GRIEF AND LOSS
GRIEF AND LOSS
GRIEF AND LOSS
GRIEF AND LOSS
“It’s as bad as it can be. It’s Over. It’s Over.” My Dad’s tear-filled words shook me to my core. Between shallow breaths of traumatic, shocking despair, I let out a string of dilapidated I-can’t-do-this’s. With his words, our life imploded, crashing down in horrific slow motion. [...]
In March 2019, my 21-year-old sister, Rachel, died by suicide after her courageous, hard-fought battle learning to live with Bipolar Type I. Nearly two years later, I am now learning to live within my new reality and am beginning to dabble my toes into the ‘making meaning’ phase of my grief journey. In this, Rachel has taught me that when we leave, all that remains is our finite collection of stories. The stories that will make our loved ones full-stomach-laugh and wailing-cry. The ones they will cherish and desperately hold on to.
So here they are below: mine and my sister's stories of life, love, and loss.
My words are carefully constructed after hours upon hours of thoughtful contemplation. And, they are drafted in reversible ink. Once they are released, I can edit them. And I do. I obsess over what I’ve written, carefully tweaking language, words, phrases, and nuances until it perfectly articulates my feelings. So, when asked to speak on the topic of Surviving The Loss of Sisterhood, I was terrified. These words would be irreversible ink.
So, here it is. raw. uncut. unfiltered. unedited. unabridged. It is my thoughts and beliefs at a moment in time. It is a story of immense, unparalleled loss, a story that sheds light on unfathomable circumstances. But equally as important, it is a story of finding a way to sit with darkness, Until the light starts shining through.
It would tell the story of her survival, the story that would keep herself—and one day, others—alive. When she died, she left behind 15 journals from her 5-year battle with mental illness. These poetry-, observation-, and insight-filled journals contain a depth of candid creativity that makes you pause. We now pour ourselves over these journals, continuing to learn intricate details about my sister long after her body has been laid to rest.
They include the battle scars. The heartbreaks. The horrors. But most importantly, the abundance. The vibrancy. The love. And the hope that she felt more wholeheartedly than the majority of us could even begin to conceptualize. Rachel’s journals give the impression that there are enough of her words to fill our lifetime. But I understand that this is only blissful, protect-myself-now-deal-with-it-later ignorance.
So I read them. Consume them. Lose myself in them. Soaking in their wisdom. Pretending that each page is a gift she left, to me, to our family, to us all. Imagining that each page is signed, in her cursive:
My Sister’s deepest desire was to publish a book of poetry
Rachel Millsip grew up writing. She hid in bathrooms scrawling musical theatre scripts, sang original songs to herself over long car rides, and wrote poetic inspirational speeches to her friends over Facebook messenger. She had two plays put up at her high school and got an A+ on her very first creative writing portfolio in university.
She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 in 2014, her 12th grade year. Rachel had a psychotic episode that was followed by a five month-long depression. She resolved to continue on, completing high school and even starting her university degree, to study English.
But she was brought home by another episode. In the span of time from 17 to 21 years of age she has had 5 stays in psychiatric hospitals, all due to three terrifying psychotic episodes.
She builds a life for herself that gets torched at the arrival of her illness. But each time she falls down, she becomes determined to rebuild again… to have light within the craziness.
This is her story.
Read Rachel's Words
Affirmations, observations, and love notes from my sister, herself. Take one, take them all. Keep them close to your heart, to read and re-read on those days when you forget how beautiful you are.
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All the adventure-inspiration you could need, right to your inbox! Whether you're in the off-season or out bagging peaks, this periodic note from me-to-you will keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground!