Last week marks a little over two months since my sister died. Most people in my life will be shocked reading this, because outside of a vague Instagram post, I haven’t spoken about it. I’ve been able to hide this from the world, but everything that is a part of me has seen the remnants of it.

The day after I found out the news, I went to work and continued to put in time. I sent my boss an email a few days after, assuring her that I would still be in the office despite the tragedy. I paused for a moment to remember our last conversation; an argument that happened when we were 15. It had been seven years since we last spoke, Who was I to mourn her? I asked myself. Our relationship was years in the past, so I kept going.

I kept going to happy hours, kept working, kept hanging out with friends; I stopped in her hometown for her wake and kept going. I kept going until the damage that was happening inside of me forced me to stop. But, I was restless. I couldn’t sleep at night. I had vivid nightmares. I traveled, thinking my wanderlust would solve my problems. But I felt paralyzed. I became sporadic, careless, to be more precise, and it continued to get worse.

I began to live every day like it was my last, scared that it would be my last, literally. Because when your first best friend dies doing something seemingly normal, how else would you react? But, as it always happens, my mother caught me right where I was. She looked at me one day and said: You’re not dying.

I can look back and laugh at that moment, though it was only a few weeks ago. However, in the midst of this, I’ve learned that we need to pause in tragedy, as well as a few other things:

Death is no joke.

This sounds crazy, but it’s not. In a world where death happens so often, especially at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us, I believe that tragic death has become normalized. My Facebook timeline is always filled with posts hoping that someone rests in peace. When it happened to me, to someone close to me, it seemed normal, but it wasn’t.

Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself.

A former boss of mine once stopped me mid-conversation and asked me in plain words: “Why are you here?” At first it sounded aggressive, but she was right. I was sick. I could hear it and everyone could hear it (and see it). My response to her was: “Well, I have work to do.” This was the same logic that stopped me from taking time off of work after my sister’s death. I even worked overtime on the day after her funeral. Nobody stopped me, but they should’ve.

Family is paramount in tragedy.

When I said I kept going, I really kept going. The day after my sister’s funeral I boarded a flight to Europe. I didn’t really begin to feel better until I got to spend some needed time with family. That was 5 weeks after everything happened. I’ve learned that healing doesn’t have to have a time stamp, but pausing to be with your family and loved ones will accelerate that process.

Love yourself by forgiving yourself.

I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt for not having communicated with my sister in the past seven years. She sent me a Facebook message a few years back, but I blew it off. My feelings then were valid. How could I have possibly foreseen her sudden death? I couldn’t.

Not all relationships are meant to be held on to.

I loved my sister dearly, but we grew apart. Earlier this year, I wrote about how death changed my perspective on relationships. Now I’ve realized that there are certain cases where this isn’t always true.

For more personal essays like this, sign up for our Blavity daily newsletter.