Dancing Through the Grief of Losing my Big Sister
By Sorelle Weinstein
Overview: This piece reflects on the transformative journey of grief experienced by the author in the three years since her big sister's passing.

In a few months, it will be three years since my big sister left the world. Grief has been my biggest teacher in the last three years. I have learned so much about myself, about my sister, about the world, and relationships.

My sister passed away after six years of dancing with cancer. Often people talk about cancer in terms of warfare and battle. Fighting cancer. Battling cancer. My sister refused to allow cancer to dampen her zest and love of life. Her dance involved gracefully twirling through the treatments and then regrouping. Chemotherapy, surgery, and all her other treatments were brutal to her body, but all the while, she urged us to come spend summers with her in London. It will be fun, she said. A distraction. Her neuropathy, nausea, and inflammation were details she danced around, but her movements were graceful and reflected the beauty and calmness of her soul and essence. Even when confined to a wheelchair during the last six months of her life, her face exuded passion, light, grace, and ease.

It was her dream to move to Israel, so when she was delivered a blow by her doctors in London, during the peak of Corona, that there was nothing left to be done, she danced around that death sentence and turned it into a dance of life as a new immigrant to Israel fulfilling her dream. I held her hand as she had to leave her wheelchair to board the plane, and we walked slowly because she really could only shuffle and make tiny movements, but she floated with ease. Floated toward her homeland.

Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, in his magnum opus, Man’s Search for Meaning, said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

My sister’s attitude toward life encapsulated Frankl’s message. She sent me pictures from her bed of breathtaking views of Jerusalem from her bedroom window. When she had to cover her face with a mask because of Corona, she quipped that it was her best gift to hide her puffy cheeks from steroids. When she had a painful MRI on Purim eve, she asked them to play happy Purim music while lying still.

She died on April 17, 2021. She told me I would be okay without her. That I am strong. Grief was turbulent, for sure. I went through the stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s handbook: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The sixth stage of grief is the hardest to navigate. The grief that rears its head when you least expect it years after. At a traffic light when I hear a song that would remind me of her. Even the scent of a garbage bag reminds me of her laundry detergent. And every time I speak to my brothers, she is present on the call with her big-sister input.

I am terrified of more time passing. Right now, we are reaching the three-year mark. But what about when I reach 54, nine years from now, when I will have caught up to her in years, and she will no longer be my “big” sister? Every year on my birthday, I would tell her I was catching up to her and was getting old too, but she never got to get old.

I feel that grief is the mouthpiece for my sister, reminding me that there are no rules for how to process life’s hardships. We allow them to course through us all while knowing that there is a reservoir of inner resilience that will keep us anchored even though we feel unmoored. Dancing through life means dancing through grief too. Grief is a reminder of the depth of my love for my sister. And the happy moments that used to make me feel guilty – how can I experience joy when my sister can’t? – are a reminder and a hug from grief too. This is your reprieve, Sorelle. Life wants this for you. I want this for you. Don’t fight the dance.

Sorelle Weinstein
Sorelle, a certified 2b mindset wellness coach, made Aliyah from Manchester, UK at age 20. With a background in writing and editing, she transitioned her career path after the loss of her sister three years ago. Having personally lost 155 lbs since her sister's passing, spurred and inspired by her sister's advice about self-care, Sorelle specializes in guiding individuals toward a healthier relationship with food and most importantly themselves.