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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.
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