Losing My Sister Helped Me be Open About My Hearing Loss
Four years ago, I received the most horrific news that my younger sister had passed away unexpectedly.
At the time, everyone around me tried to tell me, “She’s in a better place,” “There are lessons to be learned,” or “She would want you to be happy,” etc., and I didn’t believe a single word of it. I was angry, hurt, and upset. All I could think was “How can someone be taken away so soon and so young?”
As the years have passed and I’ve allowed myself to really process the events of my life from then until now, I’ve realized that there is a lot to be learned. One of the biggest silver linings has been learning to accept and love my hearing loss.
Coping with my loss
When my sister first passed away, I threw myself into work and exercise. I was in the best shape of my life, and excelling at my job, with two promotions within a year. Even though it looked like I was okay on the outside, I was struggling so much internally. It wasn’t just because I was grieving the loss of my sister, but because I was struggling to love myself.
My sister and I were like ying and yang, absolute polar opposites. She was outspoken and didn’t care what anyone thought of her. I was very much on the other end of the spectrum – I was reserved and hid behind my hearing loss for fear of being judged and rejected. We envied, loved, and appreciated each other all the same!
“I was reserved and hid behind my hearing loss for fear of being judged and rejected.”
I always considered myself to be an accepting person, but I was least accepting of myself. My sister’s ability to not give a care about pleasing people was something I admired, and she never treated me as anything less than her older sister. Like turning on a light switch, one day I decided that in order to be more like my sister, to carry out her bravery, I needed to be truthful about myself and who I was. Losing her reminded me that, though cliche, life is too short to sweat the small things.
Traveling for the both of us
I quit my job and took some time to do some solo travel and mission work. It wasn’t until these solo adventures that I realized a lot of my personal issues were rooted in my acceptance or lack thereof of my hearing loss. I came to the conclusion that the travel bug, something my sister and I both had, was something I needed to continue pursuing. Through these experiences, I was learning so much about myself, my friends, my family, and the world around me, and couldn’t give that up- not yet.
“I came to the conclusion that the travel bug, something my sister and I both had, was something I needed to continue pursuing.”
As a result, I committed to a year of remote work and travel with people I’d never met. This was my chance to start over, to be open about myself from the get-go. I was tired of hiding and tired of trying to explain or prove myself to others. It was time to step in my baby sister’s shoes and be completely me. If people liked me, great. If they didn’t, that was okay, too.
It’s been the most freeing, rewarding feeling!
Finding Gratitude and being open about my hearing loss
While I’m still on this path to acceptance, I can’t help but be grateful for my beautiful sister who has given me the most incredible gift – love and forgiveness. She always loved me for me, and I can only hope she’s proud of me for finally allowing myself to see who she saw.
I absolutely hate that it took this terrible event for me to finally accept my hearing loss as a treasure. I’m so appreciative of it because I think each loss has helped me cope with one another. My hearing loss has helped me navigate the world without my sister. Losing my sister has helped me understand my unique hearing abilities.
“Losing my sister has helped me understand my unique hearing abilities.”
She plays soccer for the USA Women's National Deaf Team. She's currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
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