My grief journey began on January 9, 2011 when I suddenly and tragically lost my identical twin sister. The tragedy made front headlines and continued to over the years to come (remember this part for later in the post).
The first few months were a complete blur. I can recall some significant moments here and there, but I would guess that more than 70% of that time does not exist in my memories.
What I can remember is the phone calls. The text messages. The voicemails. They didn’t seem to end. Every time I picked up my pink Samsung flip phone, there were new notifications.
It stressed me out. It created more anxiety. It made me feel lonelier (Yes, people attempting to connect with me made me feel lonelier). It heightened my PTSD symptoms. It made everything that much more real.
You might be wondering what’s wrong with people checking in on me? What’s wrong with people trying to show me that they care?
If you haven’t already, check out my post Please Do Not Disturb. It explains a little more about “my type,” which is a “non-sharer.”
In addition to being a “non-sharer,” I was extremely traumatized. I’m not going to post pictures of my medical charts, but I can promise you that “severe” and “major” are written in them somewhere.
With that being said, I’m choosing to spare a lot of details in this post and get right to the meat of it.
What’s wrong with people checking in on me? What’s wrong with people trying to show me they care?
My answer? Nothing. Looking back, of course I wanted people to show that they cared about my twin. Of course I wanted people to show that they cared about me. Of course I wanted people to check in on my family. Of course I didn’t want to be left in the dust more so than I already felt like I was.
And I believe the people who meant well and genuinely wanted the best for me, did the best they could. But at the same time, I couldn’t take the “hey! what’s up?”, “how’ve ya been?”, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through”, “I was at the funeral, did you see me?”, “how are you?!?”, “when are you coming back to school?” texts for one more second.
No one could save me. No one could even really help me. No one could teach me how to live a completely different life. No one could soothe me. There was nothing anyone could do. It was all up to me.
I didn’t have the mental capacity to see even minutes ahead. I was still in the fetal position most days screaming at my new reality.
So, as simple as it may seem, I decided that the next best step for ME was to change my phone number. Simple, but effective. Oh so effective.
Remember in the first paragraph of this post where I said that this tragedy was on front headlines? Well, sadly, I think some (a lot of) people are, for whatever reason, tied to tragedy. They want the details. They want to know everything from A to Z. They want to tell others that they talked to you (as if you’re some celebrity). It’s sick and twisted, but it’s true. And I knew this existed, which fueled me even more to drive to that AT&T store and change my phone number.
So much of my life was gone in a second and none of it was in my control, but this was. My phone number was. So I took control. I changed it.
To the grievers:
Do what YOU need to do for YOU. Forget who might be “hurt” if you change your phone number without telling them. Forget the details. Ask yourself, “Is something like changing my phone number going to make this even a tiny bit ‘easier’ on me?” If so, do it. You deserve it. There will be time to worry about everyone else in the future. I have found that the people who I want in my life are the people that tell me to take care of ME first. Just as I want the same for them, and for you.
To the non-grievers:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, do not take anything personally. I pray you never have to change your phone number for survival and until you know what that feeling is like, don’t judge someone else for doing so. As much as it might feel hurtful to you, try to remember that this isn’t a reflection on your friendship with the griever. The griever is just trying to survive, so be proud of them for taking that step. They’ll be there for you again, one day, just not today.
P.S. Regardless of changing my phone number or not, the calls and texts were bound to lessen with more time that passed. It’s just how most people are. They don’t mean it, but they “move on” and their lives continue and in most cases, people inevitably stop asking. But coming from someone who will always be in heavy grief (but happy too!), if you want people to keep asking you, tell them and if you don’t, tell them.
Thank you for capturing this – so many of the phrases resonated, especially the section: “No one could even really help me. No one could teach me how to live a completely different life. No one could soothe me. There was nothing anyone could do. It was all up to me. I didn’t have the mental capacity to see even minutes ahead.”. 🙏
When my twin died it was also in multiple newspapers. I too have met people who have told me quite openly they looked up the story on Google. Thank goodness for technology that allows us to do what is best for ourselves.