No Recipe for Grief

I reread the rabbi’s eulogy from my sister Jane’s funeral. He had said, “There is no satisfactory answer to understanding why bad things happen to good people. Not all questions have answers. Unanswered ‘whys’ are a part of life. The way to face tragedy is with love. Use the love we had for Jane to forgive ourselves.”

Focusing on his words helped me knock down roadblocks to forgiving myself.

Regrets was another word associated with forgiveness. I had so many regrets I could have built a house of them. Why didn’t I reach out to someone? Why didn’t I embrace the siblings from Compassionate Friends and talk to others about my sisters? How did it take 30 years to finally start the grieving process?

The laundry list went on and on, but it was not productive. The hamster wheel would never stop.

Forgiveness Helps

To forgive was to be resilient. I needed to channel forgiveness to my brain and heart. I needed to show compassion for myself—not only my current self but also my younger self, who, despite the odds, did more than okay.

Where I had once exhibited patterns of shutting down and closing doors—a result of my parents’ inability to talk about my sisters passed down to me—now I was trying to embrace forgiveness. Slowly, doors were opening to new opportunities, and I was learning to welcome them.

Someone once said to me, “Jane gave you life for 22 years, and Margie gave you life for 35 years. Some people never experience having a sister at all.” That gave me a whole new way of appreciating what I’d had, and it helped me find light and comfort rather than falling into darker thoughts.

Gratitude for Gains

Today, with all that I have lost, I am so grateful for all that I have gained. I am incredibly sad that my Margie and Jane are not here to share my beautiful new grandson—and any more grandchildren I might have—with me. But my heart is full with new family, extended family, a new precious life, a new beginning, and a new love.

The truth, revealed after several years of grief work, was that everything was so complex. Grief involved change, which was not easy for individuals in a situation where roles in the family, expectations, and patterns of behavior had already been established.

There were differences between my need for solitude and my being set aside by my family to manage my grief by myself. I had gone through life feeling alone, lost, lonely, and barely surviving in my grief. Change was not easy, but with the support of those involved in the complicated grief study, my daughters, my friends—and ice-skating—it was possible. The clear, smooth ice was my blank canvas.

Margie and Jane are now and forever at the forefront of my mind—the circles of comfort are complete. My sisters are gone, but they remain in my life, my legacy, my being. The lost memories haunted me for thirty years. Today, sweet memories come alive. We were fondly known as the three Lipson sisters, and we still are. Always three.”

This article is excerpted from Judy Lipson’s book, Celebration of Sisters, at

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Judy Lipson

I am a sister who sadly lost both my sisters. I lost my younger beloved sister Jane died at age 22 in an automobile accident in 1981, and my older beloved sister Margie passed away at age 35 after a 20-year battle with anorexia and bulimia in 1990. I am the sole surviving sibling. As the Founder and Chair of “Celebration of Sisters,” this annual ice skating fundraiser honors and commemorates the lives and memories of my beloved sisters to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The event is scheduled the first Sunday in November as Jane’s birthday was November 6th and Margie’s November 8th. We celebrate all lost siblings, their legacies as they live on in all of us. Since the inception of Celebration of Sisters in 2011, I have embarked on the journey to mourn the losses of my beloved sisters that had been suppressed for 30 years. The process unmistakably the greatest challenging time in my life proved to be the most empowering, enlightening and freeing. Now that I am allowing my sisters and their memories to return to my heart where they truly belong, I am re-discovering myself, happier and more at peace. Ice skating is a sport shared by me and my sisters and a chord throughout my life. It has brought me full circle to pay tribute to my sisters and bring me joy, peace, healing and the recipient of the US Figure Skating 2020 Get Up Award. My memoir Celebration of Sisters: It is Never Too Late To Grieve will be published in December 2021. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

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