What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Andrea

On October 28, 2013 (which was my 39th birthday) I woke up and got my kids ready for school. I dropped off my older kids at the elementary school and put my preschooler in the car. Halfway to his school, I got the phone call I had been dreading for 7 years. All my brother-in-law needed to say was, “She hasn’t taken a breath in 20 minutes. She’s gone.”

My best friend, my beloved older sister, was gone at the age of 47. She left behind her four children, ages 15, 14, 10, and 8, her husband, her mother, and two loving sisters. Our lives shattered into a million pieces.

My sister had been diagnosed with both an immune deficiency and an auto-immune disease called Sarcoidosis. Neither of these are usually fatal, so her gradual but complete decline over 7 years didn’t make sense to us or to her doctors. They always thought she had another diagnosis that was missed. She lived through countless invasive tests, each with the same result: nothing.

I have been to grief counseling, support groups, and cried for days on end. I had friends stay away from me because they didn’t know how to respond. I’ve had someone tell me that she understands exactly how I’m feeling because she is going through menopause. I’ve had people compare my loss to the loss of their favorite cat. I’ve had someone, just a few months after her death, comment “I can’t imagine losing a family member! Can you?”

I have had a hard time with my loss. Most people understand the severity of someone losing a parent or a child, but the loss of a sibling seems to confuse people. They want to put the loss into a category of “not as bad” as other loss.

What I want you to know is that this is bad.

My sister would call or text me every day. My phone doesn’t ring much anymore. My sister and I used to talk about every little detail of raising our kids (I have four kids too), I don’t know who to talk to about these things now. There is a gigantic hole in my life. I wake up sad every day, as each morning I realize yet again that she’s gone. And I don’t even know where to start about the fact that I’m supposed to celebrate my 40th birthday this Fall on the very day my sister died, one year ago. The people in my life have lots of advice about this too.

I want you to know that I have to get through this my own way, in my own time. I really appreciate the friends who just let me say whatever I need to say, without judgement. I am so thankful for the people who just show up, check on me, don’t try to “solve” my grief, but just let me live through the hard days.

I am working really hard on my grief. I am trying so hard to live my life the way that would make her proud, but it is a daily struggle.

I want you to know that I miss my sister. I want you to know that the fact that she was sick for so long and her death was not sudden does not mean it is easy. I want her back. But since I know she’s not coming back, I need room to work though how hard this is. I don’t know how long I’m going to struggle with this, but I think on some level it will be for the rest of my life.