“I am not my grief”

When I was in undergraduate school, I struggled with several health problems—for a while I lost my identity as an artist and a student, I was just a patient. It felt like my whole life was appointments and medicine.

After life stabilized and I was back in school, close to graduation, my younger cousin died. They said her heart just stopped. It was shocking—this healthy, creative, soul-twin of mine died. She and I were so close; I really felt like she was a twin sister born years later by mistake. She was an artist too, planning to study art in college.

Her death was an indescribable tragedy and loss to my family. In the ICU I whispered to her that I would go on living and making art for the both of us. And I have, but I still carry this heavy, complicated grief around. With the grief comes this dark thought way deep inside that people wish it had been me, since I was the one who was sick.

It would have been sad, yes, but maybe more expected. I think about it when I’m with my family, especially at holidays. Rationally, I know that isn’t true, but the thought is still there. Echoing.