July 17th is my late sister’s birthday. And this year it hit me really hard; I had some very bad days leading up to it.

A friend of mine sent me an email the day of saying, “Wish the pain would go away.” He is one of the most decent and thoughtful people I know. And his email put me to tears. But it also made me think about the pain of losing and missing her, and of living life without her. And it once again made me realize it should hurt like hell when you lose someone you love, someone you can’t remember life without, someone you shared a room with almost half your life.

The world really is less brighter without her. She was insanely smart and witty—none of us could keep up. She could have done—or been—anything. And she deserves every ounce of pain I have, which I can live with, because at least I get to.

If someone has told you grief has a time table, an end point, they are just fucking wrong. It’s a long ass journey, and one you have to navigate the best way for you.

I took a lot of bad advice after my sister died, and ended up making a lot of mistakes that put me worse off. I forced myself to do so many things I didn’t want to because someone told me “it will be good for you.” You are the only person who knows what is best for you. And people who have not been through great loss just don’t have a clue.

So now when I have my bad days, I listen to me. If I need to retreat and only want to be home, or be around just a few people, then that’s what I do. If I’m not up for going to someone’s party or get-together, then I don’t. And I no longer feel guilty.

And if people in your life are put off by that, then find some new people. Because trying to live your life after you’ve been completely gutted is no small task. And you will need to be surrounded by kindness and compassion as much as possible.

“Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated.” – Alphonse de Lamartine