grieving?

    Julie: 

    Oh, that’s a really interesting question. Yes and no. before, the grief was always like, I would hold it together at work and I would just like, I shouldn’t have even been driving. I would just be like driving. My commute were like my cry sessions because I had a baby at home, so I couldn’t cry at home. So I was huh, 20 minutes to just have the waterworks going, And it was all the time. So it was constantly grieving. And then it was waves, very strong grief waves and then lesser. And now it’s like you can’t think, you can’t think about one thing all the time, right? So I’m a mom, I’m super busy. I grieve when I think about her, as you can see from this podcast, if it comes up, it is all right there just waiting for me. It never goes away in that sense. But it does go away in the sense that I am not thinking about it on a regular basis. And part of me wonders if that’s because my relationship with Anne involved so many years of just on and off connection, there would be a months or a year go by where We didn’t have a relationship really, we just didn’t talk. We were doing our own thing. And so know, I listened to some of your other interviews and that wasn’t the case for everybody, so a lot of me just living my life without thinking about Anne is also a part of my history with Anne alive or not.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    I wonder if that changes how I grieve.

    Dr. Dean: 

    I possibly, but I think there’s also this normalization of grief that we can do here where you’re far enough out that it’s not still new. It’s still fairly new, right? Seven years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but there’s this one. Way of thinking or model of grief that we talk about loss orientation and restoration orientation and that we bounce back between them. And what that means basically is that some days we’re oriented to the loss and the grief and all of the way that impacts us. And sometimes we’re oriented to the way that we are basically living life. If I’m gonna simplify it. And that they’re never gone. They’re just, we’re switching back and forth between them. And, and that’s what I hear you describing very well, like if I couldn’t have taken what you said and made it more of an example of this whole grief model. And so I just wanna share that with you because I also hear you comparing yourself to other people and we don’t need to do that. We can just normalize the grief is not the same for everybody.

    Julie: 

    Yeah. No, you’re totally right. That’s what it is. It’s like never, not there. It’s just, I guess I have more of. what’s the word agency? That’s not the right word, but I, I guess I have a little more say in when the grief happens, it’s not as out of control. Now it’s like, I’m gonna think about Anne and I want to, and it’s, I’m gonna be sad, I’m gonna have this interview, this is intentional. or I see something that reminds me of her and I’m gonna let myself have a moment, but it’s not like, Yeah, it’s not so at the surface. Yeah, you’re right. It comes and it goes. And as more time goes by, the coming is less than it was,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. So it sounds like you’re learning to live with the grief instead of the grief controlling you. Yeah. You get

    Julie: 

    And my mom like, cuz I

    Dr. Dean: 

    I love how you’re like, I’m gonna think about it now.

    Julie: 

    Yeah, yeah,

    Dr. Dean: 

    I’m sorry. Go ahead.

    Julie: 

    Oh no, sorry. and then with my parents, I think it’s, it, it’s way more there than it is not there. Like it’s, it’s very much changed. My mom for sure, and my dad also, but like my mom, when I ask her how are you about Anne? It’s just there’s a hole in her heart. Know, and she’s, she’s doing, amazing, like she is living her life and, but it’s like there’s some kind of different quality to it. And I think it’s probably the same with my dad, but just not as obvious. So, I don’t know. It’s interesting cuz now that I’m a mom and I had a sibling loss, I don’t know, like I cannot even imagine losing my children. So I think It’s interesting listening to your podcast because it’s like, yeah, there’s a lot of people who are concerned about the parents and always asking about the parents and not checking in so much with the siblings, which is totally the case with us- especially even more so for my brother. So, that was very real. And at the same time I get it, I don’t really blame people cuz there’s something, when I look at my mom and my dad, it’s like their grief is different than mine, and again, this is just my family, right? This isn’t for all families. there might be siblings who have way harder grief problems than the parents. It just depends on the family situation. And in ours, it never makes me feel like, oh, I can’t talk about my grief, cuz mine’s not as important. It just feels different the way I, I don’t wanna use the word moved on, but the way I carry it now versus the way my parents carry it now.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Right. Well, I think that’s an important distinction is that it is different, right? It’s not, it’s not the same as parent loss or child loss. It’s sibling loss, and it’s just different. It doesn’t mean that it’s better or harder or easier or any of those things. It just is.

