This Is The Pain Of Being Estranged From Your Sister

by Kathy Black
Originally Published: 
 Two sisters hugging and smiling
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My sister youngest was born when I was 7. This was almost forty years ago now, but I remember it in that vivid way you do when something special and significant drops into your life.

I was walking home from school, and when I arrived, my mother wasn’t there. Instead, our babysitter was sitting on the sofa with my younger brother and sister reading to them. “Your mom had the baby,” she exclaimed. “She won’t be coming home for a few days, but your dad will be home tonight to get you all so you can meet her!”

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I was lost in my own 7-year-old world. Were we still going to have Friday night burgers on the grill? Would I be able to play on the playground until the sun went down with my friends? Where were all the cookies? And when would my mother be home to make more?

The last thing I’d wanted was another sibling. When my mom brought my brother home, I hated how she took so many pictures of him and put them in frames next to mine. Plus, he cried all the damn time.

When my sister was born, all I heard about was how good she was. “She sleeps so much. She never cried. She eats everything. She’s such a good baby!” my mom would say in a way that let me know having me was like having triplets.

But then I met her. I saw her fuzzy blonde hair, her huge blue eyes. She looked like the Gerber baby from the little glass jars my mom used to heat up for my siblings, and to dab on her lip making sure the temperature was just right before serving.

You can fall in love with a sister at first sight. You can feel protective instincts take hold of you. You can have dreams about her. And I did all of the above, at seven years old. It was the start of a beautiful sisterhood that lasted a really long time.

When she was a baby, I loved changing her diapers. When she was a toddler, I couldn’t give her enough kisses and always ran in the door from school to see how she was doing. When I was a teenager and left for college, I’d call her, write her letters, and couldn’t wait to get home and stay up late watching MTV with her after our parents went to bed.

I helped her dye her hair purple, and she’d pluck my eyebrows and tell me how awful my self-tanner looked. We’d go shopping together all the time, and couldn’t wait for the other to meet our latest man of the moment.

She was my person and I was hers for a very, very long time.

These past few years, life has taken ahold of both of us and our relationship has turned a corner and feels as thought it’s driven off on its own and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get us back to where we used to be.

Nao Okawa/Reshot

She no longer has the time to talk or spend much time with me. I’ve tried giving her space without letting too much distance grow between us — I don’t want to come off as cold or act like I don’t care because I do care. Quite a lot.

We had a disagreement recently about our kids and from there, the wedge pried us further apart. I feel like it’s silly to ruin a lifetime of togetherness, memories, and friendship over this, but two people have to come together in order to fix a relationship that has taken a few tumbles. It can’t be one-sided, no matter how hard I wish for that.

Losing touch with a sibling who used to be such a solid part of your life breaks your heart every time you see them. And all the times you don’t, knowing you would be in their presence if things were the way they used to be.

Growing apart as you age is hard. Losing someone who us still very much alive is hard. Grieving a past with a sibling is hard. Reaching out to them, wanting to work things out because it feels like you a living a mini-nightmare every time you see something that reminds you of them, and getting a shell of a response after asking over and over what you have done is excruciating.

But loving her isn’t hard.

And I’ve decided no matter how much this sucks, and no matter how many times I want to pick up the phone and just get back to the way we were, sending love to her and the place she still holds in my heart is all I can do.

People say you shouldn’t wait around for anyone, you should move on, forget about them, and before you know it, new people will come into you life who are so much better for you.

While that may be true, I will always hold a space for my sister. If she ever wants to pick up where we left off, I’ll be here waiting.

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