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The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Remembering Anne Marie

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO TODAY, my baby sister died.

She was 34 years old. Her life, for the most part, was a battle. She fought the ugly fight of addiction, and succumbed to it's bodily ravages way too early in life. When her alcoholism rendered her unable to care for her two-year-old daughter, that child was taken from her and placed with her ex-husband, who was also an addict but a "functioning" one.

Back then, I didn't know what I know now, and we didn't have the resources in place that we utilize today. She and I were just a year and a half apart in age, and though I was also struggling in my own ways to heal, I was taking an "over-achiever" route. I was desperately trying to carve out a life free from the bondage of addiction and dysfunction.

To this day I suffer from survivor's guilt. Although I have had enough grief and other therapy to understand that it wasn't my fault and that I could not have saved her, I still entertain a short list of "what ifs" every now and then. What if I had "forced" her into treatment (I tried that many times); what if I had fought for her child (back in the late 80s, early 90s, child welfare was a lot different than it is now); what if I hadn't needed to save my own life back then?

On this day, the anniversary of the day when I witnessed hundreds of Monarch butterflies migrating from Indiana to the south for the winter -- the day my sister died, I will find a way to celebrate her life. She was funny, athletic, loving, smart, extraordinarily pretty, and a good mommy when she was sober.

~Ms. T. J.


  1. I'm very proud of you for who YOU'VE become.

    Your own strength, determination, beauty, wit and intelligence endures. The trials you've survived have made you capable of empathy and action for those who need a guiding hand.

    I love you TJ....

  2. Hello, TJ:
    You and I share some of lifes same problems. My sister died at 29 she was an alcholic. She was 1 year older then me.  For a long time I felt that maybe.. if I said the right thing she will still be here.

    I know how your feel. Whenever, I see someone who is suffering with life problems, I always feel the need to help them. 

    My goal is to get my Masters Degree in Counseling so I can help people through their life struggles.

  3. Hello again TJ:

    I just wanted to add an after thought.  When you said mentioned the "what if".  I sometimes think about one of the last conversations I had with my sister.  I tried reasoning with her about helping herself.  Her response: "It's too late for me." I pleated with her that its never too late. However, I remember a look on her face as if she could not find hope anymore.  I thought.. she will be okay.  She went home and died about two days after that conversation.  I had the "what if" for a long time.  What if I forced her to get help.  What if I made her stay with the family.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Oretha.
    T. J.