Grieving the Death of A Young Adult Sibling

On January 24, 2017, my parents and brother and I watched my 27 year old sister Jillian take her last breath. Also in the room were her boyfriend of 4 years and his sister and mother. Jillian was one of the absolute best human beings on the planet and hundreds of people visited her in hospice. She was so adored and impacted so many lives. The grief I felt for her loss was unbearable. It felt like a freight train hit me and I was paralyzed, leaving me with no breath but somehow still walking through life. I did not understand how the world kept spinning. I didn’t want to live in a world where my sister didn’t exist, and honestly if I wasn’t worried about my parents burying another daughter, I would have chosen not to go on. The only thing keeping me going was my loved ones and the desire to spare them more grief.

The pain has gotten easier over the past 2 years, but I still feel a part of my heart is missing. Like a part of me died with her and will never be the same. I am angry, bitter, and confused. I would happily have gone in her place. But for whatever reason the Universe had to lose her and keep the rest of us less worthy and talented souls. I have to make peace with that every day and try not to waste my days. I miss her more than words can describe and would give anything (and I mean anything) for her to be here. The world does keep spinning and every day gets easier, either because I’ve hit my threshold of pain from mourning her, or because the memory of the pain is slowly fading. That’s what scares me the most – that my memories of her are becoming less clear as each day passes.

Below is the obituary I wrote for her two years ago, modified by removing my family’s names.

Jillian Jo
November 21, 1989 – January 24, 2017

Jillian, age 27, passed away in New York City from a very rare type of cancer that despite 8 months of aggressive treatment, spread from her bile duct to other areas throughout her body.

Jillian grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, but two years prior to her passing made New York City her home. Jill received her bachelor’s degree in Baking & Pastry Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, and then received her master’s in Montessori Education from Loyola University in Maryland. She was a Lead Guide for the Montessori Schools at Flatiron in Manhattan. Her colleagues describe her as the best teacher they have ever known. Jill was a very passionate, vibrant, and loving teacher whose absence is deeply felt by her students, the parents of her students, and her colleagues. 

Jillian met her boyfriend four years ago and quickly became part of his family, who she was planning to officially join after beating her illness. Jill enjoyed singing, playing the ukulele, riding her bike, volunteering as a mentor for kids, cooking, baking, traveling, and sewing. She was an exceptionally positive, full-of-life, precocious, adventurous, genuine, and caring young woman who touched the lives of countless people. 

“The song is ended but the melody lingers on…” 
-Irving Berlin

Jillian Jo
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