• nafeesaarshad

Losing My Sister In My 20s

Experiencing loss at any age can be difficult, but experiencing it in your 20s can be very isolating. How are your friends meant to relate to you when they are yet to experience loss or have lost a much older relative such as a grandparent? Whether it's sibling loss, loss of a best friend or grandparent loss - everyone’s loss is unique, valid and personal to them.

I’m the youngest of four sisters all in our 20s, and we lost our sister Saima Thompson this year to Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Diagnosed at 29 in 2018, Saima was an innovative restaurateur, running award winning Masala Wala Cafe, our female owned, authentic Pakistani restaurant in Brockley, London with my mum and also co-founding a pop up bar based in Deptford alongside her friend and business partner Little Nans Bar.

When she got mysteriously ill in April of that year, it took a few weeks of back and forth with the GP until she went for a private scan where she was informed that she would immediately have to go to hospital. This is when she got taken to the cancer ward.

At the time I was living in Manchester, working for a big fashion brand, living the dream in my first fun creative marketing role, hosting blogger events and doing content marketing. I was 6 months into this lifestyle, when I was informed by another sister over the phone that Saima was in the cancer ward. Cancer?! In a panic, I packed up a suitcase and my work belongings and rushed onto the first train back down to London with no idea whether I would return to Manchester.

Relatively care free at a fashion press event - before Saima's diagnosis

My whole world collapsed around me, no longer was I interested in frivolous things such as drinks with my friends or going to gigs. How could I enjoy anything anymore? I felt like I had lost my identity and was no longer interested in any of life’s pleasures. Slowly but surely, whilst digesting my sister’s diagnosis, showing up for my family and supporting our female led family business, I managed to find the beauty in each day. I learnt to laugh and smile again. Saima taught me that there is so much joy and love in what we were experiencing as a collective.

Fast forward to June 2020, with what felt like no warning we were informed that this would be it. But this isn’t it, I feel her presence everywhere and I will be channelling her energy in everything I do. It has been extremely hard, as it is a surreal thing to happen and it is difficult to relate to my peers who haven’t experienced this level of loss.

For those that feel out of their depth, I encourage you to simply ask ‘How are you really doing?’. Regardless of our circumstances, it is appreciated by everyone, as it helps to defy that simple surface level chat us Brits so easily share. I don’t need you to be my therapist, I just need to feel safe enough that I can laugh or cry and not be judged.

Entering the new year, my goal is to stay connected with friends and family. I am forever grateful for my strong friendships with individuals that I share a balance of energy with, we give and take when needed. It is a blessing to be able to open myself up vulnerably whilst also making the time to be the listening ear in return. I may no longer be that carefree 20 something girl, but I have learnt life lessons that some people don't ever experience in a lifetime.

August 2018 - Saima's Wedding Day

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