    Julie: 

    Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Has, and like seeing your parents change also feels like a loss.

    Julie: 

    It. Yeah, it does. But I don’t wanna say that out loud cuz it’s like, I don’t want them to feel ever bad about it. it’s just, I definitely, I just feel so sorry for them.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah.

    Julie: 

    Nobody deserves it. Right. But they loved her so much, and they tried so hard in all the ways they could with all the tools of the eighties and nineties, which are not as good as the tools of today. But that’s what they had. And they, they tried, And like,

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    it’s just, it’s just heartbreaking. Because, yeah, I love them so much.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah.

    Julie: 

    I just wish the last, like the last time my dad saw her was his 70th birthday. so the last, hopefully 30 years of life are, are gonna be without his child. Like they outlived their, their child and I just, it’s not how you want your retirement to be, where, you have this hole in your heart, but it’s also just life. Like this, tragedy happened, so it’s not, I don’t know, it’s just, I just feel

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    sad that it happened.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. I

    Julie: 

    don’t blame her. Nobody blames her, but it’s just unfortunate. And I, I swear, my children were the saving grace, like my mom had basically, I had three months maternity leave after Milo was born. And she, she was gonna watch him for a year after that just to, to keep him, with family. And she was excited about it, and then Anne died and I was like,”Mom, I don’t, I don’t know if you can watch Milo. this is crazy. You need to deal with your grief.” And she was like,”No, no, no. I need Milo.” like this. He and, and they have a very special bond. Milo may not know about it as in the same way she does, but she’s she looks at Milo and she just remembers how he got her through those, that first year, which is really beautiful. But, so yeah, I’m really grateful that, that my kids are. A huge distraction for them. if I, and also they love them, but if I didn’t have children, I honestly think it would be so much harder for them to move on, not, not move on. I hate that term. I just I don’t know the better term, but like yeah, to live with the sadness.

    Dr. Dean: 

    forward I think is a, yeah.

    Julie: 

    yeah. There you go.

    Dr. Dean: 

    What do you miss most about her?

    Julie: 

    the random phone calls, we would just call each other or text each other like in the middle of the night, with whatever was on her mind, And she was just so, she was a little like, I don’t wanna say, You know when sometimes, and this is not gonna sound very nice of me or good, good natured, but like sometimes you just are annoyed by people and you just wanna poke a little fun in a safe space. And Anne was just the first one to be like, cuz she was a flight attendant, so she had a million stories of annoying passengers and ridiculous people she worked with. And just the best stories, they were just hilarious and like funny and. Just rude and things that you would never say yourself, but you’re I’m just gonna call Anne and just, just let her, just let her go off on some things and it was always just brilliant and she could have been a comedian, so it was really fun just talking to her and she was very like, Ugh, I, I can’t even really describe the way she talks with, especially without using any swear words, but she was just she was just spunky, She just had like,

    Dr. Dean: 

    you want. Yeah.

    Julie: 

    yeah. so yeah, I, I definitely miss that. And just talking about our parents and our little gripes that our little, oh my God, mom did this, or papa’s just so you know, always in loving ways, but just in a very relatable way, Yeah, I think those are, those are the big things. The happy times, the fun times, are definitely

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. Well, speaking of happy times, do you have any, favorite memories that you wanna share with us?

    Julie: 

    yeah. But it’s gonna make her sound like such a terrible person. And she’s totally not. But first of all, she was always really supportive. Like she was just, so protective of me despite I swear to God she hated me for 15 years. and maybe it was reciprocal because nobody likes to be hated, right? So but so despite those hard years, like if I have a boyfriend that she didn’t I’m not saying I like this, but she would just rip into them like in front of me to their face, like challenging them on stuff and To them, they were just like, she is a bitch. And I’m like, no, she’s just testing you. She’s just making sure that you are, you’re gonna hold your own and you’re gonna come back with something clever and you’re gonna say the right thing. I knew her, So she just had this way of just like being protective and being just like, so I don’t know. So challenging at the same time. And so I always appreciated that. I’m like, in her own way, she very much loves me and this is how she shows it by just being really, really protective of her little sister. and yeah, we used to live together I think summer after my first year of college in New York City and that was just a blast. She took me to dance clubs and, just showed me the town and I would borrow her clothes and she would put makeup on me and I’m not like a makeupy person, but she was just like, you’re gonna do this. And, really like got me out of my shell in a lot of ways. and just showed me a world that I didn’t really know existed. And, yeah, she was just fearless. The girl was fearless. That was fun.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Hmm. Thank you for sharing that. Are there ways that you wish people would’ve supported you or mental health professionals or anyone that you wish they had known how to support you differently?

    Julie: 

    I don’t know, again, at the time it was just something I I. Didn’t really expect from people. I just felt like I just had this knowing that I just need to get through this like myself.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    I think I certainly didn’t wanna be rushed, I wanted it to be okay to cry about it and to be sad and not to feel like there was a timeline on my healing. and yeah, I just I felt I am, I am the hurt one. I get to decide when I cry, how I cry, where I cry, who I talk to, what I do to make me feel better. And I know, I think we emailed a little bit about this, but like I didn’t always get that in my home life or my husband like cuz he would’ve handled things very differently cuz he and I are very differently on an emotional level I think. I should have just listened to my own heart and my own gut. And, so yeah. And at the same time, he was totally overwhelmed by my feelings and

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm.

    Julie: 

    they were affecting my mothering. I was sad, I was crying a lot and Milo was seeing me crying and in my mind it’s yeah, people cry. Life is hard sometimes.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Julie: 

    that’s good, he’s seeing this, And his mind is no, this is We don’t want this. We’re supposed to be happy. this is a happy time. We’ve got a little baby, we’re happy. And I’m like, not really. So, so yeah, I think just, I think that’s the best, like the best thing would’ve been for people to just be like, wherever you’re at, we can handle it. We can handle your sadness. I felt like. People couldn’t handle my sadness and that was

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah.

    Julie: 

    so because that’s the sadness is what I knew would get me through, allowing myself to be as sad as I wanted, is what would clear, that’s the cleansing process of grief, right? If you feel like you can’t let those feelings out because you’re not in a safe space to do it, and you have to put on a happy face. It’s really gonna add insult to injury. so that was my, the hardest part is feeling like I had to put on a happy face at work. I had to put on a happy face because I’m a mom and I’m supposed to be happy and I’m supposed to be happy with my husband. And and it’s not like he was saying you need to get over this, but I was making him uncomfortable and it was obvious. So it felt like the same thing. Just feeling like

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. I, mm-hmm. it makes, it makes sense because you’re, you have this very devastating event of losing your sister. At the same time, the new life of your son, balancing those out is difficult, like life and death in the same space.

    Julie: 

    Mm-hmm.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. I think that’s the important message that I loved about what you said is that I, I’m gonna grieve my own way and I wish people would’ve let me cry. But yeah, I, I appreciate that perspective cuz I think that’s something a lot of people lose sight of is everyone grieves differently and we can let you grieve the way that you need to grieve. And I might grieve differently and somebody else might grieve a different way and that’s all. Okay. And even if it’s the same person, So thank you for that perspective. is there anything else you wanted to share?

    Julie: 

    Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know why people don’t talk about sibling relationships and sibling, grief more because sibling relationships are very whole relationships. They’re not just little, pieces of something. It’s, it’s an entire dynamic, whole relationship. Yeah.

    Dr. Dean: 

    Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Millwood and Brian Dean, and was performed by Joe Millwood. If you would like more information on the broken pack, go to our website, the broken pack.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, wild Grief, to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guests can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please like, follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

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