“Rebecca Spiegel has written an aching testament to the unceasing compact that we must make each day anew when we have awakened to suffering, in the ones we love, in ourselves.”— INRA VERZEMNIEKS
A lucid memoir reckoning with grief and the search for meaning in the wake of a sister’s suicide.
Rebecca Spiegel is working as a teacher in New Orleans when she learns of her sister Emily’s death by suicide. Shocked, she flies back to Philadelphia. To family. To funeral preparations. To the service. Only after she leaves her parents’ house does the shock give way to grief.
In the years that follow, Spiegel embarks on a physical, mental, and emotional voyage. She visits Emily’s dorm, digs through her computer. She parses old journal entries and emails. She recalls Emily’s visit to New Orleans mere days before her death, wondering what signs she might have missed. In documenting the last traces of her sister’s life, Spiegel also confronts their parents’ failings, as well as her family’s history of depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, and disordered eating. She faces her own regrets too. “I wish I had untangled myself from myself,” she writes of her sister’s final visit. “I wish I had been able to see that I was okay and she wasn’t.
With each powerful detail resurfaced, Spiegel attempts to put into words what is incomprehensible. She plumbs the depths of her loss in an effort to understand her sister, to uncover logic where it is most elusive. What she finds instead is that there is no narrative on the other side of grief like this. There is no answer, no easy resolution—only those that leave, and those that keep living. Unflinchingly honest, visceral, and raw, this courageous elegy lays bare the hard realities of surviving the loss of a loved one